The news is full of tragedy. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget it exists. We wrap ourselves in cocoons of modern comfort, alternative realities, and a seemingly never-ending lists of things to do. It can be easy to take comfort in the forest, the river, the garden and let the rest of the world fall away. I can see the value and truth in Buddhist thought – that attachments lead to pain. The things we own sometimes bring us grief because they cost money and energy to maintain. Our friendships, while often joyful, can be complicated by disagreements. And our families – oh, our families… Despite our love for them, despite the happiness that often comes with family, and despite the comforts – family brings a whole list of cons. Your fortunes are bound, you must learn to live together despite dispute or a difference in perspective, and you constantly worry. So much of that worry is concerned with the tragedies of the world and a hope that they don’t visit your little tribe.
Tragedy was a distant concept for me when I was little. With such matters, we really do seem to come into the world tabula rasa. I don’t really know how I learned about it. It probably started with the death of my goldfish at five, but I don’t really know. My mother nearly died giving birth to my sister a few years before that, but I don’t recall knowing that until much later. I was probably in bed when news of genocide across the pond aired on the news. “Stranger danger” was probably the biggest hint that the world was not the safest place. One thing I do remember is my parents often saying that I would understand their worry when I grew up and had children of my own.
Now here I am, in my third trimester, carrying my first child. So much has happened in the world since this little one was conceived. There were shootings in malls and schools. There have been riots, civil wars, and terror in the Middle East. There was a terrible, deadly gang rape in India. Starving and dead seals have been washing up on the west coast. Natural disasters. Nuclear threats. Explosions. My goodness!
Yet I suppose it’s always been that way. When our ancestors had little contact with the rest of the world, awful things still happened each day. There were invasions, pillaging, raping, plague, high infant death rates… and always some mystical other in the woods. Goblins. Witches. Boggies. Fairies. The world has always been threatening.
Despite the worry and the realities of danger, people keep having babies! Biological impulse aside, a part of me has decided that we do this out of hope. We hope we can raise a decent human being who will not contribute to tragedy. We hope he or she will rise above difficult situations and perhaps make the world a better, more peaceful place.
In Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the box full of tragedy, it’s said the last “spirit” to emerge was Hope. Like the fire from Prometheus, it is a blessing that gives humanity comfort amidst the greatest darkness.
I’ve been doing a lot of sewing for babies recently – for my child and my niece who is also on the way! When I sit with needle and thread, I consciously put love and hope into what I make.
There will be difficulties, little ones, but I hope the tribe can give you the comfort and safety you need, and that you can meet your own challenges with grace, wisdom, and strength.
Live and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that, until the day comes when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these words: Wait and hope!
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas