Saturday, May 21, 2011

The World As It Is: Part Two

The world as it is, as opposed to what? To the world as it should be? This is a page from my sketchbook from just a couple of weeks ago. You can see that I was, as usual, feeling miserable because of the way the world is. But since I can’t do anything about the world as it is, maybe it’s time to let go of that attitude and start accepting.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I have a friend named Steve who feels deep disappointment about how his life turned out and a great deal of hurt and sadness from people using him and treating him poorly in the past. I tell him (listen to me, full of good advice) that people are the way they are, so he shouldn’t take it personally. Their nastiness isn’t about him, I say. He can have compassion for them. Life never lives up to our expectations. Steve, I say, let go and be at peace.


I can see this when I comes to interpersonal relations and my own small life, but when I look at the world, I get angry. Humanity is wasting its potential. Humanity could create a world of abundance and peace. We worship money and power. We let criminals and bullies rule the world. Everything’s fucked up. It’s getting worse. On and on.

But what if I need to let go as much as Steve does?

From a historical perspective, Steve reminds me, humans have always been at one another’s throats, acting selfishly, trashing their own potential.

Not pre-historically, I say. Not before institutionalized religions and dominator control.

Ok, so for the past 8000 years or so, he concedes, human reality has been a rough neighborhood. That’s the way it is. You want to keep smacking your head against that wall? You’ll give yourself a headache. Besides, who died and elected you Savior?

Good point. Where did I get this idea that it was up to me to save the world, and if only I was good enough, and recycled enough, and sent enough money to the right candidates, and dedicated myself enough to the salvation of the world, the world could be saved. Where did I get the idea that it was up to me? I’m chained to a wheel by those easy-to-quote admonitions never to give up, that the only thing that’s ever changed the world is a small group of dedicated people, that the only thing needed for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing . . .

Somehow I’ve taken on the burden of believing that if the world stubbornly refuses to transform, it’s because I haven’t done enough. But how much is enough? You can die on a cross to bring peace and salvation and the world will go right on being a rough neighborhood.

Lao Tzu says that we can only recognize good in the first place because there is evil. That good and evil, black and white, up and down arise together, and that if I was as smart as I say I am, I’d stop trying to fix it all. It’s not fixable. It’s the way of the Tao. So, Lao Tzu says, do nothing. Teach nothing. The ten thousand things rise and fall, while the self watches their return.

Is it time to let go? I sure as hell would be a lot happier. I’d have more energy to give to my family and friends, and my art and my gods. I’d be able to walk in nature without grieving for nature’s losses. I’d be able to help kids with the computers and not get angry at what computers are doing to them. Where’s the balance? Does one let it all go? Worry only on the weekdays and take weekends off? I’m not sure, but something’s got to give.

On the ruins of a church from the 14th century, there are some words carved above the portal that read: It is so. It cannot be otherwise.

It is so. It cannot be otherwise.


Anonymous said...

I scanned your blogs and think I have at least a bit of an answer to your some of your questions about happiness. Back over the millennia when animals and humans were evolving, there were some very substantial successes when animals became able to eat a larger variety of foods. Instead of being carnivorous, or vegetarian they became omnivorous and able to gain sustenance from many different sources. This led to marked success and proliferation. I believe I’ve learned to be omnivorous in my sources of happiness. There are people who cannot be happy unless they are in a good relationship, other people who are only happy when they are rich, or skiing or it’s sunny. I’ve found a myriad of sources for happiness and revel in the joy they give me when it comes. There are many specifics, but in the generalities, I derive great joy and satisfaction from science and mathematics. I do this a lot including at my work which brings me peace and a sense of achievement. I also love to play and listen to many different kinds of music and am learning to derive much joy from art (especially dance) and poetry. Friends, sex, alcohol, skiing, biking, travel, thrill rides, wine, sensuality; all these things and more fill me with happiness. This is true even if some of them are not being fulfilled, others take their place. I can enjoy the company of many people or spend 8 hours in a car alone. I’m also careful not to fall into a funnel of enjoying only one to the extent that it becomes detrimental which can easily happen with things like alcohol and sex. So admittedly I’m obscenely healthy and I have an easy middle class existence, but I still believe these principles guide my mind’s well being.
Warm Summer Rain

Heather Awen said...

So much to say! yes I feel your pain. I has taken a LONG time but I am starting to trust people who say that there are others doing their part. The mass media doesn't tell you about all the ones who are WINNING either; they don't even cover this war. Try looking at Yes! magazine online to see how many of us there are and the difference we are making. Also Joanna Macy's The Work that Reconnects book and workshop are ALL based on just THIS. About being able to see the truth and still stay centered.

Earth will survive whatever we do; unfortunately as we take ourselves down, we are taking 200 species down every day and that's depressing as... well, more than anything I can imagine.

I have been trying to change my attitude when I am in natural setting from one of grief to one of love. I guess I thought about how someone in the hospital might feel about how I act. But as everyday I talk to the land here and tell it what is going on, what groups are doing to protect, who is messing them up, lawsuits. Eagles are all over the place and that is new! More people recycle and shop at the farmer's market. Most people really do CARE and feel powerless and that stops the movement. We need IMHO support groups for survivors of Western Civilization so we are not feeling our pain alone, our fear, our rage, our grief. And to also remember we are not in this alone.

Heather Awen said...

I have been reading My Name is Chllis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization and she realy breaks it all down for me. We have about 300 generations of living sick. For eons we lived as gatherer-hunters. Women breast fed for four years and were very lean so they had far less kids. Their work was equal to men's for survival. As nomads no one owned much. We ate high protein. In these small bands, we knew everyone. They were egalitarian.
Then bammo we start pastoral and agricultural life. In the Middle east when agricultre started, the population exploded 700 times! women were having babies every year! Men were doing most of the survival work, because as patoralists ad agriculturalists they handled the animals for food and for plowing, so women got swept to the sidelines. men had to casterate male animals to keep them dometicated, which was a seriously hard thing to do, and started from casteration fears bigtime, and totally changed their relationships with animals and nature and having feelings. The pressure to be breadwinners was on them. Children didn't have a close knit tribe anymore with 4 years of Mom all tothemselves.

As populations grow people start wars. More land. More cattle. More water. They change the environment more and more - irrigation systems, loss of wild space. In fact the whole dichotomy of tame/wild is created with this new thing: the fence. So does private property. Private property now leads to some families have more wealth than others. Then classism starts. Slavery. Eating grains and dairy. Cities. Sedatary living. Encountering tons of unknown people. Exploitaion of whatever and whomever to survive. Populatuions grow and grow, need more slaves, more land, more resources.

And we end up 300 hundred generations later wit an elite who own almost everything, trying to survive whether it is by poaching endangered animals or selling crack. The deck is stacked against us. We have generations of trauma. If you are European, you had ancestors who lived throuhgh the Black Plague - when 1 in 3 people died! Plus Inquistions, World Wars, slavery, strict and crazy forms of Christianity, abuse abuse abuse. With no psychotherapists.

And here we are, inheriting all their traumas, all the problems that caused their traumas, and the same problems causing traumas for every being on Earth.

We need support groups!

Heather Awen said...

The Daoism quote I found out has been cu short: Instead of "Do nothing" (which actually would lead to things being very unblanced) it is "do nothing against nature." THAT is why I like Daoism. Nature created human animals to live a certain way and we messed up andnow are sick. I try to find out what nature is by reading tons of science books and then try to figure out how to be part of that: the Way of Dao I think. (the other quote so messed with is "money is the root of all evil" when it reallly is "love of money is the root of all evil.")

But you know you and I cannot just decide to live gatherer-hunters in a tribe of people who have know us and the land we live on for generations. We live as slaves to an elite who have all the money and resourcers and will exploit anything. We have 300 generations of trauma from being forced to live in capitalist, war-filled, slave owning, private property, over populated, not enough resources, women hating, men terrified, neglected children, etc still handed down to us.

I try to stay in the moment. I have my worm composter not to save the world anymore (many American Indians say humans cannot save the world since the world is bigger than us and it is arrogent to think we can save her) - i do this stuff because it the right thing to do. I do not what will happen tomorrow or in 1000 years. But I kknow what I can do now that shows what I believe and care about.

When I was younger I read about a guy who planted trees all the time. when asked what he'd do if he heard that the world would end in 20 minutes, he said "plant a tree." at the time i thought he was nuts - i'd have gone on a huge drug binge or had a panic attack! but nowi starting to get it. i guess the buddhist psychology is starting to kick in. and the serentity prayer.

trust me i used to spend days lying on the floor sobbing about the ennviroment and forced prostitution and child labor. then i saw that wasn't helping anything. in trauma recovery they say one aspect of healing is to find meaning from it. so many trauma survivors become activists, to heal the anger and fear and sadness, while at the same time learning self care. we're all trauma survivors, cutoff from our natural way to live.

really we do need support groups so no one has to go through this despair on their own. I don't quite WSR's response to you because she's writing aout her self care and nothing about the world self care. A lot of her self care involves harming others. So does mine. Coming to terms with the fact tht I benefit from slave labor and nuclear power is awful to face. i am trying to formualte a way of thinking where my self care and the world's self care are the same thing, where we can heal together.

remember you ddn't get us into this mess - and you're not the only one trying to get us out of it.too many earth lovers kil themselves due to being isolated in their despair. i am trying to read only SOLUTIONS now and no more of the Problems - I know too many of them! it's part of my self care that is part of the world's self care too.

and remember, as starhawk tells us, there are powers much bigger than you or me doing this work too. we pray to them, we celebrate them, we offer to them, they guide us. you are never alone in this. ever. i promise you that.

i hope this helps? we can start the upstate NY survivors of western civ support group, OK? REALLY! :)

puny human said...

Thanks for your comments, Heather. I always learn from your blog, and encourage my readers to visit there. Meanwhile, I've heard about Chllis' book and it sounds like the next great thing for me to read.

Anonymous said...

I manage it by keeping the circle in mind. This is witchcraft's/paganism's great contribution to the world (IMHO): the circle. The circle says that some some bad things happen and some good things happen; there's a cyclical nature to all things. Good and bad --- both are real (or both are imposters --- it doesn't matter much which you choose). But the deep part about the circle is that one stand off of it and see the circle itself. When one does that, one sees the whole of things and comes to realize that ebb and flow are the nature of things. Then one goes further (at least I do) and develops a certain psychic distance between oneself and the world (the circle). This psychic distance is NOT a disinterestedness about the world, nor is it a not-caring or lack of engagement. But it is, rather, a realization that the world is bigger and wider and stranger and more mysterious than any immediate experience one is having -- good, bad, or neutral -- and that therefore all is temporary.