Now what?

I breathed a little too many toxic fumes of fear and hate this week so I set my mind to finding an antidote.

Pushing back on fear and hate is tough but not impossible. You do have to be careful. You don’t want to stoke the fire because you fear and hate hate and fear.

I have a thesis that the secret to the good people winning is they do good things. It’s doing what you can, where you are; to first be and then spread integrity, compassion, order, wonder, humbleness, beauty, and hope. My experience says fear and hate don’t do well in those conditions.

This is my checklist of actions when the world feels like it’s on fire, and I’m too far away to aim a hose at it. This is a list for my anxious, angry self from my best self.

Pick and choose, start one and do it imperfectly or incompletely. Accomplishment is not the goal; being is.

  • Read a book. It should be a book that won’t automatically confirm your biases. Avoid books by pundits and columnists. Pride and Prejudice is a good one to read. If you don’t want to reread that one search 100 must read books.  There are a lot of lists out there.
  • Tidy up. Start by throwing away garbage. (This is a literal and metaphorical task. Pick the one that best fits for your situation.) Then put stuff away. If your stuff doesn’t have an “away” spot, find one. If you don’t have room for it, get rid of other stuff till you do.
  • Move. Not move as in get a new house but get up and do something. I recently found out that any type of exercise helps lower blood pressure, apparently by “altering blood vessel stiffness so blood flows more freely”. Again, there are literal and metaphorical applications. Regardless if your ailment is physical or emotional stiffness, movement will help.
  • Get outdoors. Look, this is just how I roll. And when you go outside, breathe deeply. Look at things. Take pictures if you want. Sharpening your photographer’s eye will help you find moments of beauty as you go through your day.
  • Sharpening your photographer’s eye brings me to the next one, learn. I’ve learned a few basic photography principles and now I take occasionally good photos. Learning has been therapeutic. Learning takes time and energy yes, but it’s time and energy you would have spent on despairing.
  • Give. Give money. Give time. Give kindness. Give someone the benefit of a doubt. Give forgiveness. Give patience and understanding. Give the security of kind and consistent firmness. Give yourself a break.

And just as a reminder, the world has often felt dark. Apparently, it felt dark in 1973 for a certain Mr Nadeau who had lost faith in humanity. He wrote to E.B. White and Mr White responded.

Since we’ve made it this far, I have hope.

White’s missive, penned on March 30, 1973, when he was 74, endures as a spectacular celebration of the human spirit:

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


E. B. White