It’s been a long and unplanned break from the blog, partly due to personal and work-related circumstances, not to mention a family vacation thrown into the mix. For someone who’s treasured their alone and quiet time for much of their life, I’ve surprised myself with how social I’ve felt lately, so that even painting at home feels boring without company. A recent Skype call (audio only) found me painting and conversing without missing a beat in either. I don’t think it will always apply depending on the piece I’m working on, but this fits in nicely with my trying to share my work more–a 180-degree turn from my younger years when I just hated hated hated to be “caught” drawing or painting.
There’s a massive and intense accelerating and exhilarating energy that’s been around lately. New possibilities, plans that fall apart, and plot twists aplenty, and so many warm blessings. At times it felt like “too much to process” (and too much to write about), and in the typical Virgo pursuit of perfection, this inability to “keep up” was one more burden–one that I decided to drop. Picking and choosing which activities, goals, even thoughts, to focus on at any time has become the only way to stay centered. An exercise I carried out this morning was to write out a personal mission statement and affirmation to guide my day. I may make this a daily thing, even if I wind up writing the same affirmations over and over.
The question of where we put our focus may just be one question we need to ask in this period. The news, and our social networks, are drawing our attention down directions that may not serve us or the greater good. My stance has never been that the tragedies, inequality, racism/bigotry, and machinations present in our outer reality be ignored (indeed, I am vehemently FOR pursuing truth and action) but I do also believe that many of us need more wisdom in how to look at, and understand, tragedy, injustice, and suffering.
Anger is the emotion that is universal. It is usually the most “acceptable” and expected response we express to tragedy. “Who is responsible?” comes the question rather quickly. We skip dwelling over the damage done, needing to hold someone responsible, jumping to the idea that once the responsible party “pays” with their own life, we can move on because justice has been served. Some can’t move on because they recognise the tragedies as a pattern (as in cases of religious violence, hate crimes, racism). Of these, the anger is directed toward a wider target–a culture, a religion, maybe a political party, or the entire system of control and limitation.
The anger is not wrong, and sometimes the targets aren’t “wrong” either, but we miss something if we don’t understand why we’re angry, beyond the obvious answer. First, did we allow ourselves to grieve for the victims? Did we sit with that emotion and release it as much as we could before moving to anger? Have we recognised the victim in ourselves and dealt with our own personal hurt? Do we also recognise our own fear–the thought that “this could have happened to anyone”? “It could have been me.” “It could be someone I love who’s next.” “It could happen here.” That fear is not necessarily bad, because ignoring it could lead to it being suppressed, or being directed in unhealthy ways, like blaming victims.
Blaming the victim (especially for rape cases, long-term abuse, and police violence) is easy when we don’t want to recognise the fact that everyone is vulnerable, though some more than others because of injustices and biases in society. “He/she should not have put themselves in that situation” are the words that rear their head when victim-blaming is going on. Perhaps. (And maybe black people should just never go out at night nor walk with anything in their hands, ever. Or something.) The blame and responsibility is shifted from the perpetrator to the victim–because we want to believe that we ourselves will stay safe if we do all the “right things” prescribed by society (eg. “dress modestly”, stay indoors, listen to authority) even if some of the victims still suffered while following the rules.
Victim blaming can also happen when we don’t want to confront the guilt and responsibility of the perpetrator. (This example illustrates perfectly.) Sometimes when we don’t want to see that inequalities exist.
So let’s say we keep one’s anger focused on the perpetrator, whoever he/she is and whatever they’ve done in the bad news du jour. If we’ve processed our grief, acknowledged our fear, and have recognised that what was done cannot be undone, we may be better equipped to look upon the perpetrator with more (one would hope) equanimity. “What’s wrong with that person?” may be become a more real question, not merely rhetorical or a judgment. Because it is a good question. It should not remove any responsibility from the perpetrator, but it allows us to question and imagine what his beliefs might have been, where his/her own wounds were, and where he or she was helped or hurt by society around him, that finally led them to their destructive actions. Because everyone is prone to making bad decisions, some entirely on our own, others due to circumstances. And no one is removed from the consequences of those actions, though sometimes these may appear mitigated or delayed.
Being part of a wider community and recognising our place in it also leads us to question if we are in that part of society which helped or hurt the transgressor. Chances are we can also watch how society is holding the transgressor accountable now. Do we call out abuses of power, racism, and bigotry? Do we live our own example? Do we speak out against inequality, poverty, torture? Have we examined our way of life, our purchases, our interactions, or have we simply ignored taking on the trouble? If our attitudes are that “I don’t need to change, others do”, that attitude and chosen action is perpetuated around you as well. Not everyone needs to become an activist or volunteer, but educating oneself and using one’s voice (or actions) to spread that light of education is an option, and it is a good one. The alternative is to believe you can’t change anything, and whatever you believe becomes true for you. The world has more than enough people who believe they can’t change anything. In fact, and ironically, they vastly outnumber the ones who are “running the show”.
So no, I’m not one of the “love-n-lighters” (as the name goes) who refuses to look at bad news. I don’t go seeking it, but I also reject willful ignorance. Bad news is there, abuses, tragedies and massacres happen, and then more of them happen. I bear witness. I let emotions arise, acknowledge, transmute them if I can, and release them (productively, one hopes). It is work, and there is a lot of work about right now. For empaths (which all of us are, but some have accepted this more than others), there is a tremendous amount of work. Now is not the time to be denying the emotions of grief, mourning and etc for the tragedies we witness. It is the denial of emotion and humanity that frequently lead to abuses of power, violence, and the taking of life. Those who are emotionally or psychically sensitive have long been derided in society, but that is also what has always been wrong with society. It is the society that honours sensitivity and diversity that will be treat its members with respect (including its children, elderly and those of unique abilities), that creates beauty and believes in equality, and treats its environment with sensitivity. The meek shall inherit the earth; if you can believe that perhaps “meek” was a poor translation to mean the people who are sensitive and who do not believe in external aggressive force but in internal change spreading outwards, yes, if there is going to be a new earth to inherit, the “meek” should be its rightful keepers.
We have had enough tyrants and abusers. Even if you’re not on board to become a volunteer, activist or political agitator, there is something that can be done: Take your power back. Examine your life, and the areas where you have passively said “What can I do? That’s the system.” You can withdraw your consent for it. Make the statement out loud. If there are things around you in your environment that you do not like, understand them and why they are there, and where you had tacitly agreed to them. Did/do you believe in “material progress at all costs”, including allowing the abuse and exploitation of people? Did/do you believe that “might makes right”? When we never examine or question these assumptions, they are exploited and taken for granted, and these assumptions weaken those already disadvantaged, which you might have thought up to this point does not include nor affect you. (But it does.) These assumptions allow the control systems to be perpetuated. In a nutshell, we have “no power” because we’ve long been taught and trained to reject the idea that we have any, and that we should offer our power, skills and talents to those who “know better”.
You can be the one who knows better for you. You are the one who knows better for you.
It is a truth that you are sovereign unto yourself. Free will is a birthright that we’ve been taught to give up in pieces to teachers, religious leaders, politicians, experts. Sometimes we are told to surrender unto God. But no one can have utter control over your body, heart and mind–unless you have given these up. And the fact remains that you have your body, heart and mind because these are yours, these are due to you, because you wanted them. It makes no sense to reject these gifts in whole or in part. This rigged game would have you in ignorance or rejecting your own sovereignty (which in turn can make you reject/deride others who have recognised their own power). You can keep offering your entirety to God, Source, Buddha, etc., but this is what happens when you offer yourself to a supreme loving being: You get what you offered back.
Well, because that’s what ownership is. Source/God receives your offering, releases it, and gives back to you. For the time being.
I was once an activist who got tired of people who didn’t want to be helped. I couldn’t understand, and remained incensed at people who kept voting against their own interests. I protested against wars, and didn’t understand when others shrugged their shoulders at my actions and other peaceful movements. Spending so much time educating myself and advocating against poisonous foods, additives, and misinformation; in the face of disbelief, apathy, and outright rejection; I frequently descended into major funks and periods of questioning what this was all for, when nothing I say penetrates the other.
I had to understand that no one can be forced. If I didn’t understand that–the idea that others have their choices to make, and their own power to claim (or deny, as many still do)–I could become the zealot or fanatic who declares that I know better for them, and that their right to choose should be given to me. But that wasn’t meant to happen, that was not my game to play. The moment I understood this, and grasped non-attachment through other life lessons, and learned the meaning of sovereignty, was the moment I found I can continue speaking passionately about my beliefs without the need to have those utterings accepted, or even heard by others.
Whatever I release in this fashion will be caught by those meant to catch them. And if I offer what I do in love, I get love in return in ways unexpected, and surprising, but that make this path so very rewarding.