Of Scrambled Brains and Runaway Trains

This blog post is late. Now, I doubt any of you have been sitting by your computers with your pocket watch out, clucking your tongue, BUT JUST IN CASE YOU HAVE, I want you to know that this tardiness is not for lack of writing. It’s not for lack of sitting still and being quiet and searching and asking unseen helpers for guidance.

But, as I mentioned before, I think the current political/media climate is doing something to our brains. At least I know it’s doing something to mine.

First of all, I’ve been noticing that even though I’m showing up to work and writing, my brain is a little scrambled.

I go back and forth between planning posts like…

  • Can we stop worshiping money? Can we stop confusing material matters with spiritual ones?

…And…

  • Can we set aside a place for people to go dancing who also want to go to bed at 11pm?

I oscillate between wanting to post a list like this…

  • You matter.
  • Your worth is not determined by how much money you make or how many hours you spend at a place making money.
  • The volume of your voice should not be determined by the size of your bank account.
  • You deserve to eat safe food and drink clean water no matter how old you’ve gotten or what choices you’ve made in your life.
  • You deserve to see a doctor.
  • You deserve to expect that your children should be able to breathe air in 100 years.
  • You deserve access to art that will inspire you and/or deepen your humanity.

…And noticing that I’m moments away from slapping up a Facebook update like:

  • Some of your babies look real weird, but I’m not going to tell you which ones.

There’s just a lot going on in the world right now (of course there always has been, but it feels like someone has cranked the urgency dial up to 11 of late), and I haven’t found the balance of how to stay engaged without giving even more attention to those who are pummeling us with fear.

As a result, I’ve been going back and forth between shaming myself for not sticking to my every-other-week posting schedule and just trusting that it’s better to let all the things I’ve been thinking about gel into something worthwhile.

As returning readers will have noticed, this particular back-and-forth is one I grapple with a lot.

When is it time to push harder, and when is it time to let go? When is it appropriate to stick to the plan and when is it important to follow a new pull to do something completely different?

I’m finally reading poet/priest/philosopher John O’Donohue, and he offers a really nice answer to this question in his book, Anam Cara.

We should not force ourselves to change by hammering our lives into any predetermined shape. We do not need to operate according to the idea of a predetermined program or plan for our lives. Rather, we need to practice a new art of attention to the inner rhythm of our days and lives.

Well, okay then. (It sounds so easy when you put it like that.)

So I’m sitting with my scrambled brain.

So I’m sitting with the overwhelm. I know I cannot allow myself to be paralyzed with it, but I also know that it’s not entirely helpful to shout, “THEY’RE TRYING TO KILL US!” into the wind from my seat on this runaway train.

I’m not so nearsighted as to think that writing my little blog is the extent of the role I’m to play in fixing a broken world. So why put undue weight on it? For the past 2 weeks I’ve fretted over processing the many large conversations of this moment in order to have something worthwhile to say in them. And then, in other moments, I’ve wondered, Why not just buckle down and write something—anything?

Then, last week, I visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum.

This is Spain, so a hefty portion of the older collection is religious painting of the Christian variety. Artists, if ever you get discouraged thinking “it’s all been done before,” or “our creative markets are saturated,” or “what do I have to say that hasn’t been said?” just remember that in a lot of places for a long time, people were only allowed to paint religious imagery. And still, we hang onto a lot of that imagery.

As I walked past image after image of white Adam with white Eve (with zero body hair, of course) and white Mary with white Jesus, I found myself wondering about just how different our world would be right now if Christians had always sat with images of Mary with dark skin smudged, dark hair matted from long donkey travel, and wearing rags instead robes. What if Jesus’s tortured body on the crosses hanging over our heads had always been brown instead of pale, his gaze on the congregations below coming from dark brown eyes instead of blue? If white people had spent centuries interacting with this symbol—a much more historically accurate one—how different would our gut reaction be to “others?”

And I thought…

Artists, it’s best never to underestimate the power and responsibility we have.

Happy spring to you, dear reader. May you be filled with renewed strength and clarity in this new season.

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