The gr8ful grind: Changing the environment

Let go of anger; It's an acid that eats away the delicate layers of your happiness

The reverse side has also its reverse side

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Changing the environment

I'm a political animal. I pay close attention to politics and have fairly strong feelings about certain political parties and politicians. I scour the editorial pages daily, I read political web sites like Preemptive Karma linked over there in the column to the right, I participate in the political process in my community.

Right now, the country is entirely polarized and I can see that the person I want to lose the presidential election is likely going to win. In a few months, the state legislature is going to meet. It's going to have an incredible funding crisis on its hands that's been festering and building for the last 3-4 sessions, but they've been unable to accomplishing anything because people are more interesting in winning than in helping, more interested in insuring power than in empowering people, more interested in clinging to their beliefs than in finding solutions. On both the state and national level, the extreme right and the extreme left have hijacked the issues and disembowled the middle. And it is in the middle that the real good gets done politically.

Frustration arises within me and I want to scream. This is somewhat in conflict with what I would like to achieve in my spiritual life, as letting go of anger, frustration, clinging to people, material things, ideas, beliefs and opinions is the way to generosityand compassion. Rather than just noting these feelings are arising within me and letting them go, I become a reactionary. I strongly believe being a reactionary is unskillful action, yet I am entirely unskilled at making the change.

So today, I sat at my kitchen table and just sat staring out the window, thinking about what I could do, personally, to make things different. We use to be able to have differences of opinion with each other, whether one be a GOP or a Dem, have decidedly different ways of approaching things, but still be respectful toward one another, still be ethical toward one another, still be able to work toward consensus. That's gone, or at least dormant these days. It's now full on attack mode for anyone who thinks different politically from our own way. Many good politicians can't really roll up their sleeves and get constructive things done because the extremists of their party (both parties) won't let them.

And I am no different. I find myself extremist on many issues politically and I am sorely disappointed in myself. I find myself falling into the trap of pointing my finger at the other guys and spewing hateful rhetoric I am convinced is the truth.

Lifelong habits die hard and it is difficult to simply recognize the anger and jealousy, let alone to make an effort to hold back the old familiar tide of feeling or analyze its cause and results. Transforming the mind is a slow and gradual process. It is a matter of ridding ourselves, bit by bit, of instinctive, harmful habit patterns and becoming familiar with habits that necessarily bring positive results—to ourselves and others. I seem to be less skillful at this than I was even a year ago as the political season gets deeper. No one escapes from their own culture. It’s hardwired in us, from birth onward. A consumer society is a consumer society. It may start with washing machines and air-conditioning, but sooner or later we consume each other. We need freedom from appetite.

So back to the kitchen table and the window. I don't know if I had a flash of Pay It Forward or what, but I went into this fantasy about contacting a decent legislator I know from the other side and ask him for coffee. I fantasized about telling him we need to make a fundamental change in working toward helping our city, state, country. That I realize he's from the other party, but now, before the election, before the legislative session, before anything else, let's bring some people with a general purpose of good and talk about what it would take for both sides to regain some common sense. I fantasized that if we could get two more and they could get two more, and then just really dedicated ourselves to working toward both sides being civil toward one another instead of having to be the winning competitor, that we could actually change things.

Am I suffering from delusion? I don't know. And I don't know if I have the courage, resoltuion, and most of all the energy to take what would be the first step of an incredibly difficult journey.

3 Comments:

Blogger nonbeing said...

I doubt you'll like what I have to say. Osho once said something like, "Remember this. There are three ways to ruin your life. The first is sex, the second is gambling, and the third is politics. Sex is the hardest to drop, gambling is the most exciting and politics is the surest."

The only thing that will really change the world for the better is a revolution based on individual spiritual growth. I understand the indispensibilty of institutions like Yhe Red Cross, Unicef, Greenpeace etc, but a grassroots transformation can't happen at this level of acting on the masses; you have to start with yourself. Politics by its inherent nature is a mass phenomenon, and a very superficial one at that (I believe it's the people themselves who essentially improve/worsen their lot, not their temporary rulers).

The enlightened masters worked on the level of the individual, not on any group of individuals like a society, community, state, country, or sect. Sure, every one of these buddhas had his own group/commune and his own universally applicable message (e.g. the panchshila of dharma) but they had to fine-tune their teachings, methodology and system according to the needs and situation of every single person. That's why there's so much apparent contradiction even in any one master's system. I believe this is why every unitary system soon breaks off into incompatible sects and subsects, each choosing their favorite strain of the master's gospel as its canon.

I admire your effort to improve upon the status quo, starting from your immediate surroundings. If you lead by example, I bet you'll soon find lots of folks listening to you. A brushfire starts with just one little spark. I hope your inner spark starts a juggernaut of goodwill and camaraderie for the benefit of everyone.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I sympathize with you Ted.

While I believe that direct action can be useful, as in the case of contacting one of “the opposition” for coffee per your fantasy, I am more inclined to go with nonbeing’s ideas. Without conscious intention to produce change, I’ve had better luck simply being at peace when I run into “them.” I’ve found that being non-judgmental and gentle when I’ve found myself one on one has at least the direct benefit of calming their anxiety, which reduces their drive to have things their way, a way I don’t want. Within my limits, ‘tis one of the ways that I lead by example. I’ll not have one of them have direct experience with “us” and go away thinking that his or her fears about me/us are justified. It’s very satisfying to produce that kind of calm in another.

7:37 PM  
Blogger carla said...

Don't be discouraged about Kerry. Be positive, think positive. I see you live in Madras...a place that can't be easy when you're a liberal.

Yes our nation is very polarized and it's a difficult and scary time. But take heart. The left is very unified and very much looking forward to voting Bush out and Kerry in. Remember that Bush barely won in 2000 with a very divided left and a very united right. The right may still be somewhat united (although it seems less so now) but the left is on fire.

It's wonderful that you participate in the process in your community. Keep hanging in there.

6:44 PM  

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