How Do You Cope?
April 17th, 2010

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Dear John,

I read the new entries with disbelief and dread. John, how do you cope? How can I find hope in a world where people exist that knowingly do harm to others? I am constantly disturbed by the ignorance and cruelties of others. As a musician, I am exposed daily to a phony, shallow world where age and looks take precedence over talent. I can deal with this by writing music reflecting my thoughts and values and hope my words will strike a nerve. However, I can’t deal with ALEC, Wal-Mart and other greedy conglomerates. Being positive is becoming increasingly challenging.


Dear Kathryn,

Thanks for writing. I am moved by your honesty.

I know what you mean. There are things happening in our world today that must make the angels weep.

Each of us finds our ways to cope. If you are going to be open to the pain and the suffering in the world, I think it is important also to be open to the joy and the beauty. At this very moment, babies are being born, children are playing, people are dancing, people are communicating and learning to understand each other, people are finding new ways to resolve conflicts, and friendships are being made. Right now, people are learning to read, art and music are being created, relationships are growing, new health-giving practices are being discovered, and people are finding ways to add meaning and joy to their lives. At this moment, as in every moment, millions of people are working for a better world for themselves and for all children, now and yet to come.

If you are going to take into yourself the suffering and destruction of life, and you want to find a way to be positive, I think you must also take into yourself the creativity and joy.

It is not easy for me to sustain the gaze, to be present with my eyes and heart open to the suffering in myself and in others. But when I shrink from the pain, when I avoid it and look away, something in me goes dead. Honoring life, to me, requires that I see both the light and the shadow.

You are someone who has been deeply touched by life’s pain. I think I understand, because I am also such a person. You won’t find me telling you it’s all sunshine and roses, because it most certainly is not. But I will tell you this. I won’t let that stop me from loving as best I can and in all the ways I can. Even though we are hurt and broken we can love. In fact, isn’t it often the case that our wounds give us human depth and empathy and understanding? Our wounds can be places where we can meet others and grow.

How do I cope? I take care of myself the best I can. Sometimes it’s pretty good. Sometimes it isn’t. But even when I stumble I get up and keep going because there is something inside me that says this is what I am here to do. It’s kind of like what St. Francis said. Where there is no beauty I will bring some. Where there is no love I will bring it. Where there is suffering I will do what I can to bring joy.

There is something in us humans that is destructive and unconscious. And there is also something in us that is wondrous, infinite and sacred. We have the capacity to hurt each other, and we also have the ability to love. We can react to circumstances, or we can act from a vision of what is possible. I am best able to stay in touch with what sustains me, and best able to find a way to affirm life in the midst of the suffering, when I see the opportunities within obstacles, and find something precious in each moment. Things become beautiful when you love them.

Thanks for writing . I know how you feel, because I have felt that way, too. But what can we do other than continually rededicate ourselves to a path of awakening and compassion? In the presence of fear, what can we do other than see this as an opportunity to uphold another possibility and take a stand for a way of life that is based in cooperation and caring? What else is there to do but love?

We who are alive, with breath in our bodies and love in our hearts, have so very much to be thankful for. With all the pain and challenges that life can bring, let us never lose track of that.

What kind of music do you create? Is there any way I could hear a bit of it?

Hang in there, Kathryn. You have something precious to give the world, something no one but you can give. There is something inside you that is profoundly alive that wants to come out. It will be all the more glorious and beautiful and life-giving for your awareness of the suffering.

Be well, take care, and keep breathing. Who you are is needed.

With respect for it all,


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