“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver
I see Asheville as a medley of the real world that includes thriving communities participating in the big story of humanity — the good, the bad and the in-between. There is much going on in the local area that connects to the wider world. It’s a great place for democratic participation.
I demonstrate with the local Veterans for Peace and the Resist Raytheon groups, calling attention to “just peacemaking” and the military-industrial complex arms dealers. Many support us, but the more interesting conversations develop with those who take the time to give opposing, respectful opinions in opposition. If we converse long enough, we find points of agreement on the problems of our country.
On the downside: While demonstrating, we’ve received that “middle finger” from cars as they drive by. Wonder why? And at Pack Square, a young fella brushed between me and a woman, calling her an “ugly bitch.” She had a sign saying, “Wars kill children.” She’s a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Why would someone who doesn’t know us give us the “finger” or call a grandmother an “ugly bitch”? What experiences did they have in the schools they attended? What are their passions in life? Is this a sign that our educational system and our “way of life” are not preparing us to participate in the future of our country?
Spiritually, there are no Democrats, Republicans, white, Black, brown, rich, poor, liberal, conservative — whatever labels you use to divide and categorize the human species. Thus, we have the “Disunited States” facing the spiritual challenge of changing ourselves, becoming better informed, living more bravely and being honest and kind to each other.
We each have partial truths that inform our lives to fulfill our longing for a meaningful life. Your mind is not simply a vessel to be filled by politicians and conventional news, but a fire to be kindled — not to merely survive — but to thrive and transcend all political, religious, cultural and ethnic divisions. That’s freedom.
Imagine: What do you want to be like 50, 40 or 30 years from today? What will the world be like 60 years from nows? Do yourself a favor. Prepare yourself with a lifestyle of “lifelong learning” that will determine your retirement years. If you feel helpless, skeptical, suspicious and close-minded, your focus narrows. If you participate and are hopeful and trusting, your life expands and grows. Growth is an endless river, and lost time cannot be made up.
To tease your imagination, consider this: 70 years ago, facing the traumatic experience of getting my driver’s license, I had to learn how to “choke” the car to start it, sync the releasing of the clutch while shifting into first and stepping on the gas pedal so the car wouldn’t “buck like a horse.” Gas was 29 cents a gallon. What will the world be like when you retire?
We need our souls to be stirred to action that comes from a deep spiritual place beyond labels and mere complaining. Positive change must be social and spiritual because our problems go deeper than politics and cannot be imposed from above. It can only spread from person to person, friend to friend, family to family, and by conversing face to face with opposing views to find common ground and share each other’s partial truths.
You may feel helpless, but you are not alone. For example, the Earth Day demonstration by our local Resist Raytheon group connected to 31 states participating throughout the country. This, along with Earth Day demonstrations coordinated globally, included about 1 billion people in more than 193 countries.
Accept the challenge of “lifelong learning.” YouTube has a series that might trigger something in you: “Why Don’t They Teach This in Every School.”
We all face the challenges of death, illness, loss of relationships, grief and acts of injustice. How we respond can energize you. Take risks, explore, try new things, contemplate, listen, sing, dance, drum and connect to others. I struggle to find the words to express how lifelong learning will help you face the world with courage and intestinal fortitude. It’s up to you. Do what you can with what you have where you are. Practice lifelong learning, and as the neurotic and gifted TV detective Monk says, “You’ll thank me later.”
“I shall be saying with a sigh ages and ages hence. Many roads stretched out before me to the unknown future. And I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” — inspired by Robert Frost
Helpful resources that may trigger hope for the future:
• Seeking Aliveness, by Brian D. McLaren.
• Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart, by Diane Musho Hamilton, Gabriel Menegale Wilson and Kimberly Loh.
• The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, by Hanzi Freinacht.
• Eager to Love, by Franciscan author Richard Rohr.
• Revolutionary Love, by Rabbi Michael Lerner.
• Peace in the Age of Chaos, by entrepreneur Steve Killelea.
• The Ministry for the Future, a novel by Kim Stanley Robinson.
• Meditation for Starters book and CD set, from Amazon.
— Ed Sacco