So I have not written in this particular blog in awhile. It is hard to always write on a screen as an environmentalist. So many thoughts are inspired by nature, so it is not with much frequency that anything of importance is recorded while in a room in front of this electronic box. My hand-written journals, however, are brimming with words and poetry about the plight of the modern man as we step across this narcotic landscape of concrete and steel.
It is important to evaluate the types of people that are meandering on the journey of life. Some have said there are two types of people: those that create and those that destroy. This can be modified to add those that just don’t care, and those that admire creations but do not participate in the making of things. I am sure there are others, but these are the main types of individuals I have encountered.
It seems that the idea of God, religion, and spirituality can create dichotomy amongst people. I meet many that hate religion, many that are spiritual, and a huge portion that are either ambivalent or apathetic. Personally, I find spirituality to be incredibly important, but my understanding of that word and the application of it into my life is quite different than the common generalizations frequently made on the topic.
One thing that I wonder about is what it means to be a spiritual being – what must one do? Preach the gospel? Convey kindness? Study the words of a respected religion? Tithe? Attend religious services? Many of those things are important, but the key is a far more unifying practice, I think. Most spiritual practices ought to be unifying – not polarizing. Some religions have, in this regard, lost their vision.
Why a Spiritual Movement?
At this time, it seems like the most important thing one can do to become spiritual is to create. In our world today, people do not create as much as they observe. We watch television shows, sports games… Our culture is centered on watching the world. Unfortunately, these are external activities. Spirituality is an internal activity. Furthermore, nearly all of our clothing, food, shelter is created by others that we have never met. We discuss fashion and technology, but don’t know how to sew or even build a computer. We know statistics, useless facts, and pointless information about celebrities we have not once met. We are dissociated from the world we surround ourselves in. It is of no surprise we are lonely.
So, the current human condition is one that seems to be suffering incredibly. I see this in the number of people that look outward to find peace. We have pills for nearly all types of sadness – depression, bipolar, anxiety… We look for love on the internet, we drink and we watch movies about love but don’t create it in our lives… It does not seem like many people love themselves much. If you love something, you respect it. We are bombarded by celebrities and athletes that are skinny and muscular. These same celebrities promote the sale of food products that are filled with empty calories that are not healthy for us. Our food travels thousands of miles to get to our dinner table, and half the time we are too tired to even cook anything from scratch. We sign up for gym memberships, but drive our cars everywhere emitting fossil fuels. Those same fossil fuels are giving our children asthma, cancer, and many kinds of diseases. Many of us work at jobs where we do not reap the rewards of our labor. Many of us have no idea how the daily tasks we perform will impact others. Ironically, some of the unhappiest people I have met are incredibly wealthy. So many of us don’t enjoy our jobs. People spend their lives working to obtain green pieces of paper (also known as dead trees or money) and yet rarely have enough of it. It seems fairly dysfunctional.
I begin to wonder what has gone wrong, why people maintain jobs they dislike, why we place such high value on fiscal things but not our own happiness, and why we are so dissociated from our world. Many of these ideals and values are passed into us through our parents, media, politicians, or other forms of influence. Yet, I’ve met a number of poor people, even homeless, that are incredibly happy!
It is important for us to question the voices that preach the keys of success to us, because, as some have taught us before, “he who says he is enlightened, isn’t.” If money truly is the key we better make sure the guy that says so is truly happy before we heed his advice. And, if we live in accordance with our main goal as money… Well, we should make sure that we believe that is at the top of our list of priorities. I’m pretty sure that in the end money usually only gets us stuff. Some stuff we need, but a lot of it we don’t. And at some point we might find ourselves working jobs we abhor for stuff that we don’t really need anymore. It’s a practice of materialism – I call it spiritual pollution. The bible even mentions this, ”God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others.” Once we have what we need, we probably ought to labor for other needs in the world. Some rewards are greater than money. Seriously.
I have at this time come down to three main problems of the modern world to address: we do not create enough, we do not expend enough of our own energy, and we are not conscious of our surroundings. The writings here are not necessarily to answer or solve these problems, but to dissect them and think about these issues in our lives. Hopefully by exploring these issues you will find abundant ways to create & better satisfy your human experience.
When I write poetry, sing, help others, cook or play piano I find fulfillment greater than any other activities I engage in. The rewards are greater than sex, drugs, or other artificial highs and vices. I believe people have an inherent need to express themselves. Perhaps some are not competent at certain forms of creativity – but it is the expression of the inner self that is so important. When one creates, their product becomes a tangible cultural art of some type. Some people garden, others may build a car, or paint… I do not engage in all forms of creativity, but I can see around me those that are creating things are certainly more optimistic. I have met writers, singers, dancers, artists, carpenters, chefs, brewers, and even people that build wigwams. They all see the world in a unique light, and I believe this is due to the fact that they are creating what they want to. They are creating for themselves or those around them. They are expressing the inner self and conveying it to the external world. There is great reward in releasing the inner-self and sharing it with others. The act connects people and bonds them with their surroundings.
So what do I mean when I say that we do not expend enough of our own energy? Well, we drive everywhere, we buy frozen meals, use television and internet as forms of entertainment, and pay others to do our services. I do not really believe that the convenience factors of our lives lead us to happiness – especially when we are dealing with an obesity and depression epidemic. Granted, I have days where I heat up a frozen meal because I am exhausted from work… But I try as often as possible to cook my own meals because it is empowering.
If people were biking, running, walking to get to their destinations, they’d be burning their own calories and releasing natural endorphins. Furthermore, if we CREATED our own forms of entertainment, we would find personal gratification in the fact that we elevated the mood of others. When I play piano for a room of people, not only do I feel happy if they enjoy the performance, but they also feel a part of the experience. Some will feel they contributed to the energy of the creation somehow. It’s like, find your local musicians, artists, writers, and chefs. They want to meet you. A whole new meaning of thinking globally but acting locally.
Finally, when we pay others (tools & people) to do things for us – whether it is cook, clean, build, or anything else, we can’t at the completion of a project say “WOW look what I, MYSELF, just did!” If we utilize most of our energy on projects that we are not personally invested in, then we will not find comfort in the way we used our time. I know I wouldn’t want to spend hours working to help a car company or a factory farm because these are things that I am not interested in putting my time toward… Yet, for some reason, there are people that invest their lives into things they may not even care about or believe in (ethically, morally, religiously, and otherwise). Who would want to give their life to a project they do not care about when this life is theirs to execute? Money is not life, and if you’re unhappy and in this situation, realize it is never too late to make changes. If you don’t take control of your life, who is going to?
My grandest concern with spirituality is the lack of consciousness I see. I sometimes call it “text walking zombies.” Marshall McLuhan discussed this – it’s not the message it’s the means. It doesn’t matter what the TV, computer, or phone says or relates (the message)… What matters is that we are using the technology and it is interfering with the present moment. Yes, our cell phones are useful – I do not deny excessive usage of mine. But people will leave the present moment constantly when they have their phones with them. In the middle of a deep conversation, a few “beep beep beeps” can occur and all of a sudden that moment – it is gone, lost forever while the person texts their thoughts away into a blank screen. Though I use my phone often, I keep it on silent nearly always. Sometimes I leave it behind when I go on a walk or adventure, because it does not allow me to BE HERE NOW. This is a philosophy that indeed, is hard to maintain in the modern world.
There is not only a lack of consciousness in this manner, but in so many other ways as well. People are not paying attention to the needs of their bodies, homes, families, planet… I see this on television with shows about people that have disaster homes or bodies or families constantly. The television has become the modern-day circus. Many do not eat healthily, or expend their energy properly. Many are living in an alternate reality via television or internet, but do not know why their children are failing school, or why their husbands are angry, or why they are no longer inspired when they rise in the morning. In fact many don’t even greet the sunshine – a proven (and free) anti-depressant. We are not aware of our immediate world, but instead one we aren’t part of. They say technology is supposed to connect us, but it seems we are still unconnected to our surroundings and the people in our lives.
So what does this all mean? I believe it is quite simple, really. We need to create more. We need to do more. For ourselves, for others, for whatever passions we discover. I once met a person that said he had no passion in life. Though this was discouraging, I am convinced with the right people and experiences he will discover the passion he is meant to contribute his energy toward.
We need to DO. We need to be proactive with our lives. We cannot become cynics, or even apathetic, because indeed we must have hope to survive. If we don’t take the steps to make our journey OURS, well, then someone will dictate to us the steps we take. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up anywhere.” We should march to the beat of our own drum, not the hum of the buzzing computers or dollar signs. Those rhythms are not natural because they are external forces, and lack sufficient fulfillment for the soul. The greatest inspiration and motivation will come from within.
Don’t get me wrong, I know we have bills to pay, families to feed, and needs to meet… But at the end of the day we should devote as much time as possible to good actions. If you dislike your job, or feel it is negative for the world, try and get out of it, look for other opportunities, start your own business, lower the needs you may have… Get creative!
Essentially, find the things that make you happy and do them often. Make them involve the act of DOING something. Anything works. But devote your life to something that you believe is positive and good for the world. I met a guy that works at a factory, and he thinks the world needs more bracelets, so he makes them and sells them at art shows on the weekend to supplement his income. I met a woman that quit a corporate position to start an urban garden. I met a woman that used to be a medical photographer that now works for an environmental non-profit. There’s a lady that was unethically fired from her job and now advocates for worker’s rights.
It is possible, and never too late to start contributing to this world in a manner which you can be proud of.
It’s like St. Francis of Assisi said, so long ago, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Think about that.