Courage, and Ripple
We have been given the chance to return our senses to the gradual and unhurried pace at which life itself moves. Our modern ideal of break-neck, fire-wire, ultra-high speed bit rate productivity has been interrupted by the forces of nature upon which all life depends. The same forces that gave rise to atomic forces, gave rise to the presence of biological life, and with it viruses. As much as some enjoy laying blame and pointing fingers through space and time, the real implications and consequences of our instant gratification culture is that most people feel alienated, isolated, lonely, and full of existential dread, or worse, despair. In the tenderness of the present moment our compassion is paramount, where most people are assumed to be "non-essential" or are being asked to give more and more of their health and well-being without just consideration or compensation. Infirmed or healthy, aged or youthful, human or not we are all inhabiting the same world.
Like stones breaking the surface of calm water, no matter their size, every action we make has an impact. Our actions need not be grandiose or broadcast on all social networks in order for us to recognize their impact. Anything and everything we do is reflected back to us in ways that we aware of or not. Any means that we have to strengthen and deepen our awareness allows us to become more sensitive to the place from which our actions arise, the thoughts and feelings we experience as they transpire, and the consequences and impact once they begin to radiate outwards from within us. The principles at work that make cause and effect an axiom of existence are bound up in nature itself, but our reactions, beliefs, interpretations, and motivations are often a product of how we are nurtured. We may not have much influence over the forces of nature, but we are in a prime position to alter the character and quality of how we are nurtured.
How we orient to our world, and what arises within the span of our life has as much to do with chance as it does with the conditions we are already fostering within us. For example, being asked on a global scale to relegate our lives to our own living spaces was the product the chance occurrence of a zoonotic virus. Our personal and collective responses to such an occurrence are to a large degree determined by our conditions; some folks cannot effectively maintain social distancing because of the nature of their living conditions and livelihoods (i.e. highly dense populations and poverty). The conditions of how we experience this world are not entirely a product of personal choice, but are a product of collective actions and decisions over large spans of time. We enjoy airplanes and internet not because we each choose to create them individually, but because wise and creative people chose to spread and invest in using them. We either benefit or are impoverished by the heritage of the world that came before us. The greatest contribution to the future we can make individually, and therefore collectively, is to cultivate and spread a culture of equity, generosity, and compassion. Operating with a lived sense of dignity, integrity, and honesty (of our own fallibility and vulnerability) is a great inheritance we can leave to the world's future. We have inherited a dominant culture that has become hegemonic, strives for homogeneity, values individuality and separateness, and rewards inhuman and inhumane levels of "productivity." A very few number of people have greatly profited from the current system at the expense of the many. Nature has shown us clearly with this virus that our current concepts of nurture are flimsy and collapse easily. We are being offered a chance to look deeper and truly nurture ourselves.
The place from which our actions arise are often a mystery to us, but in many cases we can trace back their impetus to promoting or maintaining some form of self-identification that is rooted in a deep sense of separateness. The following dialogue with Sri Nisargadatta illustrates beautifully:
Questioner: In your daily life are you always conscious of your real state?
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: Neither conscious, nor unconscious. I do not need convictions. I live on courage. Courage is my essence, which is love of life. I am free of memories and anticipations, unconcerned with what I am and what I am not. I am not addicted to self-descriptions, soham and brahmasmi ('I am He', 'I am the Supreme') are of no use to me, I have the courage to be as nothing and to see the world as it is: nothing. It sounds simple, just try it!
Questioner: But what gives you courage?
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: How perverted are your views! Need courage be given? Your question implies that anxiety is the normal state and courage is abnormal. It is the other way round. Anxiety and hope are born of imagination -- I am free of both. I am simple being and I need nothing to rest on.
Liberating ourselves from self-inflicted bondage is at the heart of spiritual practice. It is though a drop of water remembers itself as belonging to the ocean. For now, we may not know or understand what the future holds for us, but we must root ourselves in the courage that allows us to continue to exist and thrive. It reminds me of the song by DC artists, Ripple, "I Don't Know What It Is But It Sure Is Funky."