My brain is hyperactive. It likes to spin out ideas, fantasies, things I want to say, actions I want to take. An insight comes to me and within seconds I’ve leapt to wordsmithing it for Facebook or presenting it to an audience of hundreds. This has gone on for years. I’m learning to accept it for what it is: twitchy neurons firing at high speed, mostly without value, occasionally with.
The other day, for whatever reason, I wondered about my heart’s deepest desire in all of this. Why does this happen—especially in the context of when and where I live, the 2020 version of America—and what does my heart want to do with it?
In part, I think, my heart wants to heal things. It wants to help Americans expand their own hearts, reach across divides, truly listen to one another. It wants to help people build resilience in the face of this strange, strange year. It wants to say just the right thing that will wake millions up to the plagues and evils around us. I’ll bet many hearts across the planet have the same primal urge.
Right around this point in my ponderings, a message popped to mind. It had that out-of-nowhere quality I often ascribe to God:
That’s not how this works.
I’m not sure what it means, not fully, but I can guess. For one thing, I’m thrown back on something I’ve come to value: my status as a nearly imperceptible blip in the cosmos. Being exactly one person, I have exactly one person’s influence over the world, which is tiny in the extreme but not negligible. I find this liberating. It’s not up to me to heal the world or wake millions up to the evils around us, because I can’t. I can only do what I can.
And even if I could heal the world, maybe some things can’t be healed. Epidemiologists now think the COVID-19 virus is here to stay, and our species will have to learn ways to live with it. Not long ago people dreamed of a post-racial society, but now (thanks in part to reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power) I’m starting to think we’ll never achieve a full resolution to racial injustice, because racial injustice has been part of America’s genetic material from the beginning.
That does not, of course, mean I can or should do nothing: the struggle for racial justice, to take one issue, demands far more. Maybe all I can do is what’s right in front of me, whatever that is. Maybe I continue working on the transformation of my deepest self toward openheartedness and compassion and justice—the work of contemplation, as it were—and out of that depth I do and say what I can, because often, that depth bears more fruit and makes more impact than anything else I could do.
But I don’t write the magic words or take the magic action that will bring widespread healing—as much as my heart yearns to do so—because that’s not how this works.
What do you think?