The passage below was first written in 1955 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her book “Gift from the Sea.” They were brought to my mind recently in the horrors of this past week.
As a bit of context, Anne was born in 1906, and was married to Charles Lindbergh, was herself an aviator, acclaimed author, and mother. This would put her grandmother’s era (which she referenced below) in the late 1800s.
“The world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts, and sufferings even in the outermost circle touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.
But just how far we can implement this planetal awareness? We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world, to digest intellectually all the information spread out in the public print, and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds. The interrelatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather – for I believe the heart is infinite – modern communication loads us with more problems than a human frame can carry. It is good, I think, for our hearts, our minds, our imaginations to be stretched, but body, nerve, endurance, and life-span are not elastic. My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds. I cannot marry all of them, or bear them all as children, or care for them as I would my parents in illness or old age. Our grandmothers, and even – with some scrambling – our mothers, lived in a circle small enough to let them implement in action most of the impulses of their hearts and minds. We were brought up in that tradition that has now become impossible, for we have extended our circle throughout space and time.”
I can not speak for my great-great-grandmother, but I wonder if her trials and that of her immediate circle were more manageable and more actionable than what we face today, as Anne supposed. Today, we have the world's tragedies pitted against the same body, nerve, endurance, and life-span that could shoulder a lesser load, but crumble under the weight of today's news cycles and headlines. Or at least that is how I have felt this week.
In times like this, I want to go back to my immediate circle. Where actions can be taken and progress felt. Start there and fan out again, as I have strength. My compassion is strong. My conscious is pricked. My empathy is stirred. And my weakness is revealed.