Kitchen Table Revolution, Interrupted

On Friday, my Mom and I spent the day in the kitchen talking about a revolution.  Well, we were talking about the state of the world, daring to broach our  fears about countless taboo topics.

What happens when we all find out that Al Gore has been right?  What happens when people really start to run out of water?  How many links in the chain have to break before our global network of food distribution?  How many days of product are in an average supermarket?  For a proud liberal, why do I have a funny perspective on guns that I don’t talk about much?  In what part of the psyche and the spirit should stories like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest reside?

Ach, Marisa!  What are you doing to your dear readers on a Monday morning?  The sun isn’t even up yet and with gloomy thoughts like this you are practically daring it not to rise!

Fear not, if you are anything like Mom and me you will plunge into your seas of worry and dredge up all of your 3 a.m. thoughts even though it is the middle of the day.  But then you’ll get up for another cup of tea and the phone will ring and you’ll pay the cable bill or head to the dentist and you’ll pretty much forget this little dip into the nastiest recesses of your “what if…?” consciousness.

Of course, we all do this.  I, for one, have no idea how I would get through each day, full of all sorts of mundane beauty and banal ugliness, if I was truly tuned into my concerns about the state of our collective future.  It is pretty much impossible to fully enjoy an infant’s laugh if you allow yourself to focus on all the evils that might endanger it.

And so we engage in these impassioned discussions and stir up the sediment that our modern, Western, wasteful lives have created in the riverbeds of our awareness and then we start making dinner.  The conversation I had with my mom was so amazing and touched on so many important topics, it had me wanting to take meeting minutes.  But, I had my hands full with the baby when I was not clearing up the endless piles of clutter and I never got around to writing til right this Monday morning minute.

If I had had the chance to play scribe and record the litany of ills and the faint glimmers of solution would we be any closer to solving any of the world’s problems?  The tragedy of the whole conversation was that, as much as we were both so invigorated to trade ideas mother to daughter and back again and to flow along in the tides of conversation, we really felt pretty powerless.  Talking about Washington’s party politics and the conservative pundits’ maniacal desire to debase our president’s every action and motive left us rather deflated.  We were saved by a gently shaken snow globe of a January day  and by an infant just discovering her voice.  A baby who has not yet had to worry about the lies that the media propagates and the impossible search for truth.

We are not powerless, of course.  We have the loving bonds that allow us to dive deep and surface together.  It is as true that enough of these conversation will change the world as it is necessary to believe that they can.

On a Scale of One to Ten – Thirty

Pam Snow/Canadian Press)
Pam Snow/Canadian Press)

This has not been a winter to speak aloud.

My words have frozen in my throat or in the pages of my private books and rarely been able to cross the ice to the outer world.  I know that sound carries best over open water.  It seems that those waters have to be flowing freely, not suspended in a bitter February’s thoughtfulness.

Wait, I misspeak.  It is not I that is bitter, but the weather.  And even then, I am spinning frigid tales and  manipulating them for my own rhetoric.  The view from my front window offers grass like straw and sad heaps of forgotten leaves with only the occasional sad mountain of snow.  We expect flurries throughout the weekend – it’s still winter after all – but she has let her white cloak slip low enough to prove that not even the ice can last forever.

I spoke of returning the other day.  Returning is a long and careful process.  It can mean the traveler is still a great distance from home.

When my healer experiences great spiritual shifts she talks about all the internal furniture being rearranged. I still live in a new house that is short on chairs and couches, so I’ll stick to the images of the landscape – the view is always free even if we can’t yet afford new bookshelves. 

My inner landscape has been reformed during a 10 days of sickness and soul searching. I’ve watched new river valleys form and have shored up my retaining walls.  I have repaved a concrete wasteland with a rainbow of precious stones.

I only weep a little at the changes being wrought, the unfamiliar, though beautiful, territory being forged within.  A new home is a great milestone, but one that is surely accompanied by mourning for all that was.  New houses also mean a great many stubbed toes when one needs a glass of water in the middle of the night.

So I am rejoicing in my new caverns of joy and testing the echoes against my new interior walls.  But I am still receiving snippets of news reports about the maelstrom out there that seems to have nothing to do with this inner transformation or the February sunshine beyond the shadows of my front porch.

I am still a creature of this world for all that I have spent the better part of two weeks diving in my own ocean.  I realize that I am caught in this web of shift and discomfort and even chaos that has caught hold of our societies.

In the midst of all this tumult, there was the voice of a man from Canada who spoke with the disjointed music of Scotland and the mid-west and the southern Maritimes that I know so well.  Give yourself a couple of minutes to listen to the story of five men in Seal Cove, Newfoundland who saved a pod of dolphins trapped in the thickening ice of their harbor.  Listen to his harmonies and his tale and think about what you might do that would lead you to reply “Oh, on scale of one to ten, thirty” when someone asked you how you feel.

There are parts of me feel like I am at a thirty, and there are bits of me that feel too lost in the flux of the soul to take stock and realize this journey is all about elation.  But, as I continue this process of returning I think I have found one more guidepost of inspiration that will help me redefine my internal measurement of all that is good.

When Holiday Tradition Compromises the Earth

We recycle.

We compost.

We eat organic food.

I weep at the plight of the polar bears and I pray fervently every time I spot an animal that has lost its battle with an oncoming car.

And tonight, we smiled and laughed and forked over what was probably entirely too much money so that I could have the pleasure – and the guilt – of throwing this into the garbage can:

garbage

Even as the lovely man at the fire station carried our tree over to the sawhorses, I cringed. There was that oh-so-clever contraption that made enormous evergreens fit into humble family station wagons. We barely got any needles in the car and the trunk door actually closed. A gorgeous, full seven foot tree stands in our living room and the netting that will languish forever in a distant landfill sits in our trash after its brief, but ostensibly vital, use.

Life is full of constant compromise. A good relationship is all about meeting your lover halfway. A treaty between differing factions can only be reached through mutual give and take. There is the ideal, and then there is the reality.

Most of us cannot get to work without contributing to global warming in some way, even if we hate that our carbon footprint is growing in leaps and bounds. Those of us who do not grow our own food are so often stuck feeling contrite that the avocado and everything else in our salad has racked up more frequent flier miles than we have. But still we get in our cars, and still we eat lunch that was born in South America, and still we make a million little choices every day that mean the earth is forced to bear more and more abuse all the time.

Obviously we have to reconcile ourselves with our impact on the environment if we continue to live mainstream Western lives, but when are we compromising too much? I cut up that wretched Christmas tree netting as much as I could so that birds and other animals could never become entangled in it, but I am really doubting it will biodegrade even after Santa has made another million year’s worth of trips around the globe.

We work on our expanding our consciousness and enlivening our spiritual selves through meditation and prayer. We try to compromise as little as possible when it comes to the welfare of our souls and the love that we share with others. How do we find the strength to apply this sort of rigor to our love of our Mother, the Earth?

Taking the easy way out when it comes to personal awakening never works. Why do we continue to believe that thinking about the our beautiful, singular planet some of the time could ever sustain the most constant friends that we have, the ground beneath our feet and the air that fills our lungs?

I ask these question because I really have one of the answers, but I have all of the symptoms of being yet another guilt ridden drain on the planet.  In so many cases, awareness is 75% of the battle.  I am pretty sure that being aware of what is in the garbage isn’t helping anyone.

How do we begin to let this awareness really shape our behavior and make the external changes that, in this instance, are every bit as important as the changes we are going through within?

naked tree!

Beyond the Inconvenience of Changing Behavior & Changing the World

I am still preoccupied with the issue of global warming and the devastation we cause simply by being regular, average citizens of the western world, but I am ready to draw a more concrete parallel to this awakening and the overall quest for the True Self. Of course, the way we live upon this earth and the imprint that we leave upon creation is an inherently spiritual question in itself, so please forgive me if I get stuck here for a while.

In Entering the Castle Caroline Myss writes a great deal about a fear of humiliation as being the force that keeps us from embracing humility – the quiet, unselfconscious power that can open us to God. She asks her readers to go through these humiliations, from the minor interpersonal stuff that keeps us from changing our morning routine to the deep spiritual elements that affect the way we relate to the Divine. I am beginning to realize that one of the little humiliating situations that I would do anything to avoid is being derided for being too high-maintenance or difficult, for being deemed a chore to have around because I cannot just go with the flow. Of course, I fear a common element of groupthink, the tyranny of the majority that will do everything possible to keep all people at the lowest common denominator.

The food we choose to eat can expose us to a great deal of judgment and ridicule. As someone who is gluten intolerant, I have had more than enough conversations about my diet and my digestive system. Before I got serious about eliminating gluten, I was a relatively serious vegetarian, but once the menu’s meatless pasta choice became a half-remembered dream, I had to give up my anti-flesh convictions. If I planned ahead even more carefully and prepared to refuse even more offered sustenance (let us not forget the degree to which calories are the currency of friendship, love, and hospitality), I might be able to earn back my veggie stripes, but at least to this point, I have found that it is not worth the struggle.

There has been plenty of reporting dedicated to the impact our carnivorous diet has on the planet. Environment Magazine published the first story I ever read about the issue. Even that show I keep talking about, Six Degrees Could Change the World, discussed the amount of energy it takes to put a hamburger on an American plate. The issue is emerging as one that is larger than my own appetite or the annoyance of people who never know what to feed a picky eater like me (ah, those hostesses faces that have fallen to despair when I whisper weakly that soy sauce’s second ingredient is wheat!).

I bring up the issue because I recognize that one reason I do not change my diet is a little bit like my inability/refusal to see the Divine in all people and treat them accordingly. I don’t want to plague loved ones with either my wearisome food concerns or my new codes of honor. Already I am the woman who cannot eat a normal birthday cake and is forever caught up in spiritual pursuits, how can I start passing up pork chops at Sunday dinner and refuse to twist my wit in wicked directions to make friends laugh too? Of course, none of this is to say that I am either entirely virtuous (I liked the turkey and cilantro burgers my husband made for dinner last night and sometimes I am engulfed with a mean spiritedness that is entirely my own) or that I am completely ruled by others’ whims (I am a pretty strong willed person, but sometimes I abandon my principles in an often feeble attempt to be polite).

Some of the most overused words of this decade have got to be “convenient” and “inconvenient” – proof that Al Gore’s movie hit a home run into the modern cultural lexicon. It is time to stop throwing around inconvenience as just another buzz word, however, and realize the deep truth contained in the fact that we are creatures completely addicted to our convenient, disposable world. Changing our behaviors and facing the confused or hurt or laughing faces of our companions really is just a trifle when we talk about affecting the fate of the world or engendering more compassion in this world, but damn, it sure seems hard.

Upon Hearing a Conversation Spiced with Hope

It’s funny how shreds of the past come to mind in a new light now that I am allowing myself to recognize the central place the question of planet’s future has in my life. On Saturday while I was making dinner I listened to a Speaking of Faith episode called “Discovering Where We Live: Reimagining Environmentalism.” At the time, I gave it as much mind as I could as I tried to wrap my head around making spaghetti alla carbonara (both because it was one of my husband’s favorite dishes and I wanted to make it perfect, and because I was frying pork and readying myself to eat it – me, vegetarian who??).

The person whose accomplishments and experiences stick with me now is Majora Carter, a native of the of the South Bronx who returned to her neighborhood after studying art in college and, to her own surprise, ended up taking on the environmental issues that detracted the lifestyle of all those who lived in her part of the city. How could I have listened to this story just a few days ago and been largely unmoved? How could I be filled with anything other than stop-in-the-middle-of-the-kitchen-with-my-jaw-open awe when I heard about this unlikely shifter and creator of local culture and landscape? Now that I am staring at this problem as vast as the atmosphere of the earth and all of the oceans combined, I am desperate to find proof that we can make some of difference. It seems that I have more shining examples than I have the ability to recognize. I just may be time to open my ears and eyes wider so I can recognize the radiant hope that humanity still has the power to generate.

Check it out at: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/discoveringwherewelive/index.shtml