A surprise message of hope from the Pope

It’s been a while since I posted last. I’ll be honest, I’ve been going through a “weary” phase. I’ve grown tired of waking up every morning, and checking my Facebook to find news of whatever new terrifying atrocity our White House has been responsible for. The attacks on our environment, our healthcare, on immigrants and refugees, on Muslims, among others. I’ve grown tired of calling, writing, and emailing my legislatures to receive back confirmation that my republican legislatures do not actually give a shit about representing me. I kept asking myself every morning, how much worse can it get? And then the next morning finding out and asking myself again.

I took my personal Facebook app off of my phone a couple of months ago, because, honestly, I needed a break. And I’ve been having an internal struggle with myself ever since. On the one hand, I felt it necessary for my own sanity. On the other, I kept feeling like I was just avoiding reality. That it’s my duty as a citizen to stay informed (of actual facts), to inform others, and that I was shirking that responsibility. However, I’m a true believer in self-care. I know that I am not capable of being of service to others if I’m not taking care of myself. So after a much-needed break, I reinstalled my Facebook app with a renewed sense of healthy self-care. I cut back on a lot of the news and political accounts I was following so I could have a better balance between actual social interactions with people I care about and staying informed on news and current events. I don’t have cable, I don’t watch the evening news and I don’t order the newspaper, so Facebook has become my main source of news and events. This makes it very important to me that I only follow reputable news organizations that report facts and, in general, I’m trying real hard to keep shit positive.

I’m also trying real hard to figure out what it is that I can do to make a difference. Because, I can tell you honestly, that contacting my republican legislature in Idaho is not making a damn bit of difference. Enter, this guy…..

Don’t you wish this guy was your Grandpa?!
On Facebook this morning, I watched a great TED talk of Pope Francis titled “Why the only future worth building includes everyone”. I’m not Catholic, I’m not even religious, but I’ve admired Pope Francis since he took the throne at the Vatican and I think he carries a great message for all of us humans. He brings up three messages in his talk:

First, that we are not alone, we are all connected. That “we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone…….everything is connected….even science points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else”.

Second, is the importance of solidarity and hope… “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion…How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods, but first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people”. He says, “We have so much to do and we must do it together…Through the darkness of today’s conflicts each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around”

Third, Revolution! “The revolution of Tenderness…..Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other…..to listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need…..Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you and will ruin the other. Through humility and concrete love….power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.  The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, or great leaders, of big companies. Yes they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.”

Now, I could get all judgey and argue that our White House, our President, and it’s supporters could really use this message (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), but I have a feeling that is not the point of what the Pope is saying. What I hear him saying is that we have to practice humility on all fronts. That we need to see all others as equals, as a part of the ‘us’. That includes the President and his supporters. If we keep falling into the “us versus them” trap, we are just further harming ourselves.

I get so upset when I think about how our administration is trying to put policies into place that put white, wealthy Americans and profits of corporations ahead of human decency, and the protection of our planet. In my mind, there is one race. The human race and we are all part of it. Equally. There is no religion, no skin color, no economic status, no nationality that is more important than any other. And there is one planet. There is no planet B! If we destroy this planet, it doesn’t fucking matter who lives where and who’s right or wrong. We’ll all be toast together. So this is where it get’s tricky for me guys. Because it kind of looks like I’m saying my ideas are better than theirs. I’m right and they’re wrong. And isn’t this just another form of us versus them? Or…. is there some transcendent, universal, cosmic right and wrong? And don’t I want to be on the right side of that? This is what I still struggle with. How do I stand against oppression without standing in judgement of the oppressor? Is it enough to just have compassion for the oppressor? For is not the oppressor in some way suffering? Oppression, in my opinion, is a symptom of fear, and fear is a form of suffering. There are many other symptoms of fear and we all have fear in some form or another, not one of us is completely free of it. And it follows that we all have symptoms of fear in some form or another. My fear makes me judgey and self centered. How is that any better than oppressive? Well….

These are answers I don’t have. I’m just asking the questions. And I guess I will keep asking them until I find the answers or until I no longer feel that I need them. In the meantime, I will take what Pope Francis says to heart and I will try to practice more humility, more tenderness, and more solidarity that my candle might burn a little brighter and snuff out a little more of the darkness. I cannot control another’s willingness to practice humility, tenderness, solidarity. Only my own. And for now, that is something I feel I can do to make a difference. If even a small one.