Recently on the PBS News Hour, David Brooks called COVID-19 a national stress test for how well and long we can maintain our collective faith in institutions and each other.
Indeed, the coronavirus has shaken the very foundations of society as we all know it. But to call it a stress test is, given what has transpired across the world in the past four years, not quite right. Our nation has been in a constant state of stress on every level imaginable. The sheer list of global crises, political dramas, natural disasters, martial hot zones, and threats of catastrophe is enormous, and it has been coming at us nonstop.
Think about it. Our nation just got over the political civil war known as impeachment. Before that we were embroiled in the Mueller Report and before that the vicious debate over Kavanaugh. While these political storms raged, the nation combated a plague of drug addiction, school shootings, ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, record-sized hurricanes and massive wildfires in California.
From the White House, there has flown a relentless stream of vengeful and petty tweets, half baked and semi veiled racist policies, including family separation laws, migrant detention centers for children, the border wall, and religious travel bans.
Globally, the climate is altering and leaving behind broken systems that are now beyond repair. Wildlife is going extinct at unsustainable rates and wild spaces are evaporating.
In the UK, Brexit has created tidal waves of social and economic disruption; and in Iran, Yemen, and Hong Kong, civil unrest, and extreme violence are commonplace, while a nuclear North Korea has the civilized world on pins and needles. Not to mention the saber-rattling between India and Pakistan, deadly flare-ups in Gaza, and total economic collapse in Venezuela.
The truth is we have not stopped being tested. One crisis after the next. One constitutional showdown after the next. One superstorm after the next. How much can a nation or planet realistically absorb?
I don’t know. One thing is certain, and David Brooks understands this better than most public intellectuals. Our institutions have been slowly unraveling for quite some time. From perpetual war to the worldwide clergy abuse scandal to Trump’s Wall to Parkland to the assassination of journalists in Saudi Arabia to mass extinctions and protests for climate change mitigation to the aftermath of the financial meltdown in 2008, every institution has been under extraordinary levels of stress and so have we.
One practice that gives me strength and hope as an individual is the Buddhist teaching of Loving-Kindness. This practice shows us how to express love and compassion to other people and other living beings. It also teaches us to express love and compassion to ourselves. We are deserving of love and compassion. To be able to give this to others we must first give it to ourselves. Of course this is not easy to do when the global mind and body has been traumatized.
The are many spaces within our community to practice and learn about the teachings of Loving-Kindness: the Rochester Baha’i Center at 693 East Avenue, The Thomas Merton Room in the Lorette Wilmot Library at Nazareth College, the Dharma Refuge in the United Methodist Church at 1124 Culver Road, and the Rochester Zen Center at 7 Arnold Park.SEE ALSO
ALSO ON DAVID BROOKS