Leaving the Anxiety System

The dream of Moses sharply contrasts with the nightmare of Pharaoh. It is that dream that propels the biblical narrative. Pharaoh and Moses, along with all of his people, had been contained in a system of anxiety. There was enough anxiety for everyone, but there was not and could not be a common good. The anxiety system of Pharaoh precluded the common good. The imperial arrangement made everyone into a master or a slave, a threat or an accomplice, a rival or a slave. For the sake of the common good, it was necessary to depart the anxiety systemthat produces nightmares of scarcity.[1]

Notice the nightmares and dreams you come across in your day. What pops up in your smart-phone feed? What is on the news? What is on the headlines of newspapers and billboards?  How often do you see the face of another and anxiously assume they must be only a threat or an accomplice? Why not consider them a neighbor? How often to you sidle up to a story looking for a reinforcing “gotcha moments” or “sign of death?” Why not look for signs of life?

Now notice how these nightmares influence your body. Do they keep you awake at night and asleep to possibilities at day? Do you feel your chest tighten as you read this?

Take a breath and return to Moses’ dream of an abundant community, a common good. Neuroscientists now teach that a negative thought works like velcro, bonding to our memory in less than a second, while a positive thought is more like teflon, taking as many as 15 seconds to bond to memory. If it took 400 years for the children of Israel to be ready to leave, and 40 years in the wilderness to reframe that living memory, what time will it take for our memory of scarcity to be retrained? To prepare to leave Egypt, would you commit to 5 minutes now to simply breath and note the signs of life in your community and relationships? Could you find others to do this with regularly?

[1] Brueggemann, Walter. Journey to the Common Good (pp. 12-13). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

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