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May 2012

Change starts by accepting what is

Change starts by accepting what is.  While this might sound like a paradox, let’s think about what happens when we fail to accept reality.

When we fail to accept reality, we complain.  Our thoughts and energies are focused on themes like, “My job should pay more than it does, my loved ones should be different from how they are, and the world should recognize my talents.” 

When we fail to accept reality, we also paint ourselves the victim.  If only I was given a chance.  If only I had more money.  If only I hadn’t had a child at such a young age.  If only everyone shared my beliefs and values.  If only my husband was more ambitious.  If only she wasn’t so mean to me.  If only our government wasn’t so corrupt.  If only people weren’t so ignorant.

When we fail to accept reality, we argue endlessly and pointlessly about how things should be.  I’m embarrassed to admit it now, but during the years I lived in Seattle I fell deeply into this trap.  For various reasons, the US in general and cities like Seattle in particular are hyper-political environments.  This was especially true during the Bush Presidency.  In Seattle, I became an expert on arguing how things should be.  The government should stop lying.  Cheney should be prosecuted for war crimes.  People should demand a military exit from Iraq and Afghanistan.  People should be outraged about wars based on lies.  The government should serve the people.  Democrats should grow a spine. 

While it would be nice if all of these things happened, these ideas are ridiculous because none of the statements reflect reality.  The political reality (then and to this day) is that the US Government is controlled by a small number of ruling elites who are mostly invisible to the public.  Their goal is resource extraction, increased power concentration, and ever-more effective exploitation of the powerless.  Their sole purpose is to advance their own self-interests and to maintain their position at the very top of society (in short, to rule).  Their Corporate-controlled system functions exactly as these individuals intend.  The system is doing exactly what it was designed to do!  Therefore, to argue that the government should be democratic (i.e., a true reflection of the people’s will), that it should reflect economic and ecological justice, that it should be a reflection of pure, honorable values…this argument is absurd because it is a naïve denial of what is.  These arguments actually make the system seem credible…as though any of this were possible at all within this system!  When we fail to acknowledge the truth about what is, we get stuck in arguments and actions that cannot succeed because success cannot come from a misunderstanding of reality.

When we fail to accept reality, we look only to the external and we blame only the external.  None of our thoughts and criticisms are turned inward.  None of our revelations have to do with ourselves.  The irony is that the only thing we actually can control is ourselves.

A while back, I left that hyper-political environment and came to a place where I could barely speak the language.  My thoughts became more pure, simpler, and more focused.  I was far less influenced by the media.  I had surrounded myself with people who did not share my views or my way of thinking.  After some time I came across a simple idea: what is just is.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear this?  Think about it.  At first the thought seemed absurd to me.  A logical mind says, “Of course what is just is.  What’s the point in making this statement?”  Furthermore, the notion that “what is just is” seemed so passive, so lazy, so defeatist.  But like any good idea, it stuck in my mind and slowly changed my perception of reality.

There are two things that can happen when you accept that what is just is.  First, you can find happiness and contentment.  You release yourself from the imagined burden that it is on your shoulders to change the world.  You realize that you have no actual power to change the world.  You can stop waiting for your life to start “someday when”.  You can stop wishing for things that will not happen.  You have no power to change friends or loved-ones.  You have no power to change the way people think or behave.  The only power you do have is to change yourself.  With this new understanding, those old complaints, those old “what ifs”, that old way of thinking and feeling no longer cripples you.  You find peace and you focus on what matters: that which you actually have power over.

The other thing that can happen when you accept that “what is just is” is, ironically, change.  Success can flow from an effective response to reality.  Let’s consider changing people.  You cannot truly change people or change their behavior by simply demanding it, wishing it, or complaining about it.  Only when you understand and accept human nature, when you understand and accept the truth about who someone is, when you understand and accept what makes them how they are, when you understand and accept how men are and how women are, when you understand and accept what they want from life, when you know and accept what others want from a relationship – only then can you hope to influence any change.  But you cannot start with the goal of change.  The goal is only to learn about reality, to embrace the truth, and to do so with no other end in mind.  Only then can you begin to share your opinions, your stories, your views, and your values.  Only when you perceive and truly listen to others will there be any hope of them doing the same for you.  But this cannot be done for the purpose of changing the other.  If the person changes or the relationship changes, it will happen naturally.  It is not your goal or your burden to change someone else…only to know and accept.

How you would feel if someone accepted you unconditionally for exactly who you are?  What would that person mean in your life?  How far are you from doing just that for the people who mean so much to you?  How can you claim to love someone if you cannot accept all of her unconditionally?  What exactly do you love then?

To accept that “what is just is” also requires a great deal of work, study, and exploration.  You have to read popular and unpopular ideas.  You have to consider the conspiracies.  You have to observe people and society without bias.  You have to become educated and then question that education.  You have to listen to varied opinions.  You have to be open to experience.  You cannot get to the place of accepting reality until you first know what it is.  This is a lifetime journey and the goal is awareness.  In order to accept "what is", you have to first understand it.

Now let’s think about social or political change.  What would happen if a population would stop arguing foolishly about what “should be” or how everybody else “should think”?  What would happen if we stopped arguing about how outraged everybody “should be”, how everyone “should” go to Church (or not), “should” recycle, “should” turn off the TV?  What would happen is that we would clearly see, and plainly speak about, the truth.  A population that clearly sees and speaks about the truth could not be governed by today’s propagandistic, dishonest, theatrical tactics.  We, as individuals, would make different decisions about how to live, how to love, how to spend our money, and what to do for a living.  We, as a collective, would look at how to organize, how to work together, and how to exist.  We would find those “cracks” in the system and we would become very creative about how to exploit new and unimagined possibilities.  We would invent change.  Where we used to complain, we will do.  Through effective communication about reality, and through effective action that is a response to reality, we will change ourselves and change the world. 

Of course this will not happen.  I accept the fact that people like to lie to themselves.  People choose the lie for a short moment of false comfort while they derail the possibility of a lifetime of contentment, happiness, and positive change that can only come from awareness.   So this idea will not be accepted on a massive scale.  But this could happen in your life.

To Say Yes

Wanting without doing is a slow death.  It is a death that is encouraged by your friends, your family, your loved ones, and your social conditioning...but it is still a death.  Concieving without experiencing is a silent agony.  It is an agony that comes with no risk and no failure...but it is an agony.  What is truly terrifying is not failure, not embarrassment, not disappointment...what is truly terrifying is that vaccuum of the silent nothing that comes from doing what they say you are "supposed to" and not doing what you want to. 

To say yes to your dreams, your ideas, your desires (even the wildest, darkest, brightest, craziest ones) is to say yes to life.  Even an infant knows that life is about reaching, growing, wanting, trying, failing, and then trying again.  Yet a "rational" adult says that there's no point, what do I know, and who am I...all as he suffers amidst the boredom of unfulfillment and self-loathing.

To lack desire is to be already gone.  To fight desire is to be seeking the path toward death.  I know you've been told to be careful.  I know you see all of the problems, that you're not naive, and that the potential of failure is obvious to all, but you will not fail for the simple reason that you will do.

There's no fear in doing.  Even your failures will tell you one of three things: 1) you can still improve, 2) you know for sure that you aren't any good or it isn't possible, or 3) now that you know the reality, you don't want to do it anyway.  Whichever of these outcomes, there is so much peace in knowing the reality.  Experiencing the reality is the only way to move on!  It is that "what if" kind of regret that eats us from inside.  Ironically, the "what if" is always imagined.  Only experience can kill the imagined withthe known.

I don't think you are any different from me.  I don't need to reference anything to know that what I'm saying is true.  This comes from a lifetime of experience, sensing, watching, and doing.  This is the path toward deep, meaningful happiness.  This is the a fundamental and essential secret to life.  You can read this with a critical eye or you can accept it as truth.  Your choice, but it is still true.

To Be Radical

What does it mean to be "radical" in 2012?  What can be done or said that in any way shakes up the status quo?  What can be considered new, thought-provoking, or life-transforming in an era where it is cool to be apathetic, cool to be insensitive and uncaring, and uncool to care about traditions or customs.  This is an era in which we are tolerant and appropriate to the point that everything is relative and nothing real can be said about anything.

We shut off thought and feeling as we accept a normal that offers nothing satisfying beyond the surface of things.  This surface society is producing only surface content.  Perfected imagery is offered instead of perfected ideas or deep truths in our video content.  Pitch-corrected vocals and computer-generated sounds are offered instead of heartfelt lyrics and unforgettable melodies in our music.  "Realistic" video games have replaced true adventure.  iPhones and Androids have replaced intellectual conversation. 

The way we dress has become far more important than anything we have to say.  The content of our character is overlooked as we attempt to categorize each other by our demographics, our ideologies, our age, our style, our neighborhoods, our cars, and our tastes.  While it is true that all of these things say something about us, what has become lost entirely is the "us" part of the equation.  Nobody sees each other as anything other than a projection of what they want to see, as defined by the norms and conventions of this surface society.

We have come to accept this surface society to the extreme and drastic extent that our feelings have become something irrelevant and inexpressible in the public realm.  Yet we are, after all, still human beings and so we fail, day after day, to shut off those feelings.  Oh we try, with our legal and illegal drugs, with our shopping, with our shallow content, with our meaningless sex, and with our meaningless drama in our meaningless relationships.  But every now and then a real, authentic feeling creeps up to the surface just to the point that it scares us.  Feelings...feelings that every human being has had throughout our ancient history...these simple feelings make us believe there is something wrong with us.  So we diagnose and treat these feelings as though they are diseases.

But there are still a few of us who actually allow ourselves to be human, to have real feelings, to have real ideas.  We know what it means to feel ourselves floating away from the normalcy that surrounds us.  It requires strength and courage to allow yourself to be different from the be radical!  To do this is to abscond

The abscondo philosophy has to do with encouraging people to be sensitive to themselves and others, to have and express real ideas that mean something, and to find the courage to float away from the normalcy of this surface society in order to find your authentic self.

What is radical in 2012 is to be sensitive and to have ideas.  What is radical in 2012 is to be authentic!  To seek a meaningful existence is the most radical thing that can be done in a surface society.