When the world feels dark

The world is a dark place

but as I was reminded today in a Facebook meme, “look to the east.” The sun rises in the east. A new day begins are dawn. When our nights are filled with weeping, upon waking, hope often finds itself restored. The morning looks not so dark.

Life is hard.

Even with things “opening up” and returning to whatever normal is, life will still be hard, only now more people realize it. No legislation, no tax break, no job growth will change this fact. Even if herd immunity is achieved, even if unemployment levels return to pre-pandemic levels, even if the time machine in my neighbor’s garage manages to return us all to a different, better, purer age, life will still be hard.

Only now more people know it.

That sounds bleak.

What do we do with this information?

We can self-medicate, isolate, escape into virtual reality until it passes. But it won’t pass. It will wax and wane, but the world we live in will still exist even after a night of heavy drinking.

We can volunteer, advocate, and work to change the brokenness of the world. While we have a significant impact on our community and the individuals we encounter, the world will still be a complicated, messy place. It cannot be controlled. The seeds of weeds will still scatter, some intentionally, some unintentionally, but we will never have to stop weeding unless we burn it all down.

There are those who want to burn it all down. But then, nothing will be left. No humans to tend the earth, no climate to make life worth living for the humans. It is an ecosystem and one thing depends on another.

What do we do?

We find a new way, a new path, something different than suffering and not suffering, but learning to find meaning in suffering and live even amid the pain. That is a life worth living. It does not have to be perfect or physically complete. It may not even be financially stable. But it can still be good.

Would you believe an operatic telling of Aesop’s Fables inspired these thoughts?

Opera Modesto presented “The Race” on April 9 as part of its Festival @ Home.

It will be available from Opera Modesto until May 9. I wrote about it as news, but now I want to write about the spirit of it.

It is joyful.

It is light.

It is playful.

It is beautiful, both in its naturalistic settings and the unique ability of humans to sing.

The singing is impressive.

The performers are representative of the diversity of the real world, in age and color, harmonizing together.

It has a vision beyond the brokenness and pain of 2020 and the tensions of the present moment.

Because Aesop’s Fables come from an age when we were better equipped to take the world as it is. And because the world was recognized as a sometimes dark place, with wolves in sheep’s clothing or consequences to laziness (those grapes did look good) it was actually possible to learn lessons that could make life better despite hardship, pain, or injustice.

The narrative turns a little darker as the Wolf played by Roy Mendiola peers over at the seemingly helpless lamb played by Lance Mendiola. Photo by David Schroeder.

We could learn:

I have control over my actions.

I can make a decision.

I can work or not work.

I can complain or not complain.

I can boast, becoming consumed by overconfidence in my perspective, no longer allowing for even reasonableness to intrude on my thoughts (should you really take that many naps during a race?), or humbly recognize my skills for what they are. They may be very good indeed, but it is still possible to lose. Not everything is within my control. But some important things are.

One more moral of the story. Overconfidence can spoil a good sport, we learn this and more from the Hare, played by Katie Overton. Photo by David Schroeder.

I believe we need to teach these lessons to our children, and revisit them ourselves.  A lot of things come easier in this day and age than they did in the past, and that is a good thing. But it does mean we have to work a little harder to be reminded that we need to learn these lessons.

“The Race” is a great movie.

It really is what we need in this world. I heartily recommend it as one more antidote against both the doldrums and storms of this age.

Photo by Rosan Harmens on Unsplash

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.


Have you gone down the rabbit hole of news information lately?

For weeks, I kept abreast of the news, tired already of election news, an open ear to the Coronavirus situation in China. Then it ballooned and has now been declared a pandemic. A length clip from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (language warning) helped distill the information around me. 80% of the cases are mild. 20% are not. 2% mortality rate is 20 times higher than the .1% rate of influenza, from which many are vaccinated and many still suffer.

Before going to bed last night I saw the numbers of dead in Italy headlined. At the time of this printing, it is hard to imagine what the numbers will be and what things will be like in Stanislaus County. I am already struggling to find hand sanitizer for us to use for our son’s at-home medical procedures.

The numbers are alarming and our society is showing the effects.

I find a few elements necessary to draw on for myself.

First, stay updated, but it is okay to step away from the news.

Our society is inundated with news. At my friend’s newlywed new home, Alexa sits on the countertop showing off headlines as they appear. An alert pops on my screen for the Modesto Bee doing likewise. I have a clip habit to check notifications on Facebook and scroll down to see what is happening in the groups I follow. Click on one, then another, check over on a news aggregate site, type in the WHO website and CDC to confirm if what I am reading is accurate or overblown. And so on. It can take hours away from the day if we let it. Or we could ignore it all and go about our lives. But neither choice is prudent.

Second, about #faithnotfear

On social media, there is the faith sector, promoting faith over fear and for it, they even utilize a hashtag. Should those who hold onto a particular creed expect that creed to protect them from all evil, those evils natural and supernatural? But faith does not prevent suffering. Those who adopt a “power of positive thinking” mindset will be hard-pressed to prove their case when enough years have passed. The world is a hard place and our bodies, though influenced by our mental and emotional state, are not guaranteed to never suffer or fall ill. It is part of life and part of growth and often the role faith plays is to transform the current suffering into a source of meaning and growth, not escape from it.

Sometimes, we should be afraid, even if we have faith.

in the middle lies virtue

Stay calm, focused, and continue to live your life to the best of your ability. I write this as a mother of a newborn with a gaggle of kids at home, rather than a citizen of a country waiting to see what the next headline about coronavirus tells me.

Now is a great time to review hand-washing techniques and stick to them.

It might not be a bad idea to make sure we have the important things we need, like diaper wipes, rather than letting the well-run dry.

So rather than deciding to join the panic, I will use this as an opportunity to check into the efficiency of our home, our pantry, our medicine cabinet, and decide accordingly.

I will quiet that rebellious American spirit that scoffs at an effort to quarantine, should the occasion arise.

I will practice kindness towards those who are afraid and those who brush off the situation.

And I will keep before me the maxim, “in medio stat virtus,” in the middle lies virtue knowing that the most prudent course is usually between the two extremes of too much or too little.