If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
Thinking about the toxic fumes from the fire at the nearby Chevron oil refinery looming over the residents of the Bay Area the other day I had a small epiphany:
It might be a wonderful thing for us to learn from the past, and more concisely, to sit still and take inventory of where we are as a species—from what I hear, the most advanced species in the four billion-year history of the earth.
For example, the ingredient that powers the machine of modern mankind, oil, at its base, is efficiently and utterly toxic. I don’t fault the architects of the past, pushing for resources and constantly stressing the bottom line even if it meant the destruction of a rainforest or the slow, methodical annihilation of a species. It’s distressing, but it has already occurred.
All that we can work with and mold into manifestation is what is here, and with this in mind, maybe its time to kick bad habits and enter into a new arena of human civilization.
The world isn’t healthy today because the collective mind of its great “steward”—man—isn’t healthily connected to the system that gave it life.
Maybe listening to the message of the Native Americans concerning the importance of the land and the inherent connectivity of all things is something to notice and cherish. And if this is so, and it’s supported by the great sages of the past—Buddha, the Zen and Tibetan masters and lamas, and great poets and artists alike—then it might behoove us to examine the great connection in life between all things. And more importantly, actively learn to put our thoughts and desires aside to step into the present moment and feel the direct experience of it.
The experience itself might be a transformative one. It could be an inherently nourishing thing to learn to clear the mind of clutter, cultural stereotypes and mind-made goals and opinions, to reach down and tap into something profound. We might walk right into the personal change we are looking for without even realizing it. And then one day, there it is.
This brings up a second point: change on a political and social level. Maybe change doesn’t come from glorified elected leaders or the influence of powerful oil lobbyists. Maybe change is personal and can only be felt on a wider level when groups of individuals decide to make a conscious effort to foster change.
In the United States, people are often pitted against one another through the two party system. Instead of choosing to be a part of one party, a person could choose to be an individual and vote in accordance with his or her personal beliefs.
If we could take things into our own hands—work on our minds to have a more global outlook, understand the core issues at hand, and have an idea about who a prospective leader might be without paying attention to paid talking heads—then the system itself could change.
How can gridlock exist in an empowered society? But once again, this can only work if it is taken back to the basic level: all of us—one at a time—unraveling the mind to be more present. Where do we stand then?
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
~ W. H. Auden, September 1, 1939
What can we learn?
Toxic energy, the world’s sixth great mass extinction event in the past billion years, thousands of stock-piled nuclear weapons ready to launch at the press of a button… This isn’t doom and gloom it is just what is, right now. And now too. We are writing the legacy of earth’s most intelligent species.
The wonderful thing about it all is that the human brain and the earth that gave it life are resilient and inconceivably deep. Instead of trusting what is outside of us and looking at numbers, turning the light inwards and choosing to trust the depth of experience within the mind and the world that is here, could lead to a transformation of heart and mind. At that moment, we might hit the lights. One at a time, lights ignited across the globe.
Where is your light?
Here are eight steps to foster change.
1. Throughout the day, practice mindfulness and be present with the life that is here, now.
2. Actively seek a connection to the wonder and vastness of reality left just as it is.
3. Follow your heart as much as possible.
4. Become a sincere steward for the planet and an advocate for the protection of its pristine wildernesses—or what’s left of it.
5. Remain open to life.
6. Be a responsible stakeholder in your community/state/nation by understanding the issues at hand and staying involved in the process.
7. After getting involved in the nitty gritty, put things in perspective and remember to be in this world but not if it.
8. Look deeply into the night sky and contemplate the inconceivable.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger