Unclench Your Fist
“Peace appears as we unclench the fist of self.”
Tracy Cochran (The Golden Ticket; Parabola, Summer, 2017, p. 36)
Recently, there have been many talks and much research on the subject, even the science, of happiness. Perhaps that's because so many people are wrestling with unhappiness at the moment. Many things contribute to the dis-ease of this time—our chaotic political climate, relentless cyber attacks, epidemic addiction rates and deaths, the reincarnation of ancient demons we thought we had bested, such as racism, sexism, authoritarianism and inequality. And, of course, war—endless war. There's no end to reasons to feel anxious and unhappy.
But what about happiness? How is that achieved? I heard a TED talk over the weekend about happiness in which Elizabeth Lesser suggested “if you want to have a happy life, find what is unforgiven.” In other words, clear up the resentments, the jealousies, the outright hatreds that you're carrying around—even if they are justified. I'm not sure why we humans hold onto things; perhaps, it is a hold-over from our tribal past. Certainly, it is archetypal, and has been around forever—I think of the Capulet and Montague families of Romeo and Juliet fame. Or the long-standing feud between the American clans of Hatfield and McCoy. Or, for that matter, the ever-lasting animus between Sunni and Shiite Muslims today. Sometimes, no one really remembers the original offense, but they keep hate alive anyway. It's tradition!
What all these battles have in common the central theme of self—me, my, and mine. Not only are we fixated on what we want and need, but we seem to believe that having what we want and need means someone else has to sacrifice what they want and need. Sometimes, the only solution to such resentment is to simply let it go. Like a scene from an ancient battlefield, lay down your weapons and walk away. Not so much for anyone else, but so that your soul can clear out the rubble and rebuild.
An unclenched fist is open to new possibilities. Even the possibility of peace.
In the Spirit,