A cleanup in the sky: removal of all heavy metal vehicles. The ecology movement, along with organic gardening, tried working from the ground up, and while the movements are not failures, their moral energy has been thinned in a stranglehold. They have been lassoed by companies manufacturing high priced tools and techniques, and their bottoms have been branded with the profit motive.
So yes, go from the top down and see if we fare any better. Take the drones, growls, silent satellites and sonic booms out of the blue, by way of public boycott of their funding and functions. Let seagulls and migrating birds fly in peace.
Travel: trains, buses, cars, bikes and walking still work. People wouldn’t go as far as often, and when they did, they’d stay longer. Results: no jetlag, and fewer headaches. Cancel that strange experience of sipping coffee and eating croissants on flights between continents or coasts, pretending to be in a restaurant or breakfast nook at home, and not speeding miles above a rough-textured and worried planet.
Business: let multinational corporations, bruised by the end of air travel, and in some cases in collapse, study conversion projects. Executives and employees in general would research current publications for ideas on useful work. Airplanes recycled could include one jet for every school playground.
Military: with the end of Star Wars schemes and of all aircraft, international diplomacy and etiquette would experience a renaissance, with music, art and cultural exchanges enlivening cities. More languages would be studied, and two-month vacations allotted to allow time for boat cruises to foreign countries, with travellers spending days on ocean liners, dancing, talking and eating good food. It might be possible in a climate of better understanding to mothball missiles.
This change would cause inconvenience for a number of people, especially at or above upper middle class. As they remade their plans and considered their sacrifices, I’d ask them to review what life is for: speed or serenity?
The truth is I’d worry a little less if I wasn’t shaken by planes breaking the sound barrier, and if I didn’t see fighter pilots chasing each other, striping the sky with vapor trails.
Claremont, New Hampshire
What I would like to change the most is the constant nagging desire to change things. I can’t help but feel a great longing for the kind of peace that accepts things as they are. This doesn’t mean endorsing war and AIDS, or contributing to the wretchedness if I can help it. But giving up my constant state of dissatisfaction for the knowing that things DO change and that I could feel at one with that huge flowing stream — this would be bliss.
Renais Jeanne Hill
If something can be changed we seem driven to change it, always frantic to impose our will and racing to do it before somebody else does.
Some 10,000 years of this civilizing impulse has merely resulted in a pernicious awareness that there is never enough of the stuff we consider good, be it material or intangible: love, food, compassion, shelter, time, sunsets, health, sleep, inspiration, peace . . . endless inequality with far too much of the undesirable and the desperately awful.
All other creatures seem so content — at least until we wreck their order. There is no evidence that in hundreds of thousands or even millions of years of existence another creature ever changed anything through the exercise of its will.
Why are the hands of man so dirty? Must the reach always exceed the grasp? Is it only an innocent dream to imagine that all life would be in equilibrium had man never felt the need — or the right — to change anything? There is a fairness in Nature, a providing-for. Are we so sure we would have lost the game if we had played by the old rules? There might have been fewer of us, but we would have been finer.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
I’d most like to be able to face the dark and seemingly malicious animal of my inner fear. The dread that the rumbling fireball of our dreams could happen tonight. The fear of THE BIG CHANGE. Should I say it? The fear of death.
Only in flashes of fright, when I am least able to discern it calmly, does this creature show its face. Whether I can see it or not, it is always there. The smell of its presence, the sight of its scat, make me uneasy, causing me to hide in the jaded comfort and false security of my bad habits, my familiar neuroses.
And so the big change must be toward fearlessness. The more I live, the more courageous I become. I learn to hold still without fidgeting so as to observe the beast as it passes nearby. My self-indulging despair and its accompanying self-pity (useless, stupid self-pity) in overcoming the beast give way to hopefulness. In my growing boldness, I sometimes find myself following its footprints, seeking out its lair.
I believe that should I see its face, I would find it to be not only my own, but also the face of loved ones and acquaintances, of all beings known and unknown — both the source of my fears and the means to their understanding.
Point Arena, California
I saw Swami Chidvilasananda last night. She’s about thirty, attractive, Indian. I missed her talk — arrived in time for darshan. (At Manhattan Center: a thousand people, lots of Pierre Cardin.) I stood in line a long time waiting to bow to her — worrying I was supposed to say something. I didn’t know what to say.
Eleven years ago I asked her mentor, Swami Muktananda, what to do with my life. “Chant, meditate and work,” he said. I’ve been doing that ever since.
If I could’ve put my dilemma into words, I would’ve said: “Swamiji, I just walked forty-four blocks down Broadway to see you. On the way I saw maybe sixty sharp, female execs. I wanted every one of them. And I know if I had one, I would still want all the others. What can I do?”
My turn came. I bowed and looked up at her. She was speaking in Hindi to someone next to her. Her face was calm and radiant. She looked a little like a young executive herself. She hit my head with a peacock feather.
I went to the back of the room, closed my eyes and my mind filled with light.
Back in New York City
I have not lived the life I’d planned. Someone has stolen it and spent years looking out at the lights of the great cities with eyes that should have been mine, speaking with my voice at board meetings, reclining on the beach at St. Thomas with my sun beating down on her lithe, tan body.
I have spent these same years quietly relaxing, becoming familiar with my eccentricities, learning to accept the unattractive parts of myself rather than running from them, learning to let go of what is old and wants to die.
When I understood less, I used to wish I could change my past experiences; that was before I learned to love them in all their native ugliness for the depth they have given me. Now I simply wish to change my reactions, and that is slowly happening. Like a river shifting course, moving here a foot to the left, there an inch to the right, I trust that the rest of me will follow.
In those late nights when sleep is not easy coming, I think how it will be when I meet the one who has been living my other life. I see her sometimes on the street — she wears different faces, but her eyes are empty and her attache case has melded to her hand. Once, I approached her to ask the time, but her muscles tightened with fear and she quickly crossed the street. If I catch her I will ask her who she is, and after she recites her litany of promotions and industry awards, she will ask me in her carefully bland way, “And what do you do with your time?” I will happily answer, “I am becoming myself.”
With a shock, I realized last week that I spend more than a hundred dollars a month on Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and coffee. I can’t afford such habits, and the Earth can’t afford people with such habits.
I can’t stop them completely — at least, I won’t — but I can try to cut in half my consumption of these useless products. It will be good for my health as well as good for my budget.
I’ve chosen something on a micro level that I’m capable of changing. I considered imagining something on a macro level that I’d like to see altered, but I’m afraid of unforeseen results.
A few years ago, I’d have said technology was good because it produces an abundance of goods, and the more the better. Now I’m aware of the evils of pollution. We need to live within limits.
Even giving up a personal habit can have unexpected consequences. Two years ago, I quit drinking Coca-Colas. I soon found that, instead of four or five Cokes a day, I was drinking four or five beers a day.
If we aren’t prepared to accept the pain that goes with quitting or moderating a habit, we may substitute an even worse habit.
I’d like to turn into Goldie Hawn with an M.D. in psychiatry and a third career as a best-selling, critically acclaimed novelist whose books are converted into movies, and into a bodhisattva, a genius, and a saint. Such a metamorphosis would, I imagine, grant immunity to aspersion. But probably that’s when the true viciousness would begin.
I certainly need to transform my inner victim into a happier, healthier being, because she appeared in a guided visualization looking like a pathetic hunchback, her nerves inside out and spread in red tangled knots to form a gory network all over her bruised skin, a third blue eye in the middle of her forehead (a good sign). She was a hurt, abused child. To heal and integrate the inner child and teenager and merge the wise adult with the internal parent so each persona emerges mostly at the appropriate times may not be an impossible task, once brought into conscious awareness.
Lately, a frightening coldness and worldliness assails me. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual distress. An awful emptiness, possibly a sign the superficial ego is being eroded, can occur, and feels especially burdensome. I experimented with methods to “achieve wellness”: workshops; crystal therapy; psychic readings, where the particular psychic imposed superficial value judgements and expressed “revelations” obtained from gossip, not spirits. Things like that interested me when I was fourteen. Sitting naked in a witch doctor’s sweathut, etc. None of that has anything to do with the Creator! Nor does that Aquarian stuff from Atlantis or wherever pertain to real spiritual truths transmitted through ancient holy books, which provide the supreme antidote to our sufferings and point the way to actual experience of the living truth. Sacred texts are poetic jewels, paragons of wisdom and consolation. Blissful opium. Their teachings are more easily absorbed when most desperately needed. I’m hip to all this. Actually living what I know is the problem.
Torment like a fireball of Hell in the guts is a sign something needs to be changed, they say. The catch-22 is such suffering drains one of the power and energy needed to rectify matters. And how can one distinguish between necessary suffering caused by karmic retribution to pay off old debts and sins and that which is gratuitous, engendered by ignorance and loss of self-mastery? I’ll strive for positive perceptions and to bear pain stoically. Denial of pain just causes more; life invariably confronts us with what we want to avoid working through.
An instantaneous transmutation of all our negative karma might produce utopia, and universal enlightenment, a big project only in God’s power to effect. Now, the way it’s set up, we’re each like Mad Max. We have to do it individually.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina