Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gross Happiness

It occurs to me that a lot of us are operating in a dreamworld in which everything is just slightly good and basically fine. All of us white middle-ish class folks living our day to day lives don't really have to address any real issues if we don't choose to, or if we don't have to...we're the lucky few in the entire world, we get to be comfortable and relax as much as we can afford to. Basically we're the globally privileged, and yet we still feel like our lives are empty or meaningless sometimes, and we still feel the need to buy the new whatchahoozit to enrich our entertainment centered lives.

I can feel the eyes of older generations staring holes in my back as I watch yet another movie. I can complain about the state of the world as much as I want but what am I doing about it? Am I doing anything at all? Why am I so hypnotized by the culture around me? Why do we care about such insignificant things?

I am able to do an infinity of good if I just wish to do so. So why am I so hesitant?

In my particular situation, I have had to deal with a handful of serious problems in my life that have probably held me back from achieving my highest potential as an activist or student or what have you. But even to me this seems like a poor excuse. Many people in rougher circumstances have worked very hard to rise above the fray and make a difference. So I should button up my coat and walk out into the scary world and see if I can do something about anything. I am always afraid, but sometimes fear turns into energy. And what does it matter how afraid I am? I must look back and see those who have sacrificed so much in order so that we can have so much, in order that we now can live in relative peace and comfort. And yet all we all do is squander everything, our energy, our generosity, our time and effort and money. All we do is consume until we die and we call it a life. But I know there is much much more to life then that. And I don't want to say to all those men and women who sacrificed their lives that I was afraid and poor, because they would just shake their heads in shame.

It seems to me that we have all screwed up. The earth is seemingly on the brink of major change, and many people have been poisoned by corporate malfeasance. There is no more clean water or clean air for everyone to enjoy. Species are dying rapidly. We are creating a dreamworld populated by junk piles, garbage heaps, and chemicals. We are medicated with drugs that make us crazy. We drive everywhere and scream or cry all the time. Screens blare at us from every corner. And yet we feel okay, comfortable. Even wanting to bring children into this madness.

A buddha is someone who is awake. We should all be lucid buddhas in this dreamworld of suffering and pain. Somewhere I read, "If you know what you should do, but don't do it, then you actually do not know what you should do. If you actually know what you should do, you have to do it." We have to do what we know is right. We can't continue doing the things we know are wrong and expect that goodness will arise magically out of such actions, to paraphrase Einstein.

It is the little death that you go through when you leave something undone and you know it should be done, or buy something cheap that you know is a cause of suffering somewhere. It seems to me that balancing one's choices could easily cause one to be busy for a long time. Maybe choosing is our main job as humans. I can't continue choosing to not do something, or not choosing what I know I should choose. It doesn't seem to me that there is such a thing as ignorance, just a thing called choosing not to know, or I suppose; ignoring what is there.

Al Gore indicated yesterday that we have between seven and twenty years before the polar ice caps melt. I'm not sure why this is page two information. It seems to me to be a problem that should be consciously addressed by everyone on the planet every day. But now, we think our leaders will solve these problems. Let me tell you this, I have had my share of problems with authority figures in my life, but now I respect them for what they are, as humans engaged in a tough job. But I do not expect them to solve anything that is everyones inherent planetary responsibility. We all make a hundred choices a day that are wrong in regard to preventing the ice caps from melting. For instance, how hard is it to bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store every single time we go shopping? Why is this a choice, why don't we just do the right thing? We don't just conveniently forget to brush our teeth every day, do we? No, because we want to keep them. This is a metaphor my partner has used, and I find it to be very provocative.

It is a question of maintenance. I think we live in a society, maybe even a world, that has not realized that maintenance is the essential practice of the human spectrum of activity. Maintenance is when we wash the dishes and clean out the car, but there is difference between reluctant maintenance and mindful maintenance, which is the difference between doing something right or doing something wrong. But this is not a popular idea. It is explored thoroughly in "Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance" and "Lila" both by Robert Pirsig. I have been moved by "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh as well, in regards to conceptualizing the act of cleaning or just doing work as an act of peace.

When we maintain, we have to stop and take stock of the situation, right? I wish the whole world could stop and take stock of our collective situation, but evidently this is not a possibility. Our society does not deem it important to shut down commerce on festivals or national days, in fact it is important to keep everything open in order to further the economy, grow the GDP, etc... Obviously if you consider the GDP or the economy as essentially works of the imagination, then you are not so worried about their situations. Some people consider wood chips to be the only real currency of value, others consider peace and happiness to be more valuable then money. If Kucinich had his way, we would have a Department of Peace instead of many Departments of War, Death, and Domination. Then maybe we could follow the example of Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and measure the success of our country in terms of GNH, Gross National Happiness.

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