It’s only dusk and I can already hear fireworks going off in the distance for Independence Day–the day in which citizens of the United States celebrate winning the war against England for the right to govern themselves. It is seen by many as a day to celebrate the independent spirit, the rights of the individual, and freedom of religion and thought. And yet, many do not have the freedom that the United States claims to value.
This lack shows up in many ways; some large and some small. This past week I was reminded that I don’t have the freedom to make my own decisions about how I handle my work because I am an employee of a large corporation. The reminder left me shaken, and with an anxiety in my chest that took my breath away. Whenever an emotion creates an overwhelming sensation in my body, I remember a line from a book in Margaret Atwood’s Madd Addam series.
If you’ve never heard of Margaret Atwood, you probably have heard of one of her most famous books, The Handmaid’s Tale, which has become a hit series on Hulu as well as a symbol of the importance of combating misogyny. The Madd Addam series tackles a different social problem–the human destruction of the earth. Some of the characters end up becoming members of a fictional group known as God’s Farmers, who form an earth friendly and sustainable commune. Whenever things go wrong in the story, the leader of the God’s Farmers says “Let us put light around it.”
Let us put light around it.
Those words stuck with me long after reading Madd Addam, and I started using them in my own life. As I struggled with anxious chest pains last week, I closed my eyes and imagined the pain surrounded by a healing, white light. Slowly, the pain began to shrink, and eventually nothing was left of it except for a ball of white light in my chest.
While this technique is highly effective inside my own body, putting light around it doesn’t necessarily change things out in the world. However, it does change how I feel about them. So, I thought I might devote this blog post to putting light around the intensely difficult experience of the world in 2020, in the hopes that it might change how we all feel about it.
First, let us put light around a deadly global pandemic that has killed over 500,000 humans throughout the world. Let us put light around those grieving for their dead family members and friends. Let us put light around the sick. Let us put light around health care providers who risk their lives every day to help those suffering from this deadly disease. Let us also put light around the people who have lost their jobs due to the quarantine, and those who are afraid about how they are going to pay their rent or mortgage, and how they are going to feed their families. Let us put light around the lonely people who haven’t had any true human contact for months.
As I write these words there are tears in my eyes for so much suffering, and yet imagining light around these problems does seem to ease the pain a little.
Let us also put light around a social system that doesn’t offer the same opportunities to everyone, and that often works to block people from succeeding based upon the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation. Let us put light around George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, and so many others who were killed due to the racism inherent in the system. Let us put light around the families and friends of those who have been murdered. Let us put light around a police force that is having to face itself and ask hard questions about how to change. Let us put light around the people who have risked their own safety to go out and protest the injustice in the system. They have been heard, and we are grateful for their voices.
Let us put light around those who are dealing with sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence and sex trafficking. Let us put light around a social system that is biased towards the abusers–a system where rape kits–representing the most horrible day in thousands of women’s lives go unprocessed. Let us put light around a system where rape victims find it almost impossible to get justice–a system where, instead, these victims often find themselves accused of lying, or of trying to get attention. Let us put light around a society where women who are beaten by their partners are asked what they did to deserve it, and told to stop provoking the beatings. Let us put light around 16-year-old Chrystul Kizer, who killed the man who was sex trafficking her, and now faces life in prison. Let us put light around the abusers, the misogynists, the traffickers, and the rapists in hopes that they can see the error of their ways.
Let us put light around a medical system that often seems to be more about profit than about treatment. Let us put light around the patients seeking help who are turned away because their ailments aren’t easily diagnosed. Let us put light around medical providers who lack compassion for the sick. Let us put light around the people of color who are unable to ask for pain medications without being accused of drug seeking. Let us put light around the women who are unable to ask for care without being accused of having mental health problems. And let us put light around the medical providers who are doing their very best to help people in spite of being overworked and under-supplied.
Let us put light around a political system that divides a nation, divides families, and divides friends. Let us put light around those who want to vote, but cannot. Let us put light around the bullies that assume they know better. Let us put light around those that hold their thoughts to themselves in order to keep the peace.
Let us put light around the LGBTQ+ community. Let us put light around a society that condemns people for their sexual preference or gender identity. Let us put light around the victims of hate crimes. Let us put light around Matthew Shepard, who was brutally murdered because he was gay. Let us put light around those who hate gay and transgender people, for surely they suffer too.
And finally, let us put light around ourselves. Remember that you are always your first priority because you are a member of the human race and inherently deserving of your own love. Embrace yourself, for your relationship with you is the most important relationship in your life.