"Beauty in the Wilderness"
I have been having lots of problems with my allergies acting up over the past few weeks, so I went to see my doctor the other day and he told me that many of his patients have been coming in with allergic reactions more severe than usual. He thinks that the hotter-than-usual weather and the gusty winds have probably stirred up some unknown desert toxins that have been slowly and yet dramatically impacting us in this region.
This morning as I read the paper I realized that virtually every single story I came across was filled with toxins and pollutants that were irritating my spirit. There were numerous stories about “meaner-than-usual” presidential election politics, stories dripping with hateful rhetoric, attack and personal insults. There were stories about rape and murder, human trafficking and corporate greed.
I then deliberately went to my Facebook account and scrolled through the postings, and then I went on to browse though my Twitter feed, and I was struck by all the vitriol and poison of the words I was consuming every day - violent rhetoric, insults bordering on hate speech.
It came to me that, like the desert where I live, there seems to be a lot more spiritual toxins in the air nowadays, way more than usual, and these toxins are slowly but dramatically impacting me, leaving my soul wheezing and sneezing and gasping for air.
This reminds me of a time back several years ago just after the 9/11 terrorism attacks on New York City. For several days, my wife and I found ourselves glued to the TV, constantly watching the continuous coverage - story after story about death and destruction, heart-rending stories about families torn apart, pledges of retribution and vengeance against those who perpetrated the atrocities.
After almost a week of this constant media consumption my wife became violently ill, severe headaches, body pains and nausea - in fact she had all the symptoms of “food poisoning.” When we went to the doctor he asked a few question and quickly determined that her problem was that she was consuming too many “terror images” and “terror stories” in the media. It was poisoning her soul. The doctor told us that he had been seeing many patients come to him over the past days exhibiting these exact same symptoms and he advised my wife to lay off the TV and put down the papers for a while. She did so and in a matter of a few days she was feeling much better.
While reading the paper and browsing through the social media this morning I had a flash of insight. I think a lot of people nowadays may be suffering from “soul poisoning” as they consume the daily dose of toxic words and images that so dramatically assault us in these meaner-than usual times.
The Buddha once said:
I play with flowers and their fragrance clings to my clothes.
I find great wisdom in this saying. If I spend my days sitting in the garbage, the smell will stick to me. If I spend my time with flowers, their fragrance will cling to my clothes.
I will continue to read papers and watch the news and I don’t plan on cancelling my Facebook or Twitter accounts, but I also realize that I need to be very careful not to get sucked down into the pit where these stories drag me. Maybe I need to watch a lot less news and be sure to unplug from time to time in order to detoxify my spirit.
At the very least I need to feed my soul with things of beauty. I need to be sure to spend time consuming the beauty of the desert where I live, to take the time to watch the sun rise and to gaze each night at the brilliant starts of cosmos. Maybe we all need need to be sure to ingest beautiful poetry, read inspiring stories, watch uplifting movies and listen to soul-healing music so that we might cleanse ourselves of all those spiritual toxins in the air.
I am reminded of an old familiar Native American wisdom tale about a “life-lesson” a grandfather offers his inquiring young grandson:
Grandfather, I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
One is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful.
The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful and serene.
Which wolf will win the fight?
The grandfather answers, 'the one you feed.'