It’s not as if times of fear and despair are anything new. People have fought wars, struggled to survive, faced injustice, experienced loss, dealt with violence and greed, and been caught up in historical movements beyond their control pretty much forever.
Life has never been that easy.
In Buddhist practice, you learn never to shy away from facing the pain of the human condition. At the same time, you also learn not to shy away from the beauty and value of life in all its forms.
By clearly seeing the extremes of experience, you learn to scout a middle way.
Early in 2016 Twitter was awash with folks talking about resistance. Primarily in reference to the recently sworn in president - A man who was going to be in office four long years.
I asked people I knew there "Where did you first learn resilience?"
There was no response.
“Adversity is a fact of life. Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise.” —Psychology Today
It wasn't surprising. The circles represented by my Twitter followers were largely comprised of folks that have been upper middle class for their entire lives. In a handful of cases, they'd even moved into full on wealth.
In that world, resilience is largely hypothetical.
Not that they haven't faced very real struggles. Both internal and external. But resilience is not required to come back from those difficulties. There is a contextual momentum that can carry one through. Repeatedly.
Take that missed opportunity for growth and mix it with privilege. Resilience becomes less a concept and more a metaphor for "spending money". Think of post-crash gold bar dreams, Post-Trump safe room fantasies, and even more extreme schemes.
Retreating into privilege can only ever work temporarily (at best). There is always something lurking around the corner to pop your bubble. Largely because the same factors that enable retreat feed what lurks.
Neither is another video game console.
Or fearing your neighbors.
Or binge watching television.
Or refreshing Twitter.
It is liberating to drop the fantasy of there being a more perfect world, somehow, somewhere, and instead accept that we need to engage with the world as it is.
Buddhism offers a sustainable way to reduce the anxieties of events we have no direct connection with or control over. It's the way I'm personally most familiar with. There are others.
There's no better time to break these ouroborsian habits. Use that anxious energy to explore and practice.
You may find the essay from Judy Lief inspiring. In your explorations you may find something else that can't be so easily summed up in an "ism".
It doesn't matter what you choose.
All that matter's is that the actions proscribed meet a simple test: Are they wide eyed and open hearted?