Yesterday, this thought came unbidden while I was cleaning up the debris from the 6-week deck renovation project: I cannot believe in a world view that needs 800 military bases around the planet to uphold it.
Yes, the U.S. has that many military bases around the world. It’s called “national security”…but why is the country so insecure?
Oh, but isn’t it audacious to disavow this show of strength? Hypocritical even! I already know that I am complicit and live inside the bubble created by this world view. There is nowhere on earth I can escape to where this world view can’t touch me.
But everyday I think about climate change and I wonder what the future would look like seven generations down the road and beyond. The world view that believes that the planet is only a resource to extract so that we may attain this level of material affluence is about to seal our fate. Some call it manic phase of global capitalism. Some call it wetiko — an illness of civilization; a madness, really. Or maybe it is just part of a cyclical process of birth-death-rebirth. In geologic time we are, according to the ancient ones, facing the sixth extinction. But as modern folks, we are only used to the linearity of time and movement. And now no matter how many military bases the US has to secure its citizens and its place on top of the pyramid, in the long run we know that it will not hold.
This awareness grieves me. But I do not want to ride the usual wave of response from this wetiko culture: cries to “save” the earth. We cannot save the Earth, the Earth will save us if we learn to pause and listen.
In my feeble attempts at listening, these are some of the things that have changed for me in the last few years:
I no longer shop at corporate-owned grocery stores and I avoid buying corporate brands. I do not go to the mall. Going to the mall overwhelms me. I see all these commodities and I imagine these malls dotting the planet. Where did all this stuff come from? What natural resources produced these? What happens when these things are taken off the racks/shelves? Where do they go? I know that these things do not just disappear. Maybe they are recycled but if we all didn’t need all this stuff to begin with to fill the empty feeling in our souls…
I no longer take tourist vacations for its own sake. Tourism is voyeurism to me. Folks who can afford to be tourists to exotic destinations so that they can come back to their first world home and say “am so lucky to live here” without realizing that the “third world” exists because of “first world” hunger for natural resources, the need to feel superior, in control, in charge of the Earth — yes, tourism reinforces that belief. Of course, today there are attempts to paint tourism in benevolent terms as in “spirit tours”, volunteer tourism, ecotourism — but it’s always catering to the need to find purpose, to feel good, to learn, to experience something “other”.
It is this “othering” that got us in this mess in the first place.
Integral consciousness: there are many ways to heal this psychic split that creates duality between “I and the Other.” There are many paths to wholeness and the path that chose me is indigenous spirituality and I make this my priority now: qi gong, walking, gardening, reading, silence and solitude, tending to the ancestral altars, cooking and eating as sacred acts.
How to develop a relationship with non-human beings. Every morning, I greet the trees and all other beings around our home. This is hard work. I am not used to slowing down to: notice that the lemons are almost ripe, that the begonia is blooming, that the orchid is growing new leaves, that a single yellow butterfly visited on a rare autumn morning, that the sampaguita is holding up in cool weather, that the dogwood is putting out buds even while it’s shedding its leaves. The blue jays no longer come around and I miss the hummingbirds.
I still live many contradictions — these endless story factories of the Mind. The “I” is fascinating but I am also beginning to experience it as a prison. How not to dismiss all that I am experiencing and thinking as mere “maya” (illusion) and therefore Unreal. If I carry this belief too far I start to feel detached and I don’t want to feel this detachment. Obviously, I need to Practice. Practice. Practice.
Facing my fear of Disappearance and knowing that this fear is also coming from the Mind.
Making time for personal connection outside of social media. I may have thousands of virtual friends but who will come by and have coffee with me or go for a walk with me?
I am writing this sitting with my back turned to the warmth of the winter sun and facing the tall redwood tree from the deck outside my bedroom. This Beauty and serenity doesn’t elude me even as I ponder the gravity of extinctions. This is what Enough means to me now — to enjoy the moments of being and dwelling in this Place.
Eight hundred military bases. I think of Wesley Clark Jr who, at Standing Rock recently, bowed and knelt as he asked for forgiveness for himself and his country before the Native elders. I cried watching this gesture of humility and acknowledgement of the history of genocide and erasure.
Everyday I ask myself how to tell a different Story that would have no need for 800 military bases.