I shut down another conversation the other day on Facebook.
I didn’t intend to, but my comment was met with averted eyes and embarrassed silence.
No, I wasn’t sharing the intimate details of my health, sex life or bathroom habits. I wasn’t evangelizing or objecting to the exclusive holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” or what have you—though I do object to such exclusivity, early and often.
I responded to a friend’s posting of an Elaine Boosler quote:
“When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
So what taboo did I break in this supposedly taboo-free society?
I pointed out that even if women hold ourselves aloof from macho male militarism, as long as we purchase goods kept artificially cheap by American companies that outsource to regions with lower standards of living—impoverished nations that are happy to sell off their virgin ecosystems and employ sweatshop workers for desperately needed cash—we, nonviolent women, are morally responsible for the militarism that protects the companies that provide these goods.
It’s a truth nobody wants to acknowledge. It’s so much easier to blame somebody else—extremists in Congress, the military, the unchecked corporations otherwise known as The Bigs—Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Agro, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big X, Big Y, Big Z.
The truth is that none of these powerful perceived villains would ever have gotten their power or grown to their cancerous size without our buy-in, our votes (or non-votes), our taxes, our energy, dietary and health care choices and our “therapeutic” shopping feeding them.
But what other choice do we have in our society?
We need oil to run our cars, warm our houses, make the countless plastic, resin and synthetic-fabric products that fill our homes and offices and hospitals and …well, you get the idea. Our society is based on petroleum products!
Surely we need coal to keep our lights on and our appliances and computers running. How can a few hundred ecosystems and species compare to the importance of keeping the power on?
Surely we need industrial agriculture to feed our families, not to mention the hungry of the world. Isn’t Monsanto solving the problem of world hunger with their genetic tinkering? And pharmaceuticals keep our symptoms at bay, and insurance pays for the rising costs of modern healthcare…well, some of them, anyway.
It all comes down to the core beliefs that we don’t have any other options, we’re not in a position to argue, and we’ve just got to make the best of the god awful, toxic situation we’ve got, with the Bigs getting bigger, the planet getting more compromised and more ecosystems and species failing every day, while our balances of money—and hope—get smaller every day.
And the popular solutions? Work! Shop! Eat! Watch television! Go to the movies or the casino. Pump up that flab at the gym. Invade another country on World of Warcraft. Ingest narcotic substances.
Reality is a nightmare, so let’s go virtual or numb out completely. Maybe before it all goes down, science will find a way to get us off this planet and embrace mankind’s destiny: despoiling other planets, having trashed our Mother Earth.
What a grim scenario; no wonder nobody wants to talk about it!
With our vision myopically fixed on the situation as it is and our energy and brainpower enmeshed in our jobs, we’re frantically scrambling to save what we have and make small changes. Sure, we say, I’m eco-conscious! I’ve swapped all my light bulbs and I’m nuts about recycling. But God forbid we challenge any core certitudes (least of all our own) or consider making deep changes in our lives.
Because we can’t.
But what if we do have other options?
Maybe, as theologian Matthew Fox proposes, this apparent hopelessness, this paralyzing “I can’t-ism” itself stems from a self-negating certitude that needs challenging: the certitude that we, ourselves, are somehow insufficient, powerless, not capable of self-motivation, self-management, direct connection with the Divine.
The certitude that we need others, more powerful, richer, more authoritative, more degreed, more ecclesiastically accredited, to employ us, direct us and control things for us.
The certitude that we are isolated individuals who cannot change our own lives, much less our society, much less our world.
The certitude that we, alone, personally need to control and drive any change we initiate and that this is a crushing, impossible responsibility.
As Betty Friedan wrote, “Men are not the enemy but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” Or rather, humans’ denigration of ourselves.
But what if we can come up with other solutions or notice the solutions that already exist, right under our noses—solutions that might start with light bulbs and recycling but go much, much deeper?
What if we start to believe that our imaginations, our intent, our love—not just our anger and frustration—can move mountains? What if, when we (metaphorically) pray for rain, we start carrying umbrellas?
Awhile back I attended an afternoon symposium, a multimedia, interactive program bringing together the best of indigenous wisdom with the most visionary concepts of the modern scientific worldview to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, spiritually fulfilling culture on Earth.
In one portion of the symposium, we gather together with others in our community to discuss and discover what we are already doing and can do. We link up our ideas, campaigns, organizations. Most important, we discover that we are not alone, that there is a groundswell of like-minded people stirring at the grassroots level, group after group arising to save one aspect of the planet, or to care for one group of the people or another.
We watch Paul Hawken’s “Blessed Unrest” speech and realize that millions of such organizations are working today around the earth. As the Achuar people say, it is the spirit of the conscious planet taking action to protect herself, and her life forms, inspiring people to do the work that is needed and guiding them along the way to find the right connections and resources…
We are not alone.
I could quote Goethe at this point, about the Universe acting to support us once we commit ourselves, but instead I’ll close this post with a story.
Last week, I went on a two-day retreat with a very wise and unassuming holy woman. I was struggling with my own forms of confusion and “I can’t-ism”—moving from work with one teacher to seek a stronger connection to the light within.
In our conversations, she urged me to ask for inner guidance and listen not only with my mind but also with my heart and body, to sit in “eyeball to eyeball” conversation with Spirit and seek the inner voice, not in desperation or presumptive problem-solving but in silence.
After our conversation, she sent me to seek and follow inner guidance for the day. I chose to walk the grounds and connect with the Earth for grounding and direction. I went outside, asking for direction, noting the springs that arose from the ground and cut across the fields toward a wetland at the bottom of the property. Drawn to follow them, I stood at the bank of a small stream, barely a foot wide and felt led to step over it onto a small island completely surrounded by small separate streams.
Ahead of me, two trees caught my attention. I approached and between the trees found a pile of half-buried, rusted metal junk and felt the inner calling to remove it.
“How?” I asked, and the inner leading directed me back to the house, where my hostess was talking with her neighbor, a farmer who had been working for years on cleaning up and restoring the wetland. He was delighted to provide a wheelbarrow and practical advice for the job. My hostess provided work gloves and boots, and thus supplied, I had the pile cleared within a couple of hours, receiving further inner guidance in every quandary.
The message was clear: I’d ask for guidance and it would come, step by step, if I consciously remained focused and aware. Whether I chose to say it came from an integral connection with God, Goddess, the Earth, the Universe, the Unified Field or what have you—the guidance came.
I was not a solitary ego acting alone; I was connected to the Divine, the Earth, and helped by the people, I could create a change. Yes, a tiny change but a change—a beginning.
I believe that this is the key to real and lasting change, not on behalf of the planet, but in partnership with Spirit, the People, and the sentient Earth. We are connected to the Divine-in-creation at our core and each of us is capable of acting on that life-sustaining connection.
I would like to invite your stories of similar experiences of connection with Spirit. If you feel called to share, please add them in the comments below.
Together, we can create an empowering affirmation of partnership that goes beyond our individual abilities.
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Assist Ed: Michelle Margaret / Ed: Catherine Monkman