Last night some friends and I had an “After Hours” discussion on my YouTube channel.
It was, basically, a super chill addition to the interviews, and regular, “serious” podcast episodes that I do there. I was in need of a relaxed hangout because, quite frankly, the political grind is draining. Opening the apps every morning, seeing new tragedies and injustices flooding my timeline, or watching other people shamelessly pull stunts from a place of a hyper-inflated sense of self-worth (yes, #FreeLaura, I’m looking at you) gets super old, and downright exhausting.
I peel myself away from the screen on days like those and feel profoundly tired. I begin to question the good I hope to do in the world, whether or not it’ll truly make an impact, or if it (like so many other things) will become one of a countless multitude of drops, lost in the bucket of time.
Sometimes I retreat to a good book. That, in and of itself, is a great form of therapy, but other times I seek a great conversation with people who inspire me to continue on and to do my part in creating a better world.
Truth be told, you and I live in a world of pure insanity. Tragedy seems to cling to humanity like a parasite, desperately trying to deplete our spirits, and gorging itself on our deepest fears and prejudices. Every day we’re faced with death, abuse, exploitation, and disaster all neatly packaged in sensationalistic graphics and faux outrage/sadness from prominent talking heads.
When I came to terms with the reality of tragedy, I stopped believing in God. I had always been religious to some degree, but you can only pray so long to empty walls before you begin to be honest with yourself. The excuse making of the religious does nothing for me anymore. The fact of the matter is that, even if there is a god, I sure as hell don’t wanna meet him/her/it because that would inevitably mean that it’d sanctioned the world to be as it is. Many people think that this releasing of belief is equivalent to releasing sanity in an insane world. For many, the idea of god is something constant they can cling to in a state perpetual uncertainty. Like a life raft in tumultuous rapids they cling desperately, trying to make sense of why they’re being slammed against the rocks daily.
I can honestly say that, while I don’t begrudge anyone for holding a belief in a supreme power which governs the universe, for me this thought process was relatively easy to release. This surprised me, given the sheer amount of nostalgic sway that religion has held over me throughout my youth. I didn’t feel the “crazy” set in, in fact, I actually felt far less anxious once I realized the Sword of Damocles wasn’t eternally hanging over my head. I realized that I could be a good person without having to pay off some god with my behavior, and I could focus more on coping with the difficulties of life firsthand. Is life still hard? Of course! Tangible tragedy still remains even if the great eternal tragedy is mitigated.
When I find myself in that place, faced with tragedy and the realities of life and seeking rejuvenation, I remind myself of a quote that I heard given in a speech by Gary Haugen, who has dedicated himself to life changing work as the founder of the International Justice Mission, at a rally in Washington D.C. that I photographed.
“Every struggle worth fighting for is both a march and a dance. Joy is going to be the oxygen that sustains anything that’s hard to do, and the harder it is to do the more oxygen you’re going to need. So the longer the march the more dancing you’re going to need.”
His words shaped me that day, even though I didn’t know it, and though Gary and I disagree about eternity we agree on reality. I had never in my wildest dreams would’ve speculated that the fuel for life’s serious work could possibly be joy, but joy is what I feel when I have great conversations with great people. Joy is what I feel when I pick up a book and learn something new. Joy is what I feel when I look at my children and, even though I worry about them daily, the moments we share as they grow into young women are irreplaceable.
I think finding sanity in an insane world isn’t as complex as people would make it. I think we’re enamored with this “5-steps to a better life” approach, because we assume that there must be some secret trick we’re not privy to when it comes to finding contentment. We seek out gods, medical procedures to make us “younger”, we try to buy as much shit as possible before we die…and it doesn’t work. We’re left grasping at straws.
What if it isn’t that hard?
What if finding joy in a world of tragedy, finding sanity and solace in turbulent times, was as simple as looking at what’s right in front of us? What if we were to choose to capture the moments of joy that are accessible to us every single day, and use that for our oxygen, our sustenance when we have to (and you will have to, make no mistake) roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that life requires of us? Everything is perspective.
As Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist once said:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This is how you and I find sanity in an ever changing world. We acknowledge the bad, we find peace in the good, and we cling to those moments of peace as we move toward creating a better, brighter world.
That is true freedom.
That’s my sanity.