In his blog post “Exercising Your Will“, John Beckett has a very thought provoking response to another blogger’s post. However, its not John’s response that I am going to try and tackle here – nor is this a response to the other blogger’s post something I am trying to tackle here. Its the very last part of John’s blog that has got me thinking – and essentially, writing here.
But if our beliefs mean something, if our experiences of the Gods are more than a pleasant interaction of brain chemistry, then we have a calling to manifest the kind of world we say we value.
What kind of world do you value?
What do your beliefs tell you to do?
What will you do to strengthen your will?
This is where my brain has taken me today. As well as yesterday. And probably tomorrow. And the day after that. Trying to answer these three questions will likely take all of that and more. Because it is that BIG.
What kind of world do I value? Well, there’s bits and pieces of what I value – all around me in the world today. And there are things that I have no value for at all, which have become larger and larger as the years continue to move by me. While I am not a fan of the political aspect that my own country has been over-whelmed with since the latter part of the Clinton administration – its not really the politics I have an issue with. Its the extreme divisions that I encounter between the politically right and left.
Shortly after I graduated from high school – thirty years ago – my wide-eyed, naive self saw a world that was opened up for those willing to work. No one worried about whether you were a progressive in your politics or how you voted. If you were willing to put in the work – you had a chance to move within the company. You made progress according to your merit. That still holds true to some degree nowadays, except that the first chance is rarely given to those who perceived of as “one of those people”. If you dare to declare an opinion of one shape or another – you are automatically lumped into one group or another. I cannot count the number of times I have been sneered at with derision over my statements that President Obama was an “ok” President. The feeling of anger that propelled those statements along was palpable. Nor can I count the number of times that I found myself staring at the backsides of people I consider to be friends, when I tried to explain the simple business principles that large corporations utilized to make decisions that were unpopular. Suddenly, I was part of the “System” or “one with the Man” – all because I was trying to explain a simple business principle. I wasn’t trying to pick a side on the issue – merely trying to add factual information to the narrative.
John’s query is a simple one – what kind of a world do I value? How about a world where communication – simple, honest, and open communication is a primary part of everything? Where people actually listen, and try to understand the other side of the discussion before firing retorts back? A world where discussions can be held without either side resorting to personal insults…again, where communication – REAL communication – is not only desired, but sought out amongst the participants.
I know that all sounds like pie in the sky stuff…and I honestly believe it is too. But I can dream, can’t I? And while I am at it – how about a few more things? I understand the need for profit margins, but when profit margins are over 25% – its the consumer that suffers. Why not have prices where companies make a decent profit margin – 15% – and keep the prices low enough for many families to be able to purchase goods? How about goods that aren’t all artificially sweetened? Or cooked in oils that make it unhealthy to eat? Yes, I understand the addictive nature of fast food. Been there, trying to kick the habit.
And then there’s the new religion of Consumerism. Or, keeping up with the Jones, if you want to go back a little further in time for another version of that catch-phrase. Up until the mid-1980s, we saved money…we lived in a recession, and learned to get by. We learned to grow gardens. We learned to share garden produce with neighbors so we could add variety to our diets. My family did that when I was younger. I am already trying my own hand at backyard farming.
John’s question of what kind of world do I value? A world where we communicate, where we disagree without hurling personal insults…a world where we understand that every person in the community has a voice, and is allowed to raise it.
John’s second question – what do my beliefs tell me to do? My beliefs tell me to stand my ground. To lead by example. Truth be told, I am a lousy follower – I wander far and wide from the trail, because I am curious. I want to know what’s on the other side of the tree-line there. I want to see what’s on the other side of the meadow. I want to know. I write this blog – I do my podcast….not for any “glory and fame”. Shit, if I wanted that – I would advertise the existence of both a whole lot more than I currently do and more than I have in the past six-plus years. I do the podcast and write this blog, so that others can read how I approached a subject. I don’t expect anyone to do exactly the same thing that I do – but perhaps something here or something there – a word, a statement, a picture – will spark something in their own manner of thinking, and help them solve or resolve a problem or issue that they were working with. And hopeful that helps them step further along their Path and allow them to see the world anew. At least that’s my hope. My beliefs tell me that this type of action works. My cynical heart says that’s not completely true. I try very hard not to listen to my heart on such matters.
Which dovetails into John’s last question. What will I do strengthen my Will? Honestly, the answer to this question changes constantly. There are days that I feel like the world has truly beaten me down. That one more step forward is not possible. There are times that I feel very, very old. I’m only 48 (nearly 49). And yet there are days like I feel like I am 85 with a 100-ton block laying on top of me. And then there are days I come across folks looking for advice and help. Some are new to the Path – and I see the excitement in their eyes, read in the words that they write…and I remember when I was there. When I was taking my first steps. How excited I was to discover something that I could relate to on a Spiritual level. And I am reminded how learning never stops. When you are tired, you sit down and rest. Afterwards, you stand up and continue on your Path. And I continue my journey…
The same can be said for the world around me. I watch the angry retorts in online discussions. I hear it in the hallways of the college, as the students stretch their thoughts into political areas for discussion. And I remind myself – I don’t need to join in with that same anger, that same bitterness. I make my statement, repeat it a second time if necessary, and step away if there is no change in the pattern I am perceiving. Lead by example, even when there may be very few who hear or see that example. Because, as I said previously in this blog – you never know who will be watching. You never know who will receive the message from that example. How do I strengthen my Will? By living my life as I should. By honoring my ancestors who walked this Path before me – both blood-related, and those that are related by tradition, and/or place. By not adding fuel to the fires of anger, bitterness, and political retort. By standing up when I need to, and recognizing when I need to sit down and rest, as well.