So much has happened in the world since my last post: massive geopolitical shifts in North Africa and the Middle East; US militarization continues to drag on; ‘natural’ disasters are changing the landscape before our eyes; Amy Winehouse passed away; and of course, Beyonce is pregnant.
How could I not write about these things?
To be honest, I haven’t been moved to say much publicly at all, but I’ve feverishly been writing in my journal. Much of what I’ve written has been about my own spiritual development and growth. Given the nature of what I was writing, I assumed out of hand that it was not for public consumption. Yet, as I flew back to San Francisco from St. Louis a few weeks ago, I felt compelled to begin sharing some of my insights.
The first of these insights – or at least the first thing I plan to share – isn’t in my journal at all, but occurred to me this evening after watching a film called Mooz-lem. I wasn’t expecting much, since the title of the film is so wack, but I was pleasantly surprised and moved to tears by the end. Without spoiling it for everyone, I’ll just say this: the film encourages us to grapple with, or at least confront, the ideologies and beliefs we hold so tenaciously.
As the film demonstrated the impact of our ideological stubbornness and bigotry, I noticed the pervasiveness of suffering. I couldn’t stop thinking about how everyone is suffering. I began to watch my mind catalouging all the egregious acts of violence that are (and sometimes are not) reported in the mainstream and alternative media. My mind bounced from the violence visited upon agrarian folk all over the global south by IMF/World Bank-like policies that render farming an impossible career. I thought of the young boys who lose their childhoods to the nightmare of being a child soldier. I thought of the young girls the world over (but particularly in the global south) who are disproportionately affected by poverty and few educational opportunities. I thought of all the lives lost to AIDS, famine, war, incarceration, benign neglect and state sponsored violence. I saw the faces of the students I work with across North America who suffer from all manner of low self-esteem, co-dependency and substance abuse. The more I allowed my mind to follow the pain, the more pain I saw.
Then I arrived at the beginning of a thought that went like this: “The world is so full of pain and suffering! Life sucks!” But before I could fully entertain this idea, my dog, Lylah, rested her head on my leg and looked up at me with the most loving expression, as if to say, “you know that’s not true.” And she is right. While we cannot deny the ubiquity of suffering, it would be inaccurate to deduce that Life sucks as a result.
Sometimes it takes a minute for me to remember that there is a distinction between Life As Such, and these short lives we humans live. The “life situations,” as Eckhart Tolle calls them, in which we find ourselves, certainly spring from, but by no means exhaust the totality of, Life. Life is so much greater, so much more resilient and graceful than our finite human lives. The good news is that we always have access to this Amazing Grace, this magnificent register of limitless Life. We can always seek to vibrate higher; that is, seek to have a higher understanding of who, and what we are. Our daily laundry list of earthly troubles has the tendency to occlude our view, leading us to think that Life itself is bad, rather than the way we are choosing to live it. We are in a mess of our own making – a mess that actually has little to do with Life As Such.
This insight is a call to tremendous responsibility that is also deeply empowering. Essentially, we are crafting our realities and we can elect to live in a different, preferably more loving and gentle world. We are in choice!
Life is the constant, how we choose to live is the variable.
In the words of that amazing mystic, Andre Benjamin:
“Every boy and girl, woman to man/ When you feel you’ve done about the best you can/Mothaf*ck the wagon/Come and join the band/Vibrate higher.”