Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic
A blast from the past! I'm reposting some of my older posts that were lost when I upgraded my site and seem especially on point today. Please enjoy these thoughts from 2017.
I had a dream a few days ago. It didn’t mean much at the time, it just seemed silly, but the meaning became clear yesterday. I had a lot of dreams that night, but this one is the only one I remember. That seems how dreams work for me. when I wake up, I can remember snatches of many different dreams but only one is clear enough and detailed enough to recall.
This dream is set in sunny California in the early 60’s. The whole thing looked like a 60’s glam movie, with long, low convertibles, beautiful people, and bright sunshine with saturated colors. It took place in a large parking lot, mostly full, that seemed to be at the beach. I watched it all in third person, the person I take to be me was driving this blue convertible. The “me” in this dream was a “Rock Hudson” type with a pretty girlfriend, at least that’s what she seemed, she came a went throughout the scene. Everyone seemed happy, almost movie musical happy. You’ll see why that’s weird in a minute.
The whole parking lot was flooded with water. Over the doorsills in some places, a little lower in other places. Nobody seemed to care. My car was full of water that sloshed around as I drove. I didn’t look like I cared, smiling and happy. I drove around the lot for a while then found a new parking space where the water was a little less deep, actually below the doorsills. (Maybe I thought that the water in the car would drain out...) After I parked, the girlfriend re-appeared and I sat there, with my arms wide open, face up to sky, eyes closed, smiling like this was the best day ever. As I watched this from above, like it was the ending of a great movie. Roll credits.
Yesterday, the meaning of this it hit me: The water is the “sludge” in our lives, and that we spend our lives “being happy,” and trying to find a place where the “sludge” is, perhaps, just a little less deep. then we celebrate if we find such a place.
I was struck by the superficiality of the whole thing. Beautiful people, fancy cars, beautiful location, nice clothes, completely ignoring the sludge, for the most part. But, while we do spend a lot of time “driving around the parking lot” looking for a place with less sludge, we never try to leave the parking lot. Funny, huh?
What is “sludge?” All the crap that weighs us down, fills our time, yet, never adds anything to our lives. Worries: About money, about what people think, about things we can do nothing about. Fear and hate: About just about anything.
We are all afraid of stuff, whether we admit it or not. (Not afraid of anything? What about “uncomfortable?” Are you uncomfortable around certain people, in certain situations, with certain subjects? “Discomfort” is mild fear, it doesn’t take a whole lot to turn “discomfort” into something far stronger) The common way you’re supposed to deal with fear, is that you find the source of your fear and remove it from your life. Then you will “feel safe,” right? Except that doesn’t actually work. No matter how hard or how far you push your fear and discomfort away, it always finds you. I know how that works. I’ve lived in “unsafe” areas, then I get a chance to move to something better, and, for a while, I feel much better. Then, I begin to notice things, and hear things, neighbors talk, incidents on the news, and before long I feel “unsafe” again.
What are you afraid of? People different from you? Be it appearance, income, education, age, beliefs, clothes? The government? Liberals? Conservatives? The rich? The poor? Climate change? Poison, in your food, water, medicines? Look around you and you’ll have no trouble finding people who want to stoke your fears, for their own ends. And once they’ve go you hooked, truth no longer matters, facts don’t matter, all that matters is the “it” that “they” want you to fear. And it’s so easy, because the fear is always there, inside you, just waiting to be pointed at someone or something. What fear? The fear that they will all find out those things we hate about ourselves.
Ever wonder what the fear-peddlers get out of it? Think about it, they all want something and are willing to scare you into giving it to them. They want your money, time, support, or just the attention. There’s always some hidden motive, because, if they were on the up-and-up, there’d be no reason to use fear to sell you their agenda.
The thing is, the world has a lot of problems, but none of them are unsolvable! We have the knowledge and technology to solve or, at least, mitigate, every one of the world problems, and the only reason we don’t is fear. Greed is fear of not having enough. Conservatism is the fear of change, or losing what you have. The need for power comes from fear of loss of control. Bigotry, of all kinds, religious, racial, and sexual, to name just a few, is fear of anyone who is different. There is enough of everything for everyone, money, food, living space, if we could only get over all the fears.
So, in my dream we were all perfectly happy, walking and driving around shin deep in sludge. We enjoyed the sunshine and our fancy cars while carefully ignoring the mess and the reality that the sludge was rotting out the cars, inside and out. We cope by vying for better parking spots, with less sludge, but nobody considers leaving the parking lot. That would require leaving behind your car, your status and the “parking place” that you have worked so hard to secure. In the real world, things aren’t so cut and dried. Getting rid of all your material things, and walking away from your responsibilities and obligations doesn’t free you from the sludge, it isn't even a necessary. The sludge is inside and, once you start cleaning that up, what you manifest on the outside will naturally follow, as a natural consequence of your new values. In all things, it doesn’t matter what you have, or what you do, it’s why you have it or do it. Intension is everything. Real intensions: the universe know whether you are genuinely being helpful or begin patronizing.
In my journey of a thousand miles, I have faced and expunged many hidden fears, small and large. Fear are often linked to traumas, vanish when the traumatic emotions are acknowledged and released. This is difficult for us Westerners, we are taught to “forget about it,” and suppress any hurt, “get over it, nobody wants to know.” We are so uncomfortable with feelings. Or we dwell endlessly on how we feel without actually confronting it, which just reinforces a victim narrative and the trauma. Neither of these is helpful. Fear, unacknowledged, haunts us, making us easy prey for any fear monger that comes along. It doesn’t matter how smart and logical we think we are, or how confident we are that our religious or other beliefs protect us, our sludge is there, effecting every decision and coloring every opinion.
White supremacy and racism are the "sludge" of our time. We all live in it, we Whites benefit from it, even though many find it difficult to "see," let alone do anything about. This is fear. The dirty underbelly of White Supremacy is the terror of not being "better than" because of an accident of birth. Fear isn't bad, but unacknowledged fear will rule your life from the shadows. You may be perfectly happy with your life, congratulations! But, even so, wouldn't your life, the economy, and world as a whole, be so much better without this endless cycle of oppression, protest, and violence, leading to more oppression, and so on?
People of color have always had to live under the burden of oppression, but the white privileges you enjoy because of racism come at a steep cost, both to society as a whole and to you personally. If you can’t find any moral or ethical reasons to change a racist system, perhaps you can look at it from the perspective of Enlightened Self Interest. Hate, fear and mistrust are heavy burdens to carry around, all day, every day. Perhaps putting some of them down would allow more peace of mind into your life?
As always, tell me what you think! Respectful comments are welcome!