Day 80: This Chronic World

CHAOS: What Remains Unspo­ken, Unwrit­ten, Unseen?

21st March 2011

Today is the 80th day of the year.

The first day of Spring?  Appar­ently the invi­ta­tion for Spring to join us was lost.

Ear­lier this morn­ing the ter­race was slick and wet with rain. For a few moments a sweep of ill-formed sloppy snowflakes vis­ited us. They did not linger nor stick to the Stone Sage Lion, and were nei­ther peace­ful nor inspi­ra­tional.  Today my view is grey, gloomy — damp with the mock­ery that the cal­en­dar date has betrayed me.  We are in a world with­out much peace on this the 80th day of the year.  March began qui­etly enough, but the Lion fooled us, and only appeared to be walk­ing lightly across the globe. The roars and heavy paws came later.  I wish for the pro­tec­tive force of the Lion and not this feroc­ity.   We are all hard at it now and things are hard upon us.  Soft­ness is not a con­text I can eas­ily locate.  I have writ­ten about my life with chronic ill­ness.  A friend named it:  This Chronic Life.  Our world is unwell today – many suf­fer, death hov­ers in Asia and in Libya. We have lit­tle room left to remem­ber that there remains the daily suf­fer­ing and anguish of so many with­out homes, food, jobs, those in mourn­ing, those who are sick, mil­lions for­ever sep­a­rated from fam­i­lies –and those who suf­fer the heart­break of lone­li­ness and depres­sion. I feel lost within it all – I con­tinue to be numbed by the real­ity of the news, which is not the fantasy-driven so-called Real­ity T.V. Real­ity tele­vi­sion pre­sum­ably enter­tains; Real­ity itself is not at all entertaining.

This first year of the sec­ond decade of the 21st cen­tury turned old before it began.  There is weari­ness and worry about so much suf­fer­ing and an expressed sense of con­fu­sion and loss of hope for so many.  Japan turned from a nat­ural dis­as­ter to one fur­ther exac­er­bated by the spilling of radi­a­tion from man­made reac­tors.  Libya is in flames, from within and with­out.  Debates will con­tinue apace about what can stop the radi­a­tion spills from poi­son­ing the earth, the plants, the air, the peo­ple and all crea­tures. — An already weep­ing Japan finds ways to cope with the addi­tional over­lay of radioac­tiv­ity and the cri­sis it poses.  For those who are old, the ghosts of World War II haunt.  There is much print and tele­vised chat­ter about how to avoid these acci­dents in the future for the rest of the world.  Politi­cians and world lead­ers, and for­eign pol­icy experts from var­i­ous coun­tries com­bined with ter­ror­ism schol­ars and thinkers will con­tinue to dis­cuss, explain and argue about Libya.  The rest of us swirl around in what has become a world of seem­ing chaos, some of us ask­ing: are we near cat­a­stro­phe or has it arrived?

I have been brought back to a place of thought­ful­ness, if not com­fort, by two quotes.  The first one came to me from Joan D. Stamm.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what sur­prised him most about human­ity, answered:

“Man. Because he sac­ri­fices his health in order to make money. Then he sac­ri­fices money to recu­per­ate his health. And then he is so anx­ious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies hav­ing never really lived.”

The other is from my friend Toni Bern­hard, the author of How To Be Sick.  She has taught me many things, and made me aware of the writ­ings and life of Thich Nhat Hanh. The fol­low­ing Toni says she used as a “morn­ing vow” for her­self.  I’m try­ing to do this as well, to cen­ter myself in order to move for­ward with life and in com­pas­sion and to work harder against the temp­ta­tion to judge others.

From Thich Nhat Hanh: “Wak­ing up this morn­ing, I smile know­ing there are 24 brand new hours before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

Smil­ing and laugh­ing present a chal­lenge for me today, yet I know life is to be lived, to savor and be grate­ful. Each moment pro­vides a pos­si­bil­ity of sur­prise and renewal.  Despite these times, I want to hold images that remind me that change is pos­si­ble and the goal of becom­ing a truly global com­mu­nity are both still within our reach.  I spoke to Michael in the last days about what I might say on From this Ter­race for this Mon­day the 21st.  I asked him to write with his pho­tographs, and he offers these for all of us.

We come together on this the 80th day of our year, within a weary and vio­lent time, and ask for the strength to con­tinue to see light­ness, to strengthen our faith to search for the best within each other, even if we never meet, to embrace and not to con­front, to turn from the insan­ity of hatred and toward the joy of love for all. To move into the hap­pi­ness our indi­vid­ual exis­tence pro­vides, to step away from the relent­less chase for only mate­r­ial sat­is­fac­tion. To fight against the ego-driven life and to silence the part of us that clam­ors to be heard by scream­ing “But what’s in this for ME?” – Let us instead look for ways to be of use to oth­ers as well as our­selves. To reside fully and com­pletely within the moments of our days, as they exist and com­pose the rhythms of the entirety of the lives we are allotted.

And say:


And say:



©2011 Alida Brill From This Terrace


Filed under Community, Compassion, Forgiveness, Friendship, Hope, Inspiration, Life, Love, Politics, Seasons, Spirituality, This Moment

5 Responses to Day 80: This Chronic World

  1. Thank you, as always, for bring­ing some clar­ity into what feels like so much tragedy. We must find a way to counter, even if only in some small ways, the destruc­tion around us. I keep com­ing back to the words of these great minds and spir­its, too.

  2. You’ve brought me to back to a place of “thought­ful­ness if not com­fort.” I like how the words and the Dalai Lama and those of Thich Nhat Hanh res­onate together. We must not be so anx­ious about the future so as not to enjoy the present says the for­mer as the lat­ter reminds us to enfold those we see in that present in a com­pas­sion­ate embrace. To me, enjoy­ing the present doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take action to alle­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing in the world (which for me these days, means giv­ing what money I can to dis­as­ter relief). It’s a bal­ance we seek.

    Thank you for this thought­ful post, Alida.

  3. Alida,

    After read­ing the post and talk­ing to Mike about a cou­ple of the pho­tos, he asked me to share what they spoke to me. I rec­og­nized two of them as hav­ing been shot dur­ing a road trip he and I took together fol­low­ing a rather chaotic period in my life. I had closed out a period of the unknown, and was push­ing for­ward into more unknown, but I knew where I was, and who I had with me, in that ‘now’. Read­ing the post and remem­ber­ing that trip and my sub­se­quent trip out of chaos, I can only hope that feel­ing is mildly prophetic and our world can fol­low a sim­i­lar path.


    • Jim, This means so much to me. thank you. To bring some­thing that mat­tered so deeply to you per­son­ally into our world’s moment and to the com­mu­nity at From this Ter­race === is the gift you’ve given me this morn­ing. Michael brings some­thing new and illu­mi­nat­ing to me and to us each week. Per­haps some­day we will meet. Always, A

  4. HI Alida–

    Thanks for your thoughts on the 80th day of the year! I was just think­ing sim­i­lar thoughts dur­ing my morn­ing run today. I always see a woman on my run who is doing walk­ing med­i­ta­tion, and I think of Thich Nhat Hanh. She was walk­ing across the street with her eyes closed (for­tu­nately it is a quiet street!). I thought as I ran that there was so much to be grate­ful for in this life of ours, despite all the chaos and suf­fer­ing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>