Thursday, February 08, 2007

Taming the Hydra

Steve asked me this morning why I used the word "gloomy" since I don't seem to be gloomy. The thing is, when I'm with others, or with him, I am happy. It's when I'm alone that I descend into couch-potato lethargy, when it becomes paradoxically difficult to move out of the house and be among others. I told him that's part of why I said it, I wanted to bring it out of hiding and dispel it, keep it from being my secret alone. The other day I was cleaning out and organizing a closet (alone) and inexplicably felt sad. I sat down to meditate, to let come what would come, but nothing arose. Just sad. Nothing apparently triggered it. While sitting there, my homie called and I confessed to her to my sadness and my inability to find the trigger. I simply talked to her about various things, and afterward I realized I felt cheerful again. I am held and made whole by others. Saying these things, I realized I need to break that pattern of sinking deeper into the couch, so I sit in the neighborhood diner where there's not too many people, but I'm not alone. I'm better able to look at the bad news that depresses me.

Rachel over at Terrible Wonderful World eloquently expresses a similar mixture of grief and dismay, though more eloquently. "How do I begin to express the cold fury, the wrenching grief I feel? Day after day after day, we hear about more people being blown to bits in places far away--far away, but where I have family. Yes, I have family over there. We all have family over there. (Brothers and the human family.)" Alone on a walk, she ponders the state of things. She says, "Where is my optimism this morning? My faith in human wisdom? My hope for the future? Must be here somewhere...[searching pockets]...though I can't seem to find 'em at the moment. A laugh or two will help... Another thing that helps: remembering last night. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but some refuge can be found in the arms of my lover. H., you are a dear, sweet man." This helped me clarify my own confusing inconsistency, it is through being with others, loving others, that I find peace and happiness. Here in the cafe and bar, I am happier to be sharing breathing space with my neighbors, even if I don't know them.

And that leads me into my thoughts on interconnection, and how that could be our salvation in this world bent on a hellish distopian post-oil future. I don't have all my thoughts pulled together, certainly it's not complete, but maybe by putting it out there I and others can give it shape. I visited my other homie and his family last night and gave voice to a piece of that thought. We need to build our communities, our connections, and create our future for ourselves. We need to create our own sustainable neighborhoods, our towns. I mentioned this also to my visitors from Albany the other day. They said they need to bring me into their circle...that they fantasize about building a town that is self-sustaining. I seem to recall reading about a town in California that is doing this very thing. Could it be Davis? I said, "We need to ignore what our government is doing." By that I meant that we not participate in the consumerist imperialist policy of the plutocracy that controls our government and the mainstream media, as best we can. My friend's wife aptly realized it was not a thought that would work well in the Heartland, but we all realized we do have a chance here in Portland and Oregon. We already are building the infrastructures that we will need, not only community groups but the city itself.

I have learned from working with the loose peace network here that it isn't a figurehead, it isn't a single iconic figure that makes things happen, but a bunch of folks working together doing their little pieces of the whole. It takes enough people willing to step to the edge of their comfort zone, and it becomes easier as we forge ties, learn how to deal with the inevitable conflict. It is harder, and lonely, to view the march towards Armageddon alone. While the powers that be march closer to that goal (it sure feels like that, with rumbles of attacking Iran) those of us left behind can continue with this task of building a sustainable future. Of course we can't completely ignore them, we must continue to voice our differences, but we must also quietly go about our business the way we envision it.

Peaked oil, global warming, and perpetual war are heady ingredients for difficult times ahead. Visions of Soylent Green rattle around in my head, with updated science and the anti-science religious movement. We are not helpless though, we can effect a more hopeful transformation. It takes individual changes toward sustainability, and it takes towns and cities that plan development for walking, biking, and local agriculture. It takes caring relationships, people who nurture ties whether business or friendships, while not going back to the 'good ol' boys' days.

So just how does one survive the hydra? Heracles could chop off the heads, but he needed help from another to cauterize the wound and keep new heads from growing. In Buddhism we have the image of a sword that cuts through delusion. Our own karmic hydras can definitely be as vicious and grow new heads, and their blood as poisonous. We can't survive alone, and we must face this monster. In the end, Hercules couldn't kill it completely. He buried the final head alive.
(image from wikipedia)

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