For the past couple weeks I have been communing with the book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings by Rob Brezsny. You might expect that a book with such an outlandish title would be of interest to the FoX, and indeed, I have found the ideas put forth by Brezsny so compatible with my own that I have had to occasionally put the book down to avoid feeling like I am just living in an echo chamber of ideas. One of the things which the book recommends is breaking out of your familiar mode and exposing yourself to new and challenging ideas. The thought Universe of Pronoia, however, is itself not always challenging to me: in fact it has been uncanny how familiar the logic behind Brezsny's work is. Without ever having read a book by Rob Brezsny before, I have found myself anticipating his statements as I read, saying "Aha! Yes! Someone else has learned this too!": all because similar Truths have been whispered to my Soul in direct Spiritual experiences -- by the Trees and by the Streams -- as I have practiced meditation and listening on my own these past few Years.
Nonetheless, there have been a few gems within Brezsny's book that have been new to me. Chief among them is the assertion that "Acquiring problems is a fundamental human need." Brezsny argues that one of the chief ends of spiritual growth is finding "Bigger, Better, More Interesting Problems." When I first read these statements I was a bit taken aback. When I look at the World, and the myriad Crisis Fronts that present themselves before us in the Movement for a just and sustainable society, I commonly fantasize that the building pitch of involvement and concern coming from the awakening activists and healers among us will eventually sweep the World's slate clean of problems. I imagine that each soul on the Planet will soon be Free to pursue their own heavenly ambitions, without the tyranny of corrupt governments and corporations everywhere around them. I do not wish to hear that Bigger Problems are in store for us, beyond these ones: much less am I ready to celebrate that fact!
“Mr. Wonka: "Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted."
Charlie Bucket: "What happened?"
Mr. Wonka: "He lived happily ever after.”
― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Brezsny's statement that "Acquiring problems is a fundamental human need," at first seemed to jar up against that simpler, more comfortable prediction of living happily ever after. It made me angry. It seemed to suggest that something inside of us is rather petty and would rather live with stress and contradiction than with a serene and satisfied mind. I rebelled against this statement for a few days. I hoped that, at least in my life and in my sphere of influence, I could prove the reverse: that I could struggle valiantly into a Future where the problematic was checked, and balanced, against my hard-won Paradise. Accepting Brezsny's aphorism about acquiring more problems threatened that picture, and made it seem that the Fight itself was less worth it. If at the end of this Struggle only one more Struggle awaits, why keep pushing onward at all?
But as I spent part of a Morning sitting near a Stream and watching its tranquil flow lovingly carry an assortment of fallen leaves and Flower petals gently downstream, I found myself reflecting on the fact that Biological Life -- the Natural and Wild Force which inspires every green thing to grow, even in places where its conditions for growth are challenged and interrupted by Man's toxic, chemical, and mechanical inventions -- Biological Life does not stop. It struggles every day as if it were the first day. If it gets tired, it does not show it: every Spring the threatened species of honeybees and songbirds work just as hard to pass on their genes, muster up more and more gusto to not only succeed, for a season, but usually to do so in a blaze of Beauty and Color. Life Herself does not need a gleaming Future to arrive so it can stop struggling. Right Here, Right Now, is a Perfect Moment: She has all She needs. Things may not be perfect but She can make them seem so: She is infinitely resourceful and can make the Best of any situation. If the Earth is seeking Rest, if She is "groaning for the Adoption of the Body" (and I do believe that She is), She does not seem to have any preconditions on how long She is willing to wait or how hard She is willing to Struggle. She carries on, she endures - and all the while She seems to do so joyfully, without making it seem like a Burden at all.
The previous post on this blog contained many statements pertaining to my belief that the Oppressors currently inhabiting our Planet, currently denying God's Creatures their Rest and Solace, will someday be Judged. I do believe in that Judgement, and I believe that a unique Balance of Judgement and Mercy is to be found within the character of God, specifically as revealed by Christianity. I find that Certainty we are given, which says that we eventually Win and the bad buys lose, to be a very beautiful piece of the doctrines of Christ. Nevertheless when I typed up my oracle against the Global 1% I evidently manifested an energy which alienated, or at least failed to connect to, a very wise Reader of my Blog - a Rainbow Sister whose own words have inspired me countless times. I am accustomed to my words being ignored or even argued against by folks who I don't consider as having been "awakened" to the same voice of Truth that I have come to love listening to - Gaia's Voice, Mother Eden's Voice: but somehow knowing of this Sister's reaction to my words stung me a little. I messaged her about it and she was quick to tell me that it was not about me, and that simply this had to do only with a difference in energies that we were both reacting to and working with at the time. Nevertheless, it nagged in the back of my mind that I could be out of line with any of the Rainbow energy of healing and harmony that I so cherish. I thought this over many times as I re-read the words I had written against our Planet's Polluters and Abusers. I also thought about Rob Brezsny saying that we will always acquire new problems. Without the luxury of being able to point to Judgement, and without the promise of a Paradise At Ease, a Future free of Concern, I was indeed, I admit, dealing with some prospects that I did not wish to entertain.
But then a realization hit me. It came in the form of a Change to my schedule at work. I have come to really appreciate the schedule that I have been working for the past couple of months. And suddenly, from the top down, administration wanted to change it. They gave me a paper with a couple different options, all of which looked horrible to me, and only a couple short days to say which one I preferred. My mind went to a place where I began to say, "This is unfair!" Luckily, my co-worker's thought process was a bit more lucid than my own, and she began to work on an alternative proposal. Buckminster Fuller's mantra came to my mind, which says, "“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” She was able to persuade the powers that be at our job to adopt a schedule change which worked for everybody, including me. And she did not do it by feeling slighted.
Now the fact that we will always acquire new problems is beginning to make more sense to me. Far from being a reason not to work for change, this Truth seems like even more motivation to Struggle. For indeed, they can be More Interesting Problems. Since "Energy flows where attention goes," the fact that we can acquire new problems seems to indicate that we can actually upstage the old, boring problems of gender oppression, environmental devastation, political corruption, and bigotry of all shapes and sizes. If we as a culture can focus on building the new models that make this existing model obsolete, we can invite a whole host of new problems to replace the boring ones we have now. This, in fact, is what Brezsny was saying all along. But it did take my hard head a few days to process it.
So here are some ideas, some propositions, on problems we can invite into our Future:
-- How to go farther into Space, how to learn more about distant Planets, how to build more sophisticated instruments, microscopes that see smaller and telescopes that see farther... Perhaps in the future we will have great debates on which Science project to fund more fully, rather than the debate we currently have on whether to fund these endeavors at all.
--How to raise Children who are fully free to make up their own minds about gender roles and identities. Perhaps we can have that problem instead of the current one where which state one lives in determines who has the freedom to marry.
--Perhaps in the future people can get all bent out of shape about whether its better to raise Cows or Goats. Perhaps we will have this problem instead of trying to convince people not to support factory farms by buying meat in grocery stores that was processed in Confined Animal Feeding Operations.
--Perhaps there can be mega debates in the future about whether Wind or Wave Energy is more profitable to pursue as a society. Perhaps we can invite this problem as an antidote to the tired old reasons now evinced of why we can't divest from fossil fuels.
--Perhaps in the future, rather than worrying about which country we can invade next, or which will attack us, we can devote a large percentage of our national attention to where the Olympics are going to be held.
--Perhaps instead of fighting over the Education budget in the future, we can all chime in on whether the top notch, outdoor classrooms full of competent teachers and healthy children we have, would be better taught in the mornings or in the afternoons.
Perhaps a new national debate, a new global set of problems, is exactly what we really need, and not an end to the Struggle by any means.
Now, when it comes to my personal Life: these days I do indeed feel that I have leveled up. For so long I lived as a Single man, and all I wanted was a person to love and start a family with. I have now found that person and it has been my delight to begin solving new and better problems alongside her. I no longer have the worries I had as a single man, of who I could spend my evenings with, of what I could do with my loneliness. But I do have the problems of how to deal with a 3 year old, how to keep a house clean in the midst of diaper changing and toys being strewn about. These are bigger problems, but they are definitely better. And I have learned quickly that the amount of angst my problems create is always, no matter the situation, entirely up to me. If what I seek is a deeper level of satisfaction and contentment, I find that it really depends on no external situation whatsoever how much Peace I can wring out of the moment. Even if hectic levels of activity or chaos, my gratitude to Be Here Now connects me to my Source and helps me transcend any petty thoughts. The notion that anything about Life could be unfair is shown to be ridiculous. A zen-like response to problems is always possible, no matter how big or small.
Perhaps the amount of problems one will face in Life is always constant. Perhaps the level of difficulty we are supposed to encounter is predetermined, like fate. Maybe its hardwired into us to always be at odds with Something. Maybe even after every stunning Victory there will be some new Seven Headed Dragon to pursue. Maybe its part of our Double Helix DNA structure, or the geometric codes that make up Everything. But what always lies within our capacities as creative beings on this Planet is to pave a new course, go in a different direction, bravely away from the known and predictable into the unknown and unusual.