Saturday, September 11, 2010

Engage! Or disengage?

When Captain Picard instructed his helmsman to "engage" he was saying far more with that word than "move ahead." The order to engage meant that the engines would be powered up and connected to the awesome machinery that moved the great ship forward. The word evoked images of power and thrust, of gears with marvelous teeth, and steel, and appliances made of metals not yet invented all moving into place.

The word engage comes from the French engager meaning, to pledge, to place oneself under an obligation. From this, of course, comes the English word engagement, as in pledging oneself to marry. The word carries several other nuances of meaning, as in engaging a battle, embarking on a business, or as Picard used it, bringing parts of a machine together so that the wheels might turn.

When I use the world to describe my engagement with the world around me, I bring to mind all of those meanings. At once, I am pledged to this reality, and I pledge myself to be part of it, to care about it and act within it in ways that move life forward. I engage actively in this business of life. My engagement with the world is always, also, a tremendous challenge because my extreme sensitivity. I often feel embattled as I engage, assaulted by the human clamor and din and speed and the never-ending demands and constant pandemonium of life's battlefield. I am well aware that this war is never to be won—humanity is too deeply in thrall to the demons of greed and fear—and this, too, causes me pain.

Every day I desire to disengage. I want to go home to my bunny hutch and stay there, coming out only to forage for a bit of food. I want to disengage from the great battle and from the small, everyday tumult. I want to order, with the authority of a captain, "Helmsman! Full stop!"

Then a little voice reminds me that without the engagement of people like me, the world will fall to the dominators. I remember that quote often found posted on church bulletin boards, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" and I know it is my duty to stay engaged.

And then I say, "To hell with it! I'm disengaging anyway. I'm through. I'm not gonna care anymore. I'm breaking my vow." Except for my blogs, of course. I'll engage with the world that way, and with my art, and I'll engage with my kind friends and my beautiful children. So, I'm disengaging . . . except for the trees, of course, and the rocks and streams and all the nonhumans . . . Hey, when it comes right down to it, I don't want to disengage from life, only from the dominator life, and I have a right to jump that ship, don't I? Don't I?

1 comment:

masterymistery said...

along with so much else, the words "engage", "engagement" etc have been despoiled and debased as part of the overall corporatisation of human culture, as for example in "stakeholder engagement" or "engaging employees" etc.

masterymistery at cosmic rapture