Crazily enough – and understandably enough – there is a part of me that is convinced that I can control how this goes. If I check the news often enough, if I screw up my eyes and wish enough, if I think hard enough, if I hold my breath for long enough, if I pray enough. I say this simply because I have indeed found myself doing all these things. And not only is it clearly futile, it’s also a source of great difficulty. When I’m in the grip of this story, which inflates both my power and my responsibility to extreme proportions, I’m also in the grip of resignation, frustration and despair. If I can’t have it my way, the logic goes, I’m powerless and ought to be ashamed. And so I bounce between grandiosity and deflation, neither of which give me the best chance to be of use to the world.
Which is why I think acceptance is so important. Tricky times may be on the way – have always been on the way. The world is going to go how the world is going to go, and it really is not in our power to change it.
But acceptance is neither giving up nor tuning out. From knowing the true limits of our power, from ending our attempts to control what we cannot control, comes a new kind of power and responsibility. Instead of clinging on with a vice-like grip we can cultivate our capacity to respond with dignity, freedom and integrity. And, boy, we are going need all of these. And, while learning to be patient with our own difficulties, we can cultivate the capacity to attend, urgently, to the difficulties of others.
Let’s start with our own lives, and with those around us. And, yes, let’s extend ourselves into the world so that we are not perpetuating cycles of fear, and denial, and mistrust. And let’s know our limits, so we don’t paralyse ourselves with how big the task is. And in the light of our limits let’s each – and together – do what only we can do to repair what has already been torn asunder.