Saturday, March 10, 2012

An Invitation

When I started this blog, I openly--perhaps foolishly idealistically--stated that my intention was to help make the world a better place, in the same manner as one would eat an elephant--one bite at a time.

For months now, I've been writing, pointing out ways that the old is not serving us, but rather holding us down. I've (rather politely, I think) tried to point out that WE, not some faceless THEY are responsible for the mess in which we find this world. I've suggested things that we can all do to make it better.

I've talked about ways that our "reality" has been skewed through dishonest accounts of what's going on in the world, by fake conflicts between 'choices' that all lead to the same destination, and by systems that spend a lot of time convincing us that we are powerless to change anything. My response to all of these things has been pretty consistently, "HOOEY."

Some of the time, I've talked about the bad stuff--about the unfair, unkind, bloodthirsty, money-hungry, selfish mentality that drives many of our institutions, customs, and practices. And I've done so not to tell you to hoard food, buy a gun, put a watchtower up in your yard, install a safe room, or put your head between your legs and kiss your heiney goodbye. I've pointed out the bad stuff to 1) inform people that the bad stuff exists and may not be exactly as portrayed by the powers that be; 2) try to overcome the forces of human inertia that cause people to ignore bad stuff until it arrives on your front porch; and 3) to inspire people to do something.

The last several days, my travels on the web, many of my personal conversations, and lots of circumstances are showing me that many people, even my readers, are still not 'getting it.' It seems that, in the face of lots of stuff that can be done, lots of good that can be worked, and lots of reason to believe that things can get better, many people are spending their time worrying about how the sky is falling in some way or another, or trying their best to ignore it all and cross their fingers that things will just go back to the "way they used to be." To be clear: these are not the preferred activities.

In my family, when you were dawdling about doing some task you were supposed to do, my mother would sarcastically ask, "are you waiting for an engraved invitation?" So, just in case you are, I'm issuing one, right here, right now.

You are cordially invited to help create a better world

Your invitation includes the following.

First and foremost-Let Go. I've avoided talking much about one aspect of my past because of it's inherent tendency to become cheesy, but today, what the heck. I'm an alcoholic. I've been sober (this time) for over fifteen years. When I got sober, one of the things I learned very clearly was that you can't do something new while you're still hanging on to the old. It is as if we are carrying around broken shards of pottery, and even though we pass by priceless Ming vases every day, we're too scared and stupid to drop the broken bits of our old lives and pick up the treasures.

In a conversation some weeks ago, an acquaintance and I were talking about the financial situation in the US. After we'd observed that the country is so far in debt it can never be repaid in the current format, the government so corrupted as to be irretrievable, and the financial system a mix of smoke, mirrors and BS, she said, in total seriousness, "well, we just need them to stop messing around and get stuff back to normal before they wreck my 401(k)" Hello? Are you kidding me? We are just emerging from a period which has shown us the complete and utter unworkability of the current model of financial thievery and she wants to go back to it for the sake of a 401(k)? This kind of thinking makes a mud puddle look deep as the Marianas Trench.

We need to release our attachments to old institutions that are clearly dysfunctional. Some of these are the fake left-right, D-R conflict that keeps us busy arguing about health insurance for birth control pills and Rush-freaking-Limbaugh while the fat cats pick our pockets and steal our souls in the back room; the "my ___ is better than your ___" thinking that is used to justify wars, genocides, and hatred of all kinds; and the fear-based thinking that so totally pervades our society that we're willing to stand stupidly idle while power- and profit-hungry sociopaths take our freedom, our dignity, our privacy, and our health to fight an amorphous enemy conjured up mostly in our minds (e.g., the Cold War, the Red Stain, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror.) For God's sake, what are we holding on to? Butchery, hatred, want, spiritual bankruptcy, and a 401(k). We are capable of so much better, if we just put down the damn broken pot.

Second, we need to think independently, and stop acting like third graders or Congressmen, who have to parrot back the party line thinking in order to get our reward. We need to gather information from all kinds of sources, think it through, and adopt only those parts that strike our hearts right and make sense. For example, I know people who won't look at news anywhere but Fox, or MSNBC. I also know people who think something can't be true if it didn't appear in the mainstream media,even though it's been shown conclusively that the mainstream news is totally controlled by the same people who are stealing our wealth, buying our government, and ruining our world in the name of profit. Finally, I know people, friends of mine, who won't read my blog because they don't want to know some of the stuff I post--it depresses them. Yeah, it's better to not know--ignorance has always saved people from harm, right? It's time to grow the hell up, people! The world doesn't fit into neat, black and white boxes. And bad stuff doesn't go away because you ignore it. Get a grip, inform yourself and THINK.

Third, once you know something, DO SOMETHING. When you learn that something's wrong, tell people, write letters, call your Congressman, etc. Bitch, yell, scream, protest and demand something better. To sit silently in the face of wrong is the classic recipe for disaster. Remember all the "good Germans" who watched their neighbors taken off by the Nazis?

And it's not just refusing to go along with the bad. Everyone--and I mean everyone--can do something to make stuff better. Every small act of kindness or loving intention is a candle in the dark. Back at Christmas time, my family and I decided we didn't really need a raft of new junk, so we minimized our buying, and instead we got some fairly substantial gift cards and we went out on Christmas Eve and gave them away to strangers--a soldier home on leave, an Hispanic family out doing their Christmas shopping, and a couple baristas at a Starbucks. After an initial moment of shock, each and every one acted like we'd handed them a million dollars. I don't know what they did with their windfalls, and I don't know if they ever 'paid it forward,' but I do know that at least for a moment, they felt good. A good day's work. And maybe just as important, it changed us and the way we think. Both my kids have asked to do it again, just for the heck of it. Being irrationally nice is actually addictive.

So, hold a door for someone, let somebody go ahead in line, pay for the guy's order behind you at the drive-through, pick up a piece of litter, send someone an unexpected letter or card or gift, or just say something nice to someone. Just look up from your little, preoccupied world for one moment every day and do something good, expecting nothing in return. Pretty soon, it could become cool to be nice again.

Now, the final challenge. I know some of you read that last paragraph and concluded that it's Pollyanna-ism. Doing little nice stuff can't change the world. My response: The greatest obstacle to progress is the belief that it can't happen. And as someone once said, you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem.

Which one do you want to be? Your RSVP is requested.

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