Saturday, May 8, 2010
Joe B. on going inward
Apropos yesterday's insanely long self-reflecting pseudo-poem I was interested to read Joe Bageant's column today where he gives his personal solution to something I've been struggling with lately, namely, the individual's response to particular devastating events and progressively alarming situations nationally and globally vis-a-vis human rights, the current wars, the deteriorating economy, the maddening political climate and/or our eroding environment. Whew. All the distressing stuff all in one big overflowing basket.
Some people work very hard, to address and try to alleviate certain of these situations, in however small a capacity. Others register awareness, are concerned, may even be well informed, but continue life habits that contribute to the very problems causing the concerns. For most, it's all just something one sees on the news, nothing that affects one personally, except perhaps the vague awareness that money (i.e., lack thereof) seems to be a big problem lately. Life is still lived, pretty much as it's always been though, nothing's changed, really, in one's overall outlook. People, in general, though, do seem more worried. At least that is the impression I get from all quarters.
Writer Joe Bageant left the U.S. and moved to Mexico where he pens dispatches about America's class war, among other things. He touched on a dilemma I myself have been wondering about, i.e., what can one individual do about the stuff that's happening lately? These are not happy times. They're becoming increasingly uncomfortable times. You hear phrases like "another Great Depression coming" and "World War III" and "Armageddon". (Not that everyone believes these will really occur, but it's in the air, so to speak.)
Anyway, a few try to steer civilization in a more evolved direction by tackling one issue at a time, and are failing. "Why do we lose the important fights so consistently?" Joe asks. "What has kept us from establishing a more just kingdom?" Something is missing, he says, and he thinks it is, in a word, "the spiritual":
... the stuff that sustained Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and gave them the kind of calm deliberate guts we are not seeing today. I am not talking about religion, but the spirit in each of us, that solitary non-material essence, none the less shared by all humans because we are human.
Of course this is where a fourth of the people stop reading. It's those words "kingdom" and "spiritual."
While those elite forces can own everything around us, and have proven they can make life quite miserable if they care to, they cannot own that thing inside us. The one that gives out the last sigh before sleep, and travels the realms of the great human collective consciousness alone. This is the consciousness that ebbs and flows between all external events. There is nothing mystical about it. Go sit in any quiet place with your eyes closed for a half hour or so, and that self will invariably say hello.
And this is where half the readers left will depart, because of the words "elite forces", "collective consciousness", and "mystical", ha ha.
This is also the self that our oppressors can never allow a moment's rest. Because when it finds rest, it finds insight, and can fuse the spiritual, psychological and material worlds into some transcendent vision that can at last [be] seen and sought after. It makes Buddhist monks rebel in Sri Lanka and creates indigenous liberation theologians in Latin America.
And there go the rest of the readers, because of the words "our oppressors", "transcendent" and "Buddhist monks".
Okay, I exaggerate. But its true. Certain words are "buzz words" for certain people and when one encounters them, they immediately impart a signal to the brain that warns: "Oh oh, don't go there. The writer is a such-and-such." I have to laugh. I, too, react to certain buzzwords. When I first landed on Joe's website many moons ago and saw the heading: "Deer Hunting with Jesus", I almost turned away. Glad I didn't. What a character. And I say character with the utmost admiration. Joe is what many of us today are reluctant to be: Totally honest about who we are and what we think. Joe can be rather blunt. He cusses and says things that make you squirm --'cause it hits home. But he's right on the mark more times than not, and writes what many think but don't dare say because it's too, well, blunt--almost, gasp, revolutionary. Not everyone's style or way of expressing things.
Fortunately for Wall Street, the world's bankers, the military industrial complex, there is science, which they love so dearly they purchased it outright. Scientism has successfully sold the notion that spiritual awareness is superstition. By that accounting, the mind is no more than the brain, and love is a body sack of chemicals interacting. (A stunningly successful new public relations campaign by BASF chemical corporation campaign actually declares that love is chemical. Its success both here and in China would give Orwell the heebie jeebies.)
I know about Orwellian heebie-jeebies. Recent history's full of them, though often too subtle to notice, unless you're paying close attention. Didn't know about the BASF thing though.
Joe, like his readers, is "ordinary and fearful," reminding us that we all "live on the same planet watching the unnerving events around us, things the majority does not seem to see." And while bloggerdom and the Internet bring together many of us who've never met but somehow emotionally or psychologically connect with one another, sharing the same affinities/outlooks/concerns, etc., "beyond that, we are each on our own, most of our waking hours, for the rest of our days." Something a little hard to acknowledge, for some. Anyway, Joe plans to pursue the 'kingdom within', "which is individual and does not much involve rage or politics--in other words, shut my pie hole and grow stronger, and with luck, a little wiser." So next year by this time (he says), he's shutting down his website. He's already written his last book, doesn't plan to write another, and the connection with his readers, I guess, will end.
That's a weird feeling, you know, to be abruptly connectionless. Imagine--everybody suddenly no longer there within a phone call or keystroke away--all those people, loved ones included, no longer "connected" to you. You're on your own. Totally. I mean, what if it weren't just bloggerland or distant friends, etc. What if it were everybody you know, including your entire family,and closest and dearest companion? I'm not being morbid here. Thousands of people all over the world go through this, every day.
But playing the "What If" game is very practical sometimes. You learn to devise possible solutions to imaginary what-ifs so that if the time ever comes--and it horribly, sometimes does--then you've at least once considered the possibility and it might be a bit less soul-shattering. Or not. You never know about these things. Basically I'm an optimist, my mate even more so than I. And experience helps. If you ever got out of--at the time--a life-shattering situation, and are now okay, you can look back and see what worked and what didn't, how long it took, what you could have done differently, both before and after, etc. You do this by going inward, and you can call the lessons learned "spiritual" or not, that's just a term--for getting in touch with the part of you that knows, even when you don't, and you sometimes have to just stop, and listen. I think that's what Joe means by going inward. It's at least what I mean by it and they seem similar--his version of it and mine.
I was still wondering though, whether individual responses have to be an Either/Or choice. Either join a group and raise a stink and fight the Whatever, or go get quiet and change your life and find your inner peace.
In any case, you do what you can, where you can, when you can, and never stop. It shouldn't be a sometime thing, though. It should be a way of life. Not everybody thinks like that, not everybody cares. And even if they do, is that enough? What can one person do? Well it's not just one person actually. It's one person here, one person there; three people here, five people there; a hundred people here, five hundred people there; a hundred thousand here, two hundred thousand there, scattered over many theres, and I think they're increasing rather than diminishing. I could be wrong. And never, of course, anywhere near the majority. But still ...
How many dozens of people, in their small way, helping one another, tiny random acts that're never noticed, ever publicized, seldom acknowledged, completely forgotten, in every pocket of the universe -- they've got to count for something. Calm , deliberate guts" (Joe's phrase). Not fearful, crazed and worrying, swallowed up in uncertainty, but Calm. Deliberate. And with Guts. A stance that could get you through just about any situation. Gandhi had it. Martin Luther King had it. Aung San Suu Kyi has it. Not just the 'giants' but all the others, mostly nameless people living (and sometimes giving) their lives for justice sake, have it.
Joe was right that no one can "own that thing inside us. The one that gives out the last sigh before sleep, and travels the realms of the great human collective consciousness alone."
This is beginning to sound like a speech, groan. What you call getting carried away in the moment. Unintentional, but you see what words do to you sometimes, they open up all kinds of doors and stuff comes tumbling out, making you think, so you start thinking out loud, the fingers start tapping, you're suddenly a-sea in a wash of words, reader beware. Good thing only three people read this blog, ha ha. But thank you Joe, you ol' curmudgeon down Mexico-way. A bunch of words on a webpage, a line in a poem in a library book, a random phrase overheard in someone else's conversation-- how the written or spoken word can jar the consciousness, bring understanding--or at least open the gate to it, instill one to action, give a sense of hope--all of the above.
Going inward, not as an escape, but to draw from a well of resources you didn't know were there. And not just "spiritual" stuff but ... Going for a root canal, even: Calm. Deliberate. And with Guts. So not just the biggies but the little everyday things as well.
And thanks to another Joe (Hutchison by name) for sharing the "pale blue dot" and quote from Sagan, demonstrating "the folly of human conceits" of which we have many. He was absolutely right (Sagan): "Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand," underscoring "our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another ... to preserve and cherish" it.
Amen to that!
oops, slipped off the Brevity Wagon again.