A Disturbance in the Force

by sandra on August 12, 2017

{I could post this particular essay every, single day, it seems. All I’d have to do is consider the topic a floating one and fill in the blank. I posted this originally the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and again after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Today seems like the perfect opportunity to share it again. Tomorrow will be as well.}


“I felt a great disturbance in The Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, STAR WARS

This time it’s 20 small children and eight adults – including the 20-year-old killer and his own mother.

We Americans, who are by now inured to living with these types of pernicious massacres, found ourselves collectively disturbed at the soul level by the news coming from Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.

I wonder:  Can we stop right here and learn, finally, from one more vile tragedy? Might we declare, as a nation, that this will be the last time that all of us will ever have to endure the trauma that has forever imprinted the residents and the town of Newtown, Connecticut? Or, will we just keep going? Think about it: What’s the next logical progression in this mutant scale of homicidal devolution? The killing of Babies? Pregnant women?

I believe that The Universe, our Creator, The Force, The Great Spirit, God, Buddha, Allah, The Alpha, The Omega or Nothing-whatever you choose to call the energy that enlivens every sentient being on this planet – provides us with opportunities to evolve at the soul level; then, hopefully, by awakening to our potential for good, we can be of useful service to each other while we’re alive.

I imagine that these 28 souls came together last Friday, under contract to us all, as a nation, and sacrificed their lives in order to wake us up, once and for all, and to say that enough is finally enough.

The United States of America is the most violent nation in the world. This is fact. Our ubiquitous crime and violence, along with the insatiable desire of far too many for more and more weaponry, are only symptoms of our greater societal disease.  We are a nation of abject individualists; we are self-centered, instead of other-centered, or collectively-centered.  Too many of us suffer from feeling “less than” if we don’t turn out to be “successful” or “famous” or “rich”.  Our focus is outward, instead of inward. And it’s destroying us. Individually. And collectively.

We feel profound futility around this pointless annihilation of human life, which seems to be occurring now in stepped-up succession. We ask ourselves, “What can we do about it?”

Here’s a suggestion for something we can all start doing right now- as individuals: start paying attention to the people around you, whether or not you live with them; whether or not you like them; whether or not you agree with their politics or like the color of their skin; whether or not you think you have anything in common with them. There’s something magical and wonderful about noticing people and paying attention to them; for the recipient, it tends to feel a lot like love. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t respond to love.

There was a disturbance in The Force of 20 year-old Adam Lanza. Someone must have known about it. Maybe even lots of people knew about it.  I’ll bet that Adam Lanza felt unheard, unseen, unloved, unimportant. But he sure did get our attention in the end, didn’t he? Why didn’t he get our attention along the way? Was his heinous crime inevitable or was it preventable? Now, we’ll never know. Human beings – left unattended, feeling unloved, unnoticed, alienated, lonely and abused for too long, can easily gravitate towards mutant behavior in order to feel “seen” or indeed, just alive.

We live amongst countless “disturbed” people.  They are everywhere. And, they are not just the diagnosed or the undiagnosed mentally ill, or the obvious homeless people living on our streets. They are also our overworked single parents; our burned- out workers of the helping professions; our damaged war veterans; our neigbors who have lost their jobs; those who have lost their health; they are our abused and neglected children who grow up to be adults with no life skills and coping mechanisms. They are you. And they are me. They are all of us. And it’s each of our jobs to start paying closer attention, both to ourselves and to others.

We spend our lives engaged largely in meaningless activity and constant running around, “doing”, as if everything is so damned important. What if we started to think that paying attention to others is as important as all the other things we do on a daily basis? Maybe even more important.

When we take note of our own suffering and allow ourselves to feel it, it allows us to take note of the suffering of others.  Each time we do this, we build on our collective force which binds us together on a basic, human level.

Reaching out to other people is easy. Express concern when your family member, friend or co-worker seems troubled and offer an open ear.  You don’t have to “fix” anything; just listen. So many people have no one to talk to; no one to listen to them.  Look the homeless person in the eye and say hello. One day, that might be you. Drop by the home of your elderly neighbor whose children live out of town.  If you suspect that a child is being abused, take action to protect that child.

Something in every American was shot dead last Friday, not just the 28 victims of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.  And, if we are to honor these 20 children and the eight adults – including the killer – we have to resurrect that part of ourselves that no longer accepts violence as an acceptable part of our culture.  This includes the violence of misogyny, racism, homophobia, child abuse; allowing our mentally ill to live and die on our streets; cutting people off in traffic; and, just plain bad manners. All of these, we’ve come to accept as normal. We have to become kinder people and learn to reach out to each other, even if it’s inconvenient or feels uncomfortable.

Try approaching with an open and understanding heart someone whom you might normally judge. “Seek to understand instead of to be understood,” taught St. Francis of Assisi. Just look. And see. And respond in some small way.  Paying attention doesn’t require that much energy. And it costs nothing.

How many of us feel invisible, unheard, unnoticed, unimportant, unloved?

The truth is that there is not a single soul amongst us who is not suffering on some level. No one. Our shared suffering can make our collective human experience feel worthwhile;  it allows us to connect with each other and to practice loving-kindness, for ourselves and for each other.

This is how we begin to heal ourselves and ultimately, our systemic societal disease, which has reached a terminal status. And, if, as a nation, we don’t respond to the slaughter of our own children, then, truly, who are we as the people of that nation?

Yes, there is a terrible disturbance in The Force.  And it’s up to each one of us to do something about it.

A Siren’s Call to Sadness

by sandra on August 11, 2017

In the middle of the night I was

         awakened by the wailing of a woman

 across the yard

           at least 500 feet away

I put on my robe and went outside

      prepared to answer her call of distress

if need be

“I need you”

“I need you”

she mourned

A man’s voice sailed beneath hers

a bass counterpoint of steadiness

to her untethered soprano

A lover drawing the curtain, perhaps

I came back inside and fell asleep

And awakened this morning

a grateful witness to

the beauty

and depth




Girl, Woman, Female, Bitch

by sandra on August 10, 2017

A Facebook ad depicting a photo of a young woman scrolled by this morning, with the following caption:

“This female founder is changing the way you hydrate.”

My first response was, “Whoever wrote this ad needs to learn about advertising copywriting.” My next response was, “‘FEMALE’ founder? Why not just say ‘woman'”?

Which led me to the next question: “Why do I need to change the way I hydrate? What’s wrong with the way I hydrate”?

Or, as George Carlin liked to inquire, once the ubiquitous practice of toting water bottles had taken a stronghold in this country, “When did we all become so dehydrated?”

But, I digress……

When I first moved to San Diego, California 15 years ago, I noticed two things: the high level of racism and the fact that women referred to themselves as “girls”.

I soon deduced that women preferred to be called girls as a head-in-the-sand approach to alleviate ageing – which is nowhere more desperate and urgent than in southern California. Read the rest of this entry »

White Men Talking

by sandra on August 9, 2017

Many years back, when my youngest nephew was 8 years old, he asked me one day, “How come men do all of the important things in life?”

“Men don’t do all the important things in life,” I countered.

“Yes, they do,” he pushed. “All the important people in movies and in history are men.”

At the time, I was stunned. First, by the comment itself, coming from an 8-year-old who had already drawn this conclusion. And second, that I couldn’t dispute what he’d said.

Of course, it’s not true that men do all the important things in life. What is true is that they get most of the attention, even when they do things badly. Or in a mediocre fashion.

Any woman who’s been out on a first date with a self-important man could anecdotally corroborate that men talk too much and dominate conversations. Now, there’s a new study to confirm it, specifically as it relates to the entertainment industry. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the Stigma, Stupid

by sandra on August 8, 2017

Sinead O’Connor released a video of herself yesterday, allegedly holed up in a motel in New Jersey, desperately crying out for help. Suicidally depressed, she is clearly in distress.

And abjectly alone.

If Sinead O’Connor, with all of her success, wealth, and entourage, finds herself alone in a cheap hotel in Jersey, imagine what the average person living with a brain disorder is doing.

“Why are we alone?” Sinead cries out.  “People who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable people on Earth. You’ve got to take care of us. We’re not like everybody.”

That’s true. People who suffer with brain disorders are lonely.  Ostracized by a society that doesn’t understand brain disorders; unsupported by a draconian health care system which, at best, prescribes the right medicine before kicking them to the curb without any further support; and, most egregiously, left to fend for themselves when they are incapable of doing so,

Nearly all mentally ill/brain-disordered people find themselves abandoned by their families and friends and have no advocacy, anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »