Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The World as It Is

I found Aron's comment on my last post Why I Love the 50s so provocative, I wanted to explore it more, and I'll ask for your comments this time, because I surely can't find the answer on my own. Aron wrote, I guess my biggest problem with nostalgia is that it mostly removes you from present moment. Every pro about how things used to be has its cons of how things are right now and visa versa.

And I responded Well said, Aron and true. For me, the present really is pretty awful, and I don't want to be here. Whether in the woods in trance or at my drawing table or remembering my childhood, I seek to leave this world as it is, and enter an alternate reality.

What got to me about this, so that I woke up thinking about it, is that the world really is awful for me. I'm heartbroken at the cruelty and greed. It's a fallen world, as the Christians would say, and there's really nothing I can do about it. Oh, yes, I can have an impact on my immediate reality, but that's an uphill battle, too. Our school district has been without a contract for three years. The children are struggling with the effects of digital immersion and many of them can't sustain attention through a single page of text. The gas companies threaten to frack. The college kids desecrate the old cemetery.

I'm not bitching about this reality or being mindlessly negative. I accept it. It's what's real, but can I avoid nostalgia and live fully inside of it? Can I have compassion for this fallen world and find true peace in it? I escape at every opportunity into my beloved woods or the artistic trance. Can I stay in the present moment of techno-consumerism? More to the point, do I want to?

I remember when I was 18, sitting in a McDonalds with Neil, munching burgers that tasted like ambrosia to me, and declaring that I would never remove my children from the real world, the way my mother had removed me. My children would be fully a part of the sparkling, delicious, contemporary moment, and watch the latest movies and eat fast food and live in the city. I was young, and the young see the good.

But the latest movies make me cringe and assault me with violent imagery and the burgers I loved have made me sick and the city is ugly and noisy. I've come to terms with it, but do I want to be fully present in this present moment?

Do you like it here in the present moment? Do you enter into it fully? Can you imagine something better or do you, too, escape into alternate realities? Thanks, Aron, for asking me to think more deeply about nostalgia, and thanks to readers for sharing your thoughts about this, and best wishes to all,


Julieju said...

The present reality is ineffably gigantic. Right now I am sitting by a window watching the sun come up over a landscape scattered with flowers and the sound of birds. Drinking hot tea, and writing a response to the thoughts of a lovely woman with sincere and struggling thoughts three thousand miles away. Inside our bodies, millions of cells are working in cell synchrony to invisibly carry the breath and other complex foodstuffs of life in and out so these eyes can look around and these thoughts and words can be transmitted. Thinking about it this way brings a wash of love over me. These things are true and more real than a hamburger, unless I should choose to fill my moment with a hamburger, or the sound of traffic, or the news (which is non-local and probably not true anyway). Choices. I try to remember to choose things that feel good. Thanks for reminding me again.

LLB said...

It's a sad AND beautiful world... It's also what we make of it. We have a responsibility to produce art.

Aron said...

When I'm speaking of the present, I'm referring specifically to the direct experience of the present, not an abstraction of it into a political narrative.

A lot of this comes out of my own practice of meditation, in terms of daily sitting practice as well as times when I find my attention diverted and I attempt to find my breath, my body, right here; right now.

I don't want to give the impression that I am in this state constantly. It's somewhat of a chore, but better for me than the "Monkey Mind" I get into if I don't do it. Just for me, I'm not in a fallen world when I'm present. It just exists.

puny human said...

Such helpful comments! Yes, I forget, when I'm in that fallen world, that the other worlds co-exist with it. Drinking tea mindfully, in the deep present, these are how we can connect with the other worlds. Yes, LLB, we have a responsibility to make love and art. Those are transforming magics.

Lee Ginenthal said...

Take heart... take courage, dear friend. We, puny humans, have been through dark times before. The sun rises again; the clouds and storms come and go. These forces leave their mark on the landscape and on us, but we are free to choose our attitude/response. Know you are not alone in your concern and frustration with things as they are.
From a comrade in arms.
I know these are things you know... guess I was saying this for me as much as for you.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate how we can bend technology to serve community. Because of the internet, we can interact. How many of Puny's friends will read these words, even though we've never met? Ideally, of course, we'd be sharing these thoughts face to face over cups of tea on my back porch or around your kitchen table (or around the council fire, or in the village pub). But because of this modern miracle, here we are. How ironic that this virtual reality allows a discussion of escaping to an alternate reality, in the present moment, yet overcoming the limits of time and space.
From, Wendy

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.