Last Tuesday, I was a wreck. The proof: while I had the luxury of several open hours in my schedule, which I would normally be happy to fill with a bunch of to-dos, I had energy for nothing. I mean, I cleaned up my email inbox which is the equivalent of doing nothing. Then I dragged my feet into the kitchen to bake a baguette – an attempt to raise my spirit – and at least do something useful.
On Wednesday, my throat was scratchy, my cheeks were red, and I felt feverish. I thought I had COVID, though I had tested negative a few days before, and had no fever. My febrility was in fact nothing more than the symptoms of my boring, lingering menopausal condition – which couldn’t entirely explain the big blah I was feeling.
On Thursday, I was increasingly annoyed with myself. Then I read that 2/22/2022 had been a powerful energetic portal of spiritual transformation. I thought -for a second- that perhaps my body, mind, and spirit were absorbing too much spiritual transformation. The cynical and Parisian part of me immediately crushed this woo-woo thought by commanding me to not be stupid and not dare share this hypothesis with anyone.
Speaking about power, command, crushing –on Friday, I had a bad dream about the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It became clear to me that the ruthless attack on the Ukraine had contributed to the deflation of my spirit. We were facing a war – a blatant and brazen abuse of power at the door of Europe. “The return of the repressed” as I heard in an interview later on.
In my child’s imagination and nightmares, the most terrible thing that could happen to anybody was the destruction and separation caused by a war. Perhaps, I suffered from a subconscious and residual French/European terror coming from two consecutive World Wars that had inevitably affected the generations of my parents, grand-parents, and great-grand-parents.
In this sense, we ALL have been collectively affected by oppression: a war, a colonization, a segregation, a depression, a famine, or a holocaust.
I’ve always measured my luck and privilege to be born in a time with no war close to home – in a country where peace seemed a given – and in an era where we could focus on advancing human rights, social and climate justice – even, creativity and the arts. At least, that is what two of my favorite professors of French literature – Mademoiselle Henri and Madame Henry – taught me when I was in 5th, 6th and 7th grade. They rank high among my favorite women mentors. Early on, they instilled in me the passion for being a committed citizen of the world and a teacher: I wanted to change narrow mentalities via literature. I don’t teach literature, but I do work on expanding narrow mentalities -beginning with my own!
Nothing a given. The pain, suffering and abuses that occur far from us can suddenly knock at our own door and threaten our rights and safety, conditions that we thought assured of forever. They can also shake us up.
Last Monday, at the beginning of the week, it was as horrifying to watch the first explosions in Kiyv’s sky live on TV, as it had been to watch the video of George Floyd’s murder. But both events were perhaps necessary to shake up our awareness of the threats of mental deception, indolence, and numbness in the face of cruelty.
On Saturday, I had come out of the fog. I watched the TED interview of the historian Yuval Noah Harari that was realistic, and inspirational. For once, I tried to retain the good news: if we stop the “culture war” in Western democracies between liberals and conservatives – if we stick together and meet around the central value of freedom, there is nothing to fear. We should even be able to solve the big complex issues of the 21s century.
It’s a big “if”, but I thought that the least we could do from the comfort of our homes was to stop the culture war. The least we could do was to bear witness to those suffering and share material consequences.
The least I could do was to give money to causes that support human rights and dignity. The least I could do was to pursue my calling and believe that we can co-create a world – at least for our children and great-grand-children – where misuse and abuse of power are intolerable, and peace is a given. So be it.