We all know we’re living through one of the craziest, most dangerous times in recent or maybe all of human history. I keep asking myself, what am I missing? What more could I do? Where is it all going?
We understand mostly by placing one moment in the context of time and memory, by discerning implications and possible futures. But so many of the possible futures being predicted by the news, social and intellectual media are too dismal to consciously consider. Maybe we can help change the future we are seeing by changing how we think about the present we are living.
I am drawn here to a book I mentioned in an earlier blog, The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers, by Eric Weiner, and his chapters on two philosophers not often paired together: Simone Weil and Mahatma Gandhi.
The chapter on Simone Weil is about “How to Pay Attention.” Our culture is hooked on speed⎼ and speed, according to Weil, is the enemy of attention, careful consideration, and even joy. Due to the speedy pace of our lives, we can lose so much. We can get caught in, addicted to this repeating cycle, speeding up to catch what is speeding by. And what makes this even worse is the pandemic, added to the injustices, lies, shocks and constant chaos manipulated by DJT and his allies to undermine our sense of stability and our belief in democracy.
Desiring is not the problem. The problem with desire is that we can lose ourselves in it, lose even the object we desire in the desiring itself. It robs our attention. A heroin addict doesn’t crave heroin, Weil argues, but the experience of having it. Even more then heroin, the addict craves the relief of the mental and physical agony of not having it. Buddhist teacher, author, philosopher David Loy explained that desire, craving can cause us to feel we are lacking, wrong, powerless, or deficient.
The Latin roots of patient are suffering and endurance. When we are more patient, we feel stronger, more in control. We can endure even suffering, and find ourselves happier, clearer in mind, calmer in heart. We can be present in the moment, and thus feel more open to what might come.
And then we pay better attention to what or who happens. Weil shows us that inattention is in fact selfishness. When impatient, we reduce others to what we can get from them. When patient, others are fellow travelers who teach us about our own journey.
When impatient, we focus on the fruits and yoke action to results. When patient, we make progress even if there are no visible fruits.
And how do we fight, now, for our rights, our freedom, and our world?
Gandhi was the father of the movement to free India from British rule and establish an independent nation. He believed he must try to root out the disease of oppression even if it meant suffering hardship himself….
*To read the whole article, click on this link to The Good Men Project.