the whole world

later that night, I held an atlas on my lap, ran my fingers across the whole world, and whispered, “where does it hurt?” It answered, everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.
— warsan shire

 WARRIOR ALCHEMIST

The world is aching. There is war and hunger, oppression and violence, shouting, weeping, gnashing of teeth. The earth itself is aching with being neglected, overused, taken for granted. Now more attacks ... Beirut ... Paris ... and with them the realization of how little we know of violence and attacks in other parts of thew world. News is selectively shielded. 

What is the response to very real pain? This is suffering of a magnitude that I cannot comprehend. I feel guilty for that. Honestly. It breaks my heart that I fret over the small frustrations in my life when there is such devastation for others. 

The day after the Paris attacks, a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist created an image and message to the world. He wrote: " Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don't need more religion! Our faith goes to music! Kissing! Life! Champagne and joy! #parisisaboutlife " Where do we turn in the aftermath? To tears and mourning? Or to find life and joy?

In the days after the Beirut and Paris attacks, I spent meditating and being with my family. I cooked food. I sat with them and ate. I dreamed about moving. I stayed away from news media that only seek to keep you glued to the images, the sounds, and the horror, competing with each other for their fair share of the viewership, because why? Is it about reporting? Is it about finding the truth? Is it about telling the story in such a way that it promotes life and love or fear and anger? It was a horrible attack. I know that and I have a bare-bones understanding of what happened and why. I do not need to know every second of the terror that those cities are living through. 

It is overwhelming and it makes one feel helpless. In the midst of having little or nothing to do to help, there are choices to be made. I could add my voice to the outrage. I have done that in the past. It was my effort to raise awareness for myself and others. Screaming along with everyone else may or may not be the best choice for me. It is something that I need to consider. 

How do I heal the world? It is almost laughable that I ask that question. As if it is even possible for me, one person, to heal the world, to stand in the face of terrorism, to be a peacemaker, to bring wholeness to our planet. 

My instinct draws me inward to my thoughts, my word, my art. It may be that when I am most prolific I am taking steps through the maze of trying to understand and deal with hardship that others are living through. I do question how it helps. How is it that my being whole in my heart could make a different for anyone else? 

I am grateful for the words of Anais Nin, recorded in A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars, and Intervies of Anais Nin. In the chapter titled, The Artist as Magician, she talks about escape as a way of transforming and creating a different world. She writes " there was a great taboo on anybody who was able to move away from catastrophe. It wasn't realized that the moving away from catastrophe  or trauma or ugliness or whatever monsters we encounter was necessary as an anti-toxin. We need anti-toxins, we need a place in which to recover our visin, we need a place in which to reconstruct ourselves after shattering experiences."  She goes on to talk about the magic words of change and movement - transforming, transposing, transcending, transfiguring, transmitting. She writes, "So this trans - transmission, transposition, transcendence - is vitally necessary not only to our human life, but also to our creativity. And creativity is so necessary to our human life because it shows us the capacity for change."  

The painting at the top of this post is titled Warrior Alchemist. I painted her during in response to an invitation to choose between warrior and alchemist as my subject. I couldn't chose. I was both. I have seen that painting as two sides of one person. I can be the warrior and I can also be the alchemist. It all depends on what is needed. Today, I see her as one, simply one. The alchemy that she engages in is what makes her a warrior. Alchemy is her weapon. 

So today, I paint. It makes me whole and if my tiny piece can be whole, then the world is that much closer to being whole as well.