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Coping with a crazy world

Mar 7, 2024 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

The world has become a crazy place of late with wars, genocide, fanaticism, disturbing climate change, reactionary thinking, lunatic politics and doomsday scenarios dominating the news and our everyday lives. We are all suffering from stress and societal PTSD to a greater or lesser extent, and trying to find ways to maintain hope and optimism while fate conspires to drag us down into an emotional and psychological black hole. We are indeed living in what an ancient Chinese curse termed “interesting times”, making it a significant challenge to maintain our mental equilibrium in the face of unrelenting bad news.

So how does one deal with such existential tribulations and maintain one’s sanity? I cannot claim to have any definitive answers to this conundrum, but I can share some of the techniques I use that I have found have significant therapeutic value in restoring some sense of emotional balance in my life despite all the seeming chaos and anarchy that has befallen this world of ours.

One thing I often revert to when the weight of the world has fallen on my shoulders is to take the advice of famous American author and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, and take a walk in the woods. As he once wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” To reconnect deeply with nature is one of life’s natural cures for what ails you, particularly psychologically.

I am fortunate enough that my property backs onto a conservation area with a picturesque meandering stream and woodland trail that stretches on and on as far as my stamina will take me. It is almost miraculous that, though I live in the middle of a fair-sized city, I am but minutes away from getting lost in a little woodland paradise, where the gurgling waters and sounds of wild birds overshadow the usual noise of urban civilization. The sights, sounds and smells of the woods can bring you a sense of peace and tranquility like nothing else can. This is accentuated even further when I am joined in my woodland strolls by my three-year-old grandson whose curiosity, awe and wonder at all the minutiae that nature has on display takes me back to the more innocent and carefree days of my childhood.

Another favourite pastime that helps me escape at least temporarily from the daily grind is cooking. As strange as it may seem to some who view cooking as domestic drudgery, I find it a great way to take my mind off of weighty concerns and focus on the pleasure of creating little culinary delights. I love taking standard recipes and adding my own experimental touches to create soups, salads, appetizers, entrees and desserts that my friends and family can enjoy. I particularly enjoy baking, turning out cookies, muffins and breads that beat any of the over-processed products you typically get at the grocery store. The process of making many of these baked goods is as important as the final product. Spending the better part of the day mixing and kneading dough, then watching it rise until it finally hits the oven for its ultimate transformation into a crusty, aroma-rich loaf of sourdough bread, is an experiential miracle that is as spiritually satisfying as it is delicious.

Lastly, there are few things one can do in life that brings greater delight and satisfaction than gardening. I have only come to appreciate the joys of gardening in the years after I retired and began to get my hands dirty working the soil in my backyard garden as well as the flower beds in my front yard. While a good chunk of the world seems to be engaged in war and destruction, I have been spending ever more time in recent years, tilling the soil, planting vegetables and succumbing to the pleasures of seeing a wide variety of flowers bloom and bring a veritable cornucopia of colours and scents to delight my senses. In the process, I have discovered that there are more varieties of pelargoniums and dahlias than you can shake a stick at.

The bottom line is when life seems like it is overwhelming you with its troubles, take a step back, remove yourself from its stresses, and turn to something more simple, natural and satisfying like a walk in the woods, or baking a loaf of bread, or planting flowers. Even better, get a three-year old child to join you in these endeavors. You will not be disappointed.

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