Worldview Revisited: An Investigation

jung-red-bookThis piece is longer than the average post. Written in a few sittings over several months, it contains that which I have been attempting to find expression for over the course of nearly a year; an exercise in trying to give coherence to a period of rapid change. It is incomplete and unfixed, as it should be. As I am currently beginning a new endeavor, this seems as good a time as any to post it as a personal trail marker. I don’t expect many people to trudge all the way through, but regardless of how much you read, your feedback is welcomed. As a final introductory thought, I would like to note and problematize my heavy reliance on white men as sources for this piece. While not my conscious intention, it was an end result. This speaks to both my personal and the institutional prejudices that exist when it comes to determining what constitutes knowledge and who is permitted to produce it. Ones I plan to address in my work moving forward.

For about a year, up until recently, I had a regular meditation practice, sitting every morning for 20 to 30 minutes. For the initial part of that year, I met frequently with a teacher who, having spent years in contemplative practice both as a Christian and a Buddhist monk, came to develop his own approach to meditation and spirituality more generally. I am deeply indebted to him, as the way in which he explained spirituality appealed to my then-militantly atheist worldview. His approach helped nudge open the door which I had so emphatically kept shut at all costs, allowing in the slightest of possibilities that perhaps, just perhaps, there was something greater going on and that a reconsideration of my perspective might be merited.

The two of us would have lengthy discussions about life, the universe and everything, never arriving at an answer, 42 or otherwise. A point I kept returning to was where does spirituality leave us regarding social justice and collective liberation? I can concede the benefits to my personal life of meditation, mindfulness, and being in the present moment. I can even appreciate, though philosophically disagree with, ideas such as Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Yet these all seem to be individual, subjective and inward-looking practices that when taken to the extreme encourage a retreat from the world in the name of spirituality. We cannot meditate capitalism out of existence, we must act. He assured me that working for social justice was the natural end result of spirituality as it leads to right action. This assurance did not satisfy me and I asked him to explain it further.

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A summer day’s thoughts on social change

cultivateLate one July afternoon, I sat next to a statue of Pan, playing his flute as an algae-filled fountain bubbled its tune to the tadpoles flitting about, their franticness matched only by the birds darting to and from their nests. At a weekend workshop which had concluded for the day, I felt buoyed by the waves of meaningful connections made. While at the same time, a pleasant weightiness attached itself to my limbs, that mental exhaustion which saps a body of its physical energy. Intense work had been done. We were excavating pasts to inform the present, traversing topographies of daylights and dreamscapes. I stand and sheepishly look around for a totem to serve as reminder and embodiment of the day. My eyes settle on a smooth, plain white rock. Reaching down, I pick it up and silently ask if I may bring the rock with me. I feel an unmistakable assent. Rolling the rock in my hand reveals its hidden underbelly, mica reflecting the warm, setting sun’s rays. Inhaling dusk air comprised of drought and ocean, I make some tea and head to my room. None of this makes sense and that is absolutely beautiful.

There I pick up a recently published book on social change and read how society is composed of basic functions and spheres where people matter due to the roles they fill and the mechanistic decisions they make. How to change society, we simply must realize it no longer fits our cost-benefit analysis and we will construct a new one based on a better rate of exchange.

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