Becoming Warriors of Presence

William Butler Yeats wrote over a century ago, in the wake of the First World War,

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…

 

We easily feel this today. One minute, I look outside my house and see an apple tree greening with spring and hear a raven’s raucous call. The next a car horn. Then, faintly, an NPR report of a bombed Mariupol, and of a GOP Congresswoman repeating Russian disinformation.

 

Which way does my mind turn? Do I relax into the calm beauty the tree and natural universe provides in this moment? Or do I get ready to battle those aiming to rip the constitutional rights and protections from my limbs and claim them all for themselves? Or who threaten to deny us the very air we need to breathe because we are not able or willing to pay their price?

 

How do we know what future will be revealed? We don’t. But we know the price we’ll pay for doing nothing is unpayable.

 

We all want an enjoyable life. One that satisfies. Maybe one with meaning. That makes the world a little better. But when the natural world itself or the sustainability of the climate is threatened⎼ and the human world is degrading so fast it’s impossible to have any idea what will happen tomorrow or if anything caring, humane, and democratic will be left for us⎼ how do we not burn out or give up? How do we live day to day without degenerating into a blubbering mass, knowing we must act but not knowing what it is we can do?

 

David Loy, Buddhist philosopher, eco-activist and author gave a talk on Friday, April 29th. He spoke about a fellow Buddhist, from Boulder, CO, Wynn Bruce, who had immolated himself on the Supreme Court steps on Earth Day, one week earlier. Wynn’s father said he did it out of concern for our world and the lack of determined action by our political system to save it.

 

Loy quoted philosopher Noam Chomsky saying, “the world is at the most dangerous moment in human history.” How do we face this? Wynn Bruce acted. But his act was so painful and terrifying. Not the most skillful of actions to take, said Loy. But Wynn’s concern, his fear is in all of us who look and see the climate emergency that is occurring.

 

Loy went on to share author, eco-activist Joanna Macy’s piece on the Tibetan legend of a Shambhala Warrior. “There comes a time,” she recounts, “when all lives on earth are in danger.” Barbarian powers use unfathomable technologies to lay waste the world. To remove these weapons, the warriors must show great moral and physical courage, and go forth to the very heart of barbarian power. (Putin? The GOP who plotted Jan 6?)

 

But since the weapons are made by mind, the way to fight them involves mind. Our strongest weapons, she says, are compassion and insight, heart, and knowledge.

 

It seems right now that we can’t look, and we can’t look away. But maybe we’ve got it wrong. Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions….

 

**To read the whole article, go to The Good Men Project.

 

The Myth of Today: The Call Is Not to Enter the Dark Forest by Ourselves, But, by Ourselves, to Call Others

I’m sitting here, feeling my hands on the keyboard, noticing my breath is a little short and jumpy.  Anxious. Worried. A dark curtain is hanging out behind my right ear. And I notice a desire to do something to part that curtain; to change the situation of our world today, or at least bring some calm to myself, so the anxiety will explode into bits of nothing, or into the past to be studied like ancient history. So, I can feel the joy that deeply wants to be felt.

 

A friend calls on the phone. I take a deep breath and we talk, which lifts me out of the anxiety. A little mindfulness and the voice of friendship can do that. We all need that voice.

 

So much is changing. So much is threatened. And it’s difficult to see how we can influence a change for the better. But just as the voice of a friend helped lift me out of the grip of anxiety, joining with others, and feeling the yearning and the need to act, together, does the same. There might be fear there, that is true. But also light, hope. A sense of the future emerges, that there can be a future. That there can be joy and love in the future.

 

This is one way we dissolve anxiety. We see that it’s there, name it, and then do something to alleviate it. Worrying can deprive us of ourselves. Learning, planning, acting can give us the strength we need, so we feel we have strength and power. It is a kindness that we give ourselves, and kindness is so needed to change the world. Kindness to ourselves and others helps us part that curtain so we can see ourselves more clearly, with more perspective.

 

And getting a larger perspective is a second thing we can do. We can do that partly by taking walks in nature, studying mind-body disciplines like martial arts, yoga, and meditation, reading history, politics, science, literature, humor, etc.

 

I remember reading Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a powerful book to read and share with students and friends. It can open doors to widely divergent works of literature and religion that otherwise might be closed, such as the story of the Buddha to Bilbo Baggins. From Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo to Gilgamesh, the hero of the first story ever written. From Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz to Star Wars and Close Encounters.

 

Campbell’s book explicates the hero cycle, a pattern that heroic characters have possibly followed in their path to enlightenment, redemption, or saving lives. One part of that path is The Call to Adventure. The movie Star Wars begins with Luke Skywalker living with his aunt and uncle. He is enveloped in his normal world, knowing nothing of who he is and feeling distant from the battle taking place in the universe around him. He is asked by Obi Wan Kenobi to join in the quest to rescue Princess Leia. He refuses. At first.

 

Then he goes home to find it, and his aunt and uncle, burned. The struggle has become personal, and he is ready to heed the call. George Lucas used the hero cycle quite very deliberately in creating the movie….

 

**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

***Photo is the Lion Gate of Mycenae, Greece.