Healing the World

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is an odd sort of vacuum. The press and stress of the last few weeks suddenly is over–resolved or dissolved by Christmas. The pressure is off for now. New Year’s is a week away.

If you are a life coach or a creativity coach, you get a lot of sad, angry, abandoned, frantic, emergency calls over Christmas. Hurt feelings, damaged visions, tarnished hopes, disappointing families. Lots of witnessing, no fixing. I learned a long time ago, I can’t fix. I can witness. I can walk the path with someone else, but I cannot walk the path for them.

Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for "Heal the World." It's a requirement.

In the Kabbalah (the study of Jewish Mysticism) there is an injunction to “heal the world” —tikkun olam in Hebrew. I’ve always been fascinated with this idea. How can we fix the world? We can barely manage one life. The answer is a quote from the Jewish Book of Ethics: “You do not have to complete the task, neither can you put it down.”

We work at healing in small increments, in what is described as striking divine sparks. I love the idea. Of course the larger idea of tikkun olam is social justice, but I love the idea of striking sparks in the darkness, tiny fireworks of light and warmth.

In the studio today, I had a dried leaf that looked like a feather. I wondered if I believed it was a feather enough, I could use it to fly. It’s the same kind of certainty required to heal the world.

–Quinn McDonald is a seeker, who uses her studio to explore creation and creativity.

12 thoughts on “Healing the World

  1. Witness and give information in love and with respect – that is all I can do. I can do nothing about how information is received, whether it is considered.

    If we are going to give information we must know how to talk and sometimes words are not the way. I once worked with the father of a boy who was rebellious and heading for trouble with the law if he continued down the same path – the method the parent was using to ‘control’ the son was to meet him head on and challenge him and impose harsher punishments. I asked the father to indulge me with a little experiment, to walk toward me and I would try to stop his progress – he was a big man and of course I couldn’t. I then walked beside him and gave him a nudge to the side as he took a step, this changed his direction just a little. He understood what I was saying.

    Walking alongside is a great position for a witness – and a great position to whisper gently in an ear.

  2. “I can walk the path with someone else; I cannot walk it for them.”

    Thank you for that wisdom. I need to write it on my heart and soul. I always feel the tug to “make it all better” for people in my life, and then feel frustrated and guilty when I can’t.

  3. Beautiful post, Quinn. After years as a counselor, parent, spouse and friend, I too have learned that it seldom works to try to fix. That the best you can often do is be a witness to someone’s life. That said, being a witness is extremely powerful and healing. Really seeing someone without flinching or fixing can be a divine spark.

    Thanks for the reminder, the sane voice in a frantic time.

  4. Maybe we heal the world by working on healing ourselves. One person at a time. Imagine if everyone focused on this, how different our world would be. Controlling the one person we actually can control — ourselves — and stop trying to control everyone else so they fit our idea of who they should be.

    Journaling/meditating — how difficult those simple (should be) in the crush of holiday schedules, visiting relatives and friends, lots of demands. I finally figured out that while I was traveling 6 hours in the car on consecutive days I could put my headphones on with nothing playing, then I looked out the window and listened to the silence. 30 minutes and I felt refreshed again.

    Why is it so difficult to carve time out for ourselves? It is so important, that quiet but active time, and often it is the first delete when my schedule gets overwhelming.

    • We can’t control others. We can’t change them. We can accept them, or not. We can give good example through our actions, because what we say is not as powerful as what we do. We all set priorities–choosing one thing over another. And then, ugh, have to live with it!

  5. That’s a lovely, wondrous concept, Quinn. I read your post not long after waking from some very vivid and quite strange dreams. I agree that this time of year feels strange. I had no family drama and no reason to be anything other than happy yesterday, yet found myself vaguely dissatisfied, and casting my frustration at those around me. I also realised that even in this “break”, this “holiday”, I was continually mentally searching for “the next thing to do”. And of course, the list is endless.
    So, my meditation last night (my six year old came with me for the walk, so that wasn’t very meditative!) – was around the word “stop”.
    I dreamed about a university outreach/ summer school programme for intelligent, physically handicapped people. I don’t know if such a thing exists. But after reading your post, I’m wondering about creativity and both physically and mentally challenged adults and children. Just a seed. Opportunities to broaden the lives of those whose lives have been narrowed.

    • I think it’s so important to broaden the lives that have been narrowed. It’s often hard to see that we are blessed with our own lives, and reaching out to others is a way to see how rich our blessings are. We do have a tendency to see our glass as half empty, don’t we? Until we see someone who is thirsty, with no hope of holding a cup.

  6. Oh my word, this is just the post I needed to read at the exact moment I needed it. Someone made a very inappropriate and hurtful statement to me on Christmas Day and I have been struggling all day on how to let it go and move on. I’ve done some journal writing, verbally talking it out and reading. I’m not one to back down from confrontation but this is a delicate situation that is not easily resolved. I want to “fix” it but I realize that I can’t fix it, i.e. the world. I can only work on my attitude and approach and work on forgiving. I’ll eventually get there; it will just take some time. Unfortunately, I will be forced to be with this person throughout the week but I have made a choice to limit that contact as much as possible, for my own well-being.

    I, too, love the idea of, “We work at healing in small increments, in what is described as striking divine sparks.” My focus is to heal myself because I know I can only heal this rift in small increments and maybe not at all. Then I will have to work on acceptance.

    I know I can’t fix others. I can’t make them think or act more appropriately, I can’t prevent someone from flinging hurtful words out into the world or doing something that might not be able to be undone. I can only work on my attitude and outlook…..it’s definitely a life-long process and journey.

    • Wouldn’t it be great if we could fix others? Turn down their volume, replace their battery–add coolant? I’d love that. I keep trying, so I must think I can make it work. But you are right, we work just on ourselves and for a lifetime–at least it’s a full-time job with no lay-offs in sight!

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