Problems and Solutions

I’ve often heard the admonition;
“If you’re not part of the solution,
then you’re part of the problem.”
A bit arrogant, I’ve always thought.
As if the origins of the problem
were completely understood,
and the solutions were painfully obvious
to all right-minded people.
Trouble is, the patterns from which the problems
were slowly woven in the heedless dark,
are the same patterns to which we turn
to craft our bright solutions.

We will never find our way out until we step out;
of paradigms long past their expiration dates;
of assumptions that no longer hold;
of a culture war that has no end;
and of the belief that we can fix this.

(With apologies to the immortal Rumi.)
Beyond diversions and distractions;
beyond capitalism and religion;
beyond materialism and fear;
beyond complexity and confusion;
beyond blame and anger;
and beyond all need for self-protection
lies a field of simple living,
where the Unseen becomes the Seen.
Let’s meet each other there.

Perhaps we will become the solution
when we step out of the problem.

Survival or Self-Sacrifice

Apocalyptic times stir survival instincts.
A thick smoke blanket greets me every morning
and my first impulse is often, “Where can I be safe?”
There are survivalists around, up here in Siskiyou County,
but their stockpiled food and automatic weapons
will not slow an instant Nature’s cleansing power.
A mind bent on survival does not see beyond
the compulsion of the moment.
Options narrow into a corridor of self-protection,
and the essence of the human soul is lost.
and the answer to my question becomes, “Nowhere.”

The day unfolds, however;
and my thoughts begin to clear.
I find a calmness settling in.
Apocalyptic times do stir survival thoughts,
but deeper still they stir essential questions.
If all that we have known is falling,
how shall we respond?
Anger, despair, blame and frantic efforts to survive?
Or kindness, sacrifice, a willingness to stop clinging
to what once was, and step into the storm, aware,
of what is coming, and nonetheless keep speaking,
serving, saying what we have to say, loving what is ours to love
and binding up what wounds we can.
Perhaps to lay one small foundation stone
for what may be built in centuries to come.

“These are times that try men’s souls” for sure,
but souls are made of substantial stuff,
designed to come alive in just such times as these.

Along this theme I offer two compelling songs by two powerful women i encountered years ago whose songs I now return to for strength and encouragement.

Emigrate Within

To emigrate is to leave one’s current country
in search of a new land to call one’s home.
It is a painful, but often necessary, action.
It has been taken by peoples throughout history.
Sometimes it is a willing step into adventure.
Other times it is the last and final choice.
It is done, at times, in desperation.
At other times it is arises from a deep conviction.

The country that has been called by me, “my home,”
has reached a point of no return.
Were I younger, I would not hesitate
to join the honorable ranks of emigrants.
I would seek a simpler and less “prosperous” place.
I would learn a language not my native tongue.
I would find community in people bonded
by a love of ordinary life together,
of quiet pleasures and lots of earthy laughter.
It would not be perfect, not at all,
but it would be my way of stepping off
the plank that hovers over the abyss.

I am to old for that, I fear,
but not too old to be an inner emigrant.
There is a place within, a homeland waiting
that is guided by different ways and rules,
by assumptions that are congruent
with the heart’s authentic beats.
It is not an easy journey
and you can’t take much stuff with you.
Most of what you think you need
will have to lay beside the road.
You’ll need empty hands and spacious hearts
to learn to live anew, but it has been done before
by countless thousands of wandering seeking souls.
It can be done again.

Whether you’re young or old, my friend,
make your plans to leave.
Find the place you know your heart desires.
Emigrate within and find it waiting for you.
Don’t hesitate. There’s not much time.
Your life depends upon it.