Last week I spent too much time engaging with the faceless narrow minded and the trolls. It happens sometimes when there is a major cultural shift. I know better than to immerse in social media and the news stream, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I’m not doing myself any favors when I do this.
Look, I know, it’s a big overwhelming world out there. It’s over 100* in Georgia already, and it’s only May. Every piece of trash I throw away makes me anxious for the future. Mysogyny, racial injustice, violent rhetoric and anger are everywhere we turn. Some days reading the news feels like drinking poison. I may hum ‘what a wonderful world’ under my breath, but I don’t feel it in my soul, not most days anyway.
But there’s something else I know, too. Emotionally, I tend to dwell on whatever it is I’m feeding my soul. When I’m imbibing in the cultural stream of garbage and partisanship, my soul feels dirty and divided. When I lean into rhetoric rather than conversation, or sound bites instead of intentional listening, I feel shallow and cheap. We were meant for deeper, messier lives than we are currently being led to believe.
I could spent the rest of the day dissecting who’s right and who’s wrong, or I could simply lean into a little bit of beauty wherever I find it. I can slow down and listen to the connections we make by living together in community rather feeling sanctimonious that I’m not like “someone like that.” It’s easier said than done. Division is easy, black and white, cut and dried. But Beauty is subtle and rich. It demands we slow and linger. It requires our full attention.
I’m working hard to find a little bit of beauty in every day, even when I have to proof read the questionably literate political diatribe (with which I staunchly disagree) waiting to be submitted as yet another editorial to the local paper – just another voice screaming into the void of rage. I try remember my job isn’t to agree or condone, but to connect – to understand that fear and conditioning are sometimes, often, the loudest voices screaming in our ear. I may not agree with the politics, but fear, even misplaced fear, and needing assurance, this I understand. I can connect here.
I wish I could say it’s easy, or that I manage to find this grace with everyone I meet. Far from it. Most days I finish feeling rumpled and worn. My favorite moment every day is driving up my driveway, as the trees close in around me and the world falls away. I don’t have trouble finding beauty in isolation. I’m learning to find the subtle difference between toxic individuals and people who simply don’t see the world the same way as I do (which can be toxic, but isn’t inherently so.)
It comes down to what I really believe. Do I believe that connection and community can shape the path of humanity? Do I believe that beauty, not politics will save that world? Or do I believe it’s voting and fighting and being the most right that will ultimately bring healing? Because sometimes I preach one way and then turn right around and live another, and that is exhausting. It’s the antithesis of whole-hearted living. It’s when I find the little bits of beauty which inhabit every day, and sometimes even every moment, that I feed my truest and most wholesome self. So I’m leaning into beauty where I live, how I speak, what I write in an effort to heal my soul, and maybe, just maybe, heal the world a little bit too.