In the Face of What Is Happening
Something that may help, in the face of what is happening in this country and in the world, is to be willing to consider all of it in terms of what works and what doesn’t work.
Not speaking does not work. Speaking in ways that increase delusion, misinformation, fear, reaction, anger and alienation also does not work.
I’ve had some rather serious associations with monastic environments of various sorts, during my life. In such environments not speaking actually does work, because in such environments one’s goal tends to be, at least at first, very personal, whatever we may call it; God, consciousness, freedom, understanding, enlightenment, waking up…
In recent times I’ve come to understand that, whatever my goal may be, it is not attainable on a personal level alone. I realize I am not just an individual, that I am also participant in some larger levels of organization. And that this is so for better or worse, depending on how I choose to engage. Similarly, I can see that humans as a whole are part of a greater level or order that we may call life, or even the “Earth.”
Every part of any sort of level, order or “whole” is deeply shaped by the whole and affects the whole, one way or another. Good, or not. Commission or omission, it doesn’t matter, in either case, and for as long as we are present in these ways we find ourselves together, there is also this play of interactive effects.
In other words, the interplay between health (wholeness, connection) and disease (unease, disconnection, alienation) is actual, and occurs at all levels of organization, without exception.
Language and speech seems to be one of the ways consciousness and the possibilities of consciousness are able to participate in this whole we humans seem to be partly about – all the while as we are hopefully learning to participate in better and better ways.
What is good is what is healthy to the whole as well as all its participants, with health being understood as what is directly experienced in each moment, rather than merely an abstraction, idea or concept.
Like health, “good” seems most often to be a pleasant experience, but it is not always so. And yet, whatever the experience may be, we usually know, when we are quiet and attentive enough, if it is healthy, good, or not. This sort of “knowing” I am speaking of is one that all consciousness experiences, without proof. It is sometimes referred to as I AM.
Experience is always prior to words and concepts. Yet we are most often very quick to fill up the space and terrain of experience with words, talk, thinking, memory, concepts.
Yet when we slow that process down we begin to discover something different. And different is what humans need to be doing a whole lot more of, these days.
For experience to occur there must be some sort of interaction, what could perhaps in this case be called an interaction of all the many things that make up each of us as an individual, here where our sense of a “self” or individuated consciousness seems to lie. Organs, skin, memories, sensory impressions, life impressions, environment and genetics, certain spiritual dimensions perhaps, all of these possibilities that have shaped and informed us, collectively interact – healthy, or not. And so I AM, healthy (good), or not.
Through symbols, concepts, ideas, images, in the form of speech and language, music, movement and art, humans seek to experience what is good (healthy) collectively, communally, socially. In other words we vulnerably (consciously) share our myriad unique experiences of what it is to be alive, together.
Some of that alive human continuum is what might be called the intimate dimension, much of it non-verbal, two or more people, centered in the physical and the sensual (of the senses), where such possibilities for good or not, health or not, also exist. But that is maybe a different conversation, though probably similar in the way that things of the same continuum are similar, as in related.
People interact through symbols, speech, movement and behavior, with various levels, degrees and orientations of consciousness coming into expression, harmoniously or not. Thus we create our common world.
The possibilities of that sort of creative process, on a human level, here in this “place” of the local or community, these places and ways where we most clearly and obviously live together, connectively so to speak, is where I find myself trying to sink deeper into, these days. It is where my attention keeps going to, more and more, with my activities, and with what I seek in regards to the movements and trajectories I attempt to share with others.
Our collective speech, our languages, and our means of communication have been taken over. Most of it is being used now, via local, national and international media owned for the most part by elites who are invested in separation, zero-sum games and power-over ideologies, to manipulate and deceive, without concern for health or good.
The Silence that all speech arises out of, as Illich points out, is no longer a commons. Technology, and the media by and through which we communicate with each other, and all that has come into play around the joining of those two for selfish purposes, has enclosed Silence, fencing it and us out of our nourishing relationships with each other, as well as apart from life.
Language, speech and imagery is a collectively held and expressed human creative force, in some ways not different from the air, water and sunlight all life on earth depends upon. All language and all communication arises out of Silence.
Yet the very words, symbols, images, felt beliefs and concepts by which most people think and communicate, with themselves and with each other (or not), are now for the most part fenced off, owned, manipulated and controlled by a few at the expense of the many, a many that includes all of life, because it is all of life and not just human language that speaks (arises) out of that silence.
A friend recently argued that it is up to each individual, that no one of us is responsible to affect the circumstances of another, and that we all have an equal opportunity to wake up, or not. To me that is the same sort of thinking that says people in an inner city ghetto, the poor in Appalachia, or an average person in any third world nation all have the same opportunities as I do to become materially secure.
In truth there is an incredibly widespread and deeply imprinted and controlled poverty of language, imagination, and information about each other, even here within these local places where we live together.
Also absent are many of the skills one would naturally learn in healthy communities, natural skills that are are necessary in order to use language, information and imagination to support nourish our myriad ways of relationship with each other. This is true particularly here in the U.S., where that sort of poverty is designed, manipulated, enforced and exacerbated by a corporate owned media to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful.
It is up to each and every one of us who has the means and ability to rise above that poverty in whatever small, partial or different ways we can, and address the circumstances in which others experience that poverty, just as we are all, according to our means and ability, responsible for circumstances that underlay all the many much more commonly understood forms of poverty.
If we who can speak to some extent do not act to increase the possibilities of others regaining their own voices, through the powers of language, information and imagination, then, whether through commission or omission, we remain participant in the very same structures and interests that maintain and prey upon all who are caught in that poverty. Even if we believe otherwise.
If a common social world that derives from all our unique perspectives, or in other words from and through all this diversity of life discovering itself as an ever awakening human experience, is to be regained, or UN-enclosed, then we who can, to whatever small or large extent we are able, must firmly and clearly speak up, wherever and however we are able.
We are, all of us, collectively, the asleep-at-the-wheel driver of this social vehicle that is heading towards a cliff at 90 miles an hour. It is going to take a goodly number of us waking up – some threshold number, which we will never know until, if, or as we attain it – to have any significant effect upon the inevitability of what is ahead.
If you nudge me a little hard in the process of this awakening, well, that is one of the discomforts, and the risks, that comes along with waking up together. And together is the only way real and true awakening can happen. This is what I believe. It is not going to be without pain or confusion, this waking up, but it is for sure better than staying asleep at the wheel.
And so, circling back to the beginning of this essay. What works and what doesn’t work of course begs the question, work for what? If we are ready to join together in looking for some answers to that question, we begin to enter into actual conversation, rather than argue. We become willing to let certain questions that all of us can relate to show us the way, rather than our so often opposing beliefs and ideologies that arise out of different conditions, different journeys, different pasts, and different beliefs in separation.
~ John Fridinger