I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Worrying worldwide trends

Eagle's eye view

Where we live here in the Pacific Northwest, we see a great number of eagles, like this one keeping an eye on the hikers below. I just finished reading a disturbing article in The Atlantic, entitled "Eagles are Falling, Bears are Going Blind," about a strain of avian virus that has become much more virulent than any known heretofore, and it has jumped from birds to other animals, and some of them are mammals, like bears. We have known about the avian flu virus for a long time.

The largest outbreak of bird flu in American history was an H5N2 virus, which led to the deaths of 17 million domestic birds and cost the nation more than $400 million during an outbreak in Pennsylvania that started in 1983. —Michael Greger

What we have going on worldwide right now is, in the words of an avian immunologist:  "I would use one word to describe it: unprecedented. We have never seen anything like this before" (Shayan Sharif). We have already lost more than 58 million avian animals, and now it's spread to new and very scary hosts, like seals, minks, foxes, bears, and whales. We will be hearing more about this virus in days, months, and years to come, I fear.

So far, humans who have been infected by this virus work closely with fowl and other birds, but it has only made them sick; they recovered and have not passed the virus from human to human. However, after we have recently (and not completely) dealt with the suspected bat virus, Covid-19, which ended up killing millions of humans and is still not done with us, it doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy to think of what might lie ahead.

However. It doesn't do any good to stress about possible virus epidemics in our future. We have plenty to worry about already, with climate change causing incredible numbers of unprecedented events, such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and major climate catastrophes around the world. What should a person who is aware of the trends and wanting to do something positive about the situation, do?

The only thing we have that we can actually do something about, is our own mental attitude. I've tried to avoid the news, but I keep coming back to hear what the current situation is with all this, and I read many opinion articles daily, because it just doesn't seem right to stick my head in the sand and pretend it's not happening. It does help to get some perspective on current events, by reading positive as well as negative news.

I also must remind myself, often, that we are all in this together. Nobody is alive right now who is not affected by what is happening worldwide. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor (other than one's personal comfort), we cannot escape the difficulties we face every day. Some people choose to ignore it and put on a brave face, but I can't do that anymore. I wake with the heaviness of grief, not because of any personal loss, but because life itself has become a reminder that we are not being good stewards of our planet. 

So, obviously, I am in need of an attitude adjustment. I'd like it to be a permanent fix, but since I can't have that, I'll muddle through, looking for those little anodynes that help relieve pain. One very positive method is to look it straight in the face and acknowledge what is going on inside of my head. How is it possible that one day I wake feeling filled with optimism for the day ahead, and the next I wake like this, fearful of what's to come? What is different, really?

My mental state. That's the only difference. And that state is as ephemeral and changeable as the weather, the wind shifts and I'm happy, then sad. But the good thing is that it's under my control.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. —Jack Layton

I choose to be loving, hopeful and optimistic. Although I may need to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and repeat those words to myself over and over, I can change what I think and the way that I respond. People have been finding ways to do this since, well, since we came into the world. I went online and found an interesting article, "How to Be Optimistic When the World Around You Isn't." It gives some tips on how to become more positive, which obviously I need right now. It's not a panacea, the world is still going to be a dangerous place to visit, but it's my home, and it's where I can make the tiniest bit of difference by changing my own mind.

Just the smallest little push towards happiness, just thinking about it all, has made me feel better. It's better that I am able to think about it and write it down than letting it fester like a wound inside my head. I have applied the balm of love and respect for my state and acknowledging it, and it's already better. I feel the lines in my face soften and the barest hint of a smile tug at my lips. 

I think of my mantra, the one I repeat many times a day, "May all sentient beings be free from pain and suffering and enjoy robust good health." I sometimes forget to include myself when I say it, so today my goal is to give this dear person, me, some loving kindness and compassion. And I know for a fact that it works, when I change my own mind from looking into the darkness to looking upwards toward the light.

I suspect I'll be in a much better frame of mind when we meet again next week. I will be here, and I hope you will be, too. I feel love spilling up and out of my body, and it's a much nicer place to live in. Yep, it's already better. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things and lots of love and compassion surrounding you.


ApacheDug said...

If my dad were still alive, he would read all this and say one word. "Heavy." DJan, I am very sorry you're overwhelmed with the state of the world, it's not difficult to be. And I feel downright selfish for writing or talking about more lighthearted things, but I'm not ignorant of what is going on. I just know life can be very short and if I can enjoy what I can, I will. I hope you keep your spirits up and enjoy your own life in the days ahead.

Linda Reeder said...

I needed a spirit fix yesterday, the weather was cold and gray but holding dry for for least one more morning, and I knew the hellebores would be starting to bloom in the nearby Highline Botanical Garden, so I had Tom take me there.
I will post a blog later today with pretty pictures I took there. It was wonderful to visit a garden again, where some beauty was already in bloom. We are lucky that way here in the coastal PNW.
I had mentioned to Tom the day before that I was depressed. He responded , "I know you are". It was time to do something about it.
One garden visit won't fix everything, but it really helped, and I walked all around that garden fairly easily, because I was completely and positively engaged in what I was doing.
This will be a slow week before things pick up again as my surgery date draws nearer. I will need distractions. Like you, I keep up with the news of the world enough to know what's going on. I try not to dwell too deeply on the misery and the potential dangers.
I will work on me. Everything else is outside of my sphere of influence.
Thanks for this post, dear friend.

Rian said...

DJan, I pretty much agree with everything you said... and it's strange as I've been a bit down lately too. Worrying about things that 'could' happen isn't the answer. Sometimes I think just taking life a day at a time is the best we can do...and using that day in the best way possible. No one knows what tomorrow may bring. So, I'm wishing you a happy Sunday!

Marie Smith said...

Attitude is everything. I find winter depressing anyway but the return of light, just three minutes more a day, helps me. Sunshine helps too rather than the endless overcast winter days. Doing my bit every day to reduce, reuse and recycle is a positive thing. It also helps if I reduce my intake of the news to once a day. Life is too short to focus on the bad all of the time.

Take care, Jan. Have a peaceful, lovely week.

John's Island said...

Good morning DJan. You have already received some excellent comments from Doug, Linda, Rian, and Marie. I don’t think I can add much to what they said. I do believe I’m feeling the same frustration you are with regard to the current state of the world. As far as we humans have come in the evolution of everything, it seems we still have a lot to learn about how to get along with each other and enjoy a more peaceful and harmonious life. I am grateful for the way you share your thoughts with us. Wishing you and SG a fine day and a happy week ahead. John

Rita said...

I guess I look at it this way--if I have managed to live in a fairly peaceful time for even good parts of my life I am fortunate. Humans have always created endless wars. There is rarely a time when there isn't a war going on somewhere on this planet. We periodically try to kill each other off for a variety of reasons (excuses). We also try to dominate and control others by trickery, finance, religion, or force and the earth has always had numerous natural disasters. There have always been famines and floods. People have always starved and had to relocate. All of that while I have been alive for almost 72 years. I am grateful to not have had to be very close to it all and to have had peace and ordinary days in my life.

But if it wasn't for the horridness and cruelty of humans and the unpredictability of the earth itself...the stunning beauty and vastness of this planet would not touch our souls and the selflessness, kindness, and love we human beings are capable of would not shine so brightly it brings tears to the eyes. Because there seems no logical reason to care, to serve others, to feel joy, to sacrifice, to give, to hope, to share, to help each other...to love...to love each other. We have always been the best and the worst. That has always been our choice. Humans are always making that choice. I choose to try to be the best human I can be. I choose to love us...despite us. I choose to forgive our ignorant evilness. All we can do is pick a side. I believe there is more love in the world than hate. I believe love is always endures over hate. If you are still and open your heart...you can feel it. Spread the love. We humans are also stunningly precious treasures. Shine, baby, shine! :)

Galen Pearl said...

A sobering post today, DJan. Lately I have become a head-in-the-sand person. Beginning a few weeks ago, I have been on a "news fast." I have mini news fasts every other weekend when I'm at the cabin, but a few weeks ago, when I came home from the cabin, I decided not to immediately check the news to see what I had missed. That stretched to several days, then a week, and now more. (I have checked headlines twice during this time)

It has been interesting, to say the least. I've been guided by Phil 4:8 -- "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." I decided I wanted to be more aware of my thinking patterns and how they affect me. I wanted to be more deliberate in what I dwell on in my thoughts.

I'm not suggesting a news fast for others. I'm just reflecting on my own exploration of what we think about. I understand that being informed is important, so I don't know what the right balance is. Still exploring that. As you said, the key is our attitude about what comes into our awareness.

By the way, on your recommendation, I am reading The One. Fascinating!!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I just do the things I can do and everything else must take care of itself:) I am not watching the news. I want a new news channel with only good news:0

Gigi said...

I loved both the quote and the article you shared. It is hard to not be angry and scared with all that is going on in the world today. But there is so much beauty, kindness and love out there - we just need to be open to it. Have a wonderful week, my dear friend.

Red said...

Some days we're just down. The world situation is one to care about and worry about. We're old enough to have seen some very real changes. We can't put our head in the sand. Have a good week and come back smiling. Remember, Thursday is coming and that means you get out for a hike.

Anvilcloud said...

There is much to be anxious about. Let's hope that those who come after us will find solutions. Meanwhile, we press on and look for a little joy here and there.

Linda Myers said...

I can't remember a time when there weren't horrible things going on in the world. Or when there weren't gloriously beautiful things happening. I try to be a kind person and a good listener in my life and to let the rest of it go. Not always easy, though, I admit.

Glenda Beall said...

I, too, get down when I see the news and all the terrible things going on. But I try to tell myself I cannot do anything about it now. I don't have money to send. I can't go and help. All I can do is try to learn all I can about our government and how my vote can make a difference. Meanwhile, I am recovering from knee surgery and most of my time is spent with my leg elevated and an ice pack on my knee. When I recover, I will try to rejoin the human race. Hang in there Jan. We have to take one day at a time and do our best. None of us are promised a tomorrow, so make today a very good one.