My head has been spinning lately thinking about the state of the world. I have had conversations about where the line gets drawn between trying to be a part of the solutions, actively ignoring the earth and its problems, and being a downright major part of those same problems. The answers have been sincere from those few friends I have been engaging in the conversation with, but at the same time I just can’t help feeling like those answers are in some way a rationalization to stay in our comfort zones. The gist of the conversations and ensuing confusions I have been having since returning from Africa is just what I have said, the ideals “I hold to be important”. Okay, I hold them important, but what about someone who doesn’t?
The title of this blog is not meant to be cheeky in any way, but it is to express a sincere thanks to all those people out there who have put their ideals on the line, and changed the course of life on planet earth. I am thinking about all those thousands of people bringing issues to the fore, inconveniencing their lives for the sake of the environment, a tribe of people being forced from their land, occupied territories and countries, an endangered species, etc. There are people working on the ground behind the scenes of every one of those petitions we may or may not sign when they make it to our inboxes. The silent and not so silent revolutions we have witnessed over the past few decades have been started by people who pushed themselves out of their comfort zones, or indeed put themselves in extremely uncomfortable positions: a small prison on an island in South Africa, in the line of fire of the oppressor’s bullets, in front of tanks in large public places, and lately in flames as now over 100 monks have set themselves on fire to bring awareness to the ongoing occupation of Tibet by the Chinese.
So why am I thanking the unenlightened ones particularly? Well it’s because I walk away from the conversations I have been having with answers like, “Everything is unfolding beautifully as it should,” or “Don’t beat yourself up, to find internal happiness is the real battle.” I actually do believe in these answers as well. I respect the people who gave them to me and consider them good friends, but something doesn’t feel right as the world unfolds as it is supposed to around me but the headlines still speak of a heck of a lot of starvation, environmental devastation, wars and occupied territories, weekly drone assassinations and the list goes on.
I try not to dwell on the negative, and yes I do live in a positive frame of mind, but these are the realities of the world we live in and I am looking for a way to balance my ideals, my mental health, and the planet’s needs as well. I feel that I am a big part of that unfolding world and my small action or inaction affect the outcome. It just feels too easy to say I have no effect on the outcome, so don’t beat myself up about it. So why would we do anything then? Should we work to try to save rainforest depletion, wetlands from disappearing, rivers and oceans from becoming toxic waste dumps, the very air we breathe giving our children unprecedented levels of asthma, and the food we eat causing obesity and malnourishment at the same time? Are these not values worth making myself a bit uncomfortable for? I had a conversation with a man at our local market today who makes himself very uncomfortable indeed. He lives without money, his whole life is based on his carbon footprint, at the moment he lives autonomously in a field on the outskirts of my village and has built an incredible model of permaculture self-sufficiency, but he is not enjoying his life as he views it as a constant battle against the status quo. He feels strongly that others should be living much more inconvenient lives to the ones we are living. When I speak to him I feel pushed way out of my comfort zone, but am definitely not ready to embrace the lifestyle he is now leading, and feel that his hard core edge may turn people away from the plight. He seems to have forsaken the joys of life which surround him and has crossed the border into a lifestyle reminiscent of just survival. On the other hand I want to be able to look my children in the eye and say I am doing the best I can.
I say thanks to the unenlightened ones because an enlightened soul might say in the larger more important picture this physical world is all illusion. As the Dali Lama has kept calm and China has occupied his country for over 60 years now, something is getting out of control. In those 60 years China has gained a world domination on consuming natural resources. It basically owns the U.S and European economies, it is in the process of buying up Africa’s and South America’s resources, but the human rights progress has not changed much, and no matter how enlightened The Dali Lama’s approach has been over the last half century or more, one hundred Tibetan Monks have pushed their comfort zone to bring recognition to their plight because the enlightened approach has obviously not done its physical job, so they have gone for a much more radical approach to enlightenment and have literally alighted themselves. It is a radical move on their part, but our part in our planet’s journey need not be so radical as my neighbour’s is or the monk’s, but maybe should be a bit more proactive. It seems that many issues over the past half century when left ignored have unsurprisingly only managed to get far worse. Even many issues that haven’t been ignored have managed to fall into that same category. Life does get in the way as we grow older as our comfort zones get wider and our rationalizations sound better and then get proved to be true because nothing does happen or matters do worsen. But if all of us picked a cause or two that made our lives inconvenient in some way as a show of solidarity with our fellow inhabitants or the environment and shared it in our wider community maybe our world would still unfold in its perfect way, but be a bit more perfect than it is right now.
Maybe it is all an illusion, and on a deeper spiritual level I understand that sentiment, and also know of the importance of inner peace. My physical side though which has a wife, children, a house, a community, and enjoys looking back to my childhood reminiscing sometimes (What, not constantly living in the now?), wants to do as much as I can for the beautiful place I have lived in all my physical life. What the heck, illusion or not it’s a pretty cool little planet.
I don’t want to rationalize away the importance of mental balance, a meditation or spiritual practice and a striving for the bliss of a glimpse of that internal peace. The world definitely needs us all to work from the heart and be a positive influence, but as we are both spiritual and physical creatures, it may also need us to tap into that physical ‘can do’ part of us we all have and try to get that balance to help bring things in alignment. Because if we are honest with ourselves I don’t think we can really see the world as it is unfolding right now to be as perfect as it could be with all of our conscious efforts to make it that much better.
I look forward to any comments as I am dealing with the constant barrage of questions that come to the fore in my daily existence as I look at the wonderful life around me, and the absolute privileged life of me and my family only being possible because of a complete accident of birth geographically.