Trauma all the way down

Let’s tag this global stressor accordingly: an ongoing traumatic event.

Symptoms include:

  • Avoidance: Unwillingness to think or speak about it.
  • Shame and guilt: Maybe I am the mentally weak one – other folks are unaffected by it.
  • Disorientation: What do I do exactly? How do I behave? Where do I go from here? Where is here?
  • Hopelessness: Inability to visualise a future.
  • Severe emotional distress: Feeling depressed and disturbed
  • Always being on guard for danger: What next? Armageddon?
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships: Relationships are now a chore.
  • Coping mechanisms: “This? no, this is not a coping mechanism. I am de-stressing.” Even listening to music, running, and meditating don’t seem to work anymore.

If this is you, no need to fret, you’re not alone. I don’t have my ducks in a row either.  

Nothing New by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh, what am I but an engine, shod 
With muscle and flesh, by the hand of God, 
Speeding on through the dense, dark night, 
Guided alone by the soul’s white light. 

Often and often my mad heart tires, 
And hates its way with a bitter hate, 
And longs to follow its own desires, 
And leave the end in the hands of fate. 

O, mighty engine of steel and steam; 
O, human engine of blood and bone, 
Follow the white light’s certain beam— 
There lies safety, and there alone. 

The narrow track of fearless truth, 
Lit by the soul’s great eye of light, 
O passionate heart of restless youth, 
Alone will carry you through the night.

I Cannot understand

Homer, The Iliad. Trans. E. V. Rieu, (New York: Penguin Books, 1950), XI. 622-698:

‘I cannot understand,’ replied Nestor the Gerenian horse-man, ‘why Achilles is so much concerned about a casualty here or there, while ignoring the disaster that the whole army has suffered. Our very best are lying by the ships wounded by arrows or spears. The mighty Diomedes son of Tydeus has been hit; Odysseus the great spearman has been wounded; Eurypylus too has had an arrow in his thigh; and here is another whom I have just brought off the field hit by an arrow from a bow. Yet Achilles, though he is a fighter too, has no concern or pity for the Danaans. Is he waiting till in spite of all we can do our gallant ships go up in flames besides the sea and our army is destroyed piecemeal?

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 

Dead Arms & Dead Legs by Eliot Sumner

I occupy these feet with these dead arms and these dead legs
The brambles catch and tighten and they pull me into bed
This is no retaliation – this is the universe
I imagine myself walking here 5 million years before…
I’m so intrigued by this one – it’s sharp around the sides
There’s a danger to your loving, and my loves been compromised

I have been out walking with these Dead Arms & Dead Legs
And the mysteries of the universe are patterned in my head
The terrain becomes unbearable – too steep to stick your heel
I imagine myself here again in 50 million years

I run to the left… I run to the right
And all my fears become a life
And what is left… and who are you in the end?

I demonstrate my actions in the grace of your defeat
And all things that were left unsaid internally repeat
And the pain becomes tyrannical – 400 tonnes of shame
As I walk into a perfect storm again
I take the burden on myself

I run to the left… I run to the right
And all my fears become a life
And what is left… and who are you in the end?

I’ve entertained their feeling maybe once but never twice
And you feel the world is ending, nothing else can suffice
If it fills that void you bear, if that something wasn’t free
How can I begin to blame you, you are the prisoner in me?

So I run to the left… I run to the right
And all my fears are so alive
And what is left… and who are you in the end?
I run to the left… I run to the right
And all my fears are so alive
And what is left… and who are we in the end?


Hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, economic instability, unemployment, chronic disease, drug addiction, and war, for example, persist in spite of the analytical ability and technical brilliance that have been directed toward eradicating them. No one deliberately creates those problems, no one wants them to persist, but they persist nonetheless. That is because they are intrinsically systems problems—undesirable behaviors characteristic of the system structures that produce them. They will yield only as we reclaim our intuition, stop casting blame, see the system as the source of its own problems, and find the courage and wisdom to restructure it.

Donella Meadows