Stuck between healing through detachment and deeply caring

I sobbed, turned to my husband and whispered gently in his ear that the unthinkable had happened. Unthinkable, yet ever-so doable, it turns out. So there it was: my first slap around the face that perhaps I hadn’t been told anything like the truth by pundits, journalists, social commentators, opinionators, and everyone else thought. Brexit allover again. I’ve heard this from others too, and my word, I felt it that morning.

Yet another blog about the US election? Well, yes and no. I am writing about what I’ve observed in humans since what came to be as of Wednesday this week, including myself. But life carried on. I get up, get the kids up, kiss my husband goodbye as he goes to work. Nothing has changed. Yet a sea of change is broiling somewhere in the world and I’m standing on a distant shore where my toes are getting the tiniest of laps.

But why was it so unthinkable? Of course we live in a time where two things are happening simultaneously: minds are being polarised, activised, emotions are being encouraged and fed upon, change is in the air and not only that, change has been voted for and is now expected, demanded. Instability is rife, swinging between anti-establishment fervour and fear. Of defining ourselves by what we’re not. Yet at the same time we are being encouraged to be at peace with current events, to protect our own minds from the truth of the horrors all around us. To be apathetic and at worst to be complicit in not standing up for what we believe (anyone have any idea of that anymore?). Buddhist teachings tell us to welcome in change as it is inevitable and that transformation is a process that begins with an open heart.

I see friends really struggling with what is happening. People who have armed themselves with knowledge and such erudite arguments. Both sides are compelling me to listen and to agree. To know all ends. But the truth is, I don’t. I do not know all ends. I do not know if welcoming in this change is going to protect people from unemployment, or racism. I don’t know if by standing against the dismantling of our establishments and the ushering in of chaos is even a task that I’m up for. I don’t know if I can stop fracking, rapacious greed committing ecocide for profit, stop a fool who cannot be trusted with a Twitter account, who now has his finger on nuclear warheads. I don’t even know if he’s a fool. I don’t know if I have any idea of what the world is really like. I don’t even know if any of this matters, seeing as we will all be dust particles blowing in a cosmic wind once the sun goes out anyway.

But yet, if I let myself delve deeper into what I don’t know, I look even further into this and I see a hope kindled that has never gone out. I see the hope that I cannot put my finger on to name: it isn’t hope that we won’t suffer at the hands of those we mindlessly allow to govern us, it isn’t a hope for humans, nor species, nor even for the air that I’m breathing right now. It is a hope of a purer form, that I think was put there when I was very small. It is the hope that this is a beautiful world and staggering universe that my understanding of will never, ever comprehend. And that really, we are just playing.

That smacks of fatalism, nihilism even. Well, here’s the truth: it actually won’t matter in the end. And in the meantime, I draw my eyes away from their western-orientated view and look around me. I look at street kids in Kathmandu who don’t give two hoots about what’s going on, because we’ve just put an emperor back onto a broken throne. They don’t care who it is who wears the ermine. I see the Amazon basin gasping for breath, when of course it’s us who will breathe the last lungful of putrid carbonised air. I see China through a haze of successful pollution and I see lives belittled and destroyed, so we can have a really smashing Christmas. I turn my eyes to the orangutangs in Borneo who are our cousins and we still can’t stop them from burning, so we can have palm oil whenever we wish for it. And I know that we’ve failed our biggest test and we all know it.

I need to write something positive here, a word of encouragement. Perhaps it’s best to use the words of Max Erhmann in his beautiful poem, Desiderata:

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

It really is.

I saw two dippers in the river the other day, walking upstream in the sharpness of the November waters. They looked like tiny otters at first, until one hopped onto a rock and did his characteristic bobbing up and down. I was delighted. Dry seeds rattle on the dying undergrowth as I brush against them, the promise of Spring right there. The rescue chickens thoughtlessly give us eggs now that they’ve settled in and grown their feathers back. Life is being, just as it should and this makes me very content. And yes, Baby still grows in my tummy, waiting to be born very soon. I have to have hope, don’t I? Because this world, this universe, this unfathomable expanse of unknown will never ever change, no matter what we do to it in our tiny sphere of which we think we have taken control.

I feel that there are other worlds, far out of reach of this one, where we exist without our bodies and that all we’ve ever done to believe the hype that our bodies and all the tricks they ever play on us are all that matter, well, there it simply doesn’t even happen. Ego, wealth at any cost, destruction of what we’re too foolish to value, hate in all its vicious forms, the cages we put around ourselves and each other, desires, fears, hopes, shames, they’ve all gone. Every single thing. And all we are is the spirit and soul we had before we started to believe that this world matters. It’s that flame of hope that must have been put there when I was a very tiny child. That’s what I’m talking about. And it’s there for us all to see, to feel. Every single one of us can see that and feel it and take great courage from it so that the task of making this world, this material, tangible world, a little easier to deal with. For after all, it is still a beautiful world and it really is good to feel happy and to see it in others with whom I share this path.

 

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