Saturday, May 21, 2011
The World As It Is: Part Two
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.