The following is the entirety of my incredibly disjointed writing since Tulsa. Yesterday, after starting to cry somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert, overwrought from the manic experience of less than 24 hours in Vegas and an emotional discussion of current affairs in America devolving into being overwhelmed with despair for the state of the world, I came to a simple realization. After I collected myself and happily exclaimed to Lance that I had seen a single bighorn sheep standing on top of an escarpment we passed, I remembered a recent quote from the Dalai Lama in which he asserted that fear, and not hatred, is the enemy of a civilized society and the real cause of our growing unrest. My mind was so clouded with my own fears at the time I read it, that I couldn’t really relate. In spite of the fact that a tattoo on my foot quotes the words of the late Bill Hicks, reminding us to see the world through eyes of love versus eyes of fear, I couldn’t see a concept I already knew and loved enough to tattoo on my body. And my inability to see that made me realize that I had let myself fall victim to the fear-mongering media machine. I saw clearly that the recent acts of gun violence, that any such atrocities, were committed by people who were overcome by their own fear of change and who lashed out in a cowardly way with what they perceive as their only real source of power.
Fear produces a fight or flight response. Some of us, like me, choose to leave the situation that is causing us anxiety. We choose not to engage. We choose peace. And for this we are branded cowards. But what is more cowardly? Choosing not to participate in fruitless fighting, not to force opinions or beliefs on others? Or choosing to destroy lives with instruments of death in an effort to prove a point?
How can anyone say that they are right when the only thing we know is that we do not know? And why do we need to know? Why is mystery and difference of opinion on possible answers not something to be celebrated and enjoyed in an ongoing quest of learning? What else is life but the pursuit of individual truth and joy, and shared experiences of what that looks like?
I’m going to a Vipasana retreat in about two weeks to learn how to turn my focus inward and therefore be better able to focus my attentions where they need to be outward. My greatest wish for humanity is that we could all slow down and do a little introspection. Stop reacting and start acting with civility and compassion. What I have learned on this trip is that there is far more graciousness and generosity in strangers than I would have expected. Because of this, I don’t think we’re a lost cause. But we have to become aware that we aren’t lost before we become a self-fulfilling prophecy and lose it all.
And without further ado, (more from) the meandering mind of an incurable empath…
My compass is spinning. My signals are jammed. And so I am unfocused and my messages are muddled. I knew this was coming. My reticence to leave Maine told me that the next several hundred, if not thousand, miles would leave me feeling out of my element and like there is no longer, at least temporarily, a real point to this trip.
I can’t tell if we or the unseasonable season are out of place at this point. We’ve jumped ahead of where we were supposed to be and yet there is the constant nagging feeling that we should rush through a significant portion of the remaining trip we have planned to get back. But back to what?
I miss us in our own space and right now Charley represents the entirety of the space we own. Which is adequate, but hardly sustainable long term. Home is still a figment. Not to say that I don’t miss Boise and our people there, but it’s hard to look forward to going back when all that means is that we will still be in a state of flux, but without a long journey to distract us from having to make long-term decisions.
No, it’s not the place I miss. But my own routine and the comfort of familiar surroundings and myriad ways to get someplace without starting an ignition. I need exercise and the ability to make my own food exactly the way I want, without getting into a debate about why it’s weird, arrogant or somehow pointless to be desirous of food that lacks harmful chemicals and processing, and a bunch of bullshit ingredients that aren’t recognizable to my body as nourishment.
My point is, I encounter at least a hundred things that annoy me on any given day on the road, Facebook, or helplessly glancing at the increasingly ubiquitous TVs (Yep, disliking those makes me arrogant and suspect, too) plastering the walls of many establishments. Things that make me want to cry out “WHY???”, and condemn people for their ignorance/hatred/gun lust/greed/hypocrisy… But I don’t engage. I don’t call anyone out. And I try hard to maintain as positive of an outlook as I can about peoples’ intentions and the state of things generally.
Maybe those people feel, as I do about the things I am passionate about, that what they are doing that incites my irritation, suspicion, and disgust isn’t hurting anyone. Just as any of us doing what we do on a normal, day-to-day, non-criminal basis probably doesn’t hurt anyone and shouldn’t be subject to the ridicule and/or condemnation of others.
If your commentary isn’t helpful and constructive, why bother? And if you are a “friend” who chooses apathy over engaging with and supporting your friends, again, why bother? The fact that we have to hide things from our news feeds, unfollow, and turn off notifications is pretty telling when it comes to “social” media. And there’s a fine line between debating current events and slinging our egos all over the place with the need to be “right”, whatever that means. We’re not finding answers, we’re reveling in discord. We’re addicted to discontent and dissatisfaction with everything not going our way.
Lance and I are both fond of a movie that was panned by critics called Hector and the Search for Happiness. The critical malcontents, predictably, say it is predictable and platitudinous and full of wisdom a four-year-old could dispense. I say, what the hell is so wrong with the wisdom of young children? Clearly, those of us who are of a more advanced and supposedly responsible age aren’t getting it right.
Have you noticed that the capacity for joy has been all but beaten out of many adults? And pleasure, for many, has become a game of escalation and excess bordering on, if not firmly rooted in, depravity. If that kind of mindset has us where we are today, perhaps a return to simplicity isn’t so weird or arrogant. If children know so little about happiness and simple pleasures are so passe, why have Adult coloring books have become an increasingly popular tool for stress management? What if doctors started handing out those instead of prescriptions to keep us docile and complacent? What if simple, childish pleasures could remind us of our humanity and help us see the futility in fighting?