I looked up from the morning paper and could not contain my dismay. Each article I read was a wellspring of despair; news reports and op-ed essays citing venomous Trump tweets and ominous stories of Populist xenophobia leading us toward a dystopic, Orwellian world.
I had to lower my blood pressure, calm down and find an isle of sanity and reason away from the din of blame and derision.
Clearly the world has gone mad, I thought to myself. I’m reading about deadly mass shootings, suicide bombings in Afghanistan, explosions in Somalia, poisonous lead in our water, tragic plane crashes, rockets fired by North Korea, states stripping women of their right to choice, the worst drought in decades in India and South Africa, threatening measles epidemics, rampant racism in our cities and 60 million people in the world at risk of malnutrition.
What are we to make of this? How do we live normal, decent lives amid such indifference, brutality and carnage? I asked myself.
It was not a rhetorical question. And a Pollyanna answer wouldn’t do. I had to think long and hard about an actual course of action. Breakfast tables all around the world were confronting similar questions and how we responded would determine the future for generations to come.
My statue of Buddha sat nearby, and I spoke to him directly. “I choose to remain optimistic,” I said out loud, “because for the sake of humanity, for the future of our planet, there is no other choice.”
I decided, despite the disturbing stories of abuse and unforgiveable behavior, I will continue to believe in the basic good that exists in all of us and the inner wisdom that guides us. I will swallow hard and thank those who commit the atrocities and acts of monstrous cruelty for taking the space of darkness, so we can see and embrace the contrasting light.
A thought came to me and I paused for a moment. Perhaps my question about how to live in a violent and harsh world has more to do with the eternal uncertainties than the stories in the daily news, and really addresses the existential enigmas: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?”
It was the Buddha’s turn to speak. “You are consciousness; you come from consciousness; you will return to consciousness.”
His answers require a degree of faith, which I am not lacking, but I admit to an equal degree of uncertainty. I ask him to elaborate on that somewhat austere sentence.
“There are questions so vast in scope and deep in meaning we simply cannot answer them on our own.” It is not unusual for my Buddha to talk, and his voice is strong. “We have to put the answer into ‘Spirit’s’ hands or whatever your visualization is for the undetectable but undeniable presence of something bigger than ourselves.”
That’s enough for me (a scale model, stone Buddha purchased from the Art Institute retail store can’t actually talk!). I have a second cup of coffee. I open the Sports Section to read about the Cubs and the NBA playoffs. I’m done with Trump and his lackies for the morning. No more politics until Hardball and Chris Mathews and Rachael Maddow.
They’re on my side of the political chasm. And easier to understand than “the existential enigmas!”