Rocking the Titanic

by Rachelle Lamb

I've been wondering a great deal these days, as is my custom, about what in fact makes us persons of depth and substance. For some it's associated with having curiosity around the fascinating workings of the human mind and the universe with which it converses, or the exploration of human imagination and ingenuity, or a compelling intrigue into matters that lie within the interiority of the psyche. These are all worthwhile and rich explorations and yet I wonder .. could it be that, more precisely, depth and substance are contingent upon our willingness to fully see what happens around us? .. and to see it without turning away or making up a story or constructing a belief system about it that absolves us from any responsibility or deeper involvement requiring ever greater cultivation of our humanness?

Ghost Shaman by J W Baker

Ghost Shaman by J W Baker

To live deeply is an approach to living, breathing and belonging to life that means we do not turn away from the suffering and sorrows that are inherent in living in a human body that will eventually die and experience both joys and pains along the way. Depth seeks to find a way to elegantly and eloquently weave together the multitude of triumphs and horrors of life into a comprehensive tapestry that is faithful to the human story and never negates what is clearly visible by ascribing unproven values.

And here's where the latter shows up in our language. Statements like .. it's all good or perfect, you create your own reality, we're evolving spiritually, love always wins, we're all one .. anything that rolls off the tongue easily and without any legs to stand on when further investigated, indicates a relationship to truth that is purely subjective and has not been fully tested for its validity, universality or usefulness beyond personal reference. And yet these statements are regularly touted as new-thought tenets that reflect depth and wisdom .. statements that I now believe, at their root, have more to do with denial and escapism than with any rigorously acquired depth or wisdom. And yes I realize that one could argue that a person's understanding and application of these statements vary widely. Right now though, I'm speaking to a certain quality of depth and substance cultivated and derived from the willingness to truly see and to speak faithfully to what we see. I'm speaking about the need to turn our attention to life on the planet, not "your" life, not "my" life, but life itself .. the big picture .. life not as theory but as tangible .. the relationships we have, the air we breath, the water we drink, the food we consume, all the things that without, we could absolutely not live.

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Please then, don't tell me it's all good. Tell me good things have come your way of late, or that you find it hard to be motivated to tend to problems beyond your own doorstep, but don't tell me it's all good. Don't tell me people create their own reality, tell me you've worked hard and that you've been privileged and supported and been able to make a few things happen. Perhaps include that you have judgements about a friend recently diagnosed with cancer who ate differently than you do and you thought there might be a connection between the two, but don't tell me we create our own reality. And please don't bring up a past life while you're at it. Don't tell me we're evolving spiritually. Tell me that you meditate regularly and find it helpful in lowering your stress levels and that you are less reactive and even perhaps making better choices for yourself. But would you please consider and include that in spite of the time you spend supporting yourself in this way, the destruction of the natural world continues to threaten life on the planet and that growing economic disparity is an ever increasing threat to peace where peace still exists .. just don't tell me we're evolving spiritually. For heaven's sake don't tell me love always wins. Tell me you and a loved one came through a conflict feeling more bonded than ever before and you wish that more people could do the same. Remember to tell me that Auschwitz and Hiroshima and all manner of war and cruelty are incomprehensible to you, that the rise in homelessness and suicide is worrisome but don't tell me love always wins. Don't tell me we're all one. Tell me you believe there's a universal something that holds the web together with it's incredibly rich and mind boggling diversity but don't look at me with eyes wide open with that shiny glaze as if you and I had just made love and tell me we're all one. Please don't. And while we're at it, find other words to use besides "karma" and "ego". I'm sure you've got a point when you use them, but it just sounds like you've been living in an ashram and you think anybody who stands out or is different needs to be taught a lesson.

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Having been a people pleaser for most of my life, I cannot suppress the urge to apologize right about now .. I'm sorry to sound so judgmental and pessimistic. I'm sorry that I feel a need to say out loud that I'm worried about how popular "not seeing" has become and that it's so well supported by the new age, self help, and personal development movements and tireless hum of the progress wheel .. so well supported that critical thinking is almost taboo and under threat of disappearing altogether. We've become so attached to the unquestionable right to be who we are and have our creature comforts, the shadow side of the age of personal freedom and unconditional love, that we balk at anyone who hints that right does not comes without accountability. In this day of trance inducing rhetoric, asking people to self-examine and be accountable is almost heresy. And I get it .. it's very uncomfortable to do.

What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?
— Leonard Cohen

What to do? Should I say nothing so that I don't rock the Titanic while people are enjoying a good time? Or do I speak up and say I'm seriously worried that our thinking is not altogether sound and there aren't enough lifeboats on board and maybe we might consider addressing how unsustainable our modern way of living is? I'm not completely alone here am I? Am I truly judgmental and pessimistic or am I saying things that most, including myself, don't want to hear? Being labeled as judgmental, pessimistic or even 'crazy' appears to be the price one pays these days when asking people to deeply consider what they say and do. I wish it weren't so. I would much prefer that you tell me how hard it is to take in what I say and to reflect on it, that it's uncomfortable and overwhelming and that you're praying for a miracle because the situation as it now stands with its myriad of associated consequences is simply unbearable. Tell me you'd like to pour me a glass of wine, have a good meal and then watch an adventure movie with me because you don't want to think about it right now and maybe not ever .. because you really don't know what to do given the situation. I could say yes to that and even join you for a few hours because I don't want to be alone and I still love human beings and the grand adventure of being alive but please don't tell me I'm judgmental and pessimistic because I ask that we deeply consider our words and actions and their ripple effect into the future. Please.