I “accidentally” hit the video on youtube today for the National’s “half awake in a fake empire" (the version with Ryan Lewis). My girls ended up watching it and then one of them asked, “What was that about?” I didn’t really know how to answer a 7 year old that question. I just cried instead.
Since coming “back to civilization” from New Mexico (yes New Mexico feels like being on a distant mountaintop) and moving to Seattle, we have been brought back into the fray of 'in your face' samsara. Or perhaps it was just me in New Mexico, hiding on the mountaintop so skillfully that I refused to even see the samsara there. I admit full responsibility for hiding. And of course it isn’t easy, even for a modern day person who lives like a king compared to 90 percent of the world, raising 2 children, having a family with 2 working parents, dealing with your shit, your relationship, modern living, school lunch, do this, do that. It’s why we left “civilization” in the first place. To get the fuck out. To escape and heal.
Fine. Did that. Escaped. Healed. Became whole. Fine and good. I had that luxury. Maybe it was my karma, maybe just sheer random draw. It was a raft like Shankaracarya tells us in the Vivekacudamani, a raft that gave us brief reprieve from the storm. We took advantage of it.
I see many unable to take ahold of the raft. For many there may not even be a raft. Or they may be unable to see it.
Some recent events:
Nicole takes the bus to work everyday downtown. Sees a white man enraged getting on the bus with his kid. Nearly beats him telling him to sit down. The kid gets excited about something outside the window. The guy nearly kills him. The kid looks up and just asks if he can give him a hug. The man doesn’t respond.
I meet a very loyal old student “randomly” here and it turns out she is facing losing her job at Boeing, the state’s largest employer. Turns out they are eliminating options for telecommuters, the folks that work out of home. All fine and good except for the folks like my friend who are single mothers and have a young child at home. Why are they doing this? To outsource the jobs overseas. If she quits, she loses her retirement and benefits she has accumulated over the last 15 years. How’s that for loyalty?
We are facing having to pay 3000 dollars for our youngest to enter kindergarten next year and that’s public school. Hmmm. I was under the impression that public school came out of our tax dollars. But Oh, I forgot, Washington State doesn’t have income tax. Never mind that some of the richest people in the country are here, lets help them get richer. Fuck the schools. And hey, those large corporations probably need the tax breaks anyway…
I basically lost one of my best friends a few weeks back who got involved in a “spiritual” pyramid scheme. Who can blame her really? We’re all struggling. Who wouldn’t want to make 40,000 dollars by only giving 5 K into an “abundance circle.” Never mind that the math doesn’t add up (does 8 = 1?) and that you’re asking the universe to give you 40 back for 5. The “dessert” comes from basically fucking over 8 people. But its “spiritual” and a “women’s circle” so somehow it comes out all right. Anyone ever hear of the law of conservation of energy?
But then again corporate America is one big pyramid scheme isn’t it? And it’s all perfectly legal. I hear all this shit about how corporations like Walmart create jobs. And “Oh, they’re liberal or Oh, but they supported Obama…” Those are the funniest ones. Lets look for a minute at the first excuse. Jobs? Really? I had a friend here who recently traveled to Aberdeen, WA and said it was like a ghost town, except for the Walmart, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Whatever… If we consider that if Walmart wasn’t there, we would see in Aberdeen: clothiers, tool shops, car mechanics, local groceries, toy stores, book stores, music stores, appliance shops, and how many others? They would all be small businesses with people making far more money. And the economy would be local. Second excuse, don’t even get me started on Obama. What the fuck has he really done for us, for America? No, really…
The selling of false liberalism and spirituality is a real sham. People very easily can lose their discernment. Of course, if you look at the curriculums in today’s schools, teaching discernment is not on the agenda. In fact, the curriculums are not even original. Our oldest child has the same homework here that she had in New Mexico. Stock sheets of standardized paperwork that sometimes is hard for me to even follow. Utter trash. One of my friends here who homeschooled his kids last year said they completed the entire “curriculum” for the year in ¾ of the days and in only 3 hours a day. Hmmm…
But back to false liberalism. When we see only two choices on the menu, it limits our options. I see vanilla and chocolate but what if I want strawberry? What about the billion other flavors? It is far too easy to become conditioned by the news, the sources that tell us it’s this way or that. I find out a lot more personally by daily interactions with folks. Direct contact. Look at what’s going on around us. Really look. We don’t need the news to tell us that things are a bit out of balance.
Same with the false spiritualism. I see a lot of cutesy “spiritual wisdom” quotes on Facebook but not as many first hand accounts of personal investigations into what these things are saying (and many kudos to those of you who do this work and do say something). Buddha said this, Ramana said that, Krishna or Christ said…. What do you say? Are we so castrated energetically that we have lost our true voice? Have we lost the ability to reason, discern, practice, and move forward with our own power?
Of course so many are exhausted. Tired. Beat down. Kids. Work. The grind. The day in day out. Most barely have time for practice. I understand. I think. But really? If we don’t find the time for cultivation and practice in our lives now then when? I groan many days when I look at what’s on the schedule. This. That. This. Then that. But I have it easy compared to many. Good to remember that. How do we integrate cultivation and daily living? I know how I do it. I get up early. I practice in my sleep (no really…). I watch every moment between the movements and during. If all of us stopped blaming the outside for our lack of time to cultivate, let it get us down, and found a way we might find the ground shifting underneath us.
Its like some cosmic drama, some cosmic battle playing itself out. Do we see it? Is there a way to transform the obstacles into freedom, the shit into gold? Both Rama and Ravana are God. It’s an interesting play. Notice that neither are sitting on the sidelines. Neither of them are hiding out in their rooms. I admit, most of the time I would rather do that myself… But the screams taking place outside truly get to me. Or are those the screams inside my own heart? Time to pick up the sword… Fuck.
The outside is not different from the inside. The internal work is reflected in the outer work. The outer is in the inner. That was one thing that truly terrified me in New Mexico one day sitting on my porch. It’s why I decided to “come back”. Can I change anything? I can examine and refine my will. I can pay attention. I can speak up when I feel more like hiding in a hole. Even when people turn away from me or throw shit. I can recognize more and more my daily hypocrisies (yes, I like my Ipad...).
Life is dirty. Spiritual work is dirty. It ain’t clean. Or maybe the shit itself is truly gold waiting to be transformed. Perhaps there is more than one way to look at it. I do prefer black robes to white. I prefer Saturn to Venus most days. Even though he tends to beat the shit out of me. At least it keeps me awake.