My website has just been beautifully re-vamped and I feel the urge to get back to blogging. Our chaotic and troubled times are influencing my thoughts and my work more and more, specifically environmental concerns. To me these concerns have become increasingly and clearly political—influenced by greed and ignorance.
America has always been the promise of a ‘Wonderland,’ unless you’ve been one of those ill-fated people to fall down a ‘rabbit hole’ by being eradicated, enslaved, exploited, denigrated or ignored.
I wonder if the citizens of Denmark or Iceland—considered to be some of the ‘happiest’ people in the world, think of themselves as residents of the greatest country or being the best people in the world. I rather suspect that they just go about the business of living and valuing civility above capital gain or the need to aggrandize themselves by designating each other as less than important, deserving or in fact, less human.
These thoughts came to me as I was waking up the other morning, perhaps influenced by the preponderance of suicides in America, whether by celebrities or misguided, self-pitying souls who feel the urgent need to project their own anger and pain—taking massive numbers of their fellow citizens with them as they take their own lives by gunfire or by other violent means. The media finds its audience by perpetuating all kinds of theories about the ‘why’ of these acts. But, that ‘why’ always addresses the means or the possibility of mental defect. But, it is not at all surprising to me that so many people today are so confused, unhappy or disappointed inside their heads and with the lives they lead.
When I hear about a celebrity who has died by his/her own hand or by an accidental overdose of drugs, I am reminded of a line from Shakespeare: “All that glitters is not gold” [Merchant of Venice]. In other words what we may perceive is not always or even usually what goes on behind one’s façade. And of course, in America façade can be everything.
I think the real problem centers around EXPECTATION. As Americans we are told from the cradle that WE are the ‘greatest’ and that all dreams are attainable—in other words—the illusion of Wonderland. It is fundamentally inevitable that living up to these National myths and/or by allowing our personal worth to be determined by receiving enough social media endorsements, can only lead to individual frustration and unhappiness. There is a serious lack of face-to-face true connection at play in our society as well. Many of us feel alone or disregarded.
The Dalai Lama reveals how anger arises from a troubled mind:
“Feelings of anger and hatred arise from a mind that is troubled by dissatisfaction and discontent. So you can prepare ahead of time by constantly working toward building inner contentment and cultivating kindness and compassion. This brings about a certain calmness of mind that can help prevent anger from arising in the first place. And then when a situation does arise that makes you angry, you should directly confront your anger and analyze it. Investigate what factors have given rise to that particular instance of anger or hatred. Then, analyze further, seeing whether it is an appropriate response and especially whether it is constructive or destructive. And you make an effort to exert a certain inner discipline and restraint, actively combating it by applying the antidotes: counteracting these negative emotions with thoughts of patience and tolerance.”
Having spent three years creating my book “eclectic COFFEE Spots in Puget Sound”—I learned much about the origin of coffeehouses. Maybe it’s a good idea to return to the original concept of the coffeehouse which was ‘…. a special gathering place for people to share thoughts and conversation……These coffeehouses were known as Penny Universities (in London), since two- pence could buy one cup of coffee, as well as access to intellectual exchange, literary expression and news of the day. ….In our increasingly fast-paced world of electronics, hyperactivity, and constant change, gathering with friends, even coffeehouse strangers, perhaps fulfills our deep-seated desire for community.’ [MG]
Perhaps, following the lead of the Danes (and others) by developing a sense of inner peace and greater consciousness as well as feeding that desire for community might enable us to live more cooperatively, respectfully and hopefully—more peacefully with ourselves, with our fellow Americans, refugees and with our fragile planet.