I feel like I’m entering a new period of study in my life. I am always learning and musing, of course, but lately it’s been a little bit more focused. I have books I want to read, people I want to watch and help, and of course my own land to look after and to allow to teach me its special living language. I want to be quiet this winter. I want to be still enough to hear the very smallest voices. I suppose it’s got something to do with all the noise out there in the world. It’s *so* noisy right now. The world is huge and harsh and headed for disaster. I can’t save it on my own, and I need that humility in my life to keep me sane. I also know to guard my heart against apathy and injustice and that I need to do what I’m able to resist this age of toxicity. I sense the solution is complicated on the large scale but simple on the personal one.
This is an important point for me, because I recognize that we cannot be complacent here- this is an amazing time to be alive and it’s one that beckons us into thought and action. Those that know me well, know that I very much believe this. I work to be of purpose and to walk that path. At the same time, I’m finding that I really need to adjust the way that I get to that place, because the options afforded to me now are spiritually and emotionally unsustainable. The news and social media, for whatever reason, just slams me. I feel like I soak it all in and then crash- I can barely hold the amount of caring and criticism and anger and despair that it asks of me, and I’m not exactly a person that shies away from the tough conversations about the state of the world. I kept trying to figure out how to stay “informed” and looped in on the conversations there, but it just continued to not deliver for me. I knew more details, but I felt less empowered. I’d feel intense concern and opinions about something happening a half a world away, then would be acutely aware of my lack of power. I would end a simple 15 minute stint on the computer feeling emotionally exhausted and fearful, or revved up and angry but with no real practical place to funnel that energy. All this, and I’m not even on the internet that often. What I found was that usually that spike in concern for the larger world would, in one way or another, remove me from the smaller world in front of me. Something about this tech/social/info design is off to me, and I’m sensing I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I suppose I just felt like I had to get honest about it with myself. I decided to make a concerted effort to adjust some of the ways I interact with it all, and to do it in a way that acknowledges that I still want access (so no straight-up quitting of social media, etc.), but also would create safeguards for me so that I could just think for a second. It was like I took a second to just say “SHHHHHHH!” with regards to all the media noise. And, so far, it’s been awesome. I got a little quiet, and now I feel like I have some clarity that can maybe help me continue on this path.
I realized that I care less about being fully informed or having all the right political lines than I do about cultivating my own life to grow the very values that inform my preferences there. In other words, if I’m not becoming the person I’m meant to be, then what the hell am I doing? If the frantic world of social media/etc actually keeps me (even a little) from being a good neighbor, or a conscious and present mother/partner/friend, or from getting to know the needs of my home and the creatures that live on it, or from growing my own creative mind and cultivating my own unique strengths in this world, then I need to reassess. The world in front of me is primary.
I have the capacity to care about the world and all its woes, but I also acknowledge that the special activist energy we have is a finite resource. If the world is in as much trouble as I believe it is, and if I also believe that the personal energy that can be used to resist and/or cultivate good is limited, then doesn’t it make sense to critically assess where we use it and how? As an example, I’ve watched the Standing Rock situation with bated breath. Yes, it’s so important. Yes, in many ways the media presence has been useful in awakening people to the situation and I hope it played some part in the recent turn towards rerouting the pipeline. At the same time, this kind of violation of natives and of the natural world is simply nothing new. While all that was going on and I was seeing lots of local friends post left and right about it, I realized that there is a natural gas pipeline being laid through Ypsi township right now. Miles and miles of habitat is being destroyed in our backyards. I am not arguing against anyone caring about or supporting the situation at Standing Rock, but I am condensing those feelings and values and asking myself “What am I to do with this?”. The answer I came up with was to look up and remember that this place was once sacred too.
I watched a video of a native man at the protests. He was asked “What does this place mean to you?”. He looked briefly confused and then replied simply “It’s everything.” That response echoed in my head for days. It took me a while to realize what I was feeling about it, but when I did get clarity it was very enlightening. I realized that I was envious. I want that. I want to look out over a landscape and a group of people and feel that I belong to it all. I want to be so connected and reliant on it that I can say, in almost a “duh” kind of way, that the reason to protect the land is because “it’s everything”. That the pipeline or whatever it is that is separating us is the crazy thing. The land has no need to justify itself as a wonderful sacred place, it’s just literally everything and there’s a psychotic monster churning through. So duh.
And so my thinking came full circle. I’m tired of outsourcing everything. This world would have me believe that everything is out there somewhere, it can’t belong to me fully. I can’t see it, and so this caring from afar thing will have to do. Of course this is the new civilized design of the informed and moral- it’s another outsourcing (like the food system, etc) that, intentionally or not, keeps us psychologically appeased but practically immobile/complacent, keeping us from our ancient memories that remind us that our “everything” is actually *right here* where we are physically rooted. I’m fairly certain that disconnection is at the root of all of this mess, and that the solution lies somewhere in the remembrance of relationship. If I’m going to work towards something, it might as well be repairing that relationship, and if I’ve got a shot at it I believe it demands my actual presence.