Bump Up the Color
Writing about current events for those of us who publish only twice a month can be awkward—especially in these tumultuous times, when it seems that every few hours the headlines change and our attention shifts from one disaster to another. Today is the day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and the fallout is ferocious—and sadly, as deeply partisan as might be expected in these troubled and divided times. What the headlines will be in a week or two when this issue is on the newsstands, I can’t even guess.
Politically, so much has happened in the past year, my head hurts trying to keep up with it. Most of the time I resist the impulse to behave like the proverbially ignorant ostrich and stick my head in the sand. Ignorance is not bliss, though there are occasions when it does provide a better night’s sleep.
Approval ratings for the new administration continue to be low; at the same time anxiety levels from it have risen. An American Psychological Association report (Stress in America: Coping with Change) shows that two-thirds of Americans are stressed about the future of our nation—including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans.
Our stress is visible to those outside of the country, as well. The German paper Die Zeit recently carried a headline that read: “The Stressed States of America—Insomnia, addiction to news, fear of you-know-who: The U.S. has become psychologically instable—to a degree that therapists have never seen before.”\
Chronic stress is terrible for us: it raises our blood pressure and increases our risk of heart problems; it weakens our immune systems, creates stomach problems, contributes to depression, and can even lower fertility.
We can fight stress by laughing more, exercising more, eating right, and remembering to breathe deeply. We can learn to manage our stress by being mindful about the choices we make in all of these areas, as well as, by limiting how and when we get our news, and by connecting to others in a positive and loving way. Through it all, we have to find ways to prevent stress, anxiety, and depression from sucking the color out of our lives.
Photoshop, and to some degree all photo apps, contain a slider tool for adjusting the color level and vibrancy of a photo. Sliding one way desaturates the image; the other way punches it up to surreal levels. Stress related depression desaturates our emotions in much the same way.
I have nothing against black and white photographs but a rainbow flag stripped of its color just doesn’t cut it—we have to find ways to bump up the color.
June is now widely recognized as Gay Pride Month, and as we count down the days until pride celebrations begin, rainbows will become increasingly visible over the next six weeks. Our preparations for this year’s Pride celebrations offer us a solution to the color-deadening anxiety thrust upon us by the increasingly stressful political narrative in this country. Keeping in mind that the rainbow is a symbol of diversity and equality, there are several things we can do to make sure that its color stays fully saturated in our lives.
Think purple. We are so divided by red state/blue state politics that we take sides and defend them blindly. Don’t automatically “write off” others because they have different political opinions. Find common ground and use collaboration, creativity, dialogue, compromise, and consensus to gain understanding and build stronger relationships.
Color outside the lines. Technology and globalization are changing the world at a rapid pace, and much of the turmoil in the world right now is a result of that change. Our future requires innovation and creativity at all levels.
Imagine a better world. Don’t underestimate the power of the human imagination for creating positive change. At the same time, don’t allow fear and anger to hijack that power and “turn it to the dark side.”
Share the big box of crayons. Sharing our resources, time, and talents with others, builds connections, creates good will and trust, and allows us to grow as a community.
Look at the big picture. Sometimes we get so close to the details of our own lives that we forget to pull back and see the bigger picture around us. A different view changes our perspective and expands our horizons.
Paint big signs. Don’t be silent in the face of injustice. Make noise. Protest!
Love extravagantly. There are no limits on our capacity to love one another. Give love away. Remembering to love the person who opposes us can change the way we respond to them—and it doesn’t even mean we have to like them.
Laugh as much as possible. Dance at every opportunity. Smile for no reason at all.
When we started CAMP Rehoboth 27 years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a particularly optimistic person. The times were difficult and our friends were dying of AIDS at an alarming rate. When the idea for the acronym CAMP (Create A More Positive) came to me, I liked it because instinctively I understood that what we needed to do was change the environment around us. At the time, and looking back from my perspective now, I understood consciously very little then of what I would come to learn from the act of bringing that concept to life over time.
In the process of changing attitudes around us, I’ve discovered that I’m the one who has been changed the most of all by the experience. Optimism doesn’t stop bad things from happening in our lives. It does give us a tool for fighting it.
I really do believe that no matter how worried we are about the state of the world, each one of us has the power to do something to make a difference—something to “bump up the color” and create positive change around us.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray.