At midnight on New Year’s Eve I noticed there were far less fireworks celebrating the arrival of the new year than in the past. On New Year’s Day, a day I like to spend in reflection, I realized that I was in a depressed frame of mind.
As I got face-to-face with my dark mood I began to remember that beneath our affluent national persona of low unemployment and a rising stock market we have created a darker reality that we are struggling to awaken to. For the last few years I have felt like much of what I believed in, justice, equality, dignity, honesty, traditional American leadership, and even hope has been unraveling and under attack. But I’ve also become aware that for decades, under our national persona of success, we have created a different story, an epic sea of stress, anxiety, and fear that we are living in. Indeed, we are living in complex and disconcerting times. Decades of this stress have created social and political divisions that have set far too many of us against each other. For too long too many of us have repressed our growing dismay and forced into dim awareness such things as the results of income inequality; the origins of the sea of fear we are living in; and the fear of not being safe on our streets, in our homes, in our places of worship, in our jobs, financially, and in our healthcare system.
I think that all too slowly we are becoming aware that pollution is making us sick with everything from asthma to cancer. As I open my eyes I see that loneliness, alienation and hopelessness is turning too many of us toward suicide, addictions, and mass murdering. And, we are witnessing the destruction of our planet, our home, as if it is not really happening. Are we losing the fire in our own spirits?
These are my dark thoughts on New Year’s Day. If Freud were here he would say this kind of depression is anger turned inwards. I know all too well that the cure for this state of mind is not simply to reverse the process by expressing and acting out the anger. The real cure for this kind of depression, which includes the grief of realizing who we are and who we have become as a nation has been an illusion, is thoughtful, purpose-driven action.
As I continued my reflections I let them roam over the history of my life. I remembered some of the history I have been writing about in other places. I am the son of the “Greatest Generation.” My parents, and yours or your grandparents or great-grandparents, faced our Great Depression by committing to political leadership that recognized something was badly wrong. They had the courage and vision to take our country forward. “Action” and “change” became their watchwords. They, as citizens, responded to the crisis of World War II with a full commitment to shared purpose and direction. With courage and sacrifice they changed the future of the world in four-and-a-half years. They changed it again by helping their former enemies rebuild their future. Then they changed the world even more with the Marshall Plan that helped restore war-torn Europe. They went on to build the greatest infrastructure in this country the world has ever seen (the interstate highway system, the national power grid, the expansion of air travel and freight, etc.,) and sent almost eight million of our young people through higher education with the G.I. Bill. They were not a perfect generation, but they certainly earned the title of the “Greatest Generation.” This is our heritage in my lifetime. These memories awaken my heart and spirit.
So, my question for the new year is, “Can I and can we, like they did, have the resolution to leave our comfort zones, especially those of denial, hatred, ideology, and fear-driven greed and face the commitment to create a new national reality? Can our resolution be to become the next “greatest generation?”
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art credit: Agni Yoga, Nicholas Roerich. (from Wikipedia: Agni Yoga is a path of practice in daily life. It is the yoga of fiery energy, of consciousness, of responsible, directed thought. It teaches that the evolution of the planetary consciousness is a pressing necessity and that, through individual striving, it is an attainable aspiration for mankind.)
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris
, 2020, citizenship, hope, life of meaning, Personal Transformation, struggles, suffering, violence in America
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