I recently have signed several online petitions, adding my name to a cause I feel passionately about because it felt so important to do something. Anything. Anything other than nothing.
Now that I've added my name to those online petitions, I am inundated almost daily with emails whose subject lines proclaim outrage and disgust. They demonize people, parties and policies. They are all so angry.
When I come home after a long day at work to this flurry of furious mail, I can feel my blood pressure spike. Either I delete them without reading them, or I begin to read them, and feel like I am somehow participating in the problem by inviting all this rage into my consciousness. Sometimes, there's so much of it and it feels so overwhelming that I find myself again in a place of doing nothing -- because I have to wade through so much hyperbole and vitriol to get at some semblance of the truth that it feels too exhausting to make the effort.
There is much to be angry about: War; poverty; violence against women and children; violence against animals; lack of access to health care/water/food/shelter; corporate greed and corruption; environmental devastation; protracted unemployment; Congressional gridlock; partisan politics... for starters.
And yet, as an occasional actor, I think back to something a director once told me: When you find your character wanting to react angrily, go back and find the hurt. Anger is a surface emotion, beneath which, there is always a wounding. That's the place from which you want to begin - 'doing angry' is easy. And, some might say, lazy. Because anger creates a bright, hot, colorful flame that jumps and dances and gives off smoke and distracts us from looking beyond it to what else might be there, at the blue center.
So I think about all these things we're angry about and I wonder about the wounding beneath. And the grief that comes with wounding. Something important goes unnamed or unspoken, gets broken or torn, is eradicated or destroyed, is terrorized, traumatized, abused... something essential is lost or forgotten, or goes unseen or ignored, is violated, victimized, wiped out. Where is our grief? Where is our collective recognition of what is really happening?
What if, instead of allowing ourselves to be galvanized by anger, rage and a desire for retribution, we gathered to share our grief, to mourn in community?
What if, instead of pumping our fists or weapons in the air, we used our hands to reach out to the person next to us?
What if, instead of talking incessantly about the things that piss us off, we started to talk about how terrified we are, how vulnerable and small we feel, how insecure?
What if we started to say that our hearts are heavy from carrying shattered illusions and broken dreams -- those we had for ourselves and our children and their children after them?
Sometimes, when I am still and allow myself to begin to really contemplate some of the problems we are facing, I feel that my heart may actually break. So far, I have not given myself to it fully, I haven't allowed it to happen. It feels so enormous as to swallow me whole, and I have no idea what is on the other side. So I open my eyes, or move a muscle, make room for other thoughts. But it's there, that grief - I know it. It knows it. And I think the day is coming when it will not be denied. I will be compelled to acknowledge it not in my mind, but in the breaking of my heart.
In the breaking, something opens: there is room to let go, room to receive.
In anger, there is only the hardening of the heart, the closing down, the shutting out.
I don't know, maybe I'm nuts. I do know that I want to change the conversation. I'm sick of being angry and of being subjected to other people's anger.
Anger can get people fired up enough to get off their fannies. But I'm not sure it solves problems - not the kinds of problems we're contending with now, anyway, and not for the long term. Anger begets anger.
On the other hand, grief shared is grief halved. Mourning can facilitate healing. I believe this.
Maybe I'll start a petition.