When Pride Meets Our Despairing…
Just by walking into a room, you can change the world.
I believe this, and have experienced it. We affect one another. Every day, we cause subtle or large alterations in the fabric of reality. Sometimes, though, we forget our ability to shift the energies around us by our actions, by our attitudes, by our words. We forget that some people have a sheer presence they’ve built up through years of practicing being fully who they are, and that standing next to them helps us be who we are, too. We forget that this is how change happens: in the conversation that changes the course of a person’s life work; in the gift that makes the difference between hunger and fullness, hope and despair; in just being, and giving another permission to be.
This week, these thoughts are present with me as I approach the meditation bench. This week, I keep working and practicing, and yet, this week has also been tinged with a sense of despair. Despair because some denizens of this gorgeous continent I live upon have seen fit to pump fists in seizures of American Triumphalism, they have seen fit to rejoice in killing. It isn’t that I cannot wrap my mind around people who have felt afraid, or hurt, or in deep sorrow, feeling some sense of relief that the person they feel was the source of this pain is gone. It is the jubilance that jars me so, and a sense that some of us wish to slide back into an attitude of “America on Top” when our empire has failed us, and failed the world. No, I’m not saying that everything we’ve done is wrong. Empires always fall because things change. Empires and upstarts both contribute good and ill to this planet, just like everyone and everything else. I do harm. You do harm. The finches and cats in my yard do harm. We hopefully try to reduce the harm we do.
This week’s coming and going of despair arose from wondering if humanity actually has the possibility to change, and wondering therefore if my work in the world is worth it, and whether or not it has any effect. In other words, I inflated my own importance in the cosmosphere, and forgot the role I do play. This is something I’ve taught over and over to others: we do what we can, where we can. This week was my time for the lesson.
In running the Iron Pentacle this morning, in tuning in to the energy flow between Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion, I noticed that Pride felt like a bit of a cypher. In thinking that my work has to affect the world all at once, or even the people of one continent, and in entertaining even for one moment my escape fantasies – about going back to work full time at the soup kitchen, or selling shoes, or something that felt like it had a simpler, more tangible effect – I forgot that my place is here. Now. And that yes, I expend way too much jet fuel and need to work on cutting back. And yes, thank the Gods my students and clients come to me for my strengths and skills and put up with my weaknesses and the things I have yet to, and may never, learn. I do the same with my teachers. We do this for each other, and together we hold up and make the world.
My definition of pride is “Knowing your place in the world.” I forgot my place, off and on this week, or at least parts of my soul did. My God Soul is a constant, a beacon of centering and expansion. But these other parts struggled, in their despairing of humanity, and sometimes failed to remember that we each do the best we each can do, and try to affect the world immediately around us. This ripples out. Some of us act on a bigger stage, like the folks who work for Greenpeace or Medicines san Frontier. And yet, reality is, each person in those organizations have to do well or ill each day just like the rest of us. They too, have to settle for changing the world in that one conversation, that one gift, that one moment of being.
This musing is not about whether or not you or I approved of the killing of Osama bin Ladin – that is just the thing that spurred my mood shift and contemplation. This musing is about our ability to keep showing up to our lives, to our work, and to love. This musing is about discovering our place in the cosmos and doing our very best there. And therefore, for me, this musing is about the constant returning to the practicing of life. How else can we evolve?
Shunryu Suzuki said, “The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your own two feet.” That, to me, is pride. May we practice today, whether that feels good or not, whether that feels like failure or success. May we take our place.
When pride meets despair, our souls return to wholeness. Therein lies the world we seek. Blessed be our Center, which is the Circumference of All.