(Perma)Culture and Sanity
Even a casual inspection of the major problems of our day—ecological collapse, societal breakdown, rising rates of depression and widespread disenchantment on a personal level—leaves us with the miasmic feeling that we will be smothered by an overwhelming, seemingly-disconnected mass of festering problems. At the same time, a closer look exposes a common thread running through the 'problems' we face.
The common thread, the single defining dynamic underlying all our ecological, personal, and social problems seems to be that we have come to focus our consciousness and desires not on inner richness and development, but instead on outer, material distractions.
We have pursued the accumulation of material wealth far, far beyond our physical needs—unnecessarily pushing the limits of our planet's support systems to the point of failure, and actually contrary to our emotional needs.
"Self-Will Run Riot"
Alcoholics Anonymous definition of addictive behavior
I believe our consumptive lifestyles are ultimately based on a desire to avoid contact with our deeper feelings of emptiness and unknowing in the face of incomprehensible Life.
Dazzled by our tastes and toys, we are a planet of addicts willfully destroying the life of our planet in our refusal to face the unmanageable aspects of our own life energies.
The behaviors which function as addictions—whether to the news, drugs, sex, 'knowing' or 'being right,' work, anger, 'saving' people, television, shopping, talking... the list is as endless as the number of humans—are all merely symptoms of an underlying, universal dynamic of avoiding the wounded and/or too-vast places within us. Addiction—running away from who we really are, in any of its forms—is the rule, instead of the exception we tell ourselves it is.
You can never get enough of what you don't really want.
Addictive behaviors are symptoms of our unwillingness to face our own centers—to reach down into the dark, unlit parts of our beings and bring to light the feelings and fears which we find there. Instead we engage in any behavior which will momentarily divert our attention away from the inevitable angst of being alive, from the central fact of existence—that we cannot escape pain, suffering and death.
The only way to peace ultimately lies not in political action, but in traveling through the most frightening parts of ourselves—journeying toward the compassion and wisdom which would allow us to face ourselves without 'makeup' or 'white lies.' If we all faced ourselves honestly, social problems would evaporate—after accepting ourselves, accepting others is easy...and once we've accepted others, helping and sharing with them naturally follows.
By attempting to avoid the false 'problem' of the existence of pain, we create a great many real problems. For one thing, unacknowledged pains and fears always find a way to express themselves... denying pain and fear doesn't simply make them go away. The things we deny in our fear are still there, free to act out because we ignore them. Like unattended children in a department store, denying our fears does not keep them from running amok—it only allows them a freer rein.
Unhappy with this earthly paradise, forever I sought the Door to Heaven. Finally finding the Door, I tried it until I was exhausted. Suddenly the Door to Heaven opened! I looked with wonder and saw...I had been inside the whole time.
Furthermore, if we do not make a conscious decision to face our inner pain, we invariably and unconsciously begin building walls to separate ourselves from the 'problems' the pain seems to pose (the fact that pain exists is not a 'problem'—ignoring pain is the real problem).
When we have finally succeeded in building the walls which we think will protect us from the pain and suffering we feel in the world and in ourselves, we find to our surprise that we have succeeded in walling ourselves off from our own creative, life-giving centers. Now doubly pained, we have succeeded only in imprisoning our own souls.
In order to rekindle our creative sparks and reclaim our inner selves (and the richness and love which reside there) we must travel toward, into and through the pain stored within us. We must accept the experiences which caused our wounding back into our hearts. We must feel the feelings those woundings caused us—and this time, allow those feelings as valid and deserving of caring. In this way we begin the healing process which turns our old, denied experiences from pain and fear into wisdom and compassion—compassion both for ourselves, for others here with us and for the world we all are on.
Lao Tzu, born ca 600 B.C.E., author of The Tao te Ching ('The Way of Change').
Reprinted from (Perma) Culture and Sanity Website