The power of powerlessness

September 15th, 2008

There was a horrific train collision near Los Angeles on Friday. A few hours ago I learned that my neighbor was one of the terribly injured. He is a reliably good and loyal customer at one little girl’s lemonade stand.

There was a colossal hurricane in my old hometown on Saturday. Millions are without electricity, and that includes many dear friends who must now be sweltering in the long dark and silent wake of the littered remains.

There is more disquieting news out of the presidential campaign, ever more staggering in its dimension of hidden truth and dire consequence.

There is an implosion in our financial markets the likes of which leaves none of us little people far enough or smart enough to be out of the quake zone. Our corner savings bank could well collapse by morning. Much bigger streets will topple, and my nest will shudder too.

I am powerless in the face of this powerlessness. I am as powerless as those without power, without truth, without safety and with a careless engineer at the wheel. In solidarity with all who suffer and to bring my mind to peace, I’m unplugging myself this week, going offline to the certain solace of prayer and meditation, steady work, wash, and walks with a very good dog.

I will take power in the only place it can be found: the right here and now.

Take comfort, friends I know and cannot reach, and friends I reach but cannot know, in my brokenhearted love.


  1. You take comfort too. Buy lemonade.

    Comment by mapelba — September 15, 2008 @ 4:04 am

  2. I just hope that we’re not the only ones up in arms over this astounding election … my favorite part and what I’d like to shout out to the world:

    “A Washington Post editorial on Thursday put it well: “On a day when the Congressional Budget Office warned of looming deficits and a grim economic outlook, when the stock market faltered even in the wake of the government’s rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when President Bush discussed the road ahead in Iraq and Afghanistan, on what did the campaign of Senator John McCain spend its energy? A conference call to denounce Senator Barack Obama for using the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ and a new television ad accusing the Democrat of wanting to teach kindergartners about sex before they learn to read.”

    I don’t know about you but I have hope where hope has never been — in the deep ghettos of American cities all over this great country. I plan to drive people to the polls myself — all day.

    Comment by Shawn — September 15, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  3. Oh, and I’m so sorry about your neighbor and your hometown. I just can’t imagine how it must feel to have such tragedies hit so close to your heart.

    Comment by Shawn — September 15, 2008 @ 10:32 am

  4. Karen — you may feel powerless, but this is a power-full post. Today my family and I are returning to your hometown, to see what state our home (and those of our neighbours) is in. It’s been very strange to be evacuated to a beautiful city, reading blog posts and news articles by people who are unaffected by Ike, all the time wanting to selfishly scream, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE GET WHAT’S HAPPENING OUT THERE??”


    Anyway, it’s lovely to read here, that you get it. It provides comfort in a real, tangible way. Thank you.

    As for the train accident in LA — well, it has been too horrible to contemplate. I hope your friend has a speedy recovery. And tonight, when we’re back home in Houston and lighting candles as darkness falls, I’ll light one specifically for your friend.

    Thanks again,


    Comment by Chookooloonks — September 15, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  5. You were my “gateway blog” into the blogosphere…and will always be in my thoughts. On or off-line.

    Comment by Kristin H. — September 15, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  6. what a week for all of us. the world, i mean.
    karen, it does my heart good to think of you breathing in and out, for all of us. thank you.

    Comment by Holly — September 15, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  7. I have never had faith in the powerful, and perhaps that’s something that I have to deal with, as it may make me afraid of my own power, but aside from that, I have had to learn to find what power I can in the small world I inhabit.

    Art, friendships, words, teaching, love, beauty, creativity, spirituality, food, children, the sky.

    Sometimes it feels like that is all I can do.

    Comment by Rowena — September 15, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  8. Good idea. Maybe I’ll unplug, too. Reading the news is making me crazy!

    So sorry about your friend, your hometown, and your powerless feelings in the face of dire political and economic circumstances.

    There’s a lot of power in words, and I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that your words offer so much hope in these seemingly hopeless times. A glimmer of light in the darkness…

    Comment by Lana — September 15, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  9. Beautiful picture. Beautiful post. I’m a bleeding heart this morning.

    Comment by DQ's Windmill — September 15, 2008 @ 3:16 pm

  10. bless you and your family, I hope your neighbour will be alright, and then the wider circles outwards of concern. I wish the world love and kindness, take heart. Thank you for your meditations.

    Comment by Honey — September 15, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

  11. When I started hearing about Lehman Brothers, I began contemplating life in a cave. Has the world always been this crazy, or do I just notice it more because I’m a mother, now?

    Unplug. We’ll all be here when you get back.

    Oh, that’s not a threat!

    Comment by Mama Zen — September 15, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  12. That’s a beautiful picture of you and your daughter. Smile 🙂

    Comment by Anna — September 15, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  13. In the same boat here. My gut is aching and my heart beats fast. I have no control over it and need to accept what is in this moment. Thanks for reminding me.

    Comment by Bridge — September 15, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  14. You say things so beautifully, your power is felt so far away. Things look down, and then they look up.

    Comment by Mika — September 15, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

  15. you leave me breathless at the same time you help me to breathe. Thanks you for this post, for your constant caring for all beings.

    Comment by Lisa — September 16, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  16. Thank you thank you thank you. I think I’ll follow suit.


    Comment by Anonymous — September 16, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  17. when it rains it pours and while the hurrican has passed over the states my teen has created his own right at home. Be well and enjoy walks with your four legged friend. Cat

    Comment by Cat — September 16, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  18. wincing along with you…
    and wishing you refuge in the present moment.

    Comment by Leah — September 17, 2008 @ 1:32 am

  19. So grateful for your presence. Thinking of you thinking of us helps me remember to breathe, to come home.

    And yes, such a beautiful picture!

    Comment by Jena Strong — September 17, 2008 @ 2:10 am

  20. i can always count on you to put it all in perspective. may we all find blessings….

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — September 17, 2008 @ 2:20 am

  21. i know. i sometimes want to curl in a ball on the floor or scream and run down the street to WAKE EVERYONE UP. could go either way.

    Comment by denise — September 17, 2008 @ 3:07 am

  22. May you find some peace and solace. Then when you need it again, may you find it then too.

    Comment by Mambinki — September 17, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  23. I usually ‘lurk’ w/o commenting, but I feel called to add … I’m sorry for the losses and the chaos … but I thank you for the reminder. We’ve all been knocked around by all such events over which we have no control … forgetting at times what we DO have power over … specifically, how we choose to respond and what we choose to do … or not do.
    Hugs and blessings,

    Comment by storyteller — September 17, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  24. i take comfort in those 2 sets of eyes, yours and your daughters. powerless but full of love.


    Comment by mb — September 18, 2008 @ 6:40 am

  25. I liked your post today and resonate with your truths… especially turning off the TV and focusing on peace and those you love. Blessings.

    Comment by Robin — September 18, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  26. Yes. In the midst of the storm that blew through and took out our electricity – I had to remind myself that while I was w/o electricity – I was not w/o Power. Maintaining my personal power in the frenzied, traumatic hours of this week has been a challenge – but that little shift in perspective really helped!

    Comment by Lisa — September 19, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

  27. The only power is in the here and now. Thank you for this. It means a lot to me right now.

    Comment by yertle — September 21, 2008 @ 4:14 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month