Funny, these are the symptoms I hear about from friends and even strangers who have weathered, successfully or not, the trials of living during an unprecedented period of human evolution.
And it’s not as if today’s pandemic—with its attendant highs and lows on personal and public levels—occurs in a vacuum. Now, humanity has offered up a dark corollary to that event long ago with geo-political upheavals, media broadcasting vitriolic partisan rhetoric, economic and supply chain hardships, and, my favorite, a new breed of cancel culture, in which people, things, institutions, trends, and movements have become “cancelled” or blacklisted due to past, current, or even projected future transgressions. Once character is cancelled, assassinated, the targeted entity becomes persona non grata, an enemy of the people, typically with little hope for redemption. Our collective chaos does not seem to let up.
So much seems out of control and yet I spy moments of real people behaving graciously toward others. Heck, I even witness myself being kinder, which isn’t always easy.
While many of us have never experienced actual physical whiplash, it’s safe to say most of us have gone through some form of spiritual or emotional challenges—shall we call it soul whiplash?—the last two years.
What’s the antidote to this other virus that eats away at our sense of stability and our tolerance for change? There is no panacea for the human condition. As public life is shut down, reopened, shut down, and reopened repeatedly, we can no longer weather these disruptions, reversals, and morale sappers. In spite of information overload, this “new normal” we grudgingly embrace shifts yet again. Another catch phrase, “You do you,” seems to confuse more than encourage, for who are we, who am I, after these last two crazy years?
Maybe the answer is less about us and more about others. When philosopher Aldous Huxley reached the end of his remarkable life, he was asked what he would have done differently. He said: “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'try to be a little kinder.’”
We all feel the pressure to look strong during these troubled times. I try to make intentional time during my early morning and evenings to unplug from the mayhem and deliberately strive for gentleness, mindfulness, and presence.
I also visit museums and spend a lot of time with art (he says with a wink). I would like to personally invite each and every one of you to visit the Albany Museum of Art. We are free and open. Come by, hang out, and pause, while being surrounded by wondrous examples of human creativity.
You will not regret it.