My last cycle of REM sleep often occurs just before I wake. It is during this time that your brain processes emotions and emotional memories. It is also when we dream. Lately, it seems as if the emotions I’m processing range from mildly troubling to deeply disturbing. As I often remember my dreams, this can lead to an unsettling start to my day.
As it was this morning. I dreamt that I was sitting at a breakfast table with two of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.s granddaughters. (For the record, I don’t know if he had two granddaughters and if he did they would unlikely be around 10 and 12 years old today – as they were in my dream.) We had all just witnessed a minor injustice (if there can be such a thing.) As the breakfast ended, the youngest granddaughter secretly slipped me her napkin which she had just used to wipe her mouth. It contained this hastily scribbled message: “Aren’t you going to do anything?” The rest of the dream involved me struggling to figure out exactly what that should be.
You don’t need to be Freud to decipher the general meaning of this dream.
The world is full of so many injustices. The images streamed in from Ukraine are a constant reminder. Against this backdrop the question of whether we are doing enough weighs heavily upon the mind. It is particularly stinging when asked to us by a child – whether our own or those imagined.
It would be easy to minimize exposure to what is wrong around us. There is no shortage of diversions to occupy our time.This is not the path we try to take in our home.
My work addresses a myriad of social issues. We talk about them and world events around our dinner table each night. Our children’s schools don’t shy away from challenging topics either.
These discussions manifest in our prayers, donations, sporadic volunteering activities and on rare occasions a change in our daily habits (most often trying to be more responsible stewards of our planet.)
In discussing these topics with our children, I’m always aware that my actions are woefully insufficient and the mere raising of them has the potential to elevate fear in their developing minds.
For example, as schools lift mask requirements this week, two of my daughters still opt to wear them. While we say it’s okay to remove them, as we’ve always followed the science, they hesitate. Is this the emotional residue of too much talk and fear?
In discussing war, it instinctively raises questions not only about why wars exist but why don’t we just end them. As my youngest child told my wife, “All they do is make families sad.” They express fear about whether we could be at war soon as well.
There is a balancing act between being informed and being paralyzed by fear.
In REM sleep your body is immobilized while your brain is most active. This disparity is to ensure that we don’t attempt to act out our dreams while sleeping. But what about when we wake and this protective paralysis is removed?
It has been said that action is the antidote to fear. Those on the front lines of injustice have no alternative. The heroic actions of Ukrainians – soldiers, politicians, and citizens alike – should be an inspiration to us all.
It can be hard to figure out the right thing to do though when you’re on the sidelines though. How much of our time should be spent following, watching and discussing from afar? What can we possibly do to make a difference here? This too can lead to a type of paralysis.
Here are two articles, one from Vox and the other from Global Citizen, for ideas related to the situation in Ukraine. I found them like you could for any other issue – by starting with a simple google search, “How can I help…”
Tonight, I’ll share these articles with my children around the kitchen table hoping to make our plan of action. Now imagine they pass on a napkin with this same message scribbled to you, “Aren’t you going to do anything?”
The operative word is “anything.”