My seven year old woke us up this morning afraid of a ghost. We talked about this. Are ghosts real? Can they hurt me? No matter what I said, she was still scared – “I’m afraid Papa!” Life is scary, I said. That we cannot get around. Life has great moments of joy, beauty, play, and scary times of threat, loss and hardship.
We do not grieve well in this country. My clients often talk about how social media has replaced real connection, how real problems turn in to causes to post, tweet and display for public consumption, not real action and change. Change happens locally, when we work together, with real people who share our streets, neighborhoods, and communities. When we enter in to experiences of shared suffering, interdependence and commitment to coexistence and cooperation we participate in what it is to be human and real.
It was ironic that on Black Friday the federal government published one of the most concerning and dire reports on climate change. Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, the super bowl of consumerism you can say. That is ironic because the lifestyle of over-consumption that defines American culture today plays a significant part in our difficulty making cultural or policy changes that would allow us to curb production of greenhouse gases. Our social isolation as individuals has risen alongside our overconsumption of material things to replace real connection.
Stimulation is not the same thing as nourishment. Connection requires sacrifice and participation in shared action, in real life. When we face our fears, grieve our losses and honor our ancestors we uncover our capacities for meaning, our innate resilience, and much deeper levels of joy and fulfillment than material objects and status can provide. When the average American today now spends 10 hours a day on screens, in a realm that is timeless and spaceless, we become suspended in time and space, hungry ghosts seeking a temporary sense of being alive and connected, but unable to feel real or complete.