As I write this piece in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, the Paris bombings, the bombing of the Russian airplane, the airstrikes and the thousands of civilians killed in the ongoing ISIS confrontations, the floods and fires, climate change and senseless atrocities recounted on each newscast, I wonder what it all means. Certainly everything we do should have meaning, must be as meaningful as possible. Meaning leads to personal satisfaction, motivation and productivity. Clearly there are huge benefits for all when individuals find meaning in their lives. The only way, from my perspective, to satisfy the need for meaning, is through genuine communities.
I am not speaking of community in the general sense of the term which may well be perceived as a group of houses, condos or apartments crammed into one geographic location, and that, I believe, is a sad misnomer. No, true Communities are characterized by compassion. Communities are a balance of genuine caring and vibrant passion for those involved in the community. The cornerstone of community is caring and passion, ergo, compassion.
As the prime lots of the geographic community are located at the corners of joining streets, Compassion is located at the intersection of caring and truth, sensitivity and honesty, kindness and clarity. Dealing with uncertainty is much easier within a compassionate environment.
During periods of stress and uncertainty, people tend to “catastrophize”. That is, we imagine the worst possible outcome. There is a story about a renowned psychiatrist, whose name escapes me at the moment, who, as the story goes, is supposed to have asked his students at a lecture, “What is the difference between a neurotic and a psychotic?” He then went on to answer, “A neurotic builds sandcastles in the air. A psychotic moves into them!” He then added, “and the therapist comes by once a month and collects the rent!”
It is a rather funny story, and it is also a very serious matter. Fears, anxieties and worries are the stones and mortar that make up our sandcastles. It is perfectly normal in times of stress, change and uncertainty to move in – temporarily. And one has to emphasize temporarily, for we must move out, and when the time comes to move out, our connection with our Higher Values is the exit sign. Our Higher Values will show us the way and illuminate the doorway.
The Higher Values are universal and benevolent life principles that include belief in God, a divine intelligence, tolerance, trust, peace, caring, honesty and integrity. Higher Values are choices. We have to choose them. We have been given free will, a blessing or a curse as that may be! It is up to us to lead or follow, to choose the Higher Values or not.
Great! So what does that mean? Well, for example, in the face of uncertainty choose trust. Take a moment. Go for a walk. Sit silently in reflection. Let the balance pole stabilize us, the butterfly come to us. Do whatever we need to do in order to find our feeling of trust. Remind ourselves we are not alone. Return to our community of compassion. Others have faced similar challenges and both they and we will face more in the future. They survived, some even thrived, and we can too. Learn from each situation, accept what we cannot change and act on the rest trusting that life, the Higher Values, will support us in whatever we need.
One day, with our help, life will become more common, more collective, less stressful, and in the meantime, we have the power to transform our journey into a more purposeful, caring and trusting experience, one relationship at a time.
Other thoughts are welcome!