It’s been a number of years since I’ve written something for this blog. Like many of us since the 2016 national election, I’m experiencing an awakening.
There is both the rude awakening to the terrifying scope of prejudice, ignorance, and capacity for hate-actions that exists in our country and was unleashed at a larger volume than I thought existed, by Trump’s behavior.
And there is the awakening to the fact that I partly went to sleep once Obama was elected. It seemed that since we now had a black president, and soon we’d probably have Hillary Clinton as a woman president, that everything would be getting better from here on out. I could tune out from goings on about the world and our country to a certain degree and our government could now really take care of things.
I am awakening to the reality that our work is never done. I am awakening to the seemingly paradoxical nature of both spiritual and social justice practices–best exemplified in my mind by the Buddhist Bodhisattva Vow, “Beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.” From one perspective, it’s impossible. From another, it’s the only game in town.
For lack of a better word, we call the forces in the world that seem most distasteful to us, “evil.” And the Trump election has reminded us that evil is never fully extinguished. However, I prefer perceptual frameworks that allow us to see the interactions of the cosmic forces of creation, destruction, decay, and evolution as a universal dance. As a swirl of energies rising and falling. As Divine play. It’s still painful, but I have room to respond and add my voice.
I am awakening to my privilege as a white, male, middle class, coastal liberal, employed homeowner. I am seeking ways to work skillfully with my privilege, so that it is not experienced as a blessing or a curse, but rather as a tool for the benefit of all. Because I am at this point not directly in the line of fire of our new government’s attacks, I believe I can be an ally or a shield or a sanctuary for my brothers and sisters who are.
I also want to transform the way privilege is regarded. I fear that we use the notion of privilege and under-privileged in ways that feed the separation we are already deluged with from the oppressive systems of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, agism, etc. Can those of us in positions of greater power at this historical moment acknowledge the violence of this imbalance without getting defensive or shutting down? Can we make sure that as we work to overturn this right-wing, nationalist, white-supremacist, hate-filled direction our government is taking, that we don’t then swing the pendulum to the left-wing, progressive equivalent? Can we begin to experience the ways that all of us are in deep pain and are held back by any kind of oppression?
I look to figures like H.H. the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Nelson Mandela to model the way forward. How can we survive horrific injustices and emerge with our hearts still open and our spirits strong? How can we not get sucked into believing there are fundamentally good and bad people in the world, or fundamentally right and wrong points of view? How can we engage with these troubling times from our deepest-held values, at every step of the way, remembering that the ends never justify the means? How can we discover true integrity in the face of such terrifying prospects for our future?
No person is to blame for the predicament we find ourselves in. Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, David Duke and all the members of the neo-nazi movement are just human beings. Like us, deep down they only want to be happy, even if their methods are totally misguided and abhorrent. After 9/11 the most salient response I remember is the phrase that circulated, “Our grief is not a call for war.” And then from the Buddha, “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an eternal law.” These are very important to repeat now. A lot.
We have to protect each other. We have to stop injustice. We have to listen to those who have been silenced. We have to undo all systems of oppression. And we can’t do that by making our opponents our enemies. There is no enemy. We, as the human race got us to this point. We all participated. And we are all participating now. So logically it follows that we can heal this.
The Japanese art of Aikido teaches us to turn violence into love while simultaneously protecting everyone involved from injury. What are the cosmic and political Aikido techniques we must learn and practice through this next period? How do we halt the devastating damage Trump and his followers are attempting while at the same time affirming and protecting the humanity of all beings? How do we stop those who practice violence and hatred, both for the sake of those under attack and for the sake of the souls of the attackers.
More than ever we have to see our “we-ness.” This is not as simple as espousing the sentiment, “We’re all one, dude!” But it does involve investigating deeply the nature of oneness. We are all one. And we are many. These are not contradictions. They are co-existing levels of reality.
It is time to dig deep. Into ourselves. Into our traditions. Into our connections. Into our pain. Into our creativity. We can’t afford to ignore the complexity of life any longer. We are part of an ever-evolving process that is ultimately beyond our ability to comprehend. We each must look honestly at our experience and our world. We each must find the response that is called for from the most true place in ourselves we can contact, knowing that we can always only take our best guess, move forward, experience the results, and repeat. Inch by inch. Moment by moment. For our entire lives. We must practice courage and trust.