I have to say that my podcast with Lars Watson has been sticking with me.
In the interview we hear him recounting his description of how the survivors feel after the hurricanes that besieged Puerto Rico. “Feeling the loss and feeling the pain. Sense of desperation. The hunger because they didn’t have food. It was by far the most difficult deployment and I was ready to come home.”
The trauma of the hurricanes, the destruction of jobs, of school, of comfort and everyday necessities is deep and profound. I doubt very few Puerto Ricans who were there during Hurricanes Irma and Maria wouldn’t divide their lives into two chapters – Before the Hurricanes and After the Hurricanes.
Yet, this sense of loss, pain, desperation and hunger is going on all around me every day in my city that has yet to experience its disaster. There is a Hurricane with No Name that has created a vast community of traumatized individuals and communities with whom I share this world. It is a panorama of continuing struggle and suffering.
Today I passed a person, presumably mentally ill, who was weeping. Her head covered with a hooded coat, she hunched over in the middle of the sidewalk weeping to herself and her demons. Her pain is no less real. Her sense of loss seems profound.
Homelessness. Mental illness. Physical illness. Repeated trauma from abuse or discrimination or job loss or brutality. These all afflict the human condition.
The goal of resilience, to provide accelerated recovery, to ease the impact of ferocious events, to moderate the dislocation – all of these goals – apply equally to humanity in pain, to people left out, to people that try to escape the brutality of war, the cycles of abuse, the collapse of economies and ecosystems and the resulting traumas that afflict physical, mental and community health.
It can be overwhelming to open oneself to all that suffering. To hear the Buddha’s insight that all life is suffering is to recognize that our world falls far below the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Humans can be beastly. We make selfish sound innocent, when it can be anything but.
Yet it doesn’t signal the end of hope: to walk around, to see the world as it is, to recognize that not only is humanity suffering, but all of nature itself is in decline because of our lack of self-awareness. We have an opportunity to stand for something that can ease the pain, that makes the reduction of suffering a priority, that advocates for compassion.
Advocating for resilience is part of my pathway forward. A resilient world isn’t the end of all pain and suffering, but it is a step to soften the blows and accelerate our capacity to recover, to reorganize, and to start fresh with our humanity intact.