Friday, June 25, 2010

My Best or Not My Best; That is the Question

I have been doing some thinking inspired by a request from @SirHendrix that I consider sharing some of the bitter pills I have been swallowing that have been doing me so much good. One of them swirls around the various permutations of doing my best. The hardest and bitterest variation is what happens when I do my best and it’s not enough. When I have done everything I know how, as well as I know how, and still I am unable to protect or save or heal what I love. Just breathe in the pain of that for a moment. Feel the grief. Feel it sober you.

When I breathe that in and then shine that sobered light onto other behaviours that I might quantify as ‘my best’ a lot of them look pretty shabby. Then I have to be careful. It is very easy—with the lifetime of conditioning I have—to become harsh. To judge myself as wanting and failing—to take that energy and screw myself up to be better, to do more. This ultimately fails, producing more harshness or depression, or self-hatred. Harshness is not the answer.

Nor is blind compassion. I could look at the shabbiness of my efforts and say, well, I did my best. I made the best effort I could given the circumstances. Sounds pretty lame already doesn’t it? But let’s really do it justice: remember self, you are enough, you do enough. You are a good person. You do a lot. You work hard. You need to accept yourself just as you are now. Breathe in light, breathe out suffering. (It’s starting to get its claws in now isn’t it?) Hold the small self gently. Breathe in compassion for the one who failed. She has so much on her plate. She needs care too. (Are you entering the lotus position yet? I feel my fingers forming a mudhra as I type.) If I just seek refuge in the triple gem all will be well. I will be mindful of my failings and shortcomings…totally accepting of all that I am not. Blind compassion is not the answer. It leaves me unaccountable for my behaviour and the harm I may have done.

So what is? Well this is where we get into my favourite territory—the paradox—that beautiful quality of the Mysterious Absolute that allows many things to be true, even opposing perspectives. So, were the shabby efforts my best?—well, if I am wandering about behaving unconsciously ( oh come on! We all do it!) then yep, what I did was ‘my best’ in that moment. Now, when I regain consciousness, or finally attain it (here’s hoping, eh), I now have a new perspective. What does my response need to be? That I need to take responsibility for the newly revealed shabbiness of the behaviour. That I need to summon the courage to make amends. That I need to attend to growth. That I need to follow my sense of shame, not towards harshness or unskillful compassion, but towards integrity.

And to do that I have to sit with it, hell, to sit in the middle of the big stinking morass of it and get really intimate with it—body, mind, heart and soul. (Sounds like a whole buncha fun, doesn’t it?) You might try it. I offer you—Integrity—the wave of the future. (Yeh, sure….right….that’ll happen….)

Integrity is the answer to my best. Integrity is hard. It takes guts. It costs friends and family, lifestyles and livings. It weighs as much as absolute responsibility. And holds the keys to true freedom under a blaze of unrelenting light.

Bitter as it may be, I have developed a taste for it. And it’s doing me a lot of good.

Deep thanks to Robert Masters for encouraging me to explore this further in writing.

NB: To be clear, when I speak of blind compassion, I am not speaking against having compassion for the self, merely that that compassion needs to be grounded. Blind compassion is a term used to designate an unskillful application of compassion that uses it to avoid unpleasant realities or responsibilities rather than as an aid to facing them.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Avatar or Avarice

I know it's beautiful. I know it's cool. I know Sigourney Weaver kicks ass. I know everybody and her cat loves it. But as i watched Avatar, as what i was watching, the story being told, dawned on me, a rage began to grow inside me. It built until by the end of the movie, i was numb to little else.

This is not the story of some fictional planet called Pandora. This is not merely a dumbed down environmental allegory designed to promote 'the liberal agenda'. Its merits as a dubious vehicle of increased environmental awareness for the masses notwithstanding: in my eyes it is a crime and a travesty of appropriation on a monumental level.

The story at the heart of the movie Avatar is not fiction. It is the real life pain and struggle of indigenous people across our planet. They are not acknowledged anywhere. The obscene profit the movie has made is not flowing to them. Their pain, their blood, informed the plotline of this movie. And once again they are erased, invisible, irrelevant to getting on with making money. We get to feel all gushy about some blue giant aliens. I guess it's safe to let ourselves see and hear their truth--they're not real after all. We can't be accused of exploiting THEIR culture. Can we?


Well I do. I will. Avatar is one more f*&%%$# monument to avarice. It exploits the genuine pain, grief, loss, courage and unbelievable commitment of indigenous people across the globe, and particularly in the Amazon. This is not fiction (except the part where the oppressed actually win). This is the daily bread of those who live in biospheres unlucky enough to contain resources required to support our way of life. (Yes mine, yours--stop looking for someone else to point the finger at and suck it up buttercup.)

But, but, you say, what about those fabulous lines like: "We have nothing they need." Sigh. Again it is so convenient not to see ourselves as part of the system. THAT'S WHAT INTERCONNECTED MEANS PEOPLE! Of course we have things they need and they have things we need. And most of what that really is we'll never know consciously--but it's true nonetheless.

It's about respect. Little word, big deal. Respect life, all life. Including you, us. Until we see ourselves as intrinsic elements of the larger whole, we continue to be bystanders--and complicit in the destruction of cultures and biospheres. So stop feeling guilty. Feel the shame; let it in and let it awaken genuine dignity of self and purpose. (Sounds contradictory i know, but try it, it works)

There is nothing about Avatar that will make me get up on my feet; but i do fall to my knees when i think of those with so little resource who day after day offer up their energy, their bodies, and their lives to protect sacred land.

So maybe instead of shelling out another $20 for the fab folks up at Fox; maybe you want to give a rerun of Avatar a miss and send your cash to an indigenous land protection charity like this one:

Or maybe even do YOUR OWN research and find a little piece of the planet that matters to you and try to save that--instead of distracting yourself (NOW IN 3-D!) until it's way too late.

To indigenous people: I am sorry that once again your culture, your history, your pain, and that which you hold sacred, have become fodder for our entertainment and profit.

Now excuse me, i need to throw up.