One of my favorite bumper stickers reads: Don’t Believe Everything You Think. It’s one of my rules for living…most of the time. Stop, look, and reconsider: what interpretations am I taking for granted?
And then there are the times when I am sliding down the scree slope into despair over the inaction of People (read: me) in response to the state of the world. The numbing-out habits of Our Culture (read: me). The indecision, time-frittering, distractedness, deflection, inessential activities, etc., etc., of Others (read: me).
There are the times when I face up to the fact that I am witnessing the reflection of my own inaction, numbing-out, indecision, time-frittering, etc. in the crazy-making patterns of Our Society – and then the interpretations, reinterpretations, and options for action spread out as numerous as the crossing of threads in a spiderweb….
And I spin into a state of pure despairing paralysis: no matter how much I do, no matter how hard I struggle toward Right Livelihood, it will never be enough.
The hell of it is – it’s true. It doesn’t matter how hard an egotistical lone-wolf “I” works. It will never be enough. All the ordinary mundane work of one person could never suffice.
So reframe, reframe.
I remember witnessing a lecture by a spiritual teacher who is fiercely engaged in attempting to wake up the sleeping Divine awareness of the People. He had just gotten off the plane, having traveled from Australia to Pittsburgh, probably hadn’t slept in 24 hours, was haunted by the knowledge of devastating news on the fronts of global eco-social justice. With all the controlled ferocity of a Zen master whacking sleeping students awake, he descended on his audience of churchgoing devotees, gradually leading up to a peroration exposing the raw truths no one wanted to see:
“But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty and you are that poverty.” This is what will happen if you don’t go on the journey to uncover your divinity, and uncover the responsibility for sacred activism that belongs to that divinity. We must start doing something at this point, when everything is at stake and the potential of the new birth of a radical embodied humanity is possible. If you don’t do that, you’re not just not doing something, you are actually serving the machine of death!
You are actually conspiring with the darkness that is destroying this world. You are the children of poverty and you are spreading that poverty like marsh gas. You are walking cholera.
I remember being shocked and repelled by these words…until I remembered as a child realizing that none of our human constructs – churches, companies, governments– have anything to do with the essential, conscious, sacred, interconnected reality of creation surrounding us. That, unless we’re dancing in conscious interaction with that reality, we’re drowning in disconnection, the delusion of our imposed control.
The truth is – outside of that essential reality, each of us may genuinely be choosing darkness in our most ordinary decisions: the mountaintops leveled, wells drilled or birds turbine-killed to power our homes; the sweatshops financed through our choice of clothes; the aquifers emptied for our bottles of water; possibly the planet-destroying lobbying funded by the businesses that pay our salaries; the soul-destroying belief in our own limitations keeping us from a world-changing vocation; every decision that does not proceed from awareness of our Divine connectedness. And how can we have the heart to resist this daily collusion with Death unless we have a daily-renewed vision and experience of Life to offset it?
I can drown in interpretations, reinterpretations, and tangled options…point fingers at Others, at myself, and despair…unless I reach beyond it all to sit down, compassionately witness the underlying fear and denial, and consciously connect with the Divine embodied in others and in creation. The Essential truth that All is connected, conscious, aware, sacred, Divine, and that the solution must come from that point of connection.
And the awareness that this is all words, and the solution lies in the practice and doing.