Chiaroscuro

When tragedy strikes near to home there is encouragement in feeling the solidarity of others. I’ve had several texts and messages from friends across the country inquiring how we are doing as a result of the twin tragedies–the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks and now the horrendous fires.

Thank you.  We are safe and not in any danger. To say that we are unaffected, however, isn’t true. If my tears could help those who have lost so much I’d be sure to share them.

We are learning of friends who have lost their homes, been displaced due to mandatory evacuation and are hearing of businesses and “favorite places” that no longer exist .

Several of my most recent blog posts have included photos taken in Malibu. I had a post “ready to go” that I can’t bear to share until I learn the reach of the scarring. I may never really share them as they were originally intended.

We live 30 miles east of the closest fires (Woolsey), but they feel closer to home. The Northern California fire (Camp) which destroyed the entire city of Paradise, has blanketed hundreds of miles with air so dangerous that as far west as the San Francisco Bay Area it is recommended everyone stay indoors.

The gravity of loss is staggering. Loss of life, loss of property and the loss of employment.

It’s hard to imagine some of the insensitive and callous remarks that have been made by public officials and their supporters, but if I let that ugliness leach into me it will steal energy that could be proactively placed in compassionate action.

I’ve long believed that compassion without action is weak, and although it’s too soon to know where I might most be able to effectively lend support, I know there will be appropriate opportunities.

With tremendous diversity of interests, ridiculous urban sprawl, staggeringly high population density centers and at times extreme expressions of personal independence, when it matters most, Americans know how to organize.  And as cultural creatives, Californians  know how to lead in efforts of community spirit and activism.

What would be different in our world if instead of focusing on separation and division we flipped it around and focused on how we are all connected? How would it go for us if in times of great need and distress we actually emphasized our interdependence?

I’ve been re-reading the works of one of my favorite contemplative social activists, Thomas Merton OCSO.

‘The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in other another.” ― Thomas Merton

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” ― Thomas Merton

Let’s cultivate compassion this week. There is no lack of opportunity.

Peace.