2017 saw so much devastation.
Last year’s deadliest mass shooting in American history has been overtaken by this year’s deadliest mass shooting in American history. Last year's set of catastrophic storms, floods, and fires across the world has been outdone by this year’s set of catastrophic storms, floods, and fires.
Cities all over the USA are still recovering from flooding. California and Oregon are burned beyond recognition. and other states were hurt by an unusually long fire season. The ubiquity of bushfire in Australia has reduced the stories into numbers and pins on the map. Puerto Rico has barely begun to recover from Maria.
None of these disasters and devastations are about the land and houses destroyed; or even about the people who died. They are about the opportunities they provide us to grow spiritually.
That's what we are on earth to learn from. (if you've ever wondered why bad things happen to good people, this is part of it.)
We all hear the stories of heroic acts amidst these tragedies. They are not supposed to be extraordinary stories. This is how we are supposed to behave. These humans have risen to their spiritual challenges. They have had a big push from physical circumstances and they have accepted the opportunity to enter unfamiliar emotional territory. They have risked everything, even down to their lives, for kindness.
What about the rest of us?
We can donate to disaster relief funds, of course. I am sure we all do. We can vote for kindness. I hope we all do. These things are not too difficult to do.
What's really hard is being generous and kind and honest with the people beside us every day, day after day.
Because we have to be vulnerable when we do that. We risk wading into unfamiliar and very uncomfortable emotional territory. And that is an exhausting proposition. It's hard work. And we get worn out and want to shut off our emotions with alcohol and food and sex and drugs and TV and whatever else.
There’s a character in the book (and the film), The Green Mile, who describes the terrible weariness of kindness.
The character is John Coffey, and he says, “I'm tired, boss. Tired of bein' on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we's coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I'm tired of people being ugly to each other. I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There's too much of it. It's like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand? “
And the character of Paul Edgecombreplies, “Yes, John. I think I can.”
I think we all can.
We need to take care of ourselves; get quality sleep and enough water and good food and lots of laughter and whatever else works for us.
We need to do that so we can be kind and generous and honest and in doing so, walk through emotional discomfort and evolve spiritually, and come closer to serenity and true awakening and deep contentment.
We are all connected. As e. e. cummings pointed out, we carry one another's hearts in our hearts. We are all in this together.
It's important work, this being with one another. It's THE work.