"Small signs of friendliness can create much joy and small disturbances between people much sadness, while the "great events" of the day often do not touch us so deeply. An unexpected note from a friend or the passing remark from a neighbor can make or break my day emotionally, while inflation and recession, war and oppression do not touch my emotions directly. A distant catastrophe has less effect than a nearby mishap, and an interpersonal tiff raises more hackles than a world-wide calamity."
--Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary
I think we're all aware of this phenomenon: it seems particularly prevalent during the teenage years, although I remember coming back from my freshman year in college all distraught about the Viet Nam War, and being furious with my mother because she was only interested in something that happened at choir practice that week...
I don't know about you, but I do feel a little guilty about not being more easily disturbed about the plight of the world. On the other hand, I am all TOO easily disturbed by that, and over the years I've decided to save my energy for the places I can make a difference. It's not that I don't give thought to war, famine, or injustice, but it's more that I try to draw parallels through tonglen.
If I am distraught, I hold space in my heart for others who are distraught; if the sky looks like some air battle is taking place above the clouds, I try to hold space in my heart for those for whom this is actually occurring. If I am hungry, I try to hold space in my heart for the world's hungry... and do what I can to make a difference here on the island. It's a matter of staying conscious, I think -- and a way of ensuring we don't get too caught up in our own challenges and ignore those of others.
That said, it's been a rough couple of days, and I found myself snapping at my husband last night when he came to me with another major project he needs me to take on. We are not usually snappers, he and I, and I notice both of us have been a little frayed lately. I'm looking forward to the weekend, and the chance to sleep in, unwind, and restore the gentleness in the house.