Saturday, May 04, 2002

Sadness abt Society + Spiritual Anxiety = Social Activism

I've started again to read this book abt the social injustices in the United States (e.g., poverty, violence, socialism for the rich, & the rest of that either accepted by conservative survival-of-the-fittest types who have gone callous & the radical left -- or maybe accepted by everyone but handled in different ways by different people). I've reached the point in the book where it talks abt youth/adolescent violence.

Whereas other parts in the book made me angry, this part makes me angry, sad, and feeling a bit guilty on both an existential and a spiritual lvl. It doesn't give me a dehibilating anxiety or any kind of reaction that gives a physical symptom. In fact, reading some of the descriptions of the violence inflicted upon victims and the behavior or those acting out the violence either illicited no real response from me or almost made me laugh at the absurdity of how the those who acted out on the violence behaved. This reaction disturbs me. I've become either callous or react in complicity w/ those act out in violence. . .& I try to act non-violently and have a non-violent attitude toward life!

Well I want to do something w/ the issues arising from my social anxiety in reaction to my lack or uncommendable mental reaction of reading the descriptions of all this violence and the personal/spiritual anxiety in reaction to the paradox b/w reality, my aim to live non-violently, & my lack of action to promote non-violence in the world. I believe going a little deeper into myself will prove beneficial for trying to figure what to do to resolve this anxiety and further my personal, societal (my own and the whole of society's, maybe), and spiritual growth.

I have no idea how to start w/ the social anxiety & what to do about it, so I'll start w/ the spiritual side. Comparably I think I've lead a good life. I can complain abt things & have some validated reasons to say th/ I haven't had a perfect life. Nonetheless my life has had a very small amt of bad things that have happened. I pretty much have perfect health. I haven't had any serious ailments, wounds, or broken limbs. I've only had one actual brush w/ death, and th/ happened when I had a serious case of pneumonia during my 1st or 2nd year of life. No tragedies have happened to anyone who I have as a direct friend. I've experienced a bit of violence but nothing seriously debilitating (this may come up later). I've had issues w/ relating to my social environments but overcame them to become a bttr, smarter person. All in all, I've lived an essentially trouble free life.

Why did I choose to follow a non-violent lifestyle? Or more specifically, as non-violent of a lifestyle as possible considering the make up of the human body and the cultural norms of the United States? I don't remember the exact date or time, but I do remember the moment happened at the end of December 1999 and/or the beginning of January 2000. For three years already, I had switched off between a vegetarian diet and a general, not caring what I ate kind of diet. I had originally gone vegetarian mostly b/c I saw it as an alternative lifestyle and something worth trying out.

But anyway, to the epiphany of choosing a non-violent lifestyle: I sat down for breakfast w/ a copy of The Boston Globe in front of me. Flipping through the paper, I found an article -- I remember the article as a book review -- abt the guy who does the Doonesbury comic (as I had actually found out during the summer aft during a discussion @ my UU church). He had written a book abt finding spirituality or finding your own spirituality, something like th/. The guy in the article told this really interesting story abt his journeying through India or southeast asia, where a guru or a great buddhist or something of the sort had told the guy that he should go home & practice the spirituality he knows and understands, not the religion that they practice in India. A great point, but not the one th/ struck me.

The part in the story th/ struck me: a hardline religious group (I forget their name even though I had sd it a lot back in the summer of 2000) only ate non-violently. In addition to following a vegan diet, they also didn't eat things like potatoes, peanuts, etc. b/c these foods acted as the plant; so if someone eats those foods, they kill something. Combining my reading abt these hardliners, my experience w/ violence, and the veggie diet I had come to enjoy for the third time aft having eaten omnivorously, it struck me th/ I wanted to follow this kind of diet. I no longer wanted to advance the cause of violence in the world. Since then I've only eaten one serving of meat, purposefuly a cpl servings of something w/ egg or cheese in it, and probably mistakenly or ignorantly eaten loads of all of the above.

Contradictary as the next claim may sound, the next re-enforcement of my belief in the correctness of following a non-violent lifestyle came from my Budo class one semester @ school. For those who don't know, Budo falls under the category of an Eastern martial art. This class really questioned a lot of the beliefs th/ I had abt reality, essentially showing me th/ a lot of crazy stuff can happen by keeping certain postures, moving certain ways, breathing right, & manipulating the 'chi' in their body. All th/ stuff we see in crazy martial arts movies, a lot of it & stranger stuff could very well happen.

The teacher of the class didn't just teach us moves & how to fight. He also taught us some Eastern philosophy. I forget most of it, but a cpl things he repeated stays in my mind. Things such as in the streets & during a fight, rules don't apply, it comes down to life & death; and he also went onto say th/ w/ the above in mind, the way of Budo & a fight comes out best when the fight doesn't happen b/c no one gets hurt. Budo didn't have anything to do w/ power or domination, it had to do w/ survival. & this idea of survival, winning by not fighting, & the teacher's stress on non-violence really influenced me. In retrospect this may sound kinda stupid, but I pretty much thought this tradition of Budo knows a good deal abt stuff I don't know, & it has a lot of base in nonviolence. So. . .the physical side of Budo impressed me so much th/ it impressed onto me even more the importance of nonviolence.

I'll admit, I've passed the point of using awe to validate my feelings and lifestyle. Admitting this point, I find myself left w/ my empathy for others & a bit of rationality. I've already explained somewhat cold and dry empathy as much as I feel comfortable. I don't think th/ gives someone else a good argument, thus they may not agree w/ my lifestyle of nonviolence. I can't do much w/ th/ argument unless I don't mind get all huffy and puffy for absolutely no reason.

To convince someone & to some small degree, to convince myself, I need some kind of rational argument. This one comes pretty easy: I don't want to get hurt or shot on purpose by someone unless I give consent for them to do it. W/out doubt, as the United States currently exists, this situation could happen at complete random, I could mistakenly insult someone who resorts to violence when they want reparations for their figurative lost face, or maybe I run into one of the sociopaths th/ society has created by ignoring them and giving them messages of the OKness of violence (notice th/ I don't say it urges kids and people to act upon their urges for violences, but rather th/ all the violent TV shows, video games, etc. out their affirms to these kids, adolescents, & people out there th/ this kind of behavior is OK) as I believe could very well happen more frequently than I accept on a day-to-day basis (for some corraboration of this belief th/ I put into the back of my head just abt every day & also to let you know what I've read to inspire me to write this entry, check out Valdas Anelauskas's Discovering America As It Is -- especially pp. 229 - 281). So I guess in large part, my belief in nonviolence really boils down to a rational argument for me: I don't want to get hurt w/o my consent, so I won't do the same, & I'll actively try to discourage others to do it on a wider scale by postively reinforcing more positive behavior and solutions to issues.

Nonetheless, I find empathy an important aspect to take into hand, too. I find it important for both my spiritual anxiety and social anxiety. To make some sense as to why the rational side of nonviolence came into discussion, I guess it has come into play from recent debating w/ myself from the importance of having a here-and-now argument th/ doesn't rely too much on emotion, unless we consider the drive for self-preservation an emotion. I believe that in the long run, unless someone has truly reached such a point of anxiety th/ they've shedded the drive for self-preservation, then appealing to this drive works as the best argument.

But onto the importance of empathy as a tool for finding a way to resolve my spiritual anxiety and social anxiety (and possibly future anxieties). Since my last entry in this BLOG, I've come to a conclusion. I have a drive to share my feelings & to have those feelings shared w/ me in passionate ways. I believe th/ in some form, we all desire to lose ourselves in passion (maybe society has OKed the passion to kill, the excitement, the rush th/ comes w/ having the power to disable, majorly hurt, or destroy someone's life). In a way, I see passion as a resource th/ comes w/ some sort of interaction w/ the experiential world. We all have the choice of whether to destroy or renew this resource by destroying or renewing the bonds th/ we have w/ all the elements th/ go into making th/ passion. Hurting and killing can stir th/ passion, but it will eventually end by destroying everything th/ goes into forming passion. Loving and constructive interaction w/ the world around us, however, renews the passion & further puts more blocks onto the resource of passion so as to make the passion stronger & more powerful the more we get exposed to it as it infinitely multiplies itself.

We could argue th/ only so much passion can get created as only a limited amt of physical resources exist to sustain the other resources th/ go into passion. I've heard a pithy saying, though, abt how love & such things take patience. Yes, I'll admit, it doesn't take a completely immense amt of willpower, force, and energy to do something violent or to collapse under pressure to do something temporarily joyful like overeat, have a one-night stand (if you know how to sweet talk the gents and ladies), or to hurt someone b/c immediately, we don't have to face the consequences. Those come later.

Building up to the passion of love, consensus, relationships, etc. can get really really frustrating b/c we have to take into account the other elements in the equation rather than taking a shortcut & feeling the rush of destructive interaction w/ the world around us, wh/ demonstrates the immediate power th/ we have but in the Karmic universe, society, and physiologies th/ us humans have, we will have to face the consequences some day. & we do everyday when we dish out violence w/out consequence on the TV, on our video games, etc. etc. to the nation for entertainment, then we have kids going into school attacking their classmates, shooting their classmates, & forming gangs fighting over territory on the streets so they can feel the passion of power.

Whereas if we have the patience to handle the frustrations of working w/ people & the elements around us, we can feel the passion of empathy, wh/ becomes all the more powerful & joyful when we combine it w/ positive present experiences, wh/ together become Love. & when I say Love, I don't refer to love as that feeling we get when enraptured w/ a beautiful new person or someone who supports us or sexual passion or anything of the sort b/c th/ kind of love can easily turn into hate & anger when the other side of the equation withholds what we want from them. I speak of Love, a combination of empathy & common experience th/ allows for all the other expressions of love in a recriprocal manner w/o the fear of some kind of consequence in the future as th/ moment won't allow for consequences or the consequences, themselves, don't come from th/ moment of passion but from the lack of Love.

On the other side of the coin comes the painful part of passionate empathy th/ involves another person's pain. We hold the potential for both kinds of empathy. We can't have one w/out the other. As Ursula K. Le Guinn wrote in The Dispossed (or similar to what she wrote), "We deserve everything, but we also don't deserve anything." In essence, we deserve to have all the good things but don't deserve to have any of the bad things. Nonetheless, the bad things happen, no matter the source, even if they come from other people or nature. The healthy empathy needs to have the capacity for the joy from good & the anxiety from bad b/c it needs to know if the resource of passion will grow or shrink. If passion becomes low, we feel bad. If passion gets all used up, we no longer exist. From here it becomes somewhat a simple argument, the more, the better; the less, the worse. I want the passion to grow, so I can feel it more intensely and more often. I don't want it to disappear b/c I don't want to feel worse.

So I guess my reaction to the readings on this topic of violence in America, especially from kids, gets complicated. It draws from many wellsprings of passion. I can empathize w/ the destructive passion of domination th/ these kids & people w/ guns & muscles have over those w/ less power than them. My empathy for their situations wh/ may encourage this kind of behavior creates a level of social & spiritual anxiety b/c I believe they feel hurt. I feel empathy for the victim b/c of their immediate situation & the future repercussions they may have to face, wh/ causes spiritual anxiety & a visceral, physical anxiety from imagining how it would feel. & I also feel a large amt of spiritual anxiety from knowledge th/ others have violated my principles & also from the knowledge th/ by breaking them, they have lowered the amount of sustainable passion & Love in the universe.

This essay doesn't offer any real world solutions to the problem. Just elucidating this all into an articulatable form has taken plenty from me. I believe it could take a bit from my readers, as well. =) I hope it urges growth in you, too. I know th/ I've grown to some degree by writing it. I think I may have to write a poem concerning this issue & my growth from it. All in all, I feel good abt having written what I've written & having reached what I've reached.

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