Phila Hoopes, Woman Of Green contributor, wonders below at connection, alienation and the consumption taboo. Have a similar story? Share it below!
I shut down another conversation the other day on Facebook. Didn’t intend to do it…but my comment was one of those that are met with embarrassed averted eyes and even more embarrassed silences.
No, I wasn’t sharing the intimate details of my health, sex life, or bathroom habits. I wasn’t evangelizing or objecting to the exclusive holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” or what have you (though I do object to such exclusivity, early and often).
So what taboo did I break in this supposedly taboo-free society? I responded to a friend’s posting of Elaine Boosler’s comment: “When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
I pointed out that even if women hold ourselves aloof from macho male militarism, as long as we are purchasing goods that are kept artificially cheap by American companies’ outsourcing to regions with lower standards of living, extracting fossil fuels, minerals, tropical woods and other resources from impoverished nations that are happy to sell off their virgin ecosystems for desperately needed cash, and employing workers in sweatshops at below-living wages, that we, the nonviolent women, are morally responsible for the militarism that protects the companies that provide these goods.
It’s the truth that nobody wants to acknowledge. It’s so much easier to blame somebody else – Extremists in Congress, the Military, the unchecked Corporations otherwise known as The Bigs – Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Agro, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big X – Big Y – Big Z – when the truth is that none of these powerful perceived villains would ever have gotten their power or grown to their cancerous size without our buy-in our votes (or non-votes), ourtaxes, our energy and dietary and health care choices, our “therapeutic” shopping, feeding them.
But what other choice do we have in our society, we ask? Surely we need oil to run our cars, warm our houses, make the uncountable numbers of plastic and resin and synthetic-fabric products that fill our homes and offices and hospitals and …well, you get the idea…our society is based on petroleum products! Surely we need coal to keep our lights on and our appliances and computers running – how can a few (hundred) mountaintops and valley ecosystems and species compare to the importance of keeping the power on? Surely we need industrial agriculture to feed our families – not to mention the hungry of the world, isn’t Monsanto solving the problem of world hunger with their genetic tinkering? And pharmaceuticals keep our symptoms at bay, and insurance pays for the rising costs of modern healthcare…well, some of them, anyway…
It all comes down to the core belief that we don’t really have any other options. We’re not in a position to argue – we just have to make the best of the godawful, toxic situation we’ve got, with the Bigs getting bigger every day, the planet getting more compromised every day, more ecosystems and species failing every day, while our balances of money – and hope – grow smaller every day.
And the popular solutions? Work! Shop! Eat! Watch television! Go to the movies or the casino! Pump up that flabby sixpack at the gym or on WII Fit! Invade another country on World of Warcraft! Ingest narcotic substances! Reality is a nightmare, so let’s go virtual, or numb out completely! And maybe before it all goes down, science will have found a way to get us off this planet: despoiling other planets, having trashed our Mother Earth.
What a grim scenario, no wonder nobody wants to talk about it! With our eyes myopically fixed on the situation-as-it-is, our energy and our brainpower enmeshed in our jobs, we’re frantically scrabbling to save what we have, make small changes (sure, we say, I’m eco-conscious! I’ve swapped all my lightbulbs and I’m a real nut about recycling!). But God forbid we challenge any core certitudes (least of all our own) or consider making deep changes in our lives….
….because we can’t.…
But what if we do have other options? Maybe, as theologian Matthew Fox proposes in Original Blessing, this apparent hopelessness, this paralyzing “I can’t-ism” itself stems from a self-negating certitude* that needs challenging: the certitude that we, ourselves, are somehow insufficient, powerless, not capable of self-motivation, self-management, direct connection with the Divine. The certitude that we need others, more powerful, richer, more authoritative, more degreed, more ecclesiastically accredited, to employ us, direct us and control things for us. The certitude that we are isolated individuals who cannot change our own lives, much less our society, much less our world. The certitude that we, alone, personally need to control and drive any change we initiate, and that this is a crushing, impossible responsibility.
As Betty Friedan wrote – “Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” Or rather, make that humans’ denigration of ourselves.
But what if we can come up with other solutions…or notice the solutions that already exist, right under our noses…solutions that might start with lightbulbs and recycling, sure, but go much, much deeper? What if we start to believe that our imaginations, our intent, our love – not just our anger and frustration – can move mountains?
What if, when we (metaphorically) pray for rain, we start carrying umbrellas?
Awhile back I attended an afternoon symposium called Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream, and just recently trained as a facilitator. It’s a multimedia, interactive program developed by the Pachamama Alliance, bringing together the best of millenia-old indigenous wisdom with the most visionary concepts of the modern scientific worldview to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, spiritually fulfilling culture on the Earth.
In one portion of the symposium, we gather together with others in our community to discuss and discover what we are already doing – and can do. We link up our ideas, campaigns, organizations. Most important, we discover that we are not alone…that there is a groundswell of likeminded people stirring at the grassroots level, group after group arising to save one aspect of the planet, or to care for one group of the People…and another…and another.
We watch Paul Hawken’s “Blessed Unrest” speech and realize that millions of such organizations are working today around the earth…as the Achuar people who initiated the Pachamama Alliance say, it is the spirit of the conscious planet taking action to protect herself, and her life forms, inspiring people to do the work that is needed, guiding them along the way to find the right connections and resources.
We. Are. Not. Alone.
I could quote Goethe at this point, about the Universe acting to support us once we commit ourselves, but instead, I’ll close this post with a story.
Last week I went on a two-day retreat with a very wise and unassuming holy woman. I was struggling with my own forms of confusion and “I can’t-ism”. In our conversations, she urged me to ask for inner guidance, and listen not only with my mind but also with my heart and body, to sit in “eyeball to eyeball” conversation with Spirit, however I experienced Spirit, and seek the inner voice, not in desperation or begging or presumptive problem-solving, but in silence.
After our conversation, she sent me to seek and follow inner guidance for the day – whether to sit indoors and read, meditate, and journal, or go outside to walk the grounds and connect with the Earth for grounding and direction.
So I went outside, asking for direction, noting the springs that arose from the ground and cut across the fields toward a wetland at the bottom of the property. Drawn to follow them, I stood at the bank of a small stream, barely a foot wide, and felt led to step over it, onto a small island completely surrounded by small separate streams. Ahead of me, two trees called to my attention. I approached, and between the trees found a pile of rusted metal junk, and felt the inner calling to remove it.
“How?” I asked, and the inner leading directed me back to the house, where my hostess was talking with her neighbor, a farmer who had been working for years on cleaning up and restoring the wetland. He was delighted to provide a wheelbarrow and practical advice for the job. My hostess provided work gloves and boots, and thus supplied, I had the pile cleared within a couple of hours, receiving further guidance in every quandary.
The message was clear: ask for guidance and it would come, step by step, if I consciously remained focused and aware. Whether I chose to say it came from the Earth, the Universe, what have you, the guidance came. I was not alone – guided by the Earth, and helped by the People, and I could create a change. Yes, a small change, but a change, a beginning.
I believe that this is the key to real and lasting change, not on behalf of the planet, but in partnership with Spirit, the People, and the Earth, and that each of us is capable of that partnership.
Phila Hoopes is a marketing writer providing online and offline content for green and conscious businesses through her firm, Your Words’ Worth (http://www.your-words-worth.com/). A permaculture student and recent graduate of the Earth Activist Training permaculture design program, she speaks locally on green topics and comments on personal-growth and spiritual growth topics in her blog, the journey (http://soulpaths.wordpress.com). Phila also works to promote Earth Activist training.