Arthur C. Brooks published a recent article in the New York Times that asks and answers the question, “Depressed by Politics?”. In these troubling and divisive times, he suggests that the answer to anxiety over current events is to, “Just let go.”
Before agreeing with Brooks, I’d like to first commend all those who feel empowered to protect so many of the positive steps that have been taken through compromise, bipartisan efforts and good judgment over many decades and are at risk of undoing. In describing his “Shining City on the Hill” image of America, Reagan referenced funding for the arts as one bright spot. George W. Bush supported immigration. Supporting these and other causes should be mainstream thinking, and debate over them should be about particulars and not over blocking them all together. I honor those who are willing and able to be the voice of reason in a time when denying the truth is an accepted norm among those in power.
My thoughts here, however, are for those, like me, who have to avoid much of the news in order to carry on with life in our presently surreal world. Brooks talks in terms of anxiety and depression, but, if you have ever experienced the feeling, it can be as debilitating as seasickness on unsteady waters. If you read the article, you will find how politics can be like clinging to a tree. The metaphor works better than it sounds, so read it and see.
My own thought is that we must be grounded in what we know to be true and in our values, in a way a bit like a tree. Pendulums swing, sometimes wildly. There will be a time when a firm place will be needed again for the pendulum to swing from. They call that place “the bearing,” akin to the phrase, “getting your bearings.” Interestingly, the term for the swinging end of a pendulum is a “bob”, which in some settings means darting and weaving erratically.
There are more scientific reasons for those names, of course, and metaphors themselves are only illustrations. Still, for those of us who can’t take the madness of politics today, our time and place will come. The blind poet, John Milton, wrote aptly in this sonnet:
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
We have not yet heard the last word. Until then: hope, purpose, and as much faith as you may believe in, will more than suffice.