THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

 

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It’s hard to ignore. It’s always there. Lately, it seems to have taken on its own individual consciousness, become a self-aware, self-determined entity. Race. The idea that we are somehow inherently, and completely separated by the hue of our skin, our culture or religion. This soon led to the idea that we are genetically predisposed to a life with or without privilege, rights or dignity allotted to others of “normal” predisposition. Then came the belief that some are “human” while others are “less than human”. Even the term, “race” implies competition or a subsequent hierarchy inherent in the human species. Is the idea of “Race” a form of consciousness? Is it something that arose of itself or something that we breathed life into? Perhaps it is both. Perhaps it is a consciousness or an aberration thereof that we have allowed to flourish. In light of recent news events perhaps its prevalence is yet another alarm bell, an awakening siren, beckoning us to evolve a consciousness that has been stagnant for a millennia. What if the day comes when we finally realize that race is an idea that we created and in the grand scheme of things really does not exist? What if we finally realized that the only race is human, and that we have been killing ourselves all along? What if we developed true empathy, which extended beyond the idea of race, culture and religion? How would the world change?

 

For centuries, it seems, man has found one reason or another to annihilate himself. Land, money, power, fueled all sorts of horrors for the corporeal pursuits that lead to the elevation of self and ego. Later the pursuit of money became the virtue of the centuries. Empathy, however, could never be a part of this process. If you truly saw yourself in someone else, much like you see yourself in your child’s eyes, you could not destroy their way of life. One could not kill another’s child if they too had a child, right?. How could they? Well, I guess they could if their empathy bubble only extended to their child. If I were a sociopath my respect for life would only extend to my nose. You would be no more than a walking piece of meat, one that I mastered interacting with but could kill with no emotion. Sounds psychopathic? I guess it would depend on the extent of my empathy. What if my empathy extended past my nose to my family, kids, husband, but only that far? Is everyone else a piece of meat? Ok, then, how about extending it out to everyone that looks similar to me? That would mean I only valued another’s life if they looked similar in some way  to me. Is that psychopathic, or is it only psychopathic when it extends to just me? Are there degrees of crazy?

 

Maybe it’s not degrees of crazy but degrees of evolution. Maybe at one time in my evolution I was only able to extend my bubble to myself. Then later to my family. Then later to those that looked similar to me. But, what’s after that? Perhaps it would extend to those that are human. Then to all entities that are consciously, (no matter the degree), aware.  Then maybe go even further, to that which does not even resemble my idea of a life form, say the planet. How would the world look to one such as me? Would I be cool, with say, a zoo? Would oil spills concern me? Could I discern between a criminal and a bikini clad 15-year-old girl? Would I rush to shoot an unarmed teenager to death if first I saw myself in him? My child in him? Would I applaud the curing of a dog with Ebola while others were dying awaiting that cure? Would I allow Ebola to be a problem at all if I had the means to prevent it?  This lack of empathy appears to play a central role in most of the planets ills. This inability to connect, to see the connection to everything passed our noses is more than a psychosis; it’s an evolutionary stumbling block.

 

It seems to me that all the eco systems of the world survive by relying on their components cooperation.  Each member of that system works in harmony with the next.  It is only when something comes in and dominates the resources, hoarding them from the rest of the system, that the system suffers and dies. It’s as if the eco system is aware of its existence and the species within it are innately aware of their connection. When I look at the world today I see a lack of this connection, mostly on the side of the humans. I see a planet once teaming with species suddenly in the grips of an extinction.  I see a blatant disregard for our place in the ecosystem, or maybe an unrealized place.  I see an ever-present blindness to the lives of other people by people for no other reason than “those people” sit way outside of their empathy bubble.  I see an inability to discern, based in this blindness, that leads to the death of innocent children, unarmed men, and helpless homeless people.  I see a preponderance of fear generated by the inability to see ourselves in ourselves.  I see  spiritually un-evolved man.

Consciousness evolution, I believe, is mans next evolutionary step.  In order to achieve this, however, we must first realize that we are un-evolved, making us unaware of our unified consciousness.  Race, sex, and religion are all carefully manufactured labels, giving us the illusion of separateness.  We are each other, and  we are a part of a living entity;  the planet we occupy. It is easy to see that we have not evolved in this way for thousands of years and the planet and its inhabitants have suffered greatly because of it. Our technology is evolving much more rapidly.  Perhaps it was not diverted from its evolutionary path. Some say in the future our technology will become consciously aware. I wonder what that will be like. It’s already connected.

Namaste

As Above, So Below…

Image detail of the Mandelbrot set.

Image detail of the Mandelbrot set. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was on the phone the other day talking with a friend. We were discussing the pitfalls of our jobs, (we are both nurses), and how we would love to do something different, being thoroughly disillusioned over the years. My son overheard this conversation, and after I got off the phone with my friend, asked me why I became a nurse in the first place. I told him because I didn’t want to be a stock broker. Now, before I get any angry comments about the virtues of a stock broker, I just want to say that I am sure there are some virtuous stock brokers out there whose goal is to work for the common good. However, during the time when I was choosing my career, I felt that I wanted to do something that was innately ‘altruistic’ that helped people during a difficult time in their lives. Appearing as the Kings and Queens of materialism, I thought a stock broker’s goal was to make money at all cost, sacrificing ethics and morality for the bottom line. Seeing the many documentaries on the subject, I concluded that success at such a cost was not success at all, but an illusion propagated on greed and short shortsightedness. Nursing, on the other hand, would ensure that most if not all of my colleagues would be like minded, filled with the desire to express compassion to strangers, being free of that type of self-serving inhumanity. Needless to say, I was very naive.

Group of nurses, Base Hospital #45

I’ve worked as a nurse for many years, at large state of the art hospitals, and small community ones.  I have taken care of the rich, the poor, the old and the not too young, (babies are not my thing), the sick and the dying.  I’ve accumulated a variety of skills and met even more people, but one thing has stood out to me all these years regarding a profession I somehow deemed as virtuous: nurses are mean as hell to other nurses!  Now, that may not sound like an issue, but believe me it is.  There have even been task forces established to eliminate what they are calling ‘on the job bullying’ or ‘lateral violence’.  I have seen nurses leave the job crying.  I have seen what they refer to as ‘cliques’, who totally devalue a nurse’s worth.  I have seen nurses lose their jobs over vicious gossip and be maliciously ‘discredited’ to others because of jealousy or position.  How then can a profession whose cornerstone is compassion and altruism, who was founded by the likes of Florence Nightingale and Mother Theresa, be filled with such malice and unethical behavior?  The same reason fire fighters, postal workers, doctors, cashiers, waitresses, teachers, church officials, and ultimately, stock brokers are; the culture is unethical, not the professions.

Stock Market

We live in the society of ‘me’, a kind of malignant duality or separateness.  We would like to think that we are compassionate, but in reality our compassion is relative.  Our culture teaches us that in order to survive we must ‘one-up’ the next guy, discredit them, compete with them, be they a friend or unknown.  It becomes necessary that we ‘win’ at all cost reaping the benefits for all to see and admire.  How we do this is not important, though treachery is acceptable and often respected. This is success.   The other guy is of no consequence.  Material gain is the ultimate goal; the house, the car, the kid’s education, all of these being legitimate reasons to use unethical means to obtain what is wanted or needed.  Of course we don’t say it or even think it, but we do it with without hesitance.  This behavior has been modeled to us time and again, until we have adopted it.   If you look closely, things have been done this way on a larger scale for millennia.  People pushed out of their lands, their resources stolen, medical care denied, all for the profit of a group of individuals.  Big businesses doing what they want, despite the outcries of the people they are negatively affecting.  A country has something of value, we go in and take it, and then we use all manner of excuses as to why it was ‘a good thing’ as oppose to unethical and immoral.   We live in an unethical culture, one that has been so for some time.  We see it on a larger scale and cry out how bad it is, but we mimic it on our jobs, on the playground, in the grocery store.  That’s why, in a job built on compassion you see the characteristics of a culture whose goal is anything but.  Stockbroking isn’t an unethical job, no more than a gun can kill a person, but in the wrong hands even nursing can be dangerous.

New York City

It took me some 20 years and 5 hospitals to realize this.  I also realize what Jesus was trying to tell us when he said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Makes sense to me now. Our hearts become as cold and presumably lifeless as the things we long to possess. The fear of not having or achieving the material stuff that brings no real joy, is temporary, and fragile, leads to unethical actions, the destruction of peoples, and ultimately the earth. Enlightenment, on the other hand, cannot be touched, and the whole world benefits, even the guy next to you. Man’s enlightenment is going to mean the breakdown and dissolution of a culture that perpetuates this malignant type of separateness and duality which breeds immoral and unethical behavior.  One has to look closely at one’s life to see the influences of this culture—very close.  Where does our inner allegiance lie?  Do we extol the aggressive jerk, or the spiritual passavist?  Do we get joy from watching someone fail, or do we try and help them?  Do we applaud someone’s success, or do we find ways to discredit what they did?  These things happen everywhere, regardless of profession. It is not unlike a cancer, affecting every aspect of the bodies functioning until death.  I have come to believe it is systemic, replicating itself from top to bottom not unlike the Mandelbrot Set. As above so below.

I don’t know how long I will be in nursing, but I think I will attempt to help people, on some level, for a lifetime. Perhaps I will find a profession which is not so influenced by the culture, perhaps not. It does help that I am at least aware of what I am dealing with, as awareness acutely changes your perspective. Once you are aware you cannot take offence with the sleeping cultural giant. After all, that’s ultimately what it is—-asleep.

“There’s only one of us here…”

Namaste

The central endpoint of the "seahorse tai...

 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

A light at the end of the tunnel, September 2012

A light at the end of the tunnel, September 2012 (Photo credit: DaveOnFlickr)

When I graduated college I found my first job working for an insurance company.  I guess I was excited.  The pay was nominal even for those days, but it was a job, something I was taught was necessary for my survival and ultimately my independence.   Many people worked in the same nominally paid position with homes, cars, and families.  I remember thinking that it would be a bit precarious of me to get an apartment and a car based on my ability to maintain this job and the favor of my boss.  After all, to do this would leave my modest lifestyle and me vulnerable to the whim of my superiors.  My mother of course was excited and encouraged me to buy a car with my new found providence, and to save up for an apartment of my own.  The goal, you see, was for me to someday own my own home and find a good life for myself.  I understood her, but I did not understand.  How can one live a free, independent life at the whim of another?  Hard work wasn’t the only thing that kept a job, even in those days.   Be that as it may, I obtained an apartment and a car and went to work every day.

Years have passed since that first real job, yet still the idea of freedom eludes me.  I often wonder if this system of survival is what was meant for us on this planet.   I see daily how many suffer because they cannot find someone to work for, or they cannot find a suitable place to live even if they did.  I watch as people struggle to feed their families on meager salaries and fight amongst their coworkers who also feel the pressure of survival.  Even on jobs where the pay is good, people scratch and claw their way to a better salary or perceived way of life at the expense of others.  This is viewed as achievement, but many times it results in the momentary achievement of one to the detriment of another.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Means is over looked, with the end being the primary judgment of our efforts.  Unethical behavior is lauded as genius and cunning as a value.  This negative way of being is inherent in a system which rewards only that which is most often obtained through scheming and manipulation.   It is understood that nothing is free, and in order to obtain anything one has to place the self above all else. “Be number one” is the mantra of a system that depends on ones lack of meaningful connection to others.   Without this connection we are free to pursue all things without regard for another and even at their expense.  Ultimately, however, our efforts are never fully rewarded, as the end result always leaves us even more dependent on the whim of others.

Why then do we persist in a system designed to keep us enslaved to ideals?  Why do we insist on placing ourselves in debt for half our lifetimes, losing our passion for our jobs, and turning them into a means to a 30 year end?  Why do we allow some to go without a home on a planet that is made of land?  Why do children go thirsty on a planet whose mountains spew fresh water, and rain falls freely from the sky?  Why are families hungry on a planet that sprouts food from its soil?  Why did we create a system that bars the magnificent landscapes and beautiful vistas of this planet from the majority of its inhabitants?  And most importantly– and probably the most impossible for many of us to even consider— why is the system of money even necessary, when starvation and poor health is the result of poverty rather than a lack of resources?  (Try explaining money to a visitor of our planet!)

My mother didn’t realize it, but I did those early years after college.  Working for another and being in debt to another for the rest of your life, is not independence.  It’s just another form, though apparently a more palatable form, of slavery.  This kind of slavery, however, is much more difficult to eradicate.  The chains have us firmly tethered to our ideas of success, lifestyle, and illusory self, thus we refuse to see them.  They have literally become a part of us, so much so, that we cannot imagine any other way of living.

Chains

As I drive the highway on the way to work and catch glimpses of the true reality, I realize that the planet was created for us to experience it.  Relegating ourselves to such a limited existence based on indoctrinated ideas that severely constrict our experience and growth, also stagnates our spiritual evolution by virtue of its nature.  The system cannot survive in the light, and as light beings at our core, we too cannot survive.  What of the light at the end of the tunnel that we so often pray for?   It has to be us.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds…”

Bob Marley

Namaste

Light at the end of the tunnel

HOME OF A TRILLION BUDDAHS

Colorful Buddhas

As a child, I always wondered why people in general could not really get along. I often watched from the sidelines as people bickered and balked in their attempts to do something as simple as working side by side. In school, I learned that man was in fact a social being requiring the presence of others for survival, yet in groups or as nations conflict seemed to be the primary form of communication. This often troubled me, as being an only child I wanted to be in the company of many, but could not stomach the constant conflict.

Now as an adult, I have learned to deal with it, although I resent having to. Intermingling has become a sort of social dance, a necessary caveat to keeping a job, maintaining a relationship and educating my child. All the attachment to ones individual identity, leading to the protection of said identity, has lead to a myriad of social ills that must be strategically navigated in order to survive.

In an effort to do something of use to improve the human condition, I chose nursing as a career. I expected this innately altruistic profession to be filled with like minded individuals, but that was not the case–exactly. Undaunted, I continued, content with my initial intensions and hoping that I too would not fall prey to the ego endowed bravado that sometimes inundated even the most purest of ideals. Ego, unfortunately, is an inherent part of us all, and I fell prey to mine well before I knew I could control it. My ego, however, did not turn on others for protection but instead turned on its source, clawing and scraping from within. I had to find a different focus, something on which my monster could grind it teeth and lose its need for self aggrandizing. I looked closer at the vessel which housed it, the human body. It was there I found the most amazing thing about human existence.

My grandmother used to say, “As above, so below”. She used this interesting phrase to characterize the seemingly random events of life, adding that even a simple flower mimicked the ethereal, being attached in some way, mirroring the laws of the universe. I pondered this as I looked at the human body and likened its intricate functions to human existence. I delved as far ‘below’ as I could to try and find some link between the microscopic world of our bodies and us. I found that though individual and operating separately, many of the body’s cells worked in quiet unison to maintain the life of the whole. Packed

Cells stained for keratin and DNA: such parts ...

Cells stained for keratin and DNA: such parts of life exist because of the whole, but also to sustain it (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

tightly and separated by membrane, they acted together to produce an organ with its own individual structure and function. Some cells did not belong to a particular organ but instead flowed independently through the circulatory or limbic system, carrying on varying functions that either protected the other cells or nourished them. Others flowed out of their respective systems to protect other areas of the body, like the skin or the lungs. Still others gathered together to form barriers against infection or to repair areas that experienced trauma. The organs formed by the many cells performed their own functions and assisted the functions of others organs, all of which the body needed for survival. Trillions of individual cells living in one large space without the advent of conflict, competition for space, resources, or even the occasional hermit. Each Individual, all working together for the whole, no one greater or more important than the other. Could it be that these tiny beings realized they were part of a greater being? Were they aware at some level that they were in fact One, and that the actions of each of them affected the whole no matter where in the body they were? Were they acting as one consciousness, or did they pursue their own agendas? It occurred to me that perhaps they did know. Perhaps they were all tiny Buddhas.

Sunset over The Pacific Ocean, at Acapulco

A young kid at work talked to me one day about an upcoming election and his aversion to the candidates. He said that man will always have a dictator, or some other such guy, who will try to rule everyone else. It was in mans’ nature to want power. I told him I didn’t think so, that it was not in mans’ nature to be violent or seek dominance over the many. We argued the point for a long while until I pointed out the heaven within him. “Your body is home to a trillion Buddhas”, I said. “The kingdom of heaven is practically there within you. No one is maligning the other. There is no dictator. All are important. All have a role. If it weren’t so, you wouldn’t survive, as we will not”. He cast me a dubious glance. I believe what I told him.

I’m not sure, though, why man is out of sync with nature. Perhaps, unlike the cells in our bodies, man does not yet realize he is part of something bigger. For some reason he concentrates on the ‘individual’ part and not the ‘whole’ part, gathering all and sharing nothing. One other cell does this, and as a result the body dies and so does the cell.
“As above so below”, my grandmother used to say. I look above and I see majesty, beauty and cooperation. Where then are we?

Namaste

LotusEmerging0041