Every morning the New York Times is out on the front step, and I wake up and get my tea and decide whether to meditate first or read the New York Times first. If the New York Times is first, by the time I’m to page four, I am already engaged in the pain and the suffering, the greed and the fear. If I meditate first and come into a kind of spacious awareness, I have a perspective that gives me some leverage so that I don’t just keep drowning in it. It doesn’t mean nonaction; it means that the action comes from a quieter space inside.
An Interview With Carl Anthony
I agree that, no matter what the noise level, each person is entitled to hear his or her own inner voice. That’s an important first step to hearing the voices of others, as well as the cry of the earth. But the ability to respond intelligently, creatively, and compassionately to the claims of different human communities is undermined by the false sense of privilege that comes from thinking of oneself as “white.” Wanting to hear the voice of the earth, the notion that nature is crying out in pain, has a limited potential for reaching and touching many people who are living much more prosaic lifestyles than those who think about these matters only in an intellectual and philosophical way. People of color often view alarmist predictions about the collapse of the ecosystem as the latest stratagem by the elite to maintain political and economic control.
From the moment menstruation begins and the first drop of fertile blood appears, girls are trained to fear unwanted pregnancies. I remember well my initiation into the disquieting ways of my body: as my mother and I walked down the wet slate path toward the car, she turned to me, paused momentarily, and said, “We’ll help you out if you get into trouble.” (Trouble. A code word for pregnancy, dead ends, the facts of life not yet discussed.)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, who as a lifelong gardener really should have known better, once said that a weed is simply a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet discovered; that weed is not a category of nature but a human construct, a defect of our perception. This kind of attitude, which comes out of an old American strain of romantic thinking about wild nature, can get you into trouble. At least it did me. For I had Emerson’s pretty conceit in mind when I planted my first flower bed, and the result was not a pretty thing.
Linda Hoag of the Los Angeles Free Clinic writes that “denial can be a healthy survival and coping technique. Often, those chided for denial have fought best and lived longest. . . . Denial and hope are two sides of the same coin and no one but the patient can know which side of that coin is face up at any given moment.”
The wasps looked the same dead as alive: you could be fooled by their sci-fi armor into treating them more warily than they deserved. That was why, when you slipped one of them into your mouth and the wings and legs dissolved and you silently rolled the hard skeleton over your tongue, you were swallowing fear itself.
There was a tear in our screen door and I would peek through it at the little houses across the street. The house across from ours was purple. There were many wild-colored houses on our block, like a row of cheap drinks; their great snarls of TV antennas were the swizzle sticks.