“ Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach. Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world. You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity, can cause to be set in motion.” --Clarissa Pinkola Estes
My dog Magic has a favorite stuffed toy named Baby that lived at my mom’s house for many years. Magic, like most dogs, loves to play tug-of-war with his toys. He like to grab them and shake them fiercely. He likes to chomp on them until he finds the hidden squeaker, and then squeak it incessantly. (He still does this, even though he’s now deaf as a stone.)
Periodically, small rips and tears appear in Baby and his stuffing starts to spill out. My mom regularly stitched them up, and Baby has as many scars as prizefighter. Doesn’t matter to Magic - he goes right back to tugging, shaking, and chomping with abandon. And we go right on mending, because Baby is so important to Magic.
We rescued Baby during the clean out at my mother’s house and brought him here to live. I suspect we’ll take him with us next week when we all pile into the car and head to Florida for our six week sojourn in the land of sunshine. I’ve already had to mend him once since we brought him home and I suspect I will continue to mend him on occasion for as long as Magic is around to play with him. (Which reminds me of one more thing to add to the packing list - needle and thread!)
These days I feel a little bit like Baby, as if the world is pulling at me, shaking me around violently and chomping at me with sharp, angry teeth. I feel limp and bedraggled. I feel ripped and torn. I feel sorely in need of loving hands to stitch me back together again.
Today the news of the world was just Too Much. The horrible violence and death in Syria, the unsettling news of foreign intervention in our own election, the uncertain future of this country - all of it makes me want to run for cover. I spent a good while this morning “unfollowing” things on social media because sometimes I just can’t know anymore. And the crazy juxtaposition of horrific news stories followed by cute puppies and recipes for Christmas cookies is sometimes, well, just too bizarre for words.
But while I sometimes feel as if my information meter is on overload, I also feel that I cannot remain uninformed, that I cannot live in my own rosy little world, oblivious to what goes on in the wider world around me. I can continue to perform small acts of kindness, to foster respect and compassion in my dealings with other people. I can educate myself politically and raise my voice against what my gut instinct tells me is terribly wrong. But I’m often bothered by a nagging sensation that none of those things are enough.
I want to believe what Clarissa Pinkola Estes says. That anything I do from my “soulful self” will “lighten the burdens of the world.” So I package up a box of small gifts for a young family in need. I send checks to some of my favorite charities. I buy a bag of groceries for the food pantry at church. I sign petitions. I call my Congressman (again). But it feels like there is so much to be done, and nothing I can ever do is enough. The rips and tears are not tiny ones, easily stitched together with a few pulls of needle and thread. They are cavernous and huge, and becoming larger every day. Is there a big enough sewing kit anywhere to mend the ruptures in this world?
I know many people of great faith who tell me that Higher Powers are at work. That Light will come from Darkness. It’s true - throughout history there have always been dark times in every society. Those dark times come to individuals, to families, to cities, to nations. And throughout history, civilization and its people have survived, rebuilt when necessary, and gone on to brighter, sunnier days.
But just now it doesn’t feel like enough to me to Believe, or to pray or mediate or whatever your faith calls you to do. Someone wrote to me the other day that we need to "Act in Faithfulness,” words that resonated within me. I have to ACT, I have to get out that needle and thread and stitch that seam and I have to keep doing it over and over again until it holds.
My friends all know that sewing isn’t one of my gifts. I’m just about competent enough to stitch Baby back together. It’s not a pretty sight, but it holds for a while. Maybe mending doesn’t have to be pretty. Maybe The rips and tears we suffer in the course of modern living call for old fashioned remedies. Not necessarily beautiful, but sturdy and functional. And sometimes scars will be left behind.
“Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. In whatever you are called to, strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes. “Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach."
At the root of any action is also this: it must be taken “from the soulful self.” So I come back to my original quest, the search for the Soul in solstice, for my true nature in this world we live in. Perhaps just as important as anything I do in service to mending the world, are the things I do that mend my own soul. Perhaps I need to be just as brave and fierce and visionary about healing the rifts in my own heart as I do about mending the tears of this broken world. I must fight for the Peace of mind I’m so desperately seeking. I must accept that my small, heartfelt, soulful efforts are enough to make a difference - at least within the circle of life I care most deeply about. I think there are many of us who feel this same need.
“When the headlines blare news that is so much bigger than anything one person can affect, it helps to get out into the world and be,” my friend Beth Kephart wrote yesterday on her blog. “I've been spending time with people. I've been reminding myself of all the good out here, of what happens when people set politics aside in favor of community. When a show of force is sublimated to the power of the heart.”
Often after a round of play, of grappling and growling with his toy, I’ll find Magic stretched out on the floor beside it, his head resting on it or one paw thrown protectively over it. His aggression toward it spent, his passion for it tamed, he settles down next to it, satisfied and at peace. I recognize that impulse these days, to just collapse exhausted on the floor.
Maybe I should honor it…perhaps that’s the kind of mending I need right now.