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12/20/2003 Archived Entry: "Help against despair"

HELP AGAINST DESPAIR. On a CASPIAN e-list, activists were talking about despair and how they cope with it. I know hopelessness is a huge problem for freedom lovers -- and especially for anti-surveillance activists. It's horrifying to watch 1984 rush in at lightspeed while most of the world says "ho hum" and most of the media says "gee whiz, ain't that nifty!"

CASPIAN founder, Katherine Albrecht, posted her own observations & gave me permission to print them in full here. They're some of the wisest I've read on the subject.

Even for us skeptics who can't share Katherine's religious convictions, the best part of her essay is the part you'll find under the subhead "Faith, faith, faith." Click "more" and gain a little consolation.

Katherine Albrecht on coping with discouragement and fear

Many of the creepy developments hitting us are things I've seen coming from a long way off, so you'd think they would have stopped shocking me by now. Not so. I still go through moments (occasionally days) of sheer fear and panic that can be debilitating if I don't nip them in the bud.

I get through these by:

(1) getting busy and working (the distraction method)

Radio interviews are a great cure for me, since they give me no time to think -- the "must be on" nature of them supersedes anything else and gives me a mental break from my own worries. While this isn't an option for most people, I mention it to stimulate thinking about other tasks that have those qualities. All highly recommended. (Downhills skiing and paintball have that quality, too! ;)

(2) getting busy and working (the "I'm doing something useful" method)

This one is less effective for me, but can be helpful, too. Simply diving into and completing a task, even a small one, can help ease the sense of helplessness.

(3) Getting out and doing something totally unrelated (a variant on the distraction method)

A day out with the kids surrounded by happy people can help. Of course, if you're really depressed this can make it worse, as you find yourself looking at all the blissful families thinking "Little do they know what's coming." That can be worse than sitting at home thinking about unaware families in the abstract. Gauge the depth of your mood before trying this one.

(4) Baking, decorating, cleaning (domestic chores)

These things can get overlooked and pile up when we are focused on saving the world. *laugh* Sometimes just taking a day off to tend to them 100% and then basking in the resulting nice environment can help lift my spirits. The world may be falling into ruin outside my house, but at least it's great in here!

The tasks I mentioned are typically female, but there are guy variants to this, too. Polishing the car, fixing the leaky roof, shoveling snow, cleaning out the tool shed, etc.

(5) Faith, faith, faith

Only when things are really bleak and the future feels hopeless do I fully understand the value of faith. I have hit a few moments of sheer restless panic (the kind where you can't sit, but you can't stand either - probably heightened since my hormonal pregnant state) when the ONLY thing that I could find to make any sense of this was God.

Remember that many millions of people have teetered on the brink of disaster before, seeing it coming full throttle, and that God has ALWAYS corrected those situations eventually. In the end, the good guys do triumph. Even those who perish ultimately triumph, while the seeming victors of history are often the long-term losers. Think about it. Who would you rather be now (since the entire generation is dead anyway) -- an innocent Holocaust victim or a bloodstained SS Officer? For a flickering instant of time (4-5 years?) the SS Officer appeared to be the victor, but worldly victories are just a blip on the screen in the face of eternity. When the dust settled, the SS Officer lost that one big time.

It's also important to remember the transitory nature of evil. It's not a binary, permanent state. There is a great saying in Spanish, "No hay mal que dure cien anos, ni cuerpo que lo resista," which I scratched my head over for years. Now it is comforting. It literally means "There is no evil that lasts 100 years, nor a body who can resist it." The point is that nothing and nobody lasts 100 years, so guys like Stalin, etc. and their evil systems eventually have to die like the rest of us.

The curious part about this saying is the "nor a body who can resist it" part. You can parse that several different ways, depending on your mood and optimism level. If you take it to mean "resistance is futile, so resign yourself to your fate" it can actually be comforting, as it takes some of the personal responsibility off of your own shoulders. The world won't go to hell because you somehow personally failed; you are just a body, and are no more empowered to resist the results of evil than anyone else. On the other hand, you can take it to mean that there is no evil body who can resist 100 years of time, which is also comforting. But this ambiguity aside, I love the 100 year limit imposed on evil and return to the thought often.

From what I can observe of history, evil seems to come in waves, always followed by a reprieve, which can often spell long spans of good. It's hard seeing the end of what (to me at least) has felt like a long span of good: our free republic and the founding principles that made it so great. When I feel the impending wave of evil coming on hard, I grab ahold of the rails and hold on tight, recognizing that there is not much that I, a single person, can do to stop a tidal wave. The best I can do is keep my wits about me, hang on tight to a mooring of what I know, and let the wave wash over and past me. Someday the wave will probably wash me into the sea, but that's where we will all wind up eventually anyhow. Better to go there early, principled, and intact, than to wind up there a few short years later as a moral shipwreck.

Here's my last piece of hope to share: That if we have the strength to hang tough when the hanging gets tough, if we can resist evil and turn our face toward good rather than selfishly riding the evil wave and profiting from it -- or merely saving our skin (as so many millions will do), that we will someday meet our Creator who will hold us in his infinite hand, wipe away our tears, and say, "Well done, faithful servants." Then it all will have been worthwhile.

Posted by Claire @ 10:37 AM CST

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