Lately I’ve had a hard time getting a grip on myself. I seem to be sliding in so many directions. The better parts of me, the parts I enjoy, are becoming lost or shunted aside. While the wilder, unreasonable, agitated parts are trying to take over.
Sometimes I feel I exist in multiple layers with different parts of myself coming to the surface at different times. Some are easy and comfortable, the ones I’ve spent a good deal of time articulating on these blog pages: poet-writer, spiritual seeker, nature lover, art enthusiast, literary critic, philosopher. The one who seeks to understand what this mud-luscious world of woe and bliss is all about. These are the layers I love to dwell in. They play well together. I can move seamlessly from one to the other without difficulty.
But there are other layers of myself that are torn to pieces and hard to make sense of. Parts that fume and rage and groan and don’t know how to let go or wake up or walk in a straight line. A part of me that seeks to control what’s uncontrollable, change what’s unchangeable, even if that means banging its head against a very hard and bloody wall.
A lot of that is mixed up with what I’ve experienced trying to help a son afflicted with addition. But part of it goes way back. It comes from all the years spent down in the trenches, fighting for worker rights and social justice and protecting the environment. Trying to right the wrongs of the world. Beating my head constantly against a wall of greed and exploitation, intolerance and hypocrisy, that would not budge! Doing it for so long and so hard, I had to walk away. I had to.
I feel like I’m getting sucked back into that fight mode again, and all I want to do is fly away. But I can’t leave my son behind.
That old head-banger is resurfacing and I don’t much enjoy her anymore. I understand her. I know where she’s coming from. But I don’t see a happy outcome for all her troubles. She can’t help herself. She’s an optimist, a passionate reformer. Perhaps all optimists, all social reformers, are born head-bangers, trying to break down insurmountable walls. We truly believe we can effect change for the good. We can make a difference in the world. In small but important ways we can help move the direction of society toward the greater good, toward health and peace and prosperity for all. And we do, we do, inch by inch we move that needle, but at great cost.
It’s more than that though. More than social change that many of us are after. We want to break through to new states of thinking and doing and being. To experience more peace and joy and power in our own lives. To experience heaven on earth right here, right now. Maybe that’s what happens to all the head-bangers of the world. When those outer walls don’t come tumbling down we turn inward, toward the walls within our own consciousness and try to break through.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Maybe that’s the most and the best we can do. Maybe it’s enough.
I’m still trying to get a grip on all this. To reconcile all the different parts of me, the world of woe with the world of bliss, both inside and out. The two are inter-twined. I can tease them apart at times, but they get all rolled up together again. There must be a way to walk in this world of woe while still experiencing that state of bliss. Some of our spiritual teacher/reformers have walked that path: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela.
I’m trying to figure out how to let go and hang on at the same time. How to let go of banging my head against an intractable wall, while not giving up on my son. How to accept this world of woe and bliss, inside and out, all rolled up together, in all its mud-lusciousness. Bear with me.