A combination of the circus of health care reform and the fact that I’ve turned 39 this month has caused me to veer off health policy to talk about the world we have co-created…
I was up until 3 a.m. recently, slightly melancholy after a spur-of-the-moment, lovely picnic in the park with friends. I'd come home a little tipsy, very tired, pondering my life, my age, our culture and the ways of the world. I plucked up the courage to finish one of the best books I've read in a long time (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) -- a book I've been reluctant to commit to because in some ways, it hits too close to home, and I was approaching its final chapters with a low sense of dread. The writing was too good to offer an easy out, and true to form, author Muriel Barbery’s ending left me spinning and stunned. I found myself sobbing at nearly 3 a.m., about my family, about ten years of loss, about doors that close and the unrelenting force of circumstance. How can I fundamentally transform a world in which power is decreed by class and status, when I have little of either? When will this 20 year task, of healing myself deeply enough so that I can help heal the world, find its cynosure? And how do I ensure the weaving of a bright tapestry after more than a decade of trauma? Exhausted, I lay there wondering just how much tenacity I can continue to muster amidst my struggles with fate, my profound sensitivity, and a world of systems I don’t believe in.
Here’s the deal: l love this planet. I love life with a fierceness and tenderness I can’t easily explain. I am not afraid to die. But sometimes, I am deathly afraid of the world we have created. On a fairly regular basis, everything inside of me rises up against the things we take as commonplace…supermarkets, corporate personhood, adulterated food and dollar stores to name a few; this last being particularly disturbing when you follow the trail of exquisite beauty and ecological complexity of a rainforest to plastic bins of throw-away goods for a throw-away culture – one in which we know all too well how to throw away each other. (And honestly, I think these things are connected). Supermarkets are just as frightening -- though not as frightening as the fact the most Americans don’t realize this -- that aisle after aisle of all of our major grocery stores are filled with toxic chemicals and fake food. In American culture, it is a great and cloudy distance from the soil and the farm to healthy, nourished cells and clarity of mind. Our addiction to technology has dulled our senses to the healing power of nature’s bounty and the fantastic toxicity of the systems we have created to manipulate, produce and procure its proxy. This fact can be said for more than our food.
A modern era that cut us off from heart and old wisdom has led us to a postmodern world in which speed, complexity and an increasing sense of universal malaise is the norm – and we don’t know how to navigate back to the vitality of the moist earth, hard ground, seed and acorn where once we lay dreaming. We are a simultaneous juggernaut and mad dash toward massive planetary destruction. And setting this unnerving fact aside for just a moment, we have built a world of systems and ways of being that are oppressive rather than liberating. The result? Widespread apathy, anomie and a low, reverberating global hum of desperation. It is not surprising that anyone, anywhere, feels helpless. For to change the world, we must change ourselves, and to change ourselves, we must change our systems, and to change our systems, we must muster the kind of courage on a collective level that we’ve never managed to do as a species, let alone a people or a country.
It is a daunting proposition to think of, or to believe in and fight for, a global paradigm shift in human consciousness; but it is precisely what is required of us, if we are to survive and create sustainable systems in the process. And the beauty of it, implausible as it may seem, is that it is just such a shift that is going to liberate us. Coming to an understanding that we are, in the end, all in this together, that whether it makes sense yet or not, we are part of a collective psyche in which what each of us does affects one another, is a shocking prospect. No, I do not believe those with the most protected class and status have any corner on happiness. And our culture of mind-numbing entertainment will not save us. Nor will our desperate obsession with youth and beauty, as if our collective grasp toward its fertile hopefulness will not mean that life has passed us by while we turned our backs on an authentic existence. We cannot be happy when we oppress one another. We cannot reach the fulcrum of what every sane human being seeks: a deep sense of fulfillment, love and peace (a sense of the oft inexpressible, infinite divine and our perfect part in that infinity) – we cannot reach this, until we realize that each and every one of us needs the chance to know it. Or, at the very least, needs the option to live a meaningful, safe, productive, and secure existence, content in our traditions and beliefs and content enough with them to not encroach upon the differences in one another’s. But amidst this relativity there is a deep need to nurture our sense of connectivity and universality. Whether we agree on the existence of god, or paths to the divine, we must all be able to agree that the path to the divine (or to a sustainable future) is not one of massive planetary degradation and a world of social injustice. No amount of power, wealth, status symbols, antidepressants or zanax can save us from the truth of this. And our global sense of malaise will only deepen as we destroy this planet, and each other, as rapidly as we can in our stubborn attempts to hide behind our carefully crafted illusions – including capitalism, consumerism and the dogma inherent in all the monotheistic religions.
What we need is a global transformation – a global evolution of our species – something beyond anything we’ve yet seen. Yet any true kind of transformation will first require brutal honesty; a hard look in the individual and aggregate mirror, so that we more fully face where we’ve been, who we’ve become, and what it means for our survival and our happiness. Our obsession with science, reason and fundamentalist religion has cut us off from a deep sense of heart, soul and connectedness to a thread that links each of us to each other and all of us to this vital, vulnerable planet. I know that we are beautiful. I know that each of us, in our own ways, is amazing. We are capable of deep humanity, of joy, of moments of grace – yet the ways we are living, individually and collectively, are insane. I don’t believe that our species is actually crazy, but I do believe we are deeply lost. We find ourselves hopelessly entrenched in systems that keep us perpetuating nightmares around the world, and we insist on maintaining an existence of massive global injustice, all with a sense of entitlement. Worse still, there is a deep symbiosis between the systems we’ve created, and the way these systems shape us. We are slaves, most of us, expert at towing the line. Our survival in this society, in our world, depends on it. And in the process, we learn with great skill how to oppress one another, and how to betray ourselves, sometimes so deeply that it can take lifetimes to find our way back home again.
Well, I am here to say that I don’t believe in what we have created, but neither do I believe that what we face is impossible. Absolutely daunting, yes. But I fundamentally believe that we are meant to do better than this. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that we ARE better than this. And, that although our lives are but a brief, bright spark, we are meant to learn how to evolve, WHILE WE ARE HERE. We are meant to make this world a better place for ourselves, and for each other. This is our clarion call. This is our task. We have a task to consciousness, a task to understand our collective psychological and ecological connectedness and interdependence. And, we have a task toward goodness. I know, I know in my heart that we are starved for this; we are deeply starved for the truth of a more connected, creative, liberating, passionate and soulful existence. We have grace in our hearts and grace in our fingertips. It is a matter of having the courage to face the loss of taking so long to discover it, of facing the loss of the darkness we collectively perpetuate. There is no one way to the divine. But the divine is calling us to the task of rising above who and what we have been, to co-create a world that we know, truly know, in our hearts makes sense.