Yesterday I wrote about the debate between allowing capitalism to solve the mess we’re in or needing to change the system entirely. Today, I want to explore the idea that perhaps it’s not an either/or question.
Gey klop kop af vant. Go bang your head against the wall, is one phrase that encompasses the counter intuitive idea that instead of doing something to get away from a painful or difficult experience (or even from boredom), it’s better to revel in the experience. Perhaps the same could be said of the climate/ ecological emergency: instead of attempting to solve the problem, to develop a set of strategies to get us out of the mess we’re in, perhaps we need to really experience the mess, lie down with the lions and the lambs, with the blood legacy, with the beating of our own dissatisfied heart.
Not far from this is the idea of ‘just sitting’, or zazen. Instead of the rush to do something about a situation, simply being with it as it is can reveal much about the core of the issue, its emerging properties, its nuances, just as it can reveal much about oneself as observer.
Now, of course, many people will respond that this approach is hardly going to change the CO2 emissions, that we must fight for right and rights, that sitting on a sinking ship is quietism taken to extremes. But the fact is that being calm in a crisis is actually often the very best thing we can offer, and being calm, like everything else worthwhile, is both a practice, and an attitude.
The idea that we are somehow able to control the situation we are in with our minds, or wills, or egos, defies logic. Nietzsche and Dogen both taught that we are entirely enmeshed in the flesh and blood and bones of being, that we cannot see or experience as pure minds or reason because it is to the circumstances of the body that we are in thrall. The brain is an energy balancing construct (justifying its own existence by its ability to accord attention to where it’s needed most, but being distracted by the myriad opportunities to avoid the task when instances titillate it with short bursts of the pleasure hormones). Daoist thought, too, accepts that we’re a mere stone’s throw from water, and that we do best to let the flow of our existence take place without succumbing to the temptation of feeding the illusion of our own control.