There is no doubt we live in dark, exterior times. For many of us, we never thought things would come to this. Whether we call this “late stage capitalism,” the rotten fruits of “corporatism” or the inevitable products of regressed human consciousness (insecurity, greed, imagined separation), it all looks rather s**t at the moment.
My friends in the UK, post-election, are currently in a bit of shock and despair. “Welcome to the club,” I’ve said.
I have in the last few years despaired at our tacit, universal acceptance of nearly complete electronic surveillance; the crumbling of democracy and truth under Vladimir Putin’s venegeful assaults; the ascendancy of the uncaring multinational “corporation,” with seemingly no driving interest but ego, power, domination and the bottom line.
Let’s call this all what it is: the worship of power and of “Mammon” — excluding Life, God (however you define such), Love.
And of course, there is the looming, unfolding climate crisis, made so much more looming and seemingly unfixable by the failure of “Western democracies” to resist authoritarianism, climate denialism and fossil fuel industry deceit.
In the midst of all this, my daughter called me very early Thursday morning, the 19th of December — I was out of town and trying to sleep in — and breathlessly said: “Mom, did you hear? Trump got impeached!”
There was this hopefulness and excitement in her voice. I mean, this was her Christmas morning voice. … Luckily the phone cut out before I could respond.
I didn’t know what to say. We have heard Republicans use their dark “mirroring” trick of taking any real, fact-based accusation and turning it around, amplifying their tone to righteous anger and indignation, employing the Hitlerian methodology used relentlessly by Trump, that if you “repeat any lie enough, it becomes the truth.”
My daughter thought that Trump was being removed from office, and I had to tell her that the next step would be up to these Republicans. I thought about this for a moment. I didn’t want to dash her hopes and excitement that maybe the “good guys” finally won for once. (And I know we could debate about the “good guys” and who they are. We are all increasingly cynical about politics, the Democratic Party, and the managerial class, are we not?) … But I had to tell her the truth.
So I texted, you know, the Senate will still need to go to trial on this. And she said:
“But this is good, right?”
And I thought about it. And I responded: “Yes, this is very, very good. This is a victory for justice and any good thing is worthwhile and meaningful. More than we can know.”
Her comment spurred an insight in me. When the darkness comes pouring down around us, the small stories, triumphs and victories look nearly meaningless.
But what if each triumph, each donation, gathering, meeting, march, shut down, even social media post for justice, climate, love of one another and this beloved Earth were indeed a sword of light, with unlimited potential if for no other reason than the Source? … And, as I reflected more on the impeachment, I thought back to Trump’s 2016 election and how quickly so many of us organized — into Indivisible and Swing Left, and went on to create new democratic organizations like Sister District. We literally “leapt” into action — like superheroes do! — and we flipped the U.S. House of Representatives Democrat, and lifted more women into the legislature than ever before.
What if we magnified the positive for ourselves without minimizing or denying the negative, so that our personal worlds were still grounded in the positive, even as the scales of justice seem to be sliding toward tyranny?
It’s a human tendency (some say related to our evolutionary survival) to scan for and focus on the negative. I call it a bad habit of thought. That does not imply denial (an unhealthy, unwhole state), but more that if we live, personally, in negative thinking, we risk subjecting ourselves to the kind of despair, hopelessness and burnout that will actually get us nowhere, fast.
What if we magnified the positive for ourselves without minimizing or denying the negative, so that our personal worlds were still grounded in the positive, even as the scales of justice seem to be sliding toward tyranny? Even as we tended mindfully, soberly to our personal responsibilities to humanity, democracy, the climate crisis and Earth?
Indeed, in my decades of work as a mental health and spiritual educator, I taught repeatedly this simple truth: that our minds function best, with creativity and flow and the highest intelligence … when we are grounded in a basically positive mental state. This does not mean Polly-Anna-ism. The world right now looks really, actually fucked.
An organic, productive positive mental state actually means a present state, almost a neutral state. A quiet mind. Beginner’s mind. We have a lovely, wise Buddhist Priest in our local Extinction Rebellion group. She often says things like this: “Well, it’s been difficult [she’s Australian] because Australia is on fire and really suffering horribly right now; it’s really on the front lines of climate change at the moment. But me? How am I? I’m quite good, thanks.”
And then she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.
So, let’s try to cheer up. Not because of the state of the world, but because we can. And because we need to.
Perhaps many of you have already had this insight, but my 13-year-old daughter helped me see this today. Let’s be happy for any reason. Let’s find those reasons. As one of my most significant spiritual teachers, Sydney Banks, said of finding courage, insight, wisdom, right action and the true Self: “Find the feeling of being grateful.”
Amen to that.