The importance of finding hope and inspiration

The return of spring spurs toughts of of rebirth, even after a dark and dreary winter.

Several weeks ago, I attended a doubleheader — and it wasn’t a Mariners game.

I saw a ballet performance at the Pacific Northwest Ballet on Saturday and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre on Sunday. Both were spectacular! I was awed by the dancer’s athleticism, flexibility, strength and grace.

Ballet dancers and football players have a lot in common — demonstrating physical abilities way beyond what we mere mortals can imagine. Unlike musicians, they don’t have a score. Their bodies remember a vast repertoire of dance coordinated with others. For me, it’s a miracle to behold.

It reminds me of what human beings can do. We can leap through the air higher than anyone can envision. We can create beauty, joy and meaning. Art is one of the highest expressions of our human potential. Painting, sculpture, dance, music, poetry, and literature can lift us up and inspire us to be the better angels of our nature.

This is especially important in dark times. Our world is entangled in war, climate change and political strife. It’s impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news without feeling a sense of anguish over the state of our planet. These events seep into our nervous systems and impact our sense of well-being. I particularly worry about teenagers who feel pessimistic about their futures. I also feel sympathy for the parents of young children who wonder what kind of world their kids will inherit and the grandparents who are concerned about the climate their grandchildren will live in.

During these times, I like to remember that I’ve witnessed momentous change in my 72 years. When I was a teenager in 1964, I would have been shocked if you suggested that I would see a Black president in the United States during my lifetime. Indeed, in 1964, Black people were unable to ride in the front of a bus in the South. If you told me that Nelson Mandela would become president of South Africa, I would have thought you were dreaming. If you suggested that marijuana would become legal in many states, I would have thought you were out of your mind. I couldn’t imagine that gay marriage would ever be legal. When I was a teen, there were no personal computers or cell phones, much less smartphones. Today, the world of knowledge is at our fingertips.

When I think of these enormous changes, I feel hopeful that peace and greater harmony will come someday. I think about Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. I remember the war on poverty in the 1960s and the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany.

When I go to the ballet, opera, or theater, listen to music or read a great work of fiction, I remember what we can do. I feel hopeful when I reflect on the astonishing changes of the 20th and 21st centuries. When spring comes, and the cherry trees turn pink with blossoms, I think of rebirth and the inevitability of spring even after a dark and dreary winter.

It’s important for us to find hope and inspiration during these painful times and to become who we can be and who we hope to be.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. For more information, visit www.everettclinic.com.

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