When Luck Wears Thin
I’ve heard the expression a few times this week, ‘Aren’t we lucky?’. That is, we’re lucky to live on the mid-north coast of New South Wales because we dodged the torrential rains and gale force winds that our southern friends and relatives did.
It’s been a shocker of a week down south. The Newcastle, Central Coast, and Sydney areas all experienced almost-cyclonic conditions, river flooding and power outages over several days. Inland, the little town of Dungog endured 145 mm of rain in a three hour period. Through the rest of the day, the rain kept pounding. Houses were washed off their footings and three people perished in the floods.
Try as I might, I can’t generate much of a lucky feeling.
I have the same problem when I hear of migrants’ boats capsizing. In five separate incidents just this month, 1200 individuals who were seeking refuge in Europe have drowned. And, there were 3,000 migrant drownings in the Mediterranean Sea in 2014.
I suppose I could think of my own good fortune, but how can I? I feel for the desperate plight of these North Africans and Middle Easterners, risking their lives in hope of luckier circumstances.
At the end of this last week, we read of the catastrophic earthquake in Nepal. Destruction so extensive that it is unknown at this time whether there are 1,000 dead or 100,000.
Then, bringing it back to the personal, there’s my friend Linda, who is valiantly battling breast cancer. When I think of her, I don’t feel at all fortunate to be enjoying my own good health. I feel into the pain of this unsolicited twist that her life has taken.
The Balance of Joy and Heartache
At the same time, it is true that my life is mostly good. Today I was present to an exquisite autumn day, sunny, warm, joy-making. As I enjoyed a view of green pastures and our still-flowering gardens, the weight of the world’s woes was delicately balanced with the beauty before me. Crazy, noisy, yellow-tailed black cockatoos flew across a blue sky, and a butcher bird sang a tune I’d never heard before.
It is possible to simultaneously hold pain and beauty in one’s heart-mind. It’s only when we experience ourselves as either lucky or drowning in sorrow, that we become stuck.
Buddhist nun, Pema Chodran, has some advice for us in her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change:
‘… in order not to be torn apart by these turbulent times, we have to let go of the shore and stay in the middle of the river, in the unceasing flow of life.’
Pema reminds us that we are not alone. We who are lucky are needed….
‘We’re all in this together, all so interconnected that we can’t awaken without one another.’