I read an article recently by a 65-year-old woman in which she says, “That blankness. Once again the desire to look away has taken hold of me. I know it’s important to know what’s going on. It’s important to witness, not to look away. But I really feel as if I’ve had some inner resolve taken from me, or that I’m missing some protective coating that enabled me to do that.”
It is easy for me to understand what she’s referring to. But instead of wanting to turn away, I have started turning towards ‘what I want to look at.’ Choosing what I want to look at is a radical departure from mindlessly looking at what other people want me to look at. I am coming to the realization that knowing what is going on in my world is more important than knowing what is going on in the world.
At this point in time, I have limited energy, sometimes only enough to get out of bed and eat. I have major decisions to make. I just made a transition and am floundering around in confusion and anxiety about my next move. I don’t have enough energy to witness the spectacle of underinflated footballs, burning pilots, or shootings in Paris. Nor do I have the energy to witness any more of the atrocities committed by men in power. I don’t have to keep up with what is going on Iraq or Syria or Washington. No matter how much I read or watch I will never know what is going on there, and even if did, my knowledge would not empower me to take any action.
This morning I watched a small bird digging for worms. Since it was on the ground, it had be more vigilant. Every few seconds it would look up and turn its head from side to side. This bird knew who it was, what it was doing, and the dangers that surrounded it. It was focused on two things, getting a worm and making sure it was safe. I was filled with envy. If I can focus on only two things for more than a few seconds, it’s an achievement.
Rather than resisting it, I am moving towards the blankness. It is only by clearing space, by wiping the slate clean, by starting over every day, that ‘what I want to see’ starts to become visible again. I am happy to shed the protective coating that lets me look at cultural insanity and acts of horror without flinching. This is right and natural. The older I get, the more I realize the futility of trying to change what I cannot change. I need every bit of energy I have to plan my life, to build my strength, to put new structures in place for a future that resonates with my priorities.
In George Orwell’s personal journals, he wrote about the natural world outside his window, his garden, what was growing, what he saw. He was an avid gardener and liked to cook. When I turn my face away from the everpresent screen and look at what is growing, giving and sustaining life, I am awed by its majesty, its generosity, its absolute joy in existing.
This morning I see yellow daffodils blooming against a gray, rainy, cold sky. I can’t see the sun, but these daffodils can. They know exactly what to do. Despite being beaten down by the rain, they keep opening their buds, innocent and determined to fulfill their potential. An old tom cat walks by smelling the bushes. When he stops to look at me I can see that one ear is battered down. He is a warrior, king of the neighborhood cats, and father to the cat who lives here.
Orwell could not have written his books without knowing the opposite of what he was writing about. He clearly understood what was being lost, and what would happen if this loss continued unabated. In one of his last interviews he said the future he saw was a big black boot continuously stepping on people’s heads.
I am weary of seeing this boot. It has all but stamped out every bit of spirit left in me. If I don’t ‘blank it out’ and turn my gaze to the small, living, loving universe that dwarfs its impact, I might just disappear.