[Originally posted on December 8, 2010, I’m re-posting because it’s still applicable and I’m getting ready to sell my house and relocate.]
Laying Down the Sword
In my second post, (November 17, 2010), I was reminded of a role I’ve played most of my life: machete bearer—blazing trails for others, championing the weak.
In that role, I’ve taught Assertiveness Training and Non-violent Communication Skills to businessmen and women and college students. I led Self-Empowerment workshops with the singular goal of helping people overcome whatever obstacle prevented them from being, having, doing whatever they wanted to be, have, do.
Sadly, what I learned from all that over twenty years ago is that no matter how skilled we might become, we still have to deal with people who have zip communication skills, people who think they can “shake some sense into you.” I concluded that I was wasting my time.
The fact is, each of us gets to choose our own path. Very few choose to walk the narrow one ahead of others because it’s damn lonely out there being on point. Most seem to congregate around the middle, enjoying the community of others sharing the same path. Some expect everyone to be on the same path they are—to see the world they do through their eyes. Not going to happen. We’re different because we choose to be.
For example, in a recent conversation about “what’s happening now” with someone who once was my best friend, she said: “I watch the news on TV and read the local paper. That’s enough for me.”
I’m thinking “spin, doled out by politicians,” a perspective appropriately enhanced in my mind with a background of “All we like sheep…” (from Handel’s Messiah).
At first, I wanted to impress upon her how important it is to keep watch over elected officials who disappear into the murky waters of Washington where deals are struck behind closed doors—how if we don’t go on record with our phone calls and letters expressing our wishes, they simply make decisions on their own. (Of course, I know they’ll do it anyway, even if we have expressed our wishes.)
The more she talked, the more I was reminded of the famous scene from The Matrix: “The Pill.” It happened in the Lafayette Hotel, where Trinity brings Neo to meet with Morpheus, the leader of the rebellion against the Matrix
Trinity: This is it. Let me give you one piece of advice. Be honest. He knows more than you can imagine.
Morpheus: At last. Welcome, Neo. As you no doubt have guessed, I am Morpheus.
Neo: It’s an honor to meet you.
Morpheus: No, the honor is mine. Please, come. Sit. I imagine that right now you’re feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole, hmm?
Neo: You could say that.
Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life—that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Neo: The Matrix?
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is? The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more. Follow me.
When I am reminded how people just go about their lives, refusing to get involved, I am frankly dumbfounded. The fact is those in power—not those we elected, but the elite who drive them, represent a mere 2% of the population. The rest of us outnumber them forty-nine to one. Why, then, do we, the people, the masses, choose not to act?
The answer’s simple: Life is short and we make choices based on what pleases us. That’s certainly the case with the friend who defined the parameters of her world, making choices of what she does based on what she prefers, what feels good to her.
And that is the stellar point: doing what feels good.
Back in the day, in my senior year at the university, listening to the Beatles, attending La Raza Unida rallies, and canvassing in other States for Eugene McCarthy, what felt good for me was believing that my participation would actually make a difference.
Friends camped out in my tiny attic apartment in San Antonio on their way to Viet Nam—all conscientious objectors who practiced tying suture knots on my toes in their last days before shipping out. They wanted me to become a journalist for the war—get some newspaper to foot the bill so I could join them. I couldn’t find one who would.
And the man I loved did not come back.
Still, I continued that life, armed a few years later with “license to lecture” listening to Bob Marley, speaking at Baháʼí Faith peace rallies, canvassing for peace candidates, still hoping to make a difference…
Now, a simple conversation reminds me of my personal belief system, which seems to get set aside when I’m being a warrior, a belief which was forged in the ‘eighties when, perhaps influenced by Joseph Campbell, I taught a class I called: “Follow Your Bliss.”
My inner self has gently reminded me of all this with a little internal dialogue:
Inner Self: Does knowing what they’re up to make you happy?
Inner Self: Can you do anything about it, what they’re doing?
Inner Self: So what got you on that track in the first place with this blog?
Me: My love for research and writing, and I imagined my work would make a difference… (Sigh. Been there, done it, still have the holey t-shirt).
Recognizing once again that “resistance is futile” (the mantra of the mindless Borg hive from Star Trek Next Generation), I’ve decided to spit out that red pill. Now I’m grabbing the blue pill like everyone else, and plan to be doing what pleases me “till the fat lady sings.”
I just have to figure out what that means (“…what pleases me”). Meanwhile, on my journey to find my purpose, my “next perfect step in the divine blueprint,” my “bliss,” I’m nixing machete bearer forever because it’s not fun anymore.
Till next time—
Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our secret sorrows. ~Tzaddi