Home structures the story of our lives. Mine began in Ireland, in a cloud of unknowing. I was told that I cried so much in the first few months of my life that I had to be operated on for a ruptured hernia. In my 4th year, I contracted tuberculosis, discovered accidentally while I was staying with relatives in England. Unable to walk I created an imaginary home, inhabited by imaginary parents, during the two years I was in hospital.
In the early years of the Iraq War, female veterans slowly trickled in. They, too, were thrust into the general patient pool. Sometimes we had fifty-seven male residents and three females on the same floor. Of course, the women complained that they were “hit on.” And they were scared—because their doors had no locks. The open-door policy had been in place for decades, to ensure staff access to all rooms in case of emergency.
As the nation absorbs gripping accounts from lawmakers who sheltered within the U.S. Capitol during the riot, and from the Capitol Police—a lingering trauma remains. If there is a redemptive dimension to this tragedy, it may be that it has brought home the city’s significance in our collective American story.
What to watch when life is looking grim and you’re searching for a story of resilience and hope? Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) spins a dreamlike fable. It starts in a magical landscape that’s facing a great flood. It’s about the redemption of feeling, and the family as the crucible of initiation. And it introduces us to some fiercely proud people who know a lot about loss and survival.
In her new book, Wall Disease, Jessica Wapner considers how living up against a border creates stress, fear, mistrust and a host of serious health conditions, including trauma and early childhood development issues, and even a subtle reshaping of the brain—in particular, the area that contains our compass for survival.
Americans of all stripes have been in a state of great distress, wondering what the future will hold—yearning for a vision, new or old, that will help resolve what I term “cultural complexes” that divide us on issues of immigration, race, gender, abortion, health care, the relationship between rural and urban populations, between the individual and the broader community, and our views on the role of government today.
America is in transition, morally, economically, and socially. We’re facing globalization and climate change, racial injustice and economic inequality. Says Jungian analyst James Hollis, this is producing a high level of fear and anxiety, an increasing dread that we are no longer in control of daily life. The question is, How is this time of transition calling us to stretch and grow?