I do not write this in a spirit of sourness or personal disappointment of any kind, nor do I have any romantic attachment to suffering as a source of insight or virtue. On the contrary, I would like to see more smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness and, better yet, joy. In my own vision of utopia, there is not only more comfort, and security for everyone — better jobs, health care, and so forth — there are also more parties, festivities, and opportunities for dancing in the streets. Once our basic material needs are met — in my utopia, anyway — life becomes a perpetual celebration in which everyone has a talent to contribute. But we cannot levitate ourselves into that blessed condition by wishing it. We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
A quick note: If you’re here only for Walktober, you might want to skip this post. Or just look at the pretty pictures and forget about reading it. There is a reminder about Walktober at the bottom, if you’re looking for that.
Like many of us, I’ve been spending some of the time we’ve been granted during state-imposed or self-imposed isolation reading, thinking, and trying to figure out how we got to where we are today. A lot of people who are more intelligent than I am, writers and thinkers and experts of all kinds, have obviously been pondering this question, too. It’s hard to keep up with it all, and I have days when I feel like it’s important to speed my way through this process. There are many, many books out there trying to explain why people voted for the Mad Don (aka the squatter in the White House). I suspect all the research in the world will still come up with a mystery in the middle when it comes to why the people who think of themselves as Christian or righteous or good or hardworking, would vote for a con, a thief, a rapist, a bully. I know one thing for certain: I have no answers.
There are questions arising, too, about the mythology we were told was history, the things we were taught in school versus history as we are now learning it. Having long known that history is written by the victors, so to speak, it’s not surprising that the history of the U.S. was so white-washed as to barely resemble what really happened. As I relearn, there has been much food for thought especially when it comes to what I think of as our foundation and what this country was really built upon. I don’t know how you heal that. I only know that we need to.
What has surprised me most is finding that there are those who I would have thought of as on the left are now converging with those on the right. New Age folks, the wellness industry, and some yoga thinking is starting to parallel with, if not outright join, the conspiracy thinking of the anonymous variety I don’t want to name (because I don’t want to feed the algorithm). I don’t know why I find it surprising. If I had been paying attention, I would have seen the commonalities regarding trust (or distrust, as the case happens to be), positive thinking, and some of the ideas about body sovereignty.
I will not be delving too far into the positive thinking aspects other than to say that I see very little difference between the ideas of, say, the Law of Attraction and the Prosperity Gospel that the evangelicals preach (the same evangelicals who lay hands on the Mad Don and offer him their blessings and support). Both regard the poor and/or the sick as being responsible for their own lack of funds and health, mostly due to not thinking/praying enough, not being pure enough, or not being on a high enough vibrational plane (whatever that is) when the blame should be on the systems that are in place to keep people poor and unhealthy. It takes a goodly amount of privilege to be spending time working on raising your vibration, privilege that not everyone has. I’m not saying it doesn’t help to have a positive attitude. Of course it does. What I am trying to say is that this is, in some regards, victim blaming and, perhaps, another way to keep people poor and unhealthy.
Body sovereignty started out looking like a good idea. Your body is your body. You have all the say in how your body is treated, by you or anyone else. Great. I like that. But what has soured it (beyond the political — I’m not getting into that today) is that the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers have grabbed hold of the idea and started running with it. They insist that they know what is best for their own bodies while at the same time following the words and advice of those who tell them that wearing a mask is unhealthy and that vaccines make you or your children sick. What they fail to recognize is that our bodies are not as independent as we like to think they are. The good health of the individual depends on the good health of the group. If there is a virus going around, and there is a safe vaccine (or safety protocol — such as wearing a mask and distancing) in place, then it behooves those who can safely do so to get the vaccine (or wear the mask), thereby helping those who are unable to get it for health reasons. We are not just protecting ourselves. We are protecting others.
A note on vaccines: As long as certain people are politicizing the early release of a vaccine, it is going to be difficult to trust that it will be safe. I will be paying attention to the science and the scientists. Science is by no means perfect, but good scientists take time to be thorough and admit when they are wrong. It’s about testing and proving, and going back to the drawing board when it doesn’t work as you thought it would.
I don’t know where we’re headed with the conspiracy theories. Some say that it will become a new American religion. I hope not. Some say that the reason people are falling for such ridiculous nonsense is fear. A realization that what they thought was true is not true, but they want to hold on to it anyway because they fear the change that acknowledging the truth will bring. Others say it is also grief. When the towers in New York City fell on 9/11, we somehow came together for a while. I think it was because we took the time to grieve. We had moments of silence. We had ceremony around it. Where are the moments of silence for the 219,000+ who have died in the U.S. alone? Where are the moments of silence for the 1,119,000+ who have died worldwide? Where are the ceremonies? Where are the celebrations for those who have survived? 40.5 million cases have been reported, worldwide.
I know that is hard to wrap our heads around such big numbers. I know, too, that there are still many who feel untouched by the virus other than as an inconvenience that requires them to wear a mask or eat at home instead of in crowded restaurants. But we need to somehow get in touch with the numbers because that is where our humanity lies — within the lives of the people who have suffered and/or died because of the virus. There is more suffering to come. Hiding behind love-and-light thinking or conspiracy theories is not going to help us work through what we need to work through, perhaps must work through.
We can’t come together in a large group to ritualize this in some way, to cry together, to console each other. But we can set aside a moment in the day for silence, to mourn those who have been lost, to think about those who are sick and those who have lost their jobs or their homes, to feel our own suffering as well as that of others. We can join together in that way, in spirit if not in person. Take a moment at sunrise or sunset or at noon or at whatever time of day suits you. Make it a ritual of acknowledgment. You don’t need anything other than yourself to do it, but you could invite others who might be in your bubble to join with you in sitting as you watch the sun come up or go down, invite them to be with you in acknowledging and grieving.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading, thank you for visiting. It’s another cloudy day here on the Eastern Shore. I don’t know if we’ll see the sunset or not. It’s scheduled for 6:18 PM. I’ll meet you out at the Point, and we’ll see what we can see. It’s warm, but you might need or want a light jacket.
Please be safe, be well, and be kind. If you’re in the U.S. and you haven’t already, please VOTE. If you have voted, thank you.
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,581) Autumn light and autumn colors. 1,582) Possibilities. There are always possibilities and choices and other paths we can follow. 1,583) Awakening to this day. 1,584) The good leaders, the good teachers, and all of those who take the time to be grounded in what we think of as reality. 1,585) The lessons of autumn.
Walktober reminder with update: The dates are October 3-24 (I’m giving you an extra week). Take a walk (run, ride, whatever) and post about it sometime during those dates. I will gather it all together and do the round-up post sometime after that (I’m looking at October 26th as a possible date — it depends on whether or not anyone needs more time). The official post is HERE. Leave your link or pingback there. If you should mistakenly leave it elsewhere on my blog, no worries. I can usually find it. However, it does make it easier for me if the links are all in one place. Thank you!