When I reflect on our community, our country, and our world right now, I feel uncertain.
On the one hand, our government seems more stable, vaccines are rolling out, and kids will now return to school. On the other hand, it is as if a partly hidden ogre is slowly crawling towards us, underground. The beast has not broken completely through the surface, but we can see some spikes and some puffs of smoke rolling in our direction. When I talked on a recent Sunday morning to my old friends from Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal, they confirmed this sighting. In Germany and the Netherlands there are street fights between right and left, and painful stories of conspiracy and treachery are being thrown about, especially on social media.
I asked my physician husband, Michael, “How can we understand what’s happening as if it was an ailment in the body?” Medical metaphors often help me to see more clearly the origin and progress of painful dynamics.
He answered, “Even though life is going on, there is a deep fissure, a wide gaping gash. There’s a wound that has not really healed. There’s a Band-Aid or dressing covering the wound, but it seems like this wound is so deep that it needs more than a superficial fix. There’s infection, there’s a deep jagged non-healing wound.” Michael continued with his metaphor, “There are two types of wound healing, called healing by primary and secondary intention. Wounds that heal by primary intention have edges that are close together and smooth. These wounds can be sutured easily. Wounds that heal by secondary intention, have jagged edges that are far apart and there may be dirt in them.”
I thought to myself, “In the case of our society the different political, cultural, social, and racial camps are enormously far apart, so far that they can’t listen and hear each other. Many from one camp despise the ones from the other.” I deliberated further, “And there certainly is dirt and infection in the wound.”
Michael continued, “In wounds that heal by secondary intention, healing has to occur slowly and from the bottom up.” He explained, “After the wound has been cleaned, there are 4 stages of healing: hemostasis, meaning stopping the bleeding, inflammation, referring to the process of carrying old toxins and cell debris away, and proliferation, explaining the process of gradually filling in of the wound with granulation tissue from the bottom up. Finally, there is remodeling. Now the inflammatory response goes away and contraction can occur. In the end a scar remains, and with that a new state of homeostasis and stability.” He ended by explaining, “We have to keep this gaping wound clean and allow it to go gradually through the different stages of healing. When we do, healing arises from the depth of the wound, organically, all by itself. The body knows how to heal itself and does so when the conditions are right.”
We might be under the illusion that the wounds we see — polarization, racism, environmental destruction, greed, and inequality to name but a few — are easy to fix, wounds that can be healed by primary intention, as if the recent election could be a suturing that will bring both sides together. Sadly, this is not the case. For this gaping, infected wound, there is no quick fix. However, the metaphor of healing from the bottom up applies here. If and when the conditions are right, then we can trust that the deep natural healing process of our greater body, a process that happens from the ground up, will occur.
We need to ask ourselves, what can we do to facilitate this gaping wound in our society. First, we have to realize the precarious state of the wound and that we all have to work together to create conditions that will facilitate healing. Our practices of mindful and loving awareness, of compassion, and of forgiveness, are the necessary complement to active listening and engagement with the other. An inner change of attitude allows us to overcome emotional inflammation, tribalism and to realize that we share the same common humanity, and the great body of this living planet. When we drop into our heart-mind we arrive in this place of healing. We need practices that bring us to our shared humanity, our shared relatedness as planet-beings. Then we can come into the ground that holds us all, the loving awareness that is primordially there. We need an act of faith to trust that our love is stronger than our hate.
When we find this deeper common ground as humans, as well as our shared interdependence as spiritual beings, then we will find a sense of shared meaning and purpose and our greatest yearning will be for the welfare and wellness of the whole. When we come into that shared intention, we will realize that our wellness and the wellness of others is totally interdependent and necessary to sustain the lives of our children and the life of our world.