Anxiety

One of the nice things about traveling about as I have been for the past couple of years is that you get an opportunity to listen to people in other countries speak about the state of the world. As a fair generalization, I would suggest that we in the USA and Canada are among the most vocal ‘worriers’ I encounter. I would say that a high percentage of North American conversations—at least among those I converse with and based on my take on ‘the news’ on TV—are worried about something. From head-shaking expletives about George W to the justice system, the environment and the state of the world to, of course, terrorism, it is just one thing after another. Even in Canada (which has institutionalized optimism), the “Yes, but” appeal to a balanced account is wearing thin.

In Europe, there are genuine concerns about the state of the world, but the anxiety seems at least shrouded in nonchalance—“Que sera sera”. In South America, they seem to be either immune or numb to fits of angst since there are so many other emotions and feelings to express.

I can’t actually remember if we were so fixed on the kind of ‘looming disaster’ stories before 9/11. I don’t think so. I recall reading someplace that after WWII and the ‘bomb’, the Japanese developed a national obsession with Godzilla movies. Perhaps we are witnessing a kind of societal post-traumatic syndrome. Naturally that makes me worry that we are setting up some sort of self-fulfilling scenario.

I am concerned about the future, but have come to the conclusion that there is a line between worry, resignation and despair and an acute awareness that something major is going on. I think we are accelerating the rate of change to the point that we are having to rethink and hopefully transform our relationship to just about everything. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift when everything goes back to zero and we have to reconsider everything we know. That can be very disorienting. Change like this used to take centuries, and now it seems to be taking place in years and, in some aspects of life, even in months and days.

We all know change is a constant. But sometimes, the context in which we understand the world (the paradigm) changes as well. In countries and societies that have undergone these kinds of volcanic changes, there is a general confidence that it will all work out. In countries like our own where we have had relative stability for most of our lives, it gives rise to a kind of generalized anxiety. It just brings me back to praying to “accept the things I cannot change”….

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