There’s people I love who won’t engage with the many disasters plaguing the world. It is in no small part because they are comfortable, and can “block” these disasters from their personal life experience. They focus on living a pleasant enough life.
I worry that by the time the world’s disasters begin to touch them, it will be too late to act. Or perhaps that’s not right. Perhaps I don’t even worry, I just envy them.
I envy their nonchalant self-absorption. Like the women who apply fake tan. They actually do this. They spend money, time and energy applying fake tan because the sight of their pale skin is somewhat upsetting to them.
My mind boggles, and not just because my naturally tanned complexion renders fake-tanning unnecessary. And not because having a “tanned complexion” is synonymous with “not as worthy as those who apply fake tan”.
No, my mind boggles because I cannot imagine what it must be like to have such trivial concerns. To have so much disposable income and resources to act on something so… small, and so transitory, since fake tan must be reapplied constantly.
But that’s not fair. And it’s not accurate. I too have my trivial concerns, such as not running out of coffee. Or going out of my way to get hold of a copy of the latest installment in the “Fairyland” series. I too shake my fist at the sky and say “I’m a human being, how can I possibly live without these things?”. So yes, I wonder if my shallow concerns are on par with fake tanning.
Yet it’s true that there’s a certain “fragility” in being comfortable. In having life “work out” for you. I cannot help but wonder in what ways I am so comfortable that I haven’t questioned the system that delivers those comforts. How has life “worked out” for me, according to the mainstream narratives? I cannot tell.
One of the key teachings I learned from the book “Dark Nights of the Soul”, by Thomas Moore, is the idea that going through a dark night, and integrating it into our sense of self, gives our inner world “depth”, and that without this we stay “shallow”, and we obsess about trivial things.
When I first read it, I was in a “dark night” state myself, so I didn’t understand it. But now I’m beginning to see it everywhere, this obsession with the “trivial” by people who have undeveloped “depth”. People with safe secure jobs, and marriages, and households. They might fixate on “The Real Housewives of…” or “The Kardonians”. Or develop unhealthy preoccupations with their perfectly normal body weight. And of course, there is always OCD, addictions and phobias.
The answer to this is not to go through suffering, but to go through it and integrate it. I am one of those people who cannot shut away the suffering, so I’ve been left with no choice. It is stronger than me, and it is ruthless; it has shattered every notion I ever had about “how life is supposed to be”. I have been unable to escape it, time and again, so I’ve had to feel it, feel it until it’s done. This is why, in time, I have been able to shed nearly all my unhealthy preoccupations with the meaningless, for I too used to have some.
Ultimately what we are all craving is to feel part of the Universe’s Truth, to feel that our lives belong to a greater “whole”, that our existence is not meaningless and “accidental”. That it matters how we choose to live our lives, every day. Our obsessions and unhealthy fixations have a ritualistic quality, and if we opened our eyes and integrated them to the bigger “Whole”, we would be able to see that.
That woman applying fake tan? How does she know that this isn’t a subconscious ritual to become more grounded by taking on the appearance of Mother Earth? That other person obsessing about cleanliness, what if it’s a subconscious way to connect with the perfection of the divine, and feel closer to it in our everyday lives?
And me, with my coffee. I am well aware that coffee has qualities of “glamour”, sophistication, excitement, in essence “life”. It has a ritual aspect as well. I feel more “grown up” when I drink it, more capable of taking on the world. And all my dreams of becoming a prolific writer feature a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s not just a drink with caffeine in it.
I don’t know where the line lies between “being comfortable and asleep” and “being so uncomfortable that you are forced to stay awake”. I do know that there is a point past which more discomfort simply adds to the numbness. After that point our souls go dormant, they shut down, and we cannot possibly care about anything or anyone anymore, not even ourselves. I’ve been past that point many times. I don’t remember a specific moment when I crossed the line into it, nor when I crossed back. I think part of that numbness means leaves one unable to process what’s happening, or remember it afterwards.
I still wonder how the comfortable will cope. These people have known nothing but good times, who have never been forcibly awaken into the reality that the “system” is not working. Their lives have followed a “traditional” path, everything has gone the way it was supposed to. Sure, their lives aren’t “perfect”, but they are “correct”.
I look at these people and wonder “Oh God, how are these people going to convert to anarcho-primitivism?”. In other words, what will they do when the crisis comes? Make no mistake, these people will fight to uphold the status quo. They have too much to lose. Unlike me.
What is the answer, then? Wait until things get so bad that the comfortable grow desperate for change? Do we have that much time left?
I don’t have any answers.
But I know this: we must fight the system in our inner worlds. We must lose our attachment to “glamour” and the dulling comforts of Capitalism. We must stop running away from our frustration, our misery, our pain. This is the time to get good at feeling, when we are still comfortable enough to do the work, if we so choose, yet not so uncomfortable that we can’t think straight. This is the time to let our sorrows, no matter how small, awaken us to something Bigger.
This isn’t the time to reach for the easy and shallow.
It’s time to look for the sacred everywhere.