If you’re like me, you’ve been trying to keep up with everything happening everywhere, as commented on by everyone. All of us care deeply about what happened in Newtown. All of us care about how the family and friends of the victims are doing. All of us care that our nation responds in helpful, productive ways. It is human to care, and we are human.
But none of us can process the amount of information we receive in one hour on Facebook, Twitter, and the various news and blog sites we follow. Our relational and emotional abilities are limited, and to blitz our reserves doesn’t help us respond in thoughtfulness and consideration; it jumbles our emotions and fractures our ability to think clearly.
Let me encourage you to take a break and go for a walk outside. Chop wood. Sit in a duck blind. Go cross-country skiing. Or, like Wendell Berry suggests, “go and lie down where the wood drake rests.”
For me, like many of you, Friday and Saturday were filled with heaviness, sorrow, and a sense of dread. I felt like I’d taken too many muscle relaxants, and after twenty-four hours of intense interaction with the news, I wasn’t good for anyone. Then I sat outside in a treestand for two hours. Cold air filled my lungs. Droves of geese flew overhead, making their nightly trip from the river to the fields. And deer, raccoons, and possum meandered past my tree. Nature gave me space, away from other voices, to process my thoughts and feel my feelings. As I walked back to the truck, under the purplish-blue sky, I felt more clear-headed and ready to deliver my sermon on Sunday, calling our little community in Central Nebraska to pray for our neighbors in Connecticut. I also felt more ready to engage in the discussion about our nation’s best interest.
I fear for a nation that tries too quickly to have objective dialog and solve problems, and tarries not long enough in the vital process of grieving. Wherever you find your space—whether outdoors, or inside by a fire—let me encourage you to take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. It’s ok…you need it. And we need you at your best as we move forward in thoughtful, productive ways.
The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
“Good Poems: Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor” (New York: Penguin Group, 2002) pg. 426