manageable disasters

During a recent conversation with one of my all-time favorite professors, he mentioned that “manageable disasters” help us get our heads on straight. He’s right. In the last 6 months, an illness has demanded my full attention and forced me to recalibrate. I’ve never felt so grounded (even if I’m using that Michael Chekhov movement training on the daily for pain management—thanks, DePaul). I’m sure that all of you have experienced manageable disasters. If you haven’t, verse yourself with the basic behaviors of earthquakes. They hit very hard. Then, there are aftershocks. Maybe even a bonus tsunami before you can start clearing rubble. They are a part of life’s cycle and can show up at any moment. I hope that when they do, you can remember to be gentle with yourself. To be lazy. I hope you will feel fully, including the anger and the pessimism, but in a forward-moving trajectory. If someone just died yesterday and I’m hittin’ you real hard with the feels right now, let me shift the focus to cheerleader and say YOU CAN DO IT. Imagine me doing that little jump where you clap and then put your arms at your sides and try to do a dolphin tail wiggle mid-air. God bless the cheerleader who came up with that move.

So. This time of forced rest and recovery has gotten me thinking. About a lot of things. Most of them small and insignificant like, “What does it mean to be human?”

Well, here’s the thing. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m in the “love wins” camp. I might as well be the craft hut manager in that camp. I’m wearing tie-dye, friendship bracelets, and singing Kumbaya in that camp. NPR called this week’s political discourse a national trauma, and I clapped.

That said, I’ve started wondering about the defining characteristic of our species. What drives us on the deepest level? What rules our very existence? If you just rolled your eyes and thought, “ugh, love,” then here’s a curveball: I could argue that it’s hunger. We need to eat to survive. We crave consumption and conquests, and we’ve created billions of games and ladders to climb and win and wear as powerful badges of identity. We are hungry for sex and knowledge and control. We are hungry for new technology and space exploration and prestige. We idolize passionate speakers and donate money when we feel things rather than when we think about them.

Now, I’m not saying that hunger is unique to humans. Trees are hungry, too. So are oceans. So are microorganisms. Imagine Darwin in a corner, snapping his fingers in a z for-ma-tion and saying, “giiiiiirl we’re all hungry!” What I’ve started to wonder is whether love is the most powerful antidote simply because it is a sustainable energy source that counterbalances the crazy, selfish whirlwind that is humanity.

What whaaaat? Did I start a love camp chant and you felt like the kids at school who had a very different summer? Let’s dial it back a step.

There has never been such a destructive force on the planet as human beings. Maybe an asteroid is the closest contender. Let’s start there. We’ve put our ecosystems in a similar position as the class favorite, Harry Potter. Neither can live while the other survives. Aka humans have decided they can’t live with the unglamorous, low-impact lifestyle where rivers flow however they want and fruits grow with some dents and discolorations. And nature can’t handle the colossal farts that we have burnt into the air and dissolved into the water. Which leaves us at an impasse.

In the United States, we opened the White House door to a man who must’ve plastered his childhood bedroom with gold-flecked posters of Veruca Salt. That man is hungry. Love is the antifreeze to a heart like that. Why? Because it still holds those fiery qualities. When you first find a love, it is red hot. But then it persists, evolving at a more sustainable rate and supporting years of exponential growth. Love wins because it balances us out. Did humans evolve so that we could greedily chop and trade and colonize and ravage? God, I hope not.

Here in Camp Love Wins, we believe that humans evolved to communicate. To strategize. To empathize. To keep our eyes (rhyming is fun) fixed on the empowerment of diversity in all forms—human and nonhuman.

What if we woke up in the morning and told the planet, “You deserve to be well. I’m going to heal you.” Instead of calling it climate change or global warming or a state of crisis and doom that will surely end us all, we could call it a manageable disaster and get to work. We’d stay hungry, but in a healthier way.

how many hours have I spent

            rocking side to side

on those elevated trains

surrounded on every side

            by strangers

brushing their forearms against

            my scapulas

while I try to eat a parfait on the go

           

I wonder if the sum of all those averted gazes

is proportionate to the number of young people

who would say

they were lonely in their twenties