Thank You, Matt Haig!

Enter Haig’s Midnight Library: A world where you get to make different choices that affect the trajectory of your life.

There is nothing like living on the brink of World War III on the heels of a pandemic to cause one to wax reflective, if not, downright depressed. Take your pick of observations: the murder of George Floyd, the deaths of civilians, police officers, and a veteran both at and due to the January 6, 2021 capitol riots; as of the writing of this post, 115 children have died as a direct result of the Russia-Ukraine War. 

Since March 2020, whether we were masking up or hoping that our Amazon order didn’t get taken by porch pirates; whether we were worried we would never see Lysol Disinfectant wipes ever again or contact tracing with dread after learning a friend at a recent dinner party tested positive for Omicron, life on Earth has often felt like an apocalyptic Twilight Zone episode we can’t Rod Serling our way out of.

Enter the ingenious writer: Matt Haig and his new book, The Midnight Library. This is the kind of book that reminds us: even the most ordinary of lives has the ability to experience an extraordinary life. It’s the butterfly effect on steroids. No spoilers here, but Haig’s protagonist, painfully depressed in a way humanity can empathize with now, discovers the profound life changes brought about by the most minute of alterations. 

Again, no spoilers but Haig’s writing is food for the soul, nourishing our hearts with the poignant reminder that what we do matters. Like us, the protagonist and her family are fallible and contend with their own Achilles heels. Like life, this story pulls every emotion from our funny bone to our heartstrings. Haig is both therapist and entertainer with his words; through the insights of the main character, we understand ourselves more.

One of the quotes in Haig’s book is from the philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre:

“Life begins on the other side of despair.”

The Midnight Library has the potential to resuscitate the heart of the heartbroken. It is as complex as it is simple, like humanity itself. 

Mr. Haig, thank you for the invaluable reminder that regardless of what is occurring externally in our topsy-turvy world, each of us has the power to choose a different thought, word, or action; by extension, each of us has the power to create and experience delicious possibility. 

Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/russiaukraine-war-115-children-killed-140-injured-so-far-says-report-101647775243391.html

Source : https://www.americanscientist.org/article/understanding-the-butterfly-effect

Source : https://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Library-Novel-Matt-Haig/dp/0525559477/ref=sr_1_1?crid=ZLREKKEQC2OR&keywords=the+midnight+library&qid=1648005044&sprefix=the+midnight+library%2Caps%2C130&sr=8-1

A Dish for the Soul: Empathy

Dr. Pearcey, a Cognitive Psychologist at the Institute for Spirituality and Health, offers humanity a powerful tool for cultivating empathy.

The world feels more divisive than ever. Whether it’s how to handle COVID-19, the environment, the economy and everything in between, there’s a great deal of polarizing opinions. Yet there’s a fine but distinctive line between having an opinion and holding a grudge against someone for possessing an opposing, alternate viewpoint.

Our newly instated President Biden is palpably aware of the charged air. He asks us to put aside our differences, “uniting to fight the foes we face.” (Source: Vox).

We—a small but powerful pronoun. We are all together; humanity is interconnected in this mysterious life. We affect each other on levels great and small.

The charged air, the divisiveness and polarized opinions with metaphorical haunches raised (and sometimes literal, as we witnessed on January 6th at the Capitol), is fear-based reaction. Underneath the anger and violence is fear and pain. The lashing out is a manifestation of untended to psychological wounds.

Enter Dr. Jeremiah Pearcey, a Cognitive Psychologist at the Institute for Spirituality and Health (www.spiritualityandhealth.org) who offers “education and guidance…helping people reduce stress.” The other week, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Pearcey offered a mindfulness meditation to explore the historical moments leading up to the Civil Rights Movement, cultivating a greater understanding and compassion for others and ourselves. The title of the Zoom event: “A Day of Embrace and Peace.”

The idea of embracing the historical moments leading up to King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” of finding peace in the face of tension seems like an unlikely pairing. Yet the wise Dr. Pearcey’s guided meditation is just what the world needs now.

After several cleansing breaths and a reminder to get comfortable, attendees of the conference, myself included, were guided by Dr. Pearcey’s soothing voice to journey with him. We were asked to imagine ourselves in 1619 as Africans suddenly separated from our families, not understanding the language of our captors, chained together on a boat. Our journey continued to a plantation in 1800, where any courage to leave our “owners” was often extinguished by the site of other African Americans strung up on trees—a visual reminder of the dire risk for our freedom. We were even brought to the recent past, our last breaths labored, as George Floyd’s was, letting our capture know, with the little we had left of life, “I can’t breathe.”

Dr. Pearcey’s meditative guidance offered us a powerful tool for cultivating empathy and one that we can use in our daily lives. The prefix EM literally means in and PATHY means feeling. Under Dr. Pearcey’s steady and compassionate guidance, we were able to experience empathy for our ancestors and the victims of systemic racism today.

Did anxiety surface during the meditation? Anger? Hopelessness? Yes, to it all. Yet the mediation allowed a safe space to observe without judgement, to feel without attaching ourselves to the unpleasant emotions.

It is okay to feel uncomfortable in this life. When we practice self-compassion, we are more apt to feel compassion for others. Unity is a by-product of acknowledging our differences and cultivating empathy. When one of us suffers, we are all suffering; when we acknowledge our discomfort, our anxiety, our anger, or our hurt from a place of compassion, true healing can begin—for ourselves and, by extension, the world around us.