Sunday, 23 February 2014

Opening Doors, Building Bridges

Image from Wikimedia Commons
My personal project over the last few weeks has been to work on letting go of my defences. If I would like to live in a society where I can work in a way that feels more meaningful to me, I have to stop hiding myself. I don’t like the systems of hierarchy, authority and fear by which we are governed. Although I have fantasies of living on my own island in harmony with nature where the problems of the world would not bog me down, I realise that I cannot run away from other people. Ultimately doing what I see as my life work will also benefit everyone else. To change the experience of feeling alienated, I have to open doors and build bridges where I am.

It’s not as easy as I expected it to be. After spending a month in reasonable isolation just working on personal projects, I felt ready to take on the world and share all the love I felt so abundantly while working creatively. Instead of getting annoyed with formality and falseness in my environment, I decided to see things differently. There are layers to reality and whilst I encounter the densest levels first, there are subtler, lighter layers to be found. If I could bring those layers into being, I would feel better and hopefully make others feel better too. As an example, when it comes to authority figures I could see past the container and try to find and respond to the person within. When I walk past a beggar on the street, my normal response is a mixture of fear and discomfort. I do not like the fact that I live in a society where some people end up on the streets. If I resort to guilt or pity I wouldn’t do anything to recognise them as a person like myself. Acknowledging that what I see is part of my reality and therefore an extension of myself makes me feel powerless because I don’t know what to do about it. Compassion in the face of what appears broken is harder than just looking the other way.

Thinking I am only responsible for making myself happy is one thing, but the reality is that I cannot do it all alone. It is inevitable that I will have relationships with some people that might or might not be fulfilling. The challenge for me is defining the terms of a relationship in my own capacity. If I don’t get the kind of support that I would like, can I continue to ask for it? If I hold out my hand to someone as an equal and I feel that they reduce me to an inferior or put me on a pedestal, can I continue to express myself openly even when I feel the urge to go into hiding? Can I be open about my spiritual beliefs when I claim to give others room to do the same? If I don’t because I have encountered people before who I felt have shoved their religious beliefs down my throat, then I am only reacting to the fear that I would be like them. By hiding or down-toning my way of looking at the universe, I am only claiming the moral high ground for myself, imagining that I am more open-minded and that I cannot share with someone who is less open-minded. In truth I am only afraid of being attacked or ridiculed.

I will not deny that I get angry when I am accused of trying to be different when I do what makes sense to me. In the same vein, I used to consider myself a feminist because of my unwillingness to subscribe to traditional notions of what it means to be a woman. But I am actually not all that rebellious. The term feminism is just a label that defines individuals in terms of patriarchy. Owning up to my own projections is one thing when I have consciously practised doing it for more than a decade. I don’t claim to be a master, but I find it easier than refusing to react to the projections of others. When I feel I am treated like a helpless five year old who needs protection, an immature 17 year old who needs to be directed or a silly female student who knows nothing, I experience any range of emotions that fall somewhere between annoyance and rage. If I succumb to the temptation to prove my independence or intelligence I’m remaining stuck in the same cycle, not doing anything to connect to people in a way that I am finally ready to acknowledge I have a need for. I don’t have a solution, but for now I feel it is best to continue to be open and do my best to support others as themselves, regardless of how uncomfortable I may feel.

My natural inclination is to express myself. Since I’m on my own planet at least half of the time, I probably should not be surprised that what comes out when I write often feels too deep and philosophical. I don’t always like being considered profound or contemplative in a world where people seem to be looking for lightness and, perhaps, superficiality. Whereas this aspect of myself doesn’t represent all of who I am, it certainly is a part of me that I have to embrace if I want to truly be me. Changing reality it is not an easy task. If we take the state the planet is in as a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves and each other, there is a lot of work to do. When the going gets tough, I have to remind myself that perseverance is key.