If it doesn’t seem that everything is hanging by a thread right now, if grief and bewilderment for a world losing its way is not just beneath the surface of your own world, perhaps its time to come out of your cave. When 40% of the electorate of the Unites States seems willing to elect a strongman figure who claims to understand it all–and channels the desire (if not the actual capacity) to fix it–we are in dangerous territory. America’s authoritarian shadow is coming into full view. These are the images penetrating my awareness over the past few weeks as I’ve traveled across the country, visiting Santa Fe, Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula.
I’ve driven across the vast open spaces of Washington, Montana, North Dakota; marvelled at wet and verdant Minnesota, slow and peaceful rural Wisconsin and Michigan. I spent the entire Republican convention in the manicured and abundant farmlands north of Toronto and in the prosperity of Canada’s capital, Ottawa.
I arrived in Waltham, MA. on the 22nd, where I will spend a week. Being a city boy means I don’t normally see with the eyes of the rancher or the farmer, the eyes of the small town business owner. I don’t know what slow really feels like. I did not grow up in a place with 10,000 (or less) people, raise a family there or grow old there. I don’t know what it’s like to never know (or even see) an African-American, an Asian, a Latino or muslim immigrant. But these are the places I was seeing for a week, driving across the prairies of Montana and North Dakota before spending a couple of days with an old friend on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I wasn’t listening to AM radio, never heard any religious or political programming. But it’s no mystery that people here have their own way of thinking about the world. For them, it’s about faith, family, self-reliance, obedience to the law and independence; what George Lakoff calls the authoritarian hierarchy.
I don’t know what arises in the spirit of someone who lives 30 miles from an interstate highway as they look up at an endless night sky with no ambient light to obscure their view. But it’s easy to imagine how they might get a little riled up about a distant government that seems to think it knows what they need or that passes laws that have little to do with their reality and include handouts to people who don’t look like them. And it’s not so difficult to imagine that images of urban warfare would inflame fear and disgust.
On the other hand, here in rural isolation, just as much as anywhere else, the error of believing in separation is deeply embedded in the psyche as anywhere else. Maybe even more so. It could so easily be otherwise, but being seduced into thinking we can just do this one thing to make things better, believing in simplistic answers to what are systemic problems is what drives us deeper into delusion. Thinking in terms of cause and effect is as natural as breathing. But in reality, every decision we make arises in a vast network of causes. The very notion of manipulating a single cause and receiving the desired outcome is addictive and more than slightly delusional since every act sets myriad new causes in motion.
On the other hand, the most difficult thing to do, the greatest leap for each of us is to fully realise the true nature of our entanglement. There is no escape. We are not only merely “in this together,” we actually are each other. As scientific research also tells us, what we see depends on who is looking.
We are witnessing our insides being displayed in the public square. There is no more “out there.” Eternal streams of consciousness temporarily coalescing in transient identities possessing the most superficial distinguishing characteristics such as personality, religion, culture and skin colour, adapting in relationship with other similarly transient identities: this is the dance. Being responsible means taking responsibility for the whole because we are each the whole. And yet, the most extreme opposite view, the illusion of individuality, of personal (separate) responsibility, the moralistic authoritarian ideology of domination and extraction, always present, never fully extinguished, has found a very vocal mouthpiece and a growing following. It is giving everyone (everywhere) pause.
Where do you stand? How are you responding to the quickening pace and deepening uncertainty of our times? What are you willing to do to speak on behalf of inter-being?
Out of nothing comes everything, from reticence to confidence,
from certainty to uncertainty. I stand shoulder to shoulder
with you, swaying with the breath, the breeze, with
the undulations coming in alien rhythms, the imperceptible
and the shaking, the anchored in stone, the trembling.
We know what we know and feel more than we know.
There are words and silence, the sounds are soothing or
disturbing, the silence calming or frightening.
To succumb to the true nature of things is not to be
paralysed…or comforted…but to be carried…or left to fall…
to be joined…in endless communal descent. I can hold up the sky or
fall into another’s eyes, be my body, lost in its swarming dances,
yield to expansion or contraction, be transported to foreign
dark places, ply the freedoms lapping a beach of indeterminacy,
smell the fragrances of being stretched to the limit of imagination.
I can say this…or say nothing. Nothing can be denied.
Not the everlasting wounds, the grief that invites a harsh wind of ideology,
the meaning that hangs in the closet like a new suit of clothing.
I am alone –and also all things–catching sunlight, shuttering from
intrusion, cracking the exoskeleton,
igniting the fires of the heart, surrendering to the divine, hurling myself
on a bed of coals to be burned awake, my ashes spread to all directions,
my essence hanging like smoke, slipping the grasp, neither
visible nor non-visible, timeless, undisturbed.