Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 669 – Day 670)
Around this time last year, I spent the evening with two acquaintances – one was a man, the other a woman. The man was much younger and I wasn’t sure how to relate to him. When he went off to the gents, the woman and I got to talking. I asked her – are you married, in a relationship, single? No, she said, she had been single for awhile, but she was looking. Just then, the young man returned, and to be inclusive, I asked him the same thing. “No,” he said, “I’m still trying to figure myself out.”
It was a typically 20-something sentiment, but one that I have shared, much of my life. I had the first love of my life at a young age. I was 22 by the time it all ended. They say that men who have their hearts broken at a young age are sometimes inclined to rarely fall in love again. I can tell you that the same applies to women. I spent the rest of my twenties trying to unravel myself from the knot I had made – twisting myself to conform to what other people thought I should be. I moved around the world and had an ambivalent feeling about relationships. I was still just trying to figure myself out.
Then I met my second love of my life. I was in no way looking for him. I settled into a career, and had a nice flat and things just sort of ticked along. I was no longer really questioning anything. I had settled into what looked like “my life” and he was a part of that picture. Whether the picture was the right one for me or not really didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. A friend of mine once said that at some point in life we stop trying to figure out what to do with it and we just get on with living it. If we aren’t careful, our comfortable life becomes one of, as Thoreau puts it, “quiet desperation.”
Love should liberate. All too often, it becomes a prison as we settle into a life of apparent comfort through compromise. That relationship became a 7 year prison sentence. I met the third love of my life, awhile ago, but I haven’t pursued a relationship; I’m just trying to figure myself out – again.
We have a referendum this week, and I have a gut feeling and acquired ‘wisdom’ as an economist, and I will vote that way. But to be honest, I don’t know, really, what political ideology I can believe in, anymore. Despite never wanting her children to be branded with the brush of a sect (Doukhobour) that was hated and vilified, I believe in many of the values of environmentalism, mysticism, pacifism, and a shared economy that characterised my mother and her people. But I also studied economics and finance and the systems I was taught came from a whole different ideology to the one I absorbed from my mother.
Even while I read Adam Smith, Kant, Marx, Lenin, Galbraith, and Keynes, the discussion around their work, looking back, seems like a pre-digested interpretation. I was indoctrinated into the political ideologies of the Universities I attended. Save for my time in writing school, I was never, really, encouraged to think. We say that the personal is political. But if the personal doesn’t get a chance to develop, how can it develop anything political? Whether we admit it or not, I think we all had the same kind of education.
This week, the political became personal for me, here in the UK. An MP was murdered – ostensibly for her politics. The news was awash with it and on Facebook, a friend quietly posted support to her friend, the husband of the slain MP. I very nearly missed it. In the maelstrom of rhetoric, the horrible incident had happened not to some “politician” but to the friend of a friend. The political is always personal.
But when the rhetoric is silenced, what is it that we really believe? For what, if anything, would we die? For what do we live?
In my late 20s and early 30s I went down the path that said belief doesn’t matter because there is one Truth, and all thought and ideology is a product of ego. But we still must live in this world, and if we aren’t blissed out in divine union, we must have some direction for our energy. Even the system that sought to dissolve systems has basic rules: meditation, non-violence, and other practices to clear and free the mind. All were designed to make a ‘good’ life.
But what makes for a ‘good’ world? Is it a series of communities in direct democracy like Switzerland? Is it a system of representative democracy like America? Is it a system of centralised planning and rule of law like Singapore? Is it a series of self sufficient ashrams, or – in the case of my mother’s people – a series of pacifist communes that live a self governing life set apart from wider societal institutions?
Maybe there is something better, beyond popular thinking and current imagining.
I am grateful for the artist friends and young people I have met in London. They inspire me to question my thinking. I am grateful that I have found new ideas and perspectives and am grateful for having the freedom to re-think my values and to vote. It is a joy to discover fresh thinking in the world and I hope that I can, in future, do the service of introducing some of that thought to a different demographic.
I was speaking with a young woman the other night. We talked about many things. We wondered what thoughts went through the minds of those who dropped the atomic bomb and those who built it. And then I remembered the words of one of the greatest minds of his time, Robert Oppenheimer, on his contribution to the bomb. It was taken from an ancient yogic text:
“I am become death. I am the destroyer of worlds”
Beyond our thoughts, I do believe the yogis are right and we are all One. But, our thoughts determine who we are in this world – individually and as a society. The world seems more divided and upside down than it has been, this century.
Like love, our ability to think should set us free, but like love, we use our minds to imprison ourselves in a comfortable relationship with ideology that can lead to disastrous ends.
Maybe the world would be better off if we all tried to just figure ourselves out.