I’m sort of on a roll here with the denial theme–I think I’ll turn it into a bit of an on-going series, so look for other posts under the category “Perilous Denial”. Today is just a fairly random thought-spill on the whole topic, and a release for me on stuff I’ve seen that has reduced the esteem of the human species somewhat for me. Today is one of those days where I genuinely feel disheartened by the human condition, and I just start to wonder if it’s all worth it, and if I can’t make a difference, even a small one, why keep trying?
I think it started the other day with a video a friend of mine posted on Facebook that graphically depicted the absolutely horrific abuse of animals in the fur trade in China–a country that now supplies the majority of the fur that is used in the world. I watched as people blithely skinned helpless animals while they were still alive and writhing and screaming in pain, toss crates of helpless and frightened creatures 20 feet down off of trucks onto hard concrete floors. I saw the scared look of a house cat (yes, they take people’s pets and turn them into fur trim) as it peered out of one of these crates. Afterward, I went and picked up my own cat and hugged her so tight I think she thought I was mad at her and started squeaking. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting harm to come to her. I couldn’t fathom how the people in this video could do what they did and seem so completely detached.
This morning while I was volunteering at an outreach breakfast we serve where I work, I saw a man sucker-punch another guy out on the street out front, for seemingly no reason at all. The perpetrator has a history of violence, yet always comes forward with his hands out, all too contrite when he needs or wants something. Another man got belligerent with me when I asked him to move on as he was getting ready to shoot up some heroin. I’m just as soon going to get him to quit his habit as fly to the moon tomorrow, but I always ask that they respect my space and take their habit somewhere else. I know there are forces at work on the street that make people this way, but still, I wonder–what difference are we making? Why do we keep trying? Do we make a difference?
What we as a species do to this planet and the creatures we share it with is absolutely reprehensible and unforgivable. What we do to each other (and ourselves) is unconscionable as well. Have we become so driven by greed and self-interest that we don’t give a shit about anything or anyone else? Are we redeemable as a species? What the hell is wrong with us?
Now, in Christian Science, I would be home right now denying this reality. There’s no violence in God’s kingdom, after all! I can almost hear a practitioner say, “you’re just not seeing what’s really there.” Bullshit! Animals are suffering, people are beating each other up over drug deals gone bad, then going off to shoot up in the alley below my office window. We rape the land for the last drops of oil to feed our frenzy of exploitation, not caring what we do to the environment.
I used to take comfort in denying that this was all real, but that does absolutely NOTHING to solve the problem. No, I can’t solve all of the problems of the world. Neither I nor anyone else can save the world and everybody in it. The folks out on the street, shooting up, beating each other up have to make the decision to save themselves–I can only help them when they’re ready. I have to accept them where they are right here, right now, or I can do nothing to help them. Denying the reality of their condition is disrespectful at the very least, and dangerous at the very worst. I could never deal with the job and the volunteering I do now if I was a Christian Scientist. If I told an addict, “your condition, the trauma you’ve suffered, is just an illusion of mortal mind,” he’d laugh in my face and tell me to go “fuck myself”, and my colleagues would wonder what drugs I was doing.
This world is an imperfect place. Some days, like today, it gets to me. But, like dealing with grief, as I have discussed in a previous post, I “lean into it”, and experience and deal with the frustration. I don’t deny it and sweep it under the rug of “unreality”. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to deal with these things, but they need to be dealt with. They need to be processed. Otherwise, it just builds up over time, like the soot in a chimney, and if it isn’t cleaned out (processed), it catches fire. Today, writing this post is my way of “leaning into it” and processing it. Other times, I talk it out with friends, or just meditate by myself out on a hike or ride out in the woods. Today, it might be all of the above. Whatever I do, now I start with acceptance, not denial.