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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 06 25 21 - Embracing the Brighter Facets of the Duality

“In order to eat, you have to be hungry. In order to learn, you have to be ignorant. Ignorance is a condition of learning. Pain is a condition of health. Passion is a condition of thought. Death is a condition of life.” ― Robert Anton Wilson

We humans are such a paradox. We are easily the most destructive creature that has ever inhabited the planet, yet we are capable of great things. We build civilizations, create art. History shows us examples of amazing feats of self-sacrifice. Our duality. It is everywhere I look. In my own life, addiction is very much the darkest of the dark side. I am viscerally aware of my own destructive capacity, in my own life and the lives of people around me. When I do an honest accounting, the list of things I did not do were a matter of circumstance, change a variable or two and it would be part of my story, in all its ugliness. I also work hard on the other side of that ledger for my own preservation.

The work I do has also exposed me to the extremes of human behavior. Last week, I wrote about the Heroes Journey and the amazing things I have witnessed. I have also seen some of the very worst of what people can do. We are prone to destruction of self and others. As I noted above via self-identification, I am not judging. If the circumstances were different, there go I. There is a trauma load to the work, and sometimes the trauma from our systems far exceeds any of the things that I have seen at the level of persons served. Our care systems can work in ways that make it hard for people to get better. It is like friendly fire, and it is difficult to witness. We must do better.

The level of trauma and upheaval in our larger society is impossible to ignore. Mass shootings, hate crimes and cruelty to each other. We live in a society that defines itself by what we hate about each other instead of our commonality. We are destroying the very fabric that weaves us together and made us a great nation. While one can feel powerless over such things, the truth of the matter is we all have a measure of control over how we expend our energies. We can choose to seek connection and be empathetic in our own paths, and to not spread hate and division. I think it really matters, our individual actions resonate and magnify. We have the power to destroy ourselves and each other or grow as individuals and as a society. Our actions are very much connected to outcome. We need to embrace the light within each other to get through our current times, it is the only pathway forward that I can see.

A mentor told me once, we recovering people help others so we don’t hurt them. I think it is true in a larger way. We will all help each other or hurt each other. What choices we make each day and which of these things is our energy focused on? Turn on the news and it looks pretty grim. There is actually a lot of good news out there, we just don’t usually look for it. We live in a “if it bleeds it leads” society. Yet, here is a story about Twyanna Williams, age 65. She graduated high school last week, she was also the valedictorian of her class at South Philadelphia High School here in Pennsylvania. Here is a young person who donated 40K when she got a scholarship to Harvard so others also have opportunity. Here is a story about a vet who climbed the Matterhorn despite losing his legs in Iraq. Here is a story about a rescue dog who actually saved his adopted family from perishing in a fire. If you looked at those stories you did yourself a favor, you actually tipped your brain chemistry into feeling more positive and improved your own health at the same time. The science on that is compelling to say the least.

So many times, I have come home from a rough day to see Julie busy creating something that has

come out of her head that she puts on to canvas with her eyes and hands in her third-floor studio. When she is in her creative mode, my little world is always a better place. Our home is filled with her art, and it helps heal me to be surrounded by such amazing creations. I am surrounded by the beauty she has created. It helps heal me.

This year, as I have written about, I have spent more time and energy seeking beauty in nature. The photographs in nearly all my posts are my own. It is part of my own self therapy, something I have had to work extra hard at this year. I am training my eye to look for beauty around me. It helps me to stay in a good space. The pandemic has also helped me to stay in touch with how fragile and finite this all is. I am grateful for the reminders of this truth that keep coming my way. I can also be empathetic to others which may lighten the load, even a little bit for a fellow traveler.

I am grateful for all the beauty around me, even within all the ugliness of the world. I am grateful to learn the value of being and acting positively before my own destructive natures devoured my life. It is true that where attention goes, energy flows. I am grateful for every opportunity I get to add to the positive side of the ledger. An act of empathy to another person helps me as well. Finding positive things and beauty in the world helps me stay on a more even keel. I am grateful for every bit of it that comes my way in life, it is sustenance of the soul.

What are you grateful for today?

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