I spent the weekend with friends including a young couple at the start of their lives together. Part of the conversation revolved around fear and it struck me that fear may be the defining emotion in our society … of our time. It's easy to see why this would be … innocent people murdered by a madman in a movie house, warlords around the world blindly battling for power, a climate that may be heading toward the edge of a cliff, a fragile economic environment dependent upon neighbors we don't know or understand, a health care system that leaves most of us at risk financially, and, perhaps most disheartening of all, a loss of faith in our leaders.
I thought how hard it must be for a young couple contemplating their future to even think about committing to a life-time of raising children. But, then my friend said, "Hasn't it always been this way?" And, I had to chew on that. Is the time we're living in truly more dangerous than the past? Or do we just bombard ourselves with all the news of danger?
I've dabbled in genealogy recently and seeing families with 8 or 10 children … or more … is a common finding, accompanied by an also familiar indication of how many of them died in infancy or childhood. One of my friends who has gone deeply into her own history found stories of mothers who left the old world for the new and spent weeks on a ship trying to protect their babies and toddlers from starvation and disease … often losing. Our ancestors left safety and literally walked into the face of danger in order to find a better life. In 1918 … after losing 16 million people in World War 1, a three-year long flu epidemic claimed another 50-100 million people world wide … the equivalent of 3 out of every 100 people. The "Great Depression" followed and reduced the average income by 40% and left 25% of the workforce unemployed. World War II broke the depression but killed another 60 million people and left cities and lives across Europe and Asia decimated.
Of course, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, famine, volcanoes, fires and terrorism also added to the mix of danger that has always been a part of our life here on earth. There is no such thing as "safety" in our external world. No amount of gated communities, guns, guard dogs, fences, face masks, Humvees or kung fu training will guarantee the safety of our physical being.
Maybe that's our lesson. We need to find a different form of "safety" … an internal form that gives us the strength to walk forward into the world, doing what calls us, facing the uncertainties, knowing that each day is precious and that there is no guarantee of a tomorrow. For the past several days, I've been living with the image above … Mother of Creation. She makes me think that we are all held in the womb of the Great Mother … that at a fundamental level of spirit, we are all completely safe. She reminds me to be diligent in clearing away the cobwebs of fear.
In a tiny act of resistance, tonight at 6:15, I will be in the movie house close to me watching The Dark Knight Rises.