Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Phoenix Thriving

An apocalypse, like beauty, is in the eye and mind of the beholder.

It seems "things" are being shaken and "times" are getting harder. It has become necessary for many people to adjust to a different standard of living. Those on the lookout for gloom and doom are probably right, to the same degree as those who see nothing but a chance for new beginnings.

Various kinds of death, cessation and pause happen in spacetime; it's part of the Nature of the big flux that life is. But when we are trying to meet bills that seem insurmountable or adapt to living situations that have become stressful--when we creatures of habit believe we are trying to "cope" with change--it can be difficult to see the big picture, or to feel our way through winters of destruction.

What comes first--a clear view, or the perception of something beautiful? Are they two aspects of the same event? They do seem to beget each other, as well as the creative urge itself and that elusive blossom called "meaning". Out of Winter, Spring is born. Out of the ashes, a new bird rises.

I don't need to point out that ashes precede new growth, or that every event runs its cycle. There is no such thing as unchecked expansion in the physical universe. Eventually, all things give way to the next phase. We know this. However, we struggle mightily in the heart and mind to stay firmly in familiar mental/emotional territory. When we reach a certain level of comfort, we try very hard to keep things "the same", sometimes even when we are in great pain, choosing to throw our lot in with what we know so well, rather than face change.

I have spoken often about what happens when we identify ourselves as, or with, separate things (the essential belief that we are accidental scum on the surface of a dead rock in space). The word "identity" comes from the Latin identitatem, meaning sameness. We use our identities as placeholders, markers which we assume to always be the same, unmoving in the flux. In truth, our identities rise and dissolve like waves over the course of a lifetime--and even many times in the span of one day. We literally create them on the spot, like electromagnetic brain-ghosts.

In our sleeping culture, we also believe that our identities are what set us apart and make us unique as individuals. We have spent a lot of time and money chasing ideals and standards of beauty, intelligence and wealth in our quest for fulfillment. But what we usually pursue is nothing more than a manufactured social "uniqueness", one that is based on the mass-production of consistent humans and products. Certain limits are laid out for us from which we are "allowed" to choose. Clothing, food and housing are homogenized and superficially varied versions of what is promoted as acceptable. Much diversity has been lost, due to our clamoring to keep up with, be like, or pander out of fear to someone or something other than what we are. This tendency is not lost on those that aspire to control wealth and gain political power. After a while, we don't notice that the flavor has been bred out of tomatoes, curiosity banished from educational models and celebration from our high holy days. Even excesses have become blandly violent and cynical. A certain numbness permeates our virtual worlds.

If we are indeed "consumers", we have certainly not attended to what we take in or how we do it, and thus have no idea how to really enjoy the things we are privileged to have and experience.

On another end of the spectrum, behind and before our unconscious grasping, life functions as something suspiciously like ecstasy (ex stasis, meaning out-of-place, moving, not static). When a non-vital identity is released, a beautiful motion is perceived and apprehended in openness. A deep joy suddenly becomes the basis of all that is. What is seen and felt within this change is a genesis. Life in all things--an aliveness that enfolds even the attempted clinging to a dead identity. I am moved.

Ritual is beauty when it is a conscious repetition of a pattern; it elevates what could be mere duty, obligation or blind habit into art, because it creates meaning for us. Unconscious reaction loses its meaning over time, becoming frozen by our lack of deep attention.

Along comes the fire of a large-scale global, social or personal meltdown. We are granted a space in which our habitual identities are suddenly open to question. There is a precious opportunity to come awake and turn the gaze upon the gaze...and what we find there is a most authentic and uniquely beautiful being.

I have met many people who claim that they just "aren't creative", or are "untalented" and have "no artistic ability". The creative talent they use to artistically pull the wool over their own eyes is quite evident to me. :)

When I tell them that I just can't buy that line, I see in their haunted and vulnerable selves a tiny flash of knowing, real knowing. It might grow, or it might disappear for a while longer. I find it sad that people feel they need some kind of permission to claim the very nature shining out of them. What we are is to create; what we are is to make meaning out of the raw material of being.

We are indeed One, and even less and more than that. But we are not an oppressive generic universal. We are active origin, the heart of the volcano, the soul of the world, writing our story.

Someone said, "Organisms that adapt to difference, live."
I would add, organisms that find meaning in change and difference not only live, but thrive--even when the going gets rough. They are the beauty of regeneration, taking itself to new heights, reworking the clay of manifestation.

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