Mystic Mondays January 2, 2017 (Post-Vacation Edition)
Compassion. That was the word that kept coming back to me as I crawled my way down the interstate during a wet winter snowstorm on the last day of my annual Christmas vacation.
The vacation provided me with a much-needed reprieve from the whirlwind of swirling emotions that had sucked me in in the wake of the Trump phenomenon. Before my break I had an almost obsessive need to follow every unpredictable word, every 144-character presidential tweet, and every jolting cabinet choice that he was making.
But for eight straight days–Christmas through New Year’s–I stepped off the Trump treadmill and played with my two year-old grandson, shared holiday meals and goodies with family, snowshoed on the Crater Lake Rim under stars, and inexpertly plucked away at the six strings of my guitar, sometimes even making it sound like music.
I am now sitting in a restaurant ironically named Heaven on Earth just off of Interstate 5 waiting for the two lines of parked cars to budge again after three wrecks ahead of us shut the interstate down. I am just hours from needing to make the transition from a rich diet of soulful refreshment back into a world that just one week ago had me trapped on a dizzying merry-go-round with Crazy World blaring on the speakers and the attendant explaining that there was no stop button on this ride.
I fear getting back and stepping once again into the fear, the anger, the grief, and the cynicism that had grabbed me by the hair and would not let go. I fear that the peace, the goodness, and the beauty that radiated in me and around me on these glorious eight days of vacation will evaporate as fast as the first drops of rain on a sizzling patch of hot August pavement.
But one word keeps nagging at me, nudging me and even pestering me a little. “Compassion. Step back into this crazy, confusing and frightening world with compassion,” the voice seems to be saying. “You’ve fought with anger, biting sarcasm, and deep grief. But now it’s time to arm yourself with compassion.”
But I want to make one thing very clear. This call to compassion is not a retreat from the ugly and dirty duty of fighting for what is right, good, just, graceful, and life-affirming. This is not a shrinking back from the messy affairs of religion and politics. This is not an abdication of our basic human responsibility to look out for the dispossessed, the marginalized, the minority, the immigrant, the outcast and vilified.
This is just a recognition that anger, fear and cynicism are not the weapons that my soul most desires. I cannot let the poison that has entered our national bloodstream also poison my own soul. If a fight is on the near horizon I am no better than my perceived opponent if I resort to the same weapons that have had me so tied up in knots.
Gandhi has been famously quoted as saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth just leaves the world blind and toothless.” Fighting anger with anger gets us nowhere. Outbidding a fear-monger with just more fear leaves us all scared of our own shadows.
I have had eight days of refreshment. I have nourished my soul with sparkling white wintry powder. I have been reminded of the importance of family. I have held loved ones close. I have laughed at silliness and cried at shared pain. And I have eaten Christmas delights until my eyes turned red. I like how this feels. I don’t want it to go away. I don’t want to be angry any more. I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to cynicism and sarcasm to poison my heart.
But I do want to fight. And the voice tells me, “Compassion, Brian, compassion. You must fight with compassion.”