In the fearful days after the attacks of 9/11 I read this article by Ian McKewan. In the simplest terms it spoke about love as an act of defiance. How, as the attacks in New York happened, expressions of love were everywhere, even in the midst of life altering tragedy. How those who knew they faced death, found ways to let their people know they loved them.
It was the only thing I read at that time that brought me any sense of comfort or light. It was the only narrative that expressed an alternative to the fear, anger and hopelessness of the situation. The article didn’t turn away from, or ignore the pain and anguish, but it did gently refocus the conversation. It reminded us that love sustains, even in the face of hideous violence – something that came more sharply into focus on that terrible day.
And today, as the world absorbs and responds to the news of yet another mass shooting in America – I was reminded of that article. Not because of the mainstream news reports that brought the incident to my attention last week. Their focus was as fearful and hopeless as ever. But because these days my Facebook feed offers me a different perspective. Over time, and one cull at a time, it’s become a place of hope and love. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr were everywhere. There were reflections from the likes of Marianne Williamson, Brene Brown, and Glennon Melton. And the comments sections were filled with calls for stillness, prayer and reflection. Sure, there was anger, pain and sadness, but there was a noticeable absence of reactiveness. There was no knee-jerk hate-speak. No raging. No arguing between commenters. There seemed to be a collective recognition that this was a time to send love those in mourning. There were conversations about forgiveness, about feeling the pain and the brokenness of the situation.
Now I’m under no illusion that this is not what everybody’s Facebook feed looks like. I have no doubt that it would take a single click to discover a snake’s pit of hatefulness and cynicism in response to the Charleston shootings. I am under no illusions that if fear is what I wanted to look for, I could find it, and then some. But what this really underlines for me is the power of perspective. The power of the lens you look through to alter how you experience something, however desperate and however horrid.
And this week, Facebook has brought that home for me.
Because I can choose what my Facebook feed looks like – I can choose who and what I give airtime to, when I hit that little blue square on the screen of my phone.
So often, beyond the realms of Facebook, making that choice doesn’t feel quite so easy. So often the loudest, most prevalent voices are preaching fear and hopelesness. This absolutely happens in the mainstream media, but it also happens in the way we speak to ourselves. We are so well practiced at listening to the inner voice for doom, gloom and disaster. The muscles that so quickly and effectively turn our heads in that direction, are well developed and strong.
However, if we listen very carefully, there’s also a smaller, quieter internal voice preaching love, peace and hopefulness. A voice that we carry with us everywhere we go. A voice that requires us to turn our heads in a different direction. To use muscles that may be weaker, and less developed, but still work.
That voice is always there. It’s always transmitting. And the more often we turn our heads in that direction, the more developed those muscles will become. The more we make what Marianne Williamson describes as ‘chiropractic adjustments’ of our ‘attitudinal muscles’, the more natural and fluid that movement will become.
It takes work to build muscle. It takes practice and repetition – and to keep muscles strong, we have to keep using them. In the aftermath of tragedy and disaster, we need those muscles more than ever. We need their strength to keep turning our heads away from the noise of fear and hopelesness, and back towards the quiet, defiant expressions of love, hope, change and forgiveness.
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Did this resonate with you? Are you interested in applying the perspectives here to your own life? Work with me, and we can really get into it. I love talking about this stuff even more than I love writing about it (and that’s a lot).