Friday, January 01, 2010

Confronting Sickness in 2010

What shall the first post of 2010 be?

A Zen poem? Something about the dharma? Another cool video, or something on the state of affairs of our world? A looooong list of resolutions or goals? I'll spare you these ambitions: my wife and I are feeling very lazy, owing to bacterial infections we inherited from our son's recent bout with strep. (He's back to himself, by the way.)

Personally, 2010 is going to be packed with work: digging away at a financial hole I've been living in for quite some time, more night classes to complete my state teaching license, finding a new place for us to live, nurturing the Deming Zen Group, some theatre projects, some political activity and writing, and other writing projects I'm desperate to return to. It is very difficult for me to concentrate on any one of these, as I have no quiet space in which to work, yet I am responsible for all of them.

The theme of 2010, looking at the work ahead of me in the new year, has something to do with confronting sickness. Not the kind of sickness my wife and I are contending with this week. The broader sickness of the world in which our son is learning to speak and act. A world in which our son is among the most privileged, in certain ways, while the worst of human degradation lives just next door. Inhumanity thrives in our country, and in our neighboring states.

Sickness causes us to lose ourselves, to miss our essential connection with other beings. It leads to solipsism, nihilism, violence. It leads to internal violence that reduces so many individual lives to mere episodes of stress, fear, and misery. Sickness limits our imaginations and saws away at our creative faculties. Sickness drives our politics and the policies that govern our lives and define our freedoms. What is this sickness?

Looking back over this blog, it seems to be showing its author's process of moving the camera in and then back out, closeup to far shot, and back again. "Monday Morning Gabriel" and the "big picture" posts about state and society are not separate topics. The sickness that causes individual suffering operates at the societal level and even at the global level.

Globally: there is no longer any legitimate fact-based doubt that there is dramatic climatic change going on that is creating "feedbacks" or chain reactions that will have drastic effects on human life. Gabriel, my son, may see a world, by the time he is eighteen, in which 70% of the earth's land surface is affected by drought, rather than 40% as it currently stands. He may be around for the beginning of a massive migrations and dying-off of large populations whose civilizations are flooded, followed by periods of drought. By the time he is just 27 years old, there may be no more Himalayan glaciers: those glaciers feed rivers that supply water to more than half the world's population. These processes are hastened by the amplifying effects of warming temperatures on earth. According to credible and legitimate climatologists, who are not being paid to buttress anybody's political agenda, we are past the point of averting catastrophe; we are now at the point of containing the disaster, if we so choose.

Indications are, we're still not ready to face that. Our world leaders are not up to the responsibility, and policymakers that take this seriously are overruled by those who can buy influence. Sad, but not complicated.

Nationally: the fabric of our democratic republic has fallen with all the weight of a stage curtain. We are governed by corporate interests. Massive bailouts of financial institutions without meaningful reforms. Over my own lifetime, regulations on capitalism have been dismantled, restoring a "boom and bust" cycle that is typical of this system. Yet more and more of the economy is being transferred to the private sector, meaning more and more services are governed by the profit motive. The result of this is human suffering.

Following the health insurance reform process of 2009 closely, you see the nature of American politics: the lies and propaganda that overrule fact, the corruption of our politicians, the excellent coordination between corporations, the use of sham non-profits that need not reveal who their funders are, the manipulation of public events and news media. One detailed book about this process, by which "reform" turned into legislation that benefitted the insurance companies instead of winning a better deal for the American people (especially its poor), would serve as a summation of American democracy.

The result: human suffering. Oppression, dehumanization, and fatalism. Which serves the winners well.

Individually: I forget which Zen monk it was who said, and I paraphrase, all your troubles are because you think about yourself first and foremost -- and there isn't one.

The job presented to me is to awaken something in my kids, using theatre; it is to run this little Zen group and make the Buddha's insight and technique available for anyone who is interested; it is to continue my own practice, since I really don't know anything either; it is to raise Gabriel with Sarah, and for us to raise him well in a very turbulent world (politically and ecologically).

A big job, a wonderful job, the only job I have. In 2010, the common thread will be addressing our sickness, this sickness we share. Whatever needs to follow will follow.

Happy New Year, and thank you for your life.

(Photo: Yellow House in Snow, taken in Deming earlier this week during an early morning walk.)


Kelly said...

A thought provoking post, Algernon.

Wishing you, Sarah, and Gabriel all the best for 2010. Happy New Year!

Hal Johnson said...

Great post. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

Donna said...

Thought provoking.

Happy New Year!!

Pam said...

Happy New Year, Alg! Hope you and Sarah are feeling better soon!

Yes, it was a very thought-provoking post with much truth in it.

quid said...

Makes me think on a day I saved for football. But I forgive you. So many times in this last year, you have raised my own sense of consciousness. Let's continue, shall we?

Happy New Year.. on to the battle... quid

Nathan said...

Way to start the new year out with a bang! Great post. Best wishes to you and your family. May we continue to "do the good work" in the middle of the sickness in this world.