Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.

Eugene Ionesco

I heard this quote last week, when I was watching Criminal Minds and trying to avoid thinking about any of the more complicated things going on in my life and it rang in my heart like a bell. Both pieces feel so resonant, both in my smaller world and the larger.

I want to begin by saying that this is not an anti-politics post. Here in the US, we are at a point in time where we can’t afford to look the other way and assume that it will all turn out right in the end. (Maybe this has always been true, but it feels particularly urgent.) Right now everywhere we turn it feels like we are being divided. Even among people who generally agree, there is a whiff of ‘if you aren’t outraged about the right things and taking action in the right way you are a horrible person’. An ‘if you aren’t with us you are against us.’ And the problems that face us as a country, and as a world, are bigger than can be confronted by splintered factions. It is easy to separate, to divide. It is easy to break things into binary – good and evil, black and white. But I don’t believe there are many things that truly fit into that dichotomy.

I’ve wondered, what will bring us together in these divided times – then here is an answer. Dreams and anguish – two things that all people have, that I would argue are integral to the human experience. 

Anguish – loss and grief and pain, physical, emotional and spiritual. Even though it feels like it when we are at the depths, we are never alone in anguish. We have all experienced it, we will all experience it again. Like the Buddhist parable of the mustard seed – 

A young woman’s son, just barely old enough to walk, dies. Distraught, she searches out doctors who might revive him but they all laugh. Finally a man suggests she go see the Buddha.

He says yes, he can help her. All she needs is a mustard seed from a nearby village. In India, this is a common spice and she is elated. “But,” the Buddha tells her, “you must get the seed from a house that has not known death.”

Of course, she does not find such a house, but she does find story after story of grief and her sense of aloneness begins to fade.

Dreams – the things that give us hope, keep us going when all else feels lost. Art and beauty and passion. When we share our dreams, we can share our hope, lighting candles in the long nights of winter.

* Note: This is one of those quotes that I can’t prove was actually said by the person quoted (wikiquote  claims it comes from a book of quotations, so it could be one of those that get attributed to someone, but may not be correct.