‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.’ Henry David Thoreau
I have been hearing a common theme among my clients and social circles lately. It is the expression of exasperation at what we see when we give our attention to the media. There seems to be bad news, bad behavior, and bad blood everywhere.
It is true, that collectively we are bombarded with messages that are hard to see and hear- from tragedy to malice- our senses fill with stories of things that feel hopeless and out of our control.
When we place our attention on these things that are happening so far away we feel helpless, but if we are willing to do the hard work of reeling in our own sense of responsibility we can become instantly empowered.
One of the more talked about images that emerged in the press this week was that of a three year old boy named Aylan, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach. He, his 5-year-old brother, and his parents were Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe. The only member of the family to survive was the father. I heard a few people express outrage that the haunting image of this child was shown to the world. While I agree it was a devastating image to look at, there is nothing noble about turning our attention away from the truth.
Seeing that picture causes pain for a multitude of very obvious reasons but one of the greatest wounds we feel, is our inability to do anything to help that child or assuage the grief of a father who, in his own words, ‘watched his whole family slip away from him.’ In real time, we may not be able to help them- but if we take our lens off of landscape mode and instead view that picture through telephoto, we begin to see that little boy and that father everywhere. They are us – and we are them.
Scan the horizon of your own life. Who do you know that might be seeking refuge from something? Using your symbolic vision, is there anywhere in your life that you can throw a lifeline to one who might, in some way, be drowning? What in your world might you be letting slip from your grasp… that will later wash up lifeless on the shore of your future?
If you are willing to do the work, and truly look at the opportunities for healing that exist right in front of you, right now, you will see -that by taking action in your own life, you can indeed, change the world.
Next time your attention is drawn toward an event that seems far away -twist the lens of your life to telephoto… push the sense of helplessness aside and bring the picture into focus. What ever needed healing ‘out there,’ will show up front and center in the viewfinder of your own life. Because we are all seeking refuge- and every single one of us has something that we can offer to another that can help them move one step closer to home.
This world will always bait us to look ‘out there’ -and our resistance will always tempt us to look away.
We can’t save the world… this is true… but we can do our best to be good people- and to love one another when we are able, and to intend harm to one another never.
When we look at the world through the telephoto lens of truth, no matter what we look at, we have the power to create change, and bring hope and meaning back into view.