ARE YOU FEELING MORE AFRAID THAN YOU NEED TO FEEL?
Does this photo help?
It helps and inspires me.
I'm in London right now, and last night at dinner I sat next to a historian, and we got talking about the London Blitz — the 57 straight nights of German bombing raids that terrorized English citizens, destroyed great swaths of London, and left thousands dead.
As for how the English decided to comport themselves during the terror? Well, this photo tells the story:
Sit in the rubble of what was once your home and have a cup of tea.
You've heard of KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. You've seen that classic British wartime poster replicated a million times, in a millions forms, till the message has nearly become forgotten. But it's worth remembering, in earnest.
I think the modern western world has become way, way too afraid. We have been so safe and so prosperous and so comfortable for so long that we have become hyper-sensitive to even the faintest brushes of fear. Real and imagined terrors haunt us, and we magnify those terrors mightily. The news scares us, our food scares us, unwashed hands scare us, letting our children walk outside alone scares us, strangers scare us, traffic scares us, the weather scares us, change of any kind scares us, air travel scares us, not wearing sunscreen scares us, our shadows scare us…
We are far, far more afraid than we need to be. I say this not because the world is without risk, but only because we have deep, latent capacities for endurance and survival which most of us have forgotten about. Whatever the danger or the upheaval — real or imagined, emotional or material — we can work it through. Really, we can. People always have. Above all, we have the capacity to cultivate a willful dignity in the face of our fears. Look at this photo every once in a while, for an example of the horrors people have managed to handle calmly.
You have that in you, too — somewhere. Trust me on this.
And if all else fails, just sit for a moment, have a cup of tea, and reflect upon this calming truth: Whatever the chaos around you (real or imagined): You're still here.