May Day & Mayday!
Sunday, May 1, 2016
It’s May Day here in the US. For me, it’s a day loaded with meaning. All kinds of meaning.
When I was a kid, May Day was the symbolic “real” beginning of spring. The grass was green. The winter was almost certainly over. And every year, we went to some effort to make May baskets. My mother led the operation, which involved assembling collections of popcorn and colorful assortments of candies. Always with a ribbon or some décor. Always with a touch of spring.
We delivered our May Day creations to relatives, and to many neighbors. We always got some baskets, too. Kudos to my mom for pushing this. I’d like to think people still do May baskets. Perhaps something for me to consider actually doing next year, now that I’ve thought about it. Live it to give it, they say.
Of course, the phrase “Mayday!” has another meaning. To first responders everywhere, to mariners, to aviators, to soldiers, and to others… it is a sacred word. It is a word that you only use when you are out of options. It is a cry for help; well past needing basic assistance. It is a word asking for lifesaving. It is a word of life and death. It,s a word that in itself is amplified well beyond any justice that shouting or microphones can bring.
That is something quite a bit different than flowers and sunshine and May baskets. There is a part of me that is so tied to the very deep guttural panic of the word “Mayday!” that it catches my breath. I don't want to write about it, because there is no way to do it justice. It is the power of a moment. It is the honor of those who have gone, and those who have gone in. For me, it is the pain of my own friends and colleagues who have had to live with hearing that word from people who didn't make it.
Today, the Central Intelligence Agency has reminded us that May Day is notable for another reason. Yes, the CIA is "live-Tweeting" the capture of Osama bin Laden as if it was in real-time, as it happened five years ago today. A day we might not have remembered in such detail had the US government’s most notorious spy agency not made the unusual social media move.
Five years since we captured - and then killed - Osama bin Laden. In September, it will be fifteen years since 9/11. Two big anniversaries.
They got us on 9.1.1. We got bin Laden on May Day. Calls for help all around.
I can’t believe I never noticed the May Day tie before with the Bin Laden capture; his own personal Mayday. Especially since it was three years ago today that I decided to take this leap; to champion the idea of countering fear. The depth of the meaning for the day and the word itself pushed me to make that leap on May Day, 2013. We all need help. Sometimes it is a Mayday. Yet I also love the sunshiney image of a beautiful spring May Day. That is an anchor, for me.
I struggle in writing this blog. The whole Counterfear Blog - not just this one post. I struggle because I would like to not focus on terror. I would like to not focus on my years in Homeland Security. On my own personal frustration and heartbreak on a government that’s got the security part down, but not some of the rest of what we really need.
I struggle; yet my journey has led me here. I feel like I need to pay attention to that.
Part of my paying attention has been to look more at fear itself. The power of fear. To that end, I’ve been studying the rise of the Nazis. The Nazis’ extremely successful use of fear was phenomenal. Fear was the real power in the Nazi machine. Fear moved mountains. Fear mobilized.
I’m studying fear, because it seems like maybe it's on the rise a bit in the US. I certainly never expected to come onto the scene with an idea about countering fear in a time when it is so incredibly pervasive. I was hoping it would be be on the decline. Here we are at nearly 15 years since 9/11, and I thought we might be in a different spot. Instead, we've got continuing terrorism. And, it's doing its job. It's most definitely causing terror. Of course, terrorism is by definition about fear. Terrorism is also about causing economic and political instability… tied to that same fear.
This year, we have US politicians on both sides leveraging a whole array of fears in what has become a stunning 2016 presidential election. The media is making a ton of money, so they amplify the fear... fanning the flames. They can’t seem to help it. CBS’ Leslie Moonves actually said “Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ...The money's rolling in and this is fun.”
Politicians are successfully leveraging the fear - in part because of its pervasiveness. The media is selling fear because it’s easy, and fear builds more fear. But, the spiral is dangerous. We would be wise to check it.
There are a ton of reasons to be afraid, and perhaps some are well-justified. I could write a list… but why? My guess is that you could come up with a list all on your own. Or, you already have.
The Not-So-Secret Secret
The challenge, of course, is to counter the fear.
The challenge is to rise above it. To take a time-out. To step back. To find tools. To ask for help. To bring in back-up. To sort out the useful fear from that which we don’t need or want. To find the fear that holds us back.
A lot of this website is about all of that. Powerful stuff.
There is something deeper, though. The deeper area is where I struggle. I struggle because I’m not a person who goes around talking about love and whatnot. Or, I have not been that kind of person to date. Looks like I’m getting there.
There are a lot of experts and gurus and coaches who say they have the secret to everything. If you’ll just listen/join/read/follow, you’ll have the inner peace and the success and the money and on and on.
On my own long path to find some of that, I finally heard the answer. But I forget it. I’m not living it. Or rather, I’m not living it enough.
I do believe that you can study all of the world’s religions, and read the texts, and listen to the preachers, and watch the videos, and hear the speakers. After a lifetime of searching, you may find the same thing. It seems like maybe I should make more of a fuss here about this; have more of a production - yet there's no need for that. The secret to life, the universe, and everything is right here. It’s love. We’re here in this place to learn that. To get it. To live it. To love.
That is how we find sunshine and flowers on a May Day, in a world pushing terrorism and fear. We open the blinds, and see that the sun is shining - after three days of rain. We see the green of the grass, and flower blossoms on young trees. We see the radiance of a setting sun, casting a brilliant glow on a landscape still glittering from rain. We see beauty. Clarity.
We can knock down the walls of our own compound, and let people in. We can be vulnerable. We can let other people see that we love, and that we need love. That we can help, and that we need help. This is connection. Community. We’re not alone. We do this life stuff together.
This is why I love the symbolism of May Day.
I love it because it is a reminder that sometimes we need help. Desperately. Sometimes, it is an actual Mayday.
But the sunshine-and-flowers aspect of May Day reminds me that we can all be part of community. Of giving people help. Of taking care of each other. Of showing we care.
We do these things when we love. When we’re open to it. When we freely give it. When we don’t hold back. In an actual Mayday situation, there is no time to hold back.
But why wait for an emergency to stop holding back? There are people around to love now. This is the heart of countering fear.
Spring is a perfect time to dig in.
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