Lately, my thinking has been hard to string together into a blog post, or a philosophy, or even a set of coherent ideas. But recently, I've run across something that helped pull together some of those thoughts. Here is my thesis statement:
Right now, today, if you feel despair, lack of hope, discord, hatred, frustration, annoyance, or similar feelings, you are wearing a badge of honor, and you should feel joy in your pain.
Let's begin to explore that thesis with this notion. Lots of people right now are feeling nothing. I live among them. I see them every day. They have the benefit of fortune to have nice homes in an affluent suburb, to have enough to eat (and often way more than enough), to drive a nice car, to have the freedom to go where they believe they want to go and do what they believe they want to do. They are "lucky." And their luck has served for them as a form of emotional and spiritual anesthetic that has obliviated their notice of anything contrary.
These people go to work every day, pull their paychecks, buy their groceries, take their clothes to the dry cleaner, pay their nannies and housekeepers and landscapers, drive home in their luxury cars, park their heineys in a comfortable chair inside their comfortable homes, turn on the TV or computer, and proceed to avoid, deny, justify, or ignore everything that causes them a moment's thought or discomfort.
They believe everything that's told them by their preferred source of lies and disinformation, and parrot it diligently and angrily to anyone who might have noticed a problem in their narrative. They're not concerned about pollution, or people starving or being genocided, or our bombing babies in Pakistan, or that we imprison more people than any totalitarian regime. They don't think for a moment that someone arrested by cops might not be guilty, or even that a trial is necessary--just kill them now. If any hole appears in their logic, they angrily attack the person who points it out, calling them "conspiracy theorists," "crazies," or other colorful epithets, but never, ever do they spend the mental energy to really address the holes in their logic.
They won't ever change, because they are fat and happy, and wallowing
contentedly in their little mud hole, oblivious to the fact that the
truck from the rendering plant is just down the road, coming for them. You can think of them as people who have antennae who only pick up broadcast channels on their tuners--no HBO, no Showtime, no ESPN. They still only receive the few broadcast channels, transmitting the tragic comedy of what's going on today in the "popular consciousness." They are the ones Jesus referred to as the dead who will bury their own dead.
On the other hand is you, if you are one of the ones who feels as if "regular people" are stark raving mad to keep bombing each other, shooting each other, hating each other, judging each other, all while quoting a "savior" who preached about loving your neighbor. You are one who is now watching with baited breath the outcome of trials and elections and disputes and protests and uprisings--watching and mourning each one that doesn't finally and once and for all end the pain and suffering of some people you never met, and some you did. Often, you are disappointed, as the juggernaut of an illusion that this mess of a world is the "only" way, hurtles on down a straight track--straight toward a brick wall, despite you, anxiously leaning into the curve of change.
Once in a while, you are buoyed by a glimpse of something different, something real, that sneaks past the life-censors, and then you may watch in horror as that something gets clobbered by the mallet of the system, like a giant game of whack-a-mole. You may have actually reached a place where you realize that your life-tuner is set to a different frequency than the one everyone else is watching, and maybe that makes you feel crazy. And maybe you've been told that you are. But I think that's wrong.
I think you're something else. In the TV metaphor, I think your tuner is connected to the full cable package, and most of the programming is pretty bad, so it's not unreasonable for you to feel the way you do. The fact that some peoples' tuners only get the broadcast doesn't mean that cable doesn't exist. You've just got premium programming. Now, before you call to cancel your subscription, let me explain why being tuned to the cosmic cable network is a good thing, even though it hurts
To explain, I must digress for a moment into my addict's past, which some of you have read about previously. I spent fifteen years as a drunk. From the summer after my sophomore year in high school through the age of thirty, I'd be surprised if my blood alcohol ever reached zero. Many times it reached close to dead. My drunk-ness facilitated a lot of lying, a lot of self-degradation, a lot of crying jags and stupid recklessness, a very bad first marriage, a boatload of self-pity, and finally, a recovery that changed everything.
The very first thing that you hear when you go to a twelve-step meeting is Step One. It goes something like this:
I admit that I am powerless over my addiction--that my life has become unmanageable.
It is the proverbial "admitting that there's a problem" that even non-addicts acknowledge is the first step to recovery. And it is. The people who never take that step of seeing the problem continue to drink or drug, always convinced that with the proper "thought," the right amount of "will power," a rule here, or a tweak there, they can handle their life and their substance with some degree of "success." In short, they continue to be ruled by their addiction.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have arrived there too broken, sick, or weak to keep fighting, hiding, controlling, and managing our addiction--we cowards who give up and take that first step are the ones who say, "screw it," fall completely apart, and then accept the help of other forces to pick up the pieces, sort through them to separate the ones that will keep us doing the same thing from the ones that might actually be useful in life, and move on. We are the ones who had the fortune of feeling like there was nothing left to lose. We had the benefit of feeling that the pain of doing the same thing again outweighed the pain of changing everything.
So we began to recover. To do that, we had to re-learn everything--from who we should have as friends, to how to deal with stress, to how to relate to people, to how to make decisions--in a healthier way. We had to do every single thing differently, because, as they're fond of saying in those meetings, "Your best thinking up til now is what got you here." But as soon as we truly became willing to let go our old ideas and habits and do things differently, life began to change. What appeared to be "falling apart" actually turned out to be "falling together." And not a bit of it would have happened if I'd been a little less miserable, sick, and tired when I went there. I had to be all out of fight to keep the old way, or I never would have found the new one. Pain Equals Change.
So, as I said early on: if you are one of those who today is suffering vicious discomfort, despair, sadness, and hopelessness, wear it as a badge of honor--you have the latest in spiritual technology.
The feeling you have is the knowledge, deep down inside, that what is happening in our society is wrong--that it must change or come to a pathetic end. It is what I refer to as a cosmic 2x4 to the head--a whack that's supposed to wake us from our sleepwalk as anesthetized sheep and turn us instead into the folks who realize that the pain of continuing our current path outweighs the pain of changing everything. It's the agony and anguish of that necessary falling apart. It's the trauma and promise of falling together. It's what will make us the ones to change the world.
Start with your own.
I'm working on mine.