Monday, August 15, 2011

No Need to Fear Being Dead

I don't relish the pain of dying, but I don't fear being dead. Because I remember being dead. Well, only that first, exhilarating, upward rush of release - that feels like all the graduations, birthdays, and weddings rolled into a single microsecond burst of joy. After that, I get nothing - as if an impenetrable lead curtain lies between me and further knowledge.

It is enough.

The deaths I remember (and yes, there are several) were mostly violent, only I don't remember the trauma as traumatic, or any pain.

Each death carried important insight about life and the leaving of it.

Once I was burnt to death as I slept. A big bed, hangings, furniture, my body: all went up in a great whoosh of flame, smoke, and all-consuming joy.

What I learned? Wow, death feels good.

Another life ended with beheading by guillotine. Forget the French Revolution. This was the normal round of executions of petty criminals in some smallish town. I was a poor, nondescript woman. Stole a loaf of bread or something.

Not the first in line for the guillotine, I stood on a platform looking over the heads of spectators and the roofs of houses to the deep, deep sky. I breathed in the sense of life, becoming lighter and happier. Then it was my turn. I knelt, feeling the curved wood under my neck and looking into a basket placed to catch the heads. The basket was wet. Each flat, woven reed glistened. I heard a bit of drum roll as the blade was lifted and counted, breathing in life until I was as alive as it was possible to be. I realized I could live longer, but I could not live more. If I didn't die then, I would soon slip back into a physical and emotional roil that blanked out any sense of aliveness. So I would gain more days, but not more life. Better to live fully for a few seconds and welcome the death that followed. I felt so calm, so alive, so happy. On ten, a strange shlick! Then black.

I don't have any memory of that after-death.

What I learned? More time does not bring more life. Living fully is possible, but has nothing to do with resisting the passing of a particular body. In fact, just the opposite. The more a person is caught up in resisting and bemoaning death, the less alive she becomes.

I don't generally share these memories, but hey, with economic meltdown in the U.S.'s immediate future, how else live than by risk?

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reflections on the Wisconsin Uprising

One of these days the people in the U.S. will rise up and toss down our presently growing corporate tyranny. It has happened before & will happen again. Just won't be so easy as a few rounds of voting. For one thing, the prevalence and ease of manipulating electronic voting machines (including visual scanners) makes it unlikely that votes for a sane state are counted
Yet, even if the vote doesn't bring real change, the organizing energy is precious. Rejection of our rising capitalist dictatorship can only come when enough of us are willing to loose everything, and even be shot at. That kind of desperate courage arises out of economic & social suffering - the kind some in the U.S. are already experiencing. The suffering will spread due to the economic collapse being ushered in by extremist Republicans & appeasing Republicrates (like Obama & Reid). As we discover that we do not suffer alone, more and more of us will join together to choose life over survival.

It will take time. The tools used to jolly populations along have always been so very effective at dividing & conquering: fascism built on fear & hate of trumped up social enemies, & keeping folks silent out of fear of homelessness, starvation, and reprisal - while they must work more & more for less & less.

BUT capitalist dictatorship, like any dictatorship, like monoculture, is inherently unstable. IT CAN NOT LAST. The structure of any controlled system IS the very source of its destruction. Nature abhors perfect forms. Inherent in biology is pressure for diversity and new growth in small, overlooked spaces.

We had a vote in Wisconsin. Two entrenched Republicans were turned out of historically Republican districts. That's amazing. But it is also a bare beginning.

So the question is: how do we keep our spirits up so we can engage and live and have full, compassionate hearts for the duration?

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Necessity of Hunger

"The number one reason to fast is that food tastes better when you are hungry." Augustine said that (more or less - I paraphrase 'cause I can't seem to locate the source). Augustine's not a guy I quote often given that he invented the doctrine of original sin, and blamed male lust on the women men lusted after. But I like this.

And I find it comforting. Especially as a strange coterie of Republican extremists and center-right Republicrates (Obama, Harry Reid & like-minded congressional "Democrats") eagerly pass legislation guaranteed to take the present, U.S. economic recession-bordering-on-depression into a full-fledged, undeniable depression. (We can't have a "double-dip" recession if the recession that started under Bush never ended - CEO salaries, global corporation profits and stock prices notwithstanding.)

But what if, in the larger spiritual picture, the role of these insulated, corporate politicians actually is to explode the U.S. economy? Could that be a spiritual good in the largest, universal picture? A creative passage of fire, a dark road that many people of this nation need to walk? Yes, huge, visible suffering will be visited on masses of folks - I expect to be one of the suffering. But out of that ash land, what might we grow?

So many of us, myself included, have lived with such a surfeit of guaranteed comfort for so long that we have no idea what food tastes like, a dry bed feels like, or how water quenches thirst. We need to rediscover hunger. For our spirits' sake.

For ten years, I walked the terrible dark road of despair and grief and self-hate. Many don't make it to the end of that road. I came out the other side with help from those I met on the way. I wouldn't wish the same journey on anyone. Yet I am also immensely grateful I was forced to go there. The perspective, compassion, presence, and humility I learned were worth the price and the danger.

I've yet to meet anyone who choose such a path. We have to be driven. Our coping strategies and comfort blankets have to be forcibly stripped off.

If the impending economic depression is just such a forced stripping away, maybe our national journey into the dark could bear equally valuable fruit.

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