Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not On My Watch

We All Have A Cross To Bear
Originally uploaded by busbozo
"Go not gently into that dark night", said Dylan Thomas. He was speaking of his own death, but I think it applies to the age in which we live.

The 'Old' is dying a difficult, messy, loud death. The 'Old' is taking the line "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" very much to heart.

It is all around us- Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Palestine, Israel, Iran , Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Russia, Wall Street, Main Street. Everything we have known has taken a different turn and the consequences are in the headlines daily. Pirates, crooks, wars, bombings, fundamentalists, conservatism, bank failures,ponzi schemes, water shortages... sounds like it is time for the militias, doesn't it?

These are the death throws of the Old World. Just like a small child who is presented with too much change in too short a period of time will throw a tantrum, the world is screaming and stomping and raging.

I started thinking about this today, not because of horrific headlines in the news, but because of an online discussion about the changes coming to my neighborhood. My neighborhood has changed mightily since it exploded on to the scene as a place to provide emergency housing following the 1906 Earthquake. We have way more people and cars and poorly planned space than anyone could have imagined 50 years ago. In response, it has become time to change the way we drive, park our cars, build our homes, and encourage business to come to our little corner of San Francisco. Many who live here, want things to change so that there can be more room for children to play and people to walk and bikes to ride, but there are many who view change as personally threatening. They are usually quite loud about their fear. That noise can frequently slow progress.

There are three really hot button topics here. Bicycle lanes, dogs and freeway access. Any of these can cause hours of nonproductive mud slinging. Decades ago, San Francisco had a plan for freeways that circled the city. In theory, they would keep car traffic off the streets and give access to all corners of our difficult to negotiate city. No one was ever really able to say if it was a good plan or not- construction was never finished and the 1989Loma Prieta Earthquake damaged most of it beyond repair. As a result, several streets in SF were then designated to be the arterials between the 4 compass points, and my street is one of those. At the time I doubt the powers that be gave much thought to the impact that turning these streets into highways would be on the people who lived there. Now, the residents of these places are starting to fight back, and those who have reaped the rewards of these outdated plans are complaining loudly. The ideas of slowing traffic, redirecting flow, and providing multi modal space for buses, bikes, cars and pedestrians is too much for some people. Many fight the increase in housing that needs to occur on the basis that there is not enough parking for them! One argument about improving pedestrian safety outside the local Junior College is that it would slow people down on their way to the freeway.

I am fascinated by fear of change. This is not something I am generally plagued by. Sure, I get nervous about things that come at me, from time to time, I am a regular everyday person, after all. The kind of fear I am talking about here, is the kind that keeps humans from moving on with having a better life. There is something about change that brings us forward that terrifies people. Conversely, many seem really happy with the kind of change that makes us less human and more robot (the Patriot Acts come to mind). My theory is that this all has to do with the illusion of control and our desire to keep the planets moving in the orbits we set for them.

What do you think? Why do we block change? Do we gain anything by it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

Since I started the more formal leg of my spiritual journey, I have heard the term 'mental construct' a lot. Many groups use this teaching- Sufi, Buddhist... it is used to describe just about all of life, from what I can see. Many teachings point to the 'illusion' that we interpret as life- that there is no difference between a tree a light bulb a person because all are different manifestations of energy (which is what it is).

Sometimes this is a comforting thought. There are times when feeling a strong and direct connection to everything around me is very centering . These beliefs allow me to stay focused in times and situations that are chaotic and stressful. If all around me is joined in this manner then my unpleasant moment will pass to something better to keep the balance that all of nature, all energy requires to be stable (to get really complicated, I suppose this could be a good explanation for impermanence- what I have must change in order to keep balance for all).

Were I to say that I spend all of my time in this thought state, I would be telling one whopper of a lie. Quite frankly, if I can remember this once a week I am doing pretty well. Most of the time I am nicely wrapped up in thoughts of how my own little packet of Universal energy is plodding through life. For now, I find that my exploration into the inner workings of the spiritual universe are most successfully undertaken by looking into my little part of it- me (which, by the by, is why I think we have physical forms- so that we can explore through them).

Since the beginning of the year I have started many projects. All of them were begun for various reasons, most quite mundane, and almost all of them have ended up becoming integral parts of this exploration. Changing my diet to almost completely local food, riding my bike instead of my car, working less to be at home more, writing... have all become indispensable aspects of this journey. I have become highly unattracted to processed food, not because of its deleterious effects on my health, anywhere near as much because you can taste that it has no soul. Not driving my car puts me in a place where I have to rely on my physicality and spirit to get me where I am going (oil use reduction is a pretty good perk, though). Writing this blog forces me to focus my thoughts, which is good because I have serious monkey brain and it can get in the way.

The one thing I do these days that brings me down the road to 'enlightenment', is photography. Aside from the fact that taking pictures of things gives you a different perspective on them, I am learning that taking pictures of myself can open up the way I 'see' me. Starting on New Year's Day, I began a '365 Days Project' in which I have to take a picture of myself, every day, for a year. I had heard of and seen other people's projects before, but my decision to embark on a project myself was very spontaneous and unplanned. I am now on Day 91, which is about 85 days longer than I thought I would get. What I have shot and what I have seen have been very surprising and disarming. Many feelings I have harboured on a number of subjects have become subject to tremendous change or outright rejection. Mostly, I have found a sense of peace with my physical being that I have not had for quite a long time. There are fewer 'flaws' to see and more life and personality. I find way less to find fault with, and more to be happy about- all because I am taking pictures of myself, which is way cheaper than therapy!

Sometimes that old voice nags at me about some silly aspect of myself- too many stretch marks, skin that is starting to look like is almost 40... The voice of 'the man behind the curtain', that silly ego that wants to cause unhappiness to keep its self busy. Ignore him, go mug for the camera!

My 365 pictures