There is a crisis and I still can’t make up my mind whether we are all in collective denial about it or just resisting political manipulation. The disaster that is upon us doesn’t appear to have a very decisive shape so my fears have no direction. With no particular place to go, they wander around in my mind until they bang into a news broadcast that offers to transform them into shapely worries. I say when the choice is amorphous anxiety or shapely worry, go for worry. You can’t get it wrong with worry: not only does it have shape but also direction, size and purpose. It can be practiced at any time of the day or night – at will; quite unlike amorphous anxiety which tends to sneak into the mind in unexpected ways and leaves one feeling weak and helpless without knowing why. This is why watching the 8 o’clock news is such a valuable exercise. There is so much on offer that my fears are almost embarrassed by the choice they have. The €uro is behaving like a drunken sailor. Greece is out to lunch. Biblical justice is likely to replace tyranny in Libya. China is buying up Africa and has offered to bail out Europe. France is heading for nuclear fission. Iran has been fibbing about its nuclear intentions. Banks have traded usury for greed. Berlusconi can now express his geriatric libido without political consequence. We no longer care about DSK’s. Oh, and mustn’t forget, my increased contribution to decreasing the national debt. There’s probably no need to mention all the daily acts of local barbarity which just add flavor to the mix. On any given day, with a simple flick of the switch, my mind is guaranteed a clear focus for its fears and no place for amorphous anxiety to lodge itself. Every now and again, however, I redirect my mind away from its habitual pursuits and offer it trip to the cinema or, if one is handy, the beach.
Recently I took it to see the film, “Habemus Papam”. It identified instantly with the mind of the newly elected Pope (Michel Piccoli) who screamed, with all the fury of an enraged two year old, “NO!” before his mind was engulfed in amorphous anxiety. Not even the best psychoanalyst in town could move the shapeless anxiety into a robust worry. We see him wandering the streets of Rome incognito for a good part of the film, looking for something to call “him-self”. His anxiety finally finds expression in the carefully chosen words: “I cannot guide you because I need a guide myself.” With that statement we see the successful transfer of his anxiety on to the worried faces of his cardinals and on to those who had been waiting eagerly albeit anxiously for days in the Vatican square for the shepherd’s official blessing.
What a nice sort of thing to worry about I thought: chaos in the Vatican – definitely preferable to juvenile rapists and killers in your local high school.
I took my mind to the beach this past weekend. I noticed that, away from city and screen, it became nothing more than a simple recorder of water temperature, light density and wind velocity. I felt quite light and free as a result. There just isn’t anything much to worry about at the beach so the fears that lurk around in dark corners of the mind waiting to be fed just lie down and go to sleep.
The energy of fear is an insidious sort of thing and, like a virus, it can infect unsuspecting minds quicker than the brain can think. You know you have been infected when you feel amorphous anxiety creeping along the back alleys of your mind leaving your limbs weak and your thinking fuzzy. The best antidote to amorphous anxiety is a good dose of shapely worry. You can get this for free by turning on your television set but, if that fails, try the beach!
Move gently into winter and keep laughter handy!
What’s your favorite antidote to the accelerated chaos that we are invited to partake in?