4 Questions for Facing Catastrophe: The Wednesday 1-2-3

Happy Wednesday Reader!

This week, I’ve been really challenged by a question from Dr. Cornel West, and I’d like to pass the question on to you:

What does it mean to live in the midst of the catastrophic?

For me, especially this past month, the word “catastrophic” brings to mind one place in particular: Gaza.

When I try to process what’s happening in Gaza, I find my chest tightening and my stomach twisting. My thoughts become jumbled and I feel like I’m sinking into a deep, vacuous pit of sadness. Images of fire and children and bombed out hospitals and schools and U.S.-manufactured bombs and utter hopelessness fill my mind.

Dr. West says “It’s hard to bear reality; sometimes it’s just too much.” And, to be honest, I don’t quite know how to bear this reality, and my contribution to it through my tax dollars and my voting record, other than to cry and to curse.

I wonder if you’re familiar with the feeling.

For those of us with so much distance – physically, culturally, politically – from what’s happening on the ground, it can be hard to know what we can do. How do we keep our eyes on Rafah, on Gaza, on Israel, while metabolizing the movements of our inner life into actions of solidarity and justice and healing?

How do we live and move and breathe and act in the midst of the catastrophic?

In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois, reflecting on the terrors of white supremacy in the United States, raised four fundamental questions for living in a violent and catastrophe-filled society.

4 Questions from W.E.B. Du Bois

As you read these, I invite you to add the word “my” and “our” after the word “shall” in order to make these more personal and practical for you and your communities.

  1. How shall integrity face oppression?
  2. What shall honesty do in the face of deception?
  3. What shall decency do in the face of insult?
  4. What shall virtue do to meet brute force?

These questions don’t offer us the softness of soothing comfort or the answer of “what to do now.” But I hope they might help you discern your next steps, not toward apathy or inaction, but toward healing, in whatever ways, large or small, they might be.

❓ Questions

  1. What does your body experience when you center on the catastrophic in our world?
  2. How are the ways you relate to your personal catastrophes similar or different to the catastrophes of the world?

🧰 Resources

⏪ If you missed last week's email:

I shared a framework for how to face and deal with problems.

Hope all is well-enough with you,


IG: @andrewglang

The Wednesday 1-2-3

Inner work frameworks, practices, and questions – all in a five-minute read. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday morning before you even wake up. Written and curated by Andrew Lang.

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