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Fight or flee. It’s only natural. When bad things happen, you put your fists up or you start running.
Since I’m a journalist, fleeing rarely feels like an option. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not supposed to punch people, but I’m also not supposed to hide when tensions rise.
But in May, amid a string of mass shootings, I began to feel like my fighting days were numbered. I couldn’t take reading the news anymore, let alone finding ways to write about the latest developments, too.
It was during this tough period, a time when all I wanted was to hide with my young son somewhere safe, that my copy of “The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life” arrived. I started reading it to prep for interviewing the author and soon realized that it couldn’t have come at a better time.
In the book, Simran Jeet Singh describes fighting against faith- and race-based discrimination throughout his life and where he’s found hope and strength during moments when he wanted to hide. He writes about rediscovering the power of human connection and overcoming the impulse to hate what you can’t understand.
Perhaps the best part is that Singh does all of this while freely acknowledging his imperfections. He makes it clear that you don’t have to be a superhero to develop better ways to deal with pain and stress.
When I met with Singh in late May, I told him I was struggling to get the latest mass shootings out of my mind. And then I asked him what to do the next time breaking news breaks my heart.
First, I need to honor my feelings, he said. It’s OK and even good to hold my son and cry after reading about a school shooting, especially when the alternative is to pretend everything’s fine.
But then, I need to pick myself up and make a plan. I have to reenter the world instead of hiding out on the couch.
“Engage with (the news) in a way that expresses the best of your values,” Singh said.
For me, that engagement looks a lot like doing my job. I value honesty and thoughtfulness, and I’m lucky to work for a company that encourages its writers to find nuanced ways to write about current events.
Finally, Singh said, I have to intentionally develop and express compassion for others — and for myself. In the midst of difficult times, the world needs kindness and open hearts, not more anger and avoidance.
“We’re never going to get a place where we all agree with everyone on our politics, worldviews and in how we behave. What we can do is try and at least see where people are coming from,” he said.
If you, too, have been struggling to digest all the news this summer, I encourage you to check out Singh’s new book. I’m betting it came at exactly the right time for more than just me.
Fresh off the press
Term of the week: Kosher phones
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are also known as Haredim, avoid many forms of modern technology due to concerns about secular corruption. But these days, it’s almost impossible to raise a family and make a living without access to a cellphone, which is why ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel worked with the communications industry to develop “kosher phones,” according to Religion News Service. These devices allow for calls to other “kosher” numbers, but don’t offer access to “messaging, video, radio (or) internet.”
Although community leaders have worked diligently to discourage the use of other types of phones, their control is slipping, Religion News Service reported. Today, some Haredim have two phones, and use the non-Kosher one for their careers or in case of emergency.
What I’m reading ...
Father Hernan Cuevas reported to his new job in Highland Park, Illinois, just four days before a shooter took seven lives during an Independence Day parade. The next week was a blur of worship services and events, as the 40-year-old Catholic leader tried to comfort a community that he was just starting to get to know. “You cannot rely on our own peace, because we can easily break that peace,” he told The Washington Post. “You need something stronger.”
A few weeks ago, Gallup released new data showing that the share of Americans who profess a belief in God has dropped to 81%. In conversations about it, I was quick to point out that 81% is still quite high, and that it seems silly to worry about declining belief when belief is still so common. However, after reading a new blog on Gallup’s poll from Daniel Cox, I’m rethinking my position. He makes a convincing case for why even a modest decline in belief is a very big deal.
The Associated Press released a lovely story last week about what “Ms. Marvel,” a new Disney+ show featuring a young, Muslim superhero, means to the American Muslim community. It noted that the show’s creators intentionally tried to reclaim some language and practices that have been weaponized against Muslims in the past.
Odds and ends
Last week, images of outer space taken by James Webb Space Telescope captivated the world. Here’s what Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican space observatory, had to say about them: “This is God’s creation being revealed to us, and in it we can see both his astonishing power and his love of beauty.”