Friday, December 14, 2012

after newtown

First the shock. Then the alternating waves of rage and grief. Then the grief rises and rises and rises, shaking and howling, until it breaks open into something else. It becomes something calm and immovable. It becomes resolve. It becomes something more enduring than rage and grief. It becomes resolve. There are words to say, everyone is saying them, and they're correct, and ferocious. Gun control, non-negotiable. But that is only the smallest corner of the resolve I'm talking about. Call, write, demand, yes. But you're not done. You're not done there. You're not even close. We are not separate from what happened. It did not happen "over there" to "someone else". The pain that lives in each of us unresolved is all of our pain. You have to find your pain, you have to examine it, you have to loosen it, and you will have to find a way to set it free. You can't wait. I'm speaking to myself as well. There is no more waiting to wake up. There is no more waiting. Find what is broken in you and do not stop until you have become whole. I don't know how long it will take, and it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how daunting it is. And you can't start tomorrow, because there is no such thing. Today. Today you resolve. It's not out there. It's not someone else. It's not political. We need laws, yes. Yes. Demand them, get them. And that is the tip, the very tippest tip of the iceberg. We're not done there, we're not done. Hug your children, cry, call, demand. But then start your real work. Come alive. Wake up. Set yourself free from all the accumulated poison in your system from being alive in this confused world.

From the NY Times, referring to the possibly bogus but useful set of words attributed to Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world":

The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Here, Gandhi is telling us that personal and social transformation go hand in hand, but there is no suggestion in his words that personal transformation is enough. In fact, for Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence.

I remember one of my old acting teachers, Robin Lynn Smith, talking about  the inside-out versus outside-in methods of acting -- interior life first, and then exterior expression/manifestation, or vice versa -- and she said, "It doesn't matter which one you use as long you make the whole trip."

And that's what I'm saying. Make the whole trip. Demand change outside, band together, and also demand change within. Don't let your grief and anger flare up and die down. Follow them all the way until you quietly know that this world is yours, and nothing short of our full, balls-out commitment to waking up will help.
The assignment isn't all grim destruction, either, although you'll have to suck some (a lot) of that up. Yes, you have to let go of old illusions, fears, pain, and concepts. There's a bright side to this very serious work that you, you reading this right now, you can't and mustn't avoid. You have to/get to/have to learn to understand what joy is, where it comes from, and how to distinguish it from mere pleasure. And you have to learn how to find it and/or generate it. You have to learn how to generate it even if there's no reason for its presence. And you have to generate more and more and more and more of it, and peel off all the needless suffering -- which is most of the suffering. Peel off the extraneous mental suffering. There's enough to work with without the suffering we generate ourselves. We have to stop generating our own. And then get familiar with the feeling of genuine joy and freedom, and cultivate it ruthlessly.

I see so much "we're helpless, it's hopeless" and it makes me want to grab every last person by the shoulders and shake them furiously until their heads fall off. You are NOT helpless. It is NOT hopeless. Stop repeating that toxic, soul-killing, planet-harming lie. We're connected to each other. It's not a metaphor. What takes place within one of us affects all of us. If you genuinely don't like feeling helpless, then rejoice. You're not. Get to work.