Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Shout Out to the Things I Care About

Earlier this year I had a mini revelation.

I have for a while had unease with the story of the good life that I had come to take on.   That story says that we Find The Problem With The World, then dedicate our life to the odyssey of that problem (Our Passion), and in the end find The Solution (thusly Saving The World, and of course being The Hero of The World, not that we'd ever admit it out loud).

I knew this story was counter-productive, but I didn't know what else I was supposed to do if I wasn't trying to understand The Problem and find The Solution.

I found an alternative in Meg Wheatley: we should strive to keep connected to what we care about.

Like so many revelations, I didn't know at the time whether it would be of any use.  It clicked a puzzle piece in a satisfying 'aha' moment (inspiring this blog post), but I couldn't say whether it would lead to anything.

In the months since I have been sitting with this alternative intent, to see where it takes me.

The first thing I realised is that I care about a bunch of things which are not The Problem (or what I might say at a networking event is My Passion).

At the time I was infatuated with my new nephew.  I was having dreams about him for goodness' sake!

I also realised how much I appreciated my new nephew as an opportunity to spend time with my sister... something which, if I'm honest, hadn't happened that much since we were mere bubs ourselves.  We always* got along fine, but never had too much to do together.

I realised how I didn't just 'like' parkour and my movement practices, but that these are really important and fulfilling for me.  I, likewise, have been known to have parkour dreams.  (Cat passes like you wouldn't believe!)

It took no realising to be aware of the obvious subject of my affection, my wonderful Michelle.  It goes without saying— though today, on our two and a half year anniversary, it can't hurt to note the obvious. (xx)

Which leads me to the second thing I realised about what I care about... which is that caring about all of these things is okay.

The World Saving Hero complex is a total stress.  When your life story is the Saviour of the Earth, you ain't got no time for that.  There are not enough hours in the day to be Mr (or Mrs) Fix It, let alone trying to be all of these other things as well.  There is not enough space in your attention to be anything other than the Savior; dedicated, committed, focused (neurotic?).  There is not enough warmth in your heart to be anything other than the bleeding heart on the cross of humanity.

It is pretty clear that if I'm going to Save the World, there is actually no room for any of the things in my life that I care about.  Every one of those things, from the people I love, to the food that sustains me and the movement that nourishes me — each of these things is an obstacle in my Hero Journey.  I must either discard them, or live with them as festering welts of resentment and guilt — compromises hidden within the footnotes of the story that I tell about myself.

The life of the hero is broken.  If we start to think that we must fulfill such lofty ambitions, we invite the pathology of losing touch with the things we care about.  If we lock ourselves into the story of Our Self, The Saviour, we are committing the fatal falseness of turning our backs on the truth of our being.

But when you let go of the pretense of heroism... all of these other things we care about become okay.

It is part of our fundamental humanity (our fundamental existence as an organism), that we are not uni-functional machines.  We are not mere cogs in the machine of salvation... but rather rich expressions of life.  We mean many things to many other people, and serve many other functions to many other beings.  We are one of innumerable subjects in the vast web of creation.

In the new story of self, the story of life —a story which reflects back onto us the reality of the living universe we see around us— we need not find the Problem nor the Solution.  Our role is to integrate the diverse and complex feedback which we receive from the world (which includes from within ourselves— not that it is possible to make a distinction), to trust in the whole-body intelligence agent that is our human being, to embrace its functioning and to embrace the truth of those things it tells us is important — the things we care about.

And if we care about different things... well that's okay.

Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then I contract myself;
I am large, I contain multitudes.
—Walt Whitman

That's what it means to be alive.

The world is an abundant richness of life.  We are not machines in the hero story of salvation, but living beings, emanations of the wonder of the universe.  The fullest possible expression of our being only comes in communion of our diversity.

So I accept now that caring is okay.  May I embrace my multitudes.  May I continue to live a full life, a fitting mirror of the abundance of creation, in communion with the innumerable things that I care about.

May you do so too.

// This post is my 'plus one' post of the #31Thousand project