The Mystery of Paradox

It feels like a strange time just now.  Even the weather is strange.  The temperatures and ambience in the air signal spring; the amount of sunlight signals still winter.  My body does not seem to quite know what to do with that.  On the one hand, it wants to leap forward with spring.  On the other hand, it wants to hang back with winter and sleep.

I was going to write about something which I can see is true – a broad truth.  However, I have begun to see its paradox – that the opposite is true as well, and that the encompassing truth lies somewhere in the middle.  The broad truth is that although marching and protesting is good, eliminating fossil fuels is good, planting trees is good, giving up plastics is good, and so many more activities are excellent, it is not enough.  It will take all of us making difficult lifestyle changes such as releasing an addiction to convenience, focusing on cooperative decisions and the good of the group more than on individual decisions and the good of the self, mutual respect, ceasing war and competition that places winning above all else, and other deep changes if we are to avert the difficult effects of climate change.  In addition, these changes have an undefined but not indefinite timeline in which to take effect.

However, the opposite is also true.  No one of us can change the world alone.  None of us is responsible for making other people behave in the ways we can see are needed.  No one of us can be devalued for not achieving at the broad level; by ourselves it is not possible, even though we may do much.   Each little thing each of us does is valuable.  Each little increment we achieve is an attainment.  Even if we are making no visible progress towards averting the difficult effects of climate change, or even if we are one of those contributing to the rapid progress of those ominous effects, we cannot be judged – we are still valuable, and our actions still contribute in ways we may not see just now.

I have yet to arrive at the center point of this paradox.  Perhaps it lies in faith and hope.  Most probably, for each of us it lies in our extent of personal growth.  I think it may involve the willingness to continually grow, and to value each stage of our growth.  In the later parts of The Celestine Prophecy series by Dan Redfield,  the advanced people who have created harmony with nature and each other are dispersed by destructive forces (read it, I will not give away the plot), but come back in the next book to help the protagonists grow and avert global disaster.  That may be a good metaphor for us.

No, I don’t think we need to give up or think that we have done enough already. We have not.  Neither do I think that we should chastise ourselves for not doing more than we would like to be doing.   We need to keep trying, and at the same time, give ourselves room to grow and be in the moment that is.   If we keep both ends of the paradox beside each other in our minds, I do believe that eventually we, you and I, will arrive at the center of that paradox, and recognize it when we do.

May we have the courage to continue, and the compassion to love ourselves (and each other) where we are right now.

Peace, Diane

We Really Do Matter

” I have marched, petitioned, written letters to the editor, made phone calls and donated, but despite all I can do, nothing seems to have changed.   I feel I cannot make a difference.”  The words refer to the current crisis of climate change, uttered during a conversation about that topic.  The words are poignant, but the speaker is not the only one who feels that way.  At some time or another, each of us experiences frustration at not being able to inspire the changes we want to see, and many also experience a strong desire to give up and stop working.  Paradoxically, while we experience that desire, we also know that actually doing that will not bring lasting happiness.

I, too, experience such discouragement.  At times, it seems that no matter what words I use, they will simply echo back from the void of inertia, slip into the antithesis of what I am trying to challenge, and perish unread and unconsidered.  At such times, it is hard to continue.  Yet, giving up would simply create more hopelessness, and negate the essence of who I am, re-incorporating it into a standard status-quo.  No wealth or luxury (or the “righteousness” of its opposite) can soothe the injection of pain resulting from giving up.

I would that it were easier for us to continue.  I would that we were not surrounded by the integrated tangle we have made for ourselves by assuming that we can create better than the wisdom of nature, or the tenets of Wisdom.  However, wishing does not make it so.  We are indeed all linked, whether in chaos or creation, or both at the same time.  This connection, while it may seem at times to present an insurmountable obstacle, is in fact an innate strength upon which we all may draw as we continue living and doing our parts to nurture each other and our planet.  Understanding this can lift us up; acting on the understanding can help us perceive often imperceptibly slow forward movement.

We need community; we need others with whom to work, strive and share.  We need those whose efforts commingle with ours to heal ourselves and our planet.  We need to act on the knowledge that we are all linked, and that each of us does make a difference to the nature and quality of the whole.  Our connection is creative – even if we are joined in creating destruction – and allowing ourselves to be separated each from the other, perceiving the separation rather than the link, inhibits our creative manifestation.   Many ways exist to connect.  Some are those of technology (not the same as physical proximity, but yes, a kind of connection), discussion groups, action/service groups, economic cooperatives, extended family, neighborhoods and co-housing, monastic groups, intentional communities, to name a few.  These groups, each in its own way, support their members (and sometimes others, too) and devote their pooled energy into influencing the creation of the as-yet-unformed that is to come.

Another obstacle many of us experience is the perceived lack of time.  Often our experience is that when all the work done to support ourselves is finished, there remains the maintenance work at home to sustain us, and some time spent to connect with family and friends.  That done, perhaps we can eke out a little time to read, exercise or learn and grow in one way or another.   When all that is accomplished, there remains little time to sleep, even if we have been operating with the stress of full speed ahead.  Community is helpful in this way as well.  Work shared (remunerative or for maintenance) means less time each individual needs to spend on tasks.  Shared effort means support for each other.  Shared knowledge means learning and growing in the course of being.  Time saved means less time spent rushing and more time available for sleep and healing, and more time in which to pursue those efforts about which one is passionate.

“It is all so complex,” one might protest.  “We are becoming more fully aware of the consequences of climate change, yet it seems that averting the full effects of climate change cannot be addressed without also engaging the issues with which it is linked.”  It is as if the totality of mistakes made in human society are the drivers of the changes on the planet as a whole.  Yes, fossil fuels are certainly a large part.  But what about people trapped residing in marginalized areas or substandard housing, an agricultural system seemingly bent on destroying the life of the soil as it goes about chemically killing everything it cannot sell, factory farms selling meat from abused animals while polluting ecosystems, a political and economic system structured to exclude or minimize minorities, escalating wars, and technology fever, which separates us from the earth and gives us the illusion that it will protect us from change?  These are a few of today’s issues; they are related to climate change.  Cause for hopelessness?   Not when we realize that each little bit helps; when enough drops have fallen into the bucket, the bucket will overflow.

Let us hold on to hope, learn to feel the interconnectedness of all things, gather into community, and be aware that we do, indeed, matter.  Anything, small or large, that we do counts.  Let us “hold the vision and keep the faith” and continue to contribute from the time we manage to devote and the talents we have been given.  In this way, we continue to grow, helping the earth and others in the process.

Peace, Diane

A New Decade

“There is no proof whatsoever for the story of three wise men, presumably astrologers, following a star to find a baby born in a stable and bedded in the cattle feed in a manger,” the speaker was saying in response to a mention of the New Testament account of that event.  “They could not have followed a star, because all stars – and planets, for that matter – rise and set like the sun, except for the North star.  The rising and setting stars are not always visible, and the North star always leads north, not into the Middle East.  It is constant and does not move to lead people.  That story was written by someone who hadn’t looked at the sky very much.”

The speaker had totally missed the point.  The important part of that recounting is deeper than the provability of its details.  Among other things, it tells of the ongoing search of humanity for that which is greater than humankind (called God by many), even though sometimes that longing is manifested in the denial that a greater aspect or entity exists.  It also shows the need to leave the focus on habitual, surface life in order to find the Infinite, and the dedication of one’s gifts (and each of us has a gift to offer) to that which is beyond self.

We are again at the beginning of a new year, and this time, a new decade as well.   It is easy, as we listen to the news and read the online feed on our phones or computers, to be aware of the innumerable chaotic, destructive, cruel and scary goings-on around us.  It is easy to understand, if we look at these happenings, that if we continue on these paths, the ultimate end is possibly our destruction – or at least the destruction of our civilizations and planetary support systems.  It is also easy to deny what we see and hear, and reassure ourselves that there is no proof of the certainty of these predictions and that of course, technology will save us and shield us from any ill effect that may – or may not – come.

The truth is that it is our reaction to events rather than the events themselves that makes the difference.  I would prefer to look on 2020 with eyes of hope.  That is not to say that I am blind or oblivious to the challenges of the times.  I am fully aware of the possibility of various kinds of disasters that may happen.  I do not deny the probability of some of these disasters if things continue as is.  I simply believe that these are not cast in stone, and that enough of us can hold the vision of a positive outcome to allow such a positive outcome to manifest.  It is said that one purpose of prophecy is to make people enough aware of current patterns that the patterns can be changed and the prophecy thus not occur.

However, to believe that things will improve, that all will be well, that the Earth will be saved from climate disaster, that people will live together in peace, respect and justice does not excuse anyone from the responsibility to act.  We are all one, and change, whether positive or negative, affects us all.    Each of us contributes, by action or even inaction, to the direction and quality of change.  The key is that our thoughts and actions must be in alignment with the change we wish to see.  If we wish to see more conflict between people, we will act towards others in hostile ways.  If we wish to see an Earth healed of the fever of climate change and extinctions, we will make sustainability an underpinning of our choices and speak for the value of renewable energy.  Our task is to hold the vision and act in alignment with it.

It is also important to recognize and respect the underlying Infinite reality from which our human story proceeds.  Put differently, we need to be aware when it occurs of the arrogance which says that humans are all powerful and control nature and living outcomes, that we need nothing but ourselves.  We need to set aside that arrogance, because it is only through connection with that primal energy which existed before the Big Bang that we derive our power.  When we deny it, we cut ourselves off from the Source of our strength.

As we enter 2020, let us each examine what it is we wish to create in the coming decade.  It is a complex question and requires complex answers.  Our answers in one way or another will support continued life, peace and joy or will support ongoing destruction and diminishment.  The choices of each of us matter, not in a legalistic sense, but in an artistic one, as a brush wielded to make a painting or a tool that helps to carve a sculpture.  What vision will we hold, and can we act in alignment with that vision?

Happy New Year!

Peace, Diane

Let it Go, Let it Be

The piped-in music at one of my jobs has for the past two weeks delivered a consistent stream of Christmas music, mostly secular.  Along with the large fake Christmas tree under which boxes have been wrapped as gifts, the setting is designed to stimulate activity in general, buying in particular.  It works – if it did not, it would not be repeated each year.  Going home is not necessarily a respite, though.  There, I am faced with a Santa-length list of things to do.  It is a common situation, particularly for women, at this time of year.  Recently, though, another, non-holiday song has been edging itself into my mind – Let it Be, by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  The message seems to urge, “Let it go, let it be.”   That is certainly not what I have been doing.

What does letting things go or letting them be look like?  That may seem a silly question to those who instinctively understand the concept, but we type As do not necessarily understand.  Letting go or letting be seems a bit ominous, a harbinger of everything unraveling.

Letting go or letting be does not necessarily mean “dropping out” and ceasing all activity.  It does, however, mean what can be equally unsettling – the letting go of control, of adopting an attitude of nonattachment to the outcome of the project towards which one may be striving.  I may be preparing for holidays, but I cannot be attached to the result of everything being accomplished and being accomplished well.  I do not have to stop preparing; I do have to stop stressing about the outcome.

It follows that letting go and letting be also means relaxing.  That is not necessarily relaxing by parking oneself under a tree or in front of the TV and doing nothing.  It is being able to move at a pace, not buying into the stress of rushing.  Getting enough sleep would also be a good idea.  Taking a break while the list is still long is also a good idea.  I think this is possible only when attachment to outcome is released.

Letting go and letting be also means not resisting.  When things go as not desired, it is better to simply find another way than to oppose the hindrance.  It means releasing unhappiness from the past, and fear of the future.   Letting go and letting be is an activity of the present – it cannot be done yesterday or tomorrow.

It occurs to me that a fair amount of flexibility is needed to let go and let be.   Faith in one’s own intrinsic value and trust in the sometimes-counterintuitive paths of the Universe, the One, seems also to be a prerequisite.

This is what comes when I muse on the subject.  It is a skill that needs learning. I need to work on it, I confess.

I wish success to all those who are also working on letting go.  In the meantime, the lyrics to Let it Be keep going through my mind.

Peace, Diane