“Stuck.” One of the first words my first little one used, not including “Mama,” “Dada,” and maybe “Up.” A crucial word to know, really. An acknowledgement, a confession, a plea. A physical reality, an emotional or spiritual one–it works for all of these.
Ever tried to find out more about an issue, and found out so much, uncovered the entrails of a nasty network of self interest, corruption, entrenched power, and the presence of a fog of denial penetrating the minds of just about everyone you know about said topic? Like the problem was huger, huger than you ever thought, and where do you start? You admire the ones who hack away at the edifice of injustice, try their crow bars on those concrete tracks taking us all down that self-destructive slope (watching the opportunists at the exits so they can jump off with all the loot they can grab). See some of them make a difference, others be vilified and discredited, or ignored. You sense it might all be futile after all, despite the one starfish at a time philosophy that you heard from the pulpit, from the valedictorian, and read on the Do good, Feel Good button pins given away by your local credit union.
I care about something. I see there are problems. I say to myself, I’ll just get to the bottom of this, become an expert, and use my voice; I read, read, listen, read, take notes, tie it all together in one hour a day,in my spare time. Meanwhile I go live in that world, get my kicks from the machine, give my hours, my resources to feed the status quo, feeling all the time the possible threat that would arise if I were to take a stand. Not ready to take a well-informed, articulate stand, realizing with every step ahead into the maze of information, implication, accusation that the ones that really understand this stuff are so much smarter and articulate; they speak almost another language, which you’ve only just begun to be able to understand. And they are cynical, and write and speak a kind of lingo that seems intended for the camp, so everyone can shake their heads and live the perpetual alarm and teeth-gritted martyrdom.
Do you go back and at least do something small, in the moment, at the level of the here and now, and let your interest in and vigilance about the underbelly of the beast, the inner workings of the machine, slide, go dormant? After all, there’s the job to do, the mortgage to pay, the kids to shop for, and tax season is coming up.
Do you start engaging more broadly with the community, with the power structure by personal activism, start writing letters, requesting meetings, recruiting assistance, hoping that your work, your personal life, and your health will hold up, knowing you don’t know it all, can’t understand everything, see all the angles, but you have to start somewhere…
Or do you say, I quit! and start something fresh and new, something separate and unencumbered by tradition, protocol, due process, in the power of the Spirit, or at least the power of novelty and adrenaline?
Thinking of those who cut their ties, go to live off the land on some berry-rich island surrounded by enough fish from the wild sea, pasture their chickens and plant kiwi vines and mint for tea. I dream of doing that kind of thing, though my dream is slightly different and involves the nearness of a few neighbors and a high, cozy writing room with a view.