But for my political leanings, in our current government, I could be appointed US ambassador, head of some great federal department, or even a federal judge. After all, I have no qualifications, education, or experience for these jobs. My skin is white, but alas, I am not a right wing nut job, sexual predator, white supremacist, etc, so… no federal judgeship for me.
I just finished reading Maira Kalman’s “The Principles of Uncertainty”. I’m appreciating how nimbly she holds, in her writing and drawings, the paradoxes and sublimity vs ridiculosity of things. You want to laugh, then cry, then laugh (while underneath your heart breaks, and/or grows), then go, oh well, ta-dah, moving on to the next thing. So like life, if you ask me.
Not that someone did. Which is one reason I write a blog. So I can say it anyway. In case it finds its way down some long, lonely cyber-canyon, echoes, and someone answers back. Part of me lives for the writing part, but I admit, another part of me lives for the possibility of someone hearing my distant call and answering back.
Don’t we all want to be heard and responded to? Isn’t connecting what humans want? What if one of the astronauts working on the outside of the space ship had floated off into space? In the beginning they didn’t have belts to attach them; they just had to hold on with one hand, while they used the other to try to fix the spaceship.
Can we even imagine going through this life alone? I can’t. Not even an introvert wants that, which is why we surround our selves with books, even when we have people, or minus enough of those, at least the human sounds, faces, and expressions on TV or in the online universe. We imagine they’re talking to us. Which is one reason why all those online conversations can get so weird, but occasionally sublime, and then, ta-dah, on to the next thing.
With so much bad and bizarre news spilling out all the time, it is a big challenge to remain hopeful, and yet this seems necessary.
There are different ways to get and/or keep hope. One is by having a sense of meaning, which can be challenging. As the Buddha said everything is impermanent, including, for me, meaning. Sometimes I have a sense of it, other times… poof! where did meaning go? Sometimes, I still feel like that college freshman I was, when a tall, handsome fellow student came up to me in the student lounge and asked, Are you happy? In the face of my freshman existence — coursework, the call of the Civil Rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam war movement, and the temptations of boys and drugs, etc, it seemed like a really deep question. Not only didn’t I have an answer, I wasn’t sure what the question meant. Maybe I’m more easily baffled than most. Was figuring out Happiness and whether I had it something I needed to add to my plate of concerns??
After one year of that, I dropped out of school. You can understand why. Or maybe you can’t. It was one of those points where saving myself and saving the world seemed to align. What great fortune! Silly me. I was 18. I would be waylaid from this saving of the world and myself by all manner of distraction and confusion. From there the questions of meaning just started piling up. Questions have been my speciality.
In addition to meaning, the second way to be in a good position to hold on to hope is to have a sense of belonging. To whatever you want to belong to. People who believe in God and belong to one of those churches or synagogues are lucky. In this way, you get two major belongings 1) to God and HIS plan for this earthly existence, as well as to His heaven when you’re done here, AND 2) to the community of your fellow believers. Seems like a whole lot of belonging to me, only, alas, not where I belong.
There are other kinds of communities. Common interest-based. (hence, all the meet ups). Work-based. School-based. Locale-based. Cities are hard. For instance, does San Francisco even know I exist? Communities based in small towns are easier to feel part of, though being so up close and personal with others’ idiosyncrasies can drive you a little nuts.
When I’m feeling a lack of belonging and/or a lack of meaning, my latest remedy in the past couple of years is to take pictures. In this way, when the world looks bleak or mundane to me, I intentionally look for its beauty, find it, photograph it, and thereby prove to myself that beauty exists and is find-able, and that this alone is worth belonging to.
flowers from the back yard
It makes me happy to find this beauty, as if I’ve found a treasure. If I take the next step and post a photo, and if there is a response, then I have made a connection with others who, like me, value and appreciate beauty. So that is another step in belonging.
backyard flowers & bathroom painting
If I am sad or down with lack of belonging, meaning, or the news of the world, I try to stay agile enough that, should there be an opportunity, I can move easily into belonging, meaning, or happiness.
front yard flowers
Sometimes older age seems to stiffen this ability, and one can stay stuck in one’s glumness in the same way a mis-used joint sticks or a muscle weakens from lack of adequate use. I want to keep this capacity to move easily toward beauty, happiness, and hope, even if it’s not where I live every minute.
lunch at SF MOMA with my friend Eileen
I like being around other people who also have the capacity to move in real time between the dark and light and different emotional weathers, but who have a preference for happiness.
favorite utensils waiting to be washed in my kitchen sink
Emotional states can be contagious, and as I’m easily influenced, I try not to be around too much pessimism or angry despair.
humongous squash at the Stonestown farmers’ market
I may be having my own doubts and despair, but I want to and choose to entertain beauty, happiness, meaning, and belonging whenever there’s the slightest hint of it available. At the drop of a hat, I’ll offer whatever tea and nourishment I have.