Happiness Is Temporarily Suspended
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
– Abraham Lincoln
We are at a critical moment in the history of the nation and make no mistake about it, these are clarifying times; the world, we will bequeath to our children will be shaped and formed by our response or lack thereof to current events. I believe that what will be required of both the monk and the layperson, who claim any identity with being spiritual, with being moral, is the putting aside of business as usual, and waking up, stepping up, showing up.
Happiness is temporarily suspended. If we are ever going to be “the change we want in the world,” we have work to do to prepare ourselves to confront the Greed, Hatred, and the Indifference, embedded within a structure where “profit” is the bottom line, the context for governing the nation, and required by the both historical and current system to perpetuate itself. Our preparation and training must begin by confronting these “Three Poisons” wherever we find them, beginning with ourselves, our practice, and our relationships.
Recently a friend of mine asked me, “How do you stop the endless flow of worrisome thoughts coming and going in the mind.” I replied, “Stop being greedy.” For decades much of what has been taught as Spirituality in America, is nothing more than another construct, of our consumer oriented culture and society. Spirituality has been commercialized as a product to be purchased and to be used for personal consumption only; With it, the guarantee that you will have a better more youthful and beautiful body; more material wealth, and the approval of the Universe which will reward you with unimaginable gifts after you have accumulated enough “good karma”. This form of spirituality will always prove to be impotent, because it promotes the same subjugation to the very social systems that Authentic Spirituality is intended to thoroughly examine, question, and finally reject. Until we “render impotent” the greed within ourselves, governing our way of living and informing our principles, greed will continue to be a force in our world to be reckoned with.
Greed is the mother of hatred or resentment and especially indifference. Webster defines greed as: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed, motivated by naked ambition. In other words, ego entraps me into believing that the Universe was designed toward making me happy; that the Universe exists for that singular purpose. A greedy mind views the planet as a place to be conquered; the content of which to be consumed at any price, no matter the cost to others, including the planet itself. The same mind is indifferent to the suffering of others, and only partners with like-minded greedy, hateful, and indifferent minds. The results of which is being witnessed in our nation today in the form of polarization, nationalism, tribalism, the purging of the environment and our natural resources, and climate change denial.
My spirituality, is defined by my Vow, my Commitment, to “live my life as a benefit for others toward liberating all sentient beings from suffering and its causes.” Nothing in that Vow has anything to do with how I feel about my life at any given moment, or how I feel about you, or about the world. My “life” is the Vow, to “live my life as a benefit for the world,” is my way-of-life. Though I may not always meet the expectation of The Vow, it is the motivation, the core principle, the prime directive for my practice. This is what I understand “being spiritual” in the world to mean. Whenever I notice thoughts or desires for personal gain or profit arising in whatever form they do, I return to that place within me where my Vow lives. Breathing into that space I release my attachment to greed and then, relax, and settle into a space of infinite potential; The place Rumi referred to when he wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” There my life is too full to lack anything; the keeping of my Promise, my Vow, my Commitment, is my sustenance. Wanting nothing, being no-one, with nowhere to go, this moment just as it is, I am content.
Our word must be our bond, our promises reliable. Otherwise relationships become convoluted and suffering within those relationships become compounded. In a society where facts do not matter and the truth is relevant, their can be only division and conflict. Our unwillingness as a nation to require only candidates of proven integrity to hold office, and to require our governing representatives to make decisions based on facts including the law, and to always speak the truth to the American people, is the greatest modern obstacle for any “nation of the people, by the people, and for the people,” to long endure. If we are to ever see any return to basic human decency it must and will only follow our renewed commitment to being trustworthy, reliable, and persons of integrity. People who live by just laws, and who reject injustice and those who would promote injustice. People who know their neighbor and are neighborly not only to those in the neighborhood, but also toward the stranger. People who value life in all its forms; who protect not only the unborn but who refuse to see children, mothers, fathers, families, go hungry, or live in the streets, or die because they cannot afford healthcare in the wealthiest nation in the world. People who refuse to send their young men and women off to fight an unjust or unnecessary war, in the name of patriotism. People who expect, who demand, that their hard-earned tax dollars be spent only, “To form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Complacency is complicity, like it or not. My Father tells the story of the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. He lived in a small Pennsylvania town where the men outnumbered the women, blue collared workers living and trying to survive the depression, casualties of an economy who had long before that day forgotten them. He described how on the following day they heard President Roosevelt’s famous speech alerting the country about the WAR to come; how every able body man and boy lined the main street for as far as the eye could see, from one side of the street to the other, stepping up, showing up, and ready to serve. On that day no one was a Christian or Jewish, a Republican or Democrat, everyone was a neighbor and a fellow American answering the call to protect and defend the rights and liberties of all Americans.
Today we are engaged in a new kind of war, one which threatens not only our very existence, but also the life of the planet. One which threatens the health and well-being, and any possibility for prosperity for millions of our fellow citizens, one which threatens our very humanity; one which threatens our very identity and any possibility, “To Form A More Perfect Union”. The enemy is domestic. The battle cannot be fought with the same weapons which have failed to “end all wars”. But like that fateful day on December 7, 1941, we must all enter the streets from wherever we live to the polls; to Washington DC; to our State capitals, to the Halls of Justice, to our local soup kitchens. Wherever we are needed we must wake up, step up, show up, and serve “The better angels of our nature.”
I sincerely wish everyone a Happier New Year!