E M P O W E R E D C H A N G E
Visioning Your World
To date, the focus of the articles in this Etain series has been, for the most part, from the perspective of the individual and those changes that impact us in a distinctively personal way. But what about those changes that are bigger than our own sphere of influence and experience? How do we handle or adapt to changes that impact us globallyas a people, a nationality, a species? Such change is also a part of life, though perhaps not so readily or succinctly addressed as more personalized changes might be.
Tragedy is often a catalyst for change and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, along with subsequent retaliatory actions, have brought this issue, again, into sharp focus. Atrocities such as terrorism are certainly not new to the world, nor even to the United States. Growing up, I remember the 60s as a particularly violent time, with the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. having a profound effect on my own youthful sense of security and well-being. The Kent State shootings, and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger also stand out in my mind as events that have touched and troubled me deeply, causing me to question and examine personal values and ingrained beliefs that perhaps no longer served me, but might have gone unscrutinized without the impetus of tragedy.
In the case of the September 11th attacks, along with the obvious grief over the loss of many thousands of lives, the serious breaches in security like the ones that had to have occurred to enable these attacks be as devastatingly successful as they were, as well the enormous magnitude of the damage, has caused many of us to experience a level of insecurity that has been profoundly unsettling and disheartening. While it is certainly true that many people in many countries live with tragedywar, famine, in-fighting among villages, tribes and cultures within a countryon a daily basis, still this attack on a nation, which many see as powerful and perhaps even virtually impregnable, has left much of the world feeling suddenly less secure and less certain of their overall safety on this planet. If this could happen to one so strong, it could happen to anyone! Also, the reality and nature of alliances being what they are today, it is all too easy for nations to be pulled into conflicts they neither want nor endorse. It would seem certain, therefore, that no matter what our personal beliefs and ideologies may be, for many of us, within our own unique perceptions a rift has occurred and our world has changed, once again, in a deeply profound way.
In speaking with others in the aftermath of tragedies of this degree and magnitude, I have learned that there are as many ways to deal with the kinds of deep, emotional hurts and traumas that they inflict as there are people who are hurting. Some are mobilized into immediate actiongiving of their time, their money, their servicesto try to make a difference for those who have been touched most personally by the tragedythose who may have lost loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, their health, or their jobs. Others seem to go into shock"numb" is a word that people often use to describe how they are feeling when faced with deep emotional pain. Also profound sadness, grief, outrage, and every other feeling along the emotional spectrum. Many, like me, experience a sense of wanting to "do something" without having a clear picture of what that "something" might be.
When faced with these kinds of global-scale tragic situations, I have found that to keep my sense of sanity and avoid being overwhelmed with the intensity of my emotions, I must draw on my own personal creative outlets, which are writing and collaging, and I encourage others to do the same. I have long experienced the value of the creative process in the realm of personal change, both as a facilitator of the change and as a mediator of the emotional aspects of change. Even as a teen, I recognized that writingparticularly poetry, at that timeand art were creative outlets that served to mitigate the effects of personal emotional trauma and turmoil. Increasingly, I can see the value on a larger, more global level.
In reality, we know that that which affects the macrocosm affects the microcosm and vice versa. This means that no matter the kinds of changes we are experiencing, in some way and on some level, we are all sharing in that experience. The violence and unrest that was so pervasive in the news during the 60s touched my young life in a way that would have seemed unlikely given the atmosphere of the sleepy little Western Pennsylvania town I grew up in. Likewise, in the case of the September 11th attacks, not only did I not know any of the dead or missing, nor have close ties with any of the businesses affected, but I have only made brief visits to both the Washington DC and New York City areas; still this tragedy impacted me deeply. Like many other times in my life, there is a sense that I have lost something precious and valuableand feel that loss keenly. Journaling has long been a daily habit for me, but in the days following the September attacks, I found myself unable to put these emotions into words. To help me make sense of the profound feeling of loss, and to regain a perception of balance and focus, I decided to make a "Peace Collage."
It was difficult, at first, to concentrate, but gradually, from the cut and torn pages of discarded magazines, a picture of peace began to emerge: a wintry landscape with a core of black surrounded by bright light, lovely tropical flowers of hope growing even in the midst of the cold and snow, leaping dolphins symbolizing the compassion and caring that is always possible, butterflies (transformation) spreading their wings in the growing light, and a deep red heart fired by the flame of the beauty and grace that lies within the human spirit. As "peace" emerged in my collage, it also began to grow again in my heart; the healing had begun.
In a real, concrete way can my writings (whether in my personal journals or articles such as this one, which will be read by many) and other creative projects, like my peace collage, really make a difference out there in the bigger world? I don't know. Maybe. What I do know and experience is the value of creativity in the process of personal healing and empowermentand the knowledge that if we were each to focus on healing ourselves while continuing to address the larger world issues, we would have much less "hurt" in the world and more opportunity for the kinds of dialogue it takes to find mutually satisfying, win/win solutions.
ACTION: During times of upheaval we, as individuals and as nations and a world, will often have some difficult choices to make. At any time, no matter what kind of changes we're dealing with, I believe it is most important, even in the midst of reality, to hold on to our vision of a perfect world. We may never achieve that perfection in our lifetimes, but the stronger and more focused our intention, the more likely we are to come closer to that ideal world.
Outside of the context of circumstances, whatever they may be, we should be mindful to ask ourselves questions like: What are the qualities of a peaceful world? What are the qualities of the world we vision for ourselves, our children and grandchildren (those born and those yet to be born), our friends and our loved ones? What can I do to make that world a possibility?
It is a wonderful idea to share our world vision, as well as our hopes and dreams, with others, particularly those who are close to us. You might try planning a group collaging session with family and friends. Simply organize an informal gathering, perhaps a potluck dinner or lunch, for your community to come together and share their ideas for a perfect and beautiful world. You might ask everyone to create individual peace collages or otherwise articulate their own vision of a beautiful worldperhaps in story, song, or dance. Or create a group project such as a large peace collage or other type of community art endeavor. (Participants in one Etain workshop created a large cooperative drawing that each contributed to; a wonderful exercise in collaboration.) You may want to download the "Only Hearts" art project from this Web site for yourselves and for your children. http://dwij.org/forum/only_hearts/art_project.html
Even if you can't get together with others, it may help to find some time to do some real soul-searching. Set aside quiet time for meditation or reflection. What are those qualities of life that you deeply value? What would you have to do to begin expressing those values in your own life? You might want to draw or create a collagea visual imageof what that quality might look like or how it might feel to experience it. Write down your thoughts, keep a journal, write poems or stories. Let your creativity flow freely and allow the healing to proceed.
Writer and Editor
© Linda Maree 2001