Practice like your hair is on fire
I am currently in California. Many dharma friends are grappling with the febrile, turbulent and unpredictable post-election situation, and with the current #NODAPL situation at Standing Rock.
Many of us in this living generation, have lived with the highly unusual experience and expectation of peace, stability and prosperity as a societal norm. Almost all previous (and most current) humans have lived with one or more conditions of warfare, oppression, famine, disease pandemics, genocide, natural disasters and other phenomena that unremittingly demonstrate the fragility and the unreliability (Dukkha) of life.
Those who have known this luxury of a stable and prosperous society, of course, are mostly North Americans, Europeans and Australasians. We are also mostly white, cis-gendered and heterosexual, as people with different ethnicities, gender identities and sexual orientations are disproportionately affected by violence, oppression, poverty and prejudice.
It is an important contemplation to ask ourselves: How has my life experience conditioned my view of how I expect life to be? Dharma teachings remind us that being human is Dukkha, Anicca, Annata; Unsatisfying, unreliable, and impersonal.
Life has no guarantees. Health fails, relationships fail, and societies fail. Arctic scientists have this week shown how increasingly rapid ice melting risks triggering 19 tipping points that could have catastrophic consequences globally. Today’s New York Times cites new research on the decline and collapse of liberal democracies around the world.
Life is messy. Everything fails. We are called to train our minds and free our hearts and respond as wisely and kindly as possible to each other, moment by moment. We are called to stand up for wisdom and compassion. We are called to try and understand the fears and anger of those who disagree with us. We are called to be fierce in our love for and protection of people and planet. And we are called to remind ourselves that instability is a fact of life. That Greed, Hatred and Delusion have been the motors turning the wheel of Samsara forever.
Politics and climate both suggest difficult times ahead. Most of us reading this are currently enjoying the precarious blessings of a society not currently ravaged by war, or social collapse, or civil war, or lack of access to clean water, or martial law, or genocide, or daily bombing.
So practice friends. Practice ‘like your hair is on fire.’ We need the wise and the compassionate, the resilient and the caring, the good and the strong. Train your mind. Free your heart. Speak the truth. Listen to those who disagree with you. Struggle with the endless koan of how to best respond to this moment, this situation, this life. Right now. Like this.
May the force be with you.