The story which you will read below was sent to email@example.com on Oct. 20th, 2019 by Irene <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Thank you Irene for your contribution. Enjoy this fascinating work, Irene is doing to enpower "The Light" in others.
This summer I visited the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. My eyes darted across the huge expanse of rock desert. Nothing. Just ramshackle tents pulled up by chords in the sweltering heat—heat that could melt your eyeballs. The bedouins huddled under the shad of the self-made tents they their goats roaming the edges of ravines. Nothing moved in the aggressive heat. I saw the carcasses of abandoned trucks in the distance. No plumbing, no refrigeration. How did these people manage to survive? A little girl sat barefoot, crouched on the sidewalk, her knees pointing out of the green jalabiah, on the way to the Israeli border station in Taba. She must have been 9; her smile so sweet, “Wel-come Wel-come” she uttered in front of the trinkets arranged in neat rows on the blanket in front of her.
She was the poorest child I had ever seen, yet she was smiling so brilliantly. I still see her smile in my mind’s eye. I felt so sorry that she had to beg in 105 degree weather so her family could eat. But I could not help reacting to her smile; she was authentically happy. I have traveled to places where people survive on $2-3 a day, yet I find they are happier and more adjusted than we in the rich ‘first world.’ I cannot help from observing how, ironically, it is the poor who are happier and the well-to-do who are miserable. In fact, I think it might be some sort of correlation: the more you have, the more miserable you become.
This is not just an anecdotal realization. Research corroborates my hunch. If you haven’t heard the Ted Talk by writer Johann Hari, “This could be why you’re depressed and anxious.” He delves methodically into the reasons for this: “We need to talk less about chemical imbalances and more about the imbalances in the way we live. Drugs give real relief to some people -- they gave relief to me for a while -- but precisely because this problem goes deeper than their biology, the solutions need to go much deeper, too.”
While third world countries are poor, dreadfully poor, with little food in their stomachs, they have lots of food for their souls. People who live in communal societies have a sense of belonging, purpose, and connection that those in the first world do not. It is these values that keep the soul happy; values such as community, family, faith, a shared sense of goal making. These communities maintain the values and needs that sustain the human soul. In short, they live as tribes while we in the first world live as individuals. To quote Hari, “Humans evolved to live in a tribe. And we are the first humans ever to disband our tribes. And it is making us feel awful.”
Hari’s thesis is that depression should not be viewed as a problem for the individual but as a collective problem. It is a signal that something is not right with our entire society. The opiod epidemic, the increase in addictions across the board, the increased divorce rate, and the rate of suicide on the rise are all signals that American society is sick in its soul. Why?
Tim Kasser, the researcher at Knox College in Illinois, knows why: “Because we live in a machine that is designed to get us to neglect what is important about life." That machine is the corporate-driven, mass-produced materialistic consumptive society that we live in. Your Instagram feed and Fakebook account; your Amazon Prime; the coveted Maserati and the country club “Gold” membership. We all know that buying more shoes won’t make us happy (not in the long run, at least); keeping up with the Kardashians is a futile task. We don’t live by the values that sustain the soul. Hari calls them junk values; KFC for the soul.
Well, dear friends, I am building a little tent in my backyard where I will invite those who want to be part of a tribe. A tribe of folks who want to do meaningful things, who will support each other and accept each other unconditionally. I have been doing this for over 20 years as a teacher of highly at-risk adolescents in high schools all over NYC. Now I am opening up my own space and bring my gifts to a larger audience.
I have launched a private expressive arts consultant practice that uses creativity in the service of healing. My door is open to young and old alike, non-English speaking immigrants, those with means and those without. By engaging in acts of creativity that are anchored in a greater purpose, we will build the bonds that make us one tribe.
My mascot is Aceso, the Greek goddess of healing. You might be familiar with Hygeia, the goddess of health, whose bust stands on many a doctor’s office. But her sister, Aceso, represented the process of curing rather than the cure itself. This is at the heart of our organization, to allow the healing process to take its course through the creative process, to allow emotional expression through the arts. It is the process, the journey, that is as important as the destination, the cure.
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