the wisdom of no escape

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

I need to say this—right now I’m scared. 

R. Kikuo Johnson’s artwork on the cover of the latest New Yorker got me good this morning.

I spent a good deal of time this morning reading the news, something I’ve been doing more of lately. (For the past 16 months I’ve been avoiding current events as much as possible.) Granted, while my sources were not the over-the-top sensationalistic ones (I perused the Economist and the New Yorker), I still got a heavy dose of biased information. The polarization is real, and I am not immune. I am looking across a great dark chasm at the ‘other’ and I see ‘them’ with raised guns and feet on the throats of dead animals. My vision is that stark; but stay with me, I'm walking all the way through this.

After Trump was elected, I made a personal vow not to succumb to the polemics and rhetoric. I posted on my social media (it feels like a million years have passed since i left that sphere) about how meeting hate with hate and greed with greed would solve nothing. I posted about how we must live solution rather than problem, and how social activism must be rooted in compassion with all beings in order to be sustainable. 

This is collapse, and how it plays out has been historically pretty rough. Societies reach a tipping point and disintegrate… it’s been happening for tens of thousands of years. Those groups that overstep their bounds are taken out because nature’s got the system on lock. I’d say that the ‘greedy few’ controlling almost all of the world's resources overstep like crazy. Always have, always will.

I have never been able to predict the future, but this inability has never been more screamingly obvious than when I consider what sort of a world the next generations are walking into. Even though I can’t “know,” I know. My gut is telling me that this is not good. 

As a mother, I have a lot of emotional skin in the game. It’s hard not to imagine how my children and their children will suffer if this thing plays out the way it always has, and that brings anxiety. The future has become immensely personal. I have no ability to protect my progeny from the greatest and most pervasive harm: enculturation. I am no Captain Fantastic, no matter how much I wish I was. And even Viggo Mortensen’s character in that movie fell drastically short of his goal. There is no escape.

Pema Chodron rises here: in her book the wisdom of no escape she speaks to the need to sit and face all of it — all of it — with a compassionate heart. In the end, this is the only way to navigate fear. Her phrase, ‘it’s all good,’ rankles many. However, when we can see the value in all things based on the premise of interdependency and interrelatedness, ‘it’s all good’ makes total sense. It is not a negation or dismissal of pain and fear, rather it is an acknowledgment of their necessity in the big picture. Our response to pain and fear becomes a choice rather than a mindless emotional reaction. We can jump in the driver’s seat. 

It is vital to take the action of shifting emotional reactivity into conscious action in line with the greatest good. There has never been a greater need to create islands of sanity in the unmoored spiritual chaos of the present. This is how we reclaim spirit: one conversation at a time.

Despite the fact that I’m sure we’re at the end of something, I do have hope in the beginning that an ending implies. Entropy and genesis co-occur. I see it clearly when I sit in meditation: it is from the dark black earth that all things spring into existence. Perhaps the greatest decay brings the greatest fecundity; it certainly works that way with the plants. Perhaps I need to allow for the wisdom of no escape to be the greater wisdom of process, to allow for the sensations of anxiety, fear and helplessness to point me towards my own motivation for activist work, and remember that it is ultimately love, and not fear, that fuels me.

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