Resolving to Fight for What Really Matters: (Reflections on North America After 8 Months Abroad)
There was a wave of relief and strange comfort in being back on familiar ground as I arrived at the airport in Miami Thursday. Oh wonder -- around me everywhere, people speaking in my native tongue!
Settling into the plane to Los Angeles in Miami, I was struck by a familar sense in this group -- almost like being with a big family! Feeling comfort in a group of unknown people with whom I have a foundation of shared cultural experience and nationality. That was an odd experience!
Now I am at my sister's lovely home in the San Fernando Valley, a suburban refuge, and a province of Los Angeles where I lived from age 5--17. It's a lovely summer day, and I'm reflecting on my experiences of the last eight months with a new perspective, and newfound respect for the journey.
It's odd to be in such a restricted environment -- surrounded by concrete and clean, wide open roads (no tropical paradise to fall into when the concerns of life crowd my head!). It's a totally different framework to live in, and I struggle to situate myself in it.
Here, life seems to exert a mundane everyday quality, driven as it seems by 'First World Problems.' The greatest comfort is the lovely backyard I sit in now as I type, surrounded by flowers and native plants with the smells of the Southern California desert that I love.
These first days are essential, as there's a different perspective I bring from a different world. A perspective which has yet to become drowned in the conditioning of this life and culture I grew up in. I hope to maintain this clarity of perspective, but it's going to take a lot of work.
I see the opportunity here to really make a difference in a grounded, tangible way, bringing what I have learned into the realities of the cultural framework in which so many of us live -- a framework that seems to be prevalent and spreading through most of the modern world.
These are some of my first impressions and reflections on North America and this great behemoth of modern culture and values. Through the light of the work we are doing this week in the Fire of Love -- re-examining and reflecting on what REALLY matters to us -- I found a thread of sanity to hold on to.
Firstly, there's a vibe of affluence here that's sorely lacking in the lost tropical paradises I've been living in for the last eight months in Central America. So many people here have more money, more power and more freedom. The difference is shockingly noticeable. I've enjoyed the newness of experiencing that in a visceral way -- I can feel it in my bones and in the people around me.
At the same time, the overwhelming outcome is mindless consumerism in markets dominated by aggressive mediocrity. This also struck me upon arriving at the Miami airport, and making my way through customs and the connecting flight. Junk food, mass processed consumer-driven goods and the commodification of the most precious resources of our world.
People have become blind to what really matters. They have become purveyors and consumers of what is essentially aggressive mediocrity.
In this is an innate sense of poverty -- the sense of not ever having enough -- the need to fill the vacancy we feel in our spirits. This is the emptiness in blind consumption -- not unlike the vague disassociated feeling after watching too much TV -- the need to validate yourself and feel anything. It's this essential emptiness or disconnect with our truth that drives the mindless aggressive consumerism and mediocrity -- leading to the destruction of ourselves, our bodies, our children and our world. It's a mindset of scarcity.
I woke up this morning after processing all this, and came to a new resolve in my self: The calling to fight harder to defend and uphold the values that really matter to me, and the things that really matter for our modern society.
I see the pain of this way of life, and I see the suffering it causes in the people within our cultures, and in the larger world. I see also the negative impact it leaves on life itself, and the earth as well.
So, these are the values that really matter -- the principles and the living conditions I'm fighting for:
- A clear and present mind rooted in the truth of who we are;
- A life that's dominated by love over the quest for property, prestige and wealth;
- A foundation of generosity over greed;
- The freedom to live our lives in alignment with the highest values we envision for ourselves and the world;
- A life that's filled with recognition of the abundance of all that we have vs. obsessing over what we don't have;
- The fundamental groundedness in nature -- in the beauty and wisdom, the abundance and flow of the earth;
- A clean earth, clean environment, and clean water for all humans and all life;
- Simplified, minimized consumption -- focused on sustainability;
- A Life driven by happiness, joy and celebration of the gifts that we have.
The love that we share through these values and principles -- the love that we bring to those we love and all the people in the world -- it elevates us all up.
In elevating each other, we elevate ourselves, and in elevating ourselves we elevate the greater world too.
Those are the core values, principles and conditions I'm living for, and I feel more than ever the urgency to stand up and into these values for the sake of protecting and nurturing the life and the planet that we love.
What are the values and principles you hold dearest -- those that you live for, and those you would give up everything for? Feel free to answer in the comments, or just sit and reflect, and see what comes...