Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hard Times

Hardly a day goes by anymore when I don't ask myself, "Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?" Just when I think I can wrap my mind around it, or even come close to it, I discover that it is actually much worse than I thought.

There are so many things falling into the "even worse than I thought" category that now I'm just lumping them all together: the economy, muscle spasms, the unfathomable depths of corporate greed and callousness, the state of my 401K. Part of my personal pathology is that I feel overwhelmed very easily. And lately I have been feeling intensely overwhelmed.

Rather than listing all of the contributing factors, though, I want to list all the things I tell my friends when they ask the handbasket question, the things I try to tell myself, although I don't always manage to get through.

Juliana of Norwich, medieval mystic:
All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.
This is the long, long, long view. Ultimately, everything will be fine. All the crises and weights and conundrums will ultimately come to naught. At the very bottom and at the very core of everything, there is goodness, light, truth, beauty, justice, joy, and most of all, love. And because of that, "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well."

Haldir, elf of Lothlorien (from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings):
The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
True, there is great evil afoot. Evil is rampant in the world and having a heyday. But don't let it steal the show. Evil is always noisier, flashier, and more demanding. Good is quieter, steadier, stronger, content to work for the broader long-term benefit. If you sit quietly in the morning light, you can smell it. It is very powerful and available to all who seek it.

Despair can have its own deadly allure, but it is a great deceiver, because good is always more powerful and more enduring than evil. Always.

Another quotation from the Lord of the Rings, this time from the movie, The Two Towers:
Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
In the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Ah, Samwise the brave and wise, the most fiercely loyal of friends. You could do worse than use Sam as a role model. There is indeed some good in this world, and it is most definitely worth fighting for.

This morning I was feeling, well, you know, overwhelmed and a bit blue. And a dear friend sent me a link to this video. It totally transformed my perspective. As she told me, "It's long but worth it."

When Tom came home this afternoon, not long after I watched that video, I told him how awesome and wonderful he is. And then I sat him down to watch the video while I got ready to go. I heard him laughing while I was in the shower.

No matter where we're going, no matter how fast, no matter how directly downhill—no matter that we're in an overcrowded handbasket—we can still be kind and encourage each other and love each other and focus on the things that really matter. We can spread more joy, more love, more hilarity. And those are most definitely the things that are worth fighting for.


  1. I agree. What we focus on becomes greater. I would much rather work on building love and hope. I think that is why we are here.

  2. Exactly. It's in the really difficult times that we have the opportunity to show our true mettle. All the dross gets burned away, and what's left is the stuff of life.

  3. 1. Thank you for sharing the short film. It really is lovely and hopeful.
    2. When things get insane, I remember what my friend, Greg, always tells me (it's a variation on the motto of the Christophers): all the darkness in the world can't diminish the light of one small candle.

    That always helps me feel more peaceful. Sending you some cyber peace, Mary.

  4. Oops- me again. I just checked it out, and the quote is (apparently) by Robert Alden. Who knew? Still- it's a comforting reminder that what we do, who we are, and every attempt at peace (inner or outer) makes a difference.

  5. A lovely quote, Roia. Thank you! It reminds me of Amnesty Int'l's motto, which I think is an ancient Chinese saying: "Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Peace to you as well!

  6. Yay, Mary! A bunch of great posts since I've last read. This was a delightful video! And it makes a point that I've been thinking about a lot lately: that we need to just keep being ourselves and our good will come to us. Often from completely unexpected sources. Look for the good in people and in life -- and you will surely find it.

  7. Amen to that, Kathy! I've been reading the news too much lately and it's getting to me. So I'm on a little quest to find the good, to reassure myself that it is indeed much greater than the bad. Thanks!

  8. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.