Warriors of the Heart
Feb 24, 2021
There is a new path being laid out for humanity. It is a path that takes us away from appearances, into the substance of who we are as people. Our Western societies have been happy with appearances, not what really exists. As long as it “looks good”, it must be good. We often use empty gestures and easy/fine words to camouflage. Sometimes we do not even realize we are camouflaging our inner desiccation or sense of powerlessness. Our societies are starving us by keeping us busy on the treadmill and keeping us distracted by empty entertainment. Unless we experience some major crisis, we bumble along doing what is expected of us by our families and workplaces, keeping our heads above water, with no energy to address the depth of who we are.
However, as a species, we have come to a bend in the road and an opportunity. It is time to rise up and become real humans (again)! We must find the highest and deepest of our human capacities, becoming Warriors of the Heart, in service to Life!
If one were just to examine the ads around us, we would see a fixation on looks and consumption. People know by looking at us how much we care about these fixations and judge us accordingly, to where we belong in the social spectrum. Superficiality is applauded, now evidenced by “likes” and “follows.” It is also evidenced by who you know and all the namedropping that goes with it. We judge people by how “trendy and fashion forward” they are…
......their shoes, their watch, their handbag, their car, their hair, their home. This is the new class system, where like only talk to like to maintain their “level”. Yet, when we examine the lives of the uber rich…we can see that it is never enough.
As an adult educator, I know that when people come into a workshop or course, their worst worry is being identified as a fraud, as someone who is not smart enough to be there, someone who is just posing. So, this is the underlying fixation, trying to prop up our sense of self. What our societies have told us is that we are it…we are on our own, no one is going to help us, no one is going to do it for us. We must become completely self-sufficient…emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically, intellectually. We must look the part. If we can do this all, we have made it. Our looks, consumption, our style, our “put-togetherness”, our titles, indicate where we are on this scale of having made it. We are told that we do not need anyone else, that we can be “self-made.”
This messaging was developed during the rise of capitalism, so that people would get out there and hustle, manifesting the capitalist spirit. This messaging regained force during the neoliberalism era, from the mid 1980s/early 1990s until now. You know all the refrains: ”get out there, sell yourself, make it happen, just do it, be a self-made entrepreneur, go global, raise the bar, out-produce, work harder, work smarter, give 110%, be a star.” If you don’t make it, you just don’t have the “right stuff.” This messaging believes that inequality is natural… “some will always win and some will lose.” If you lose, “tough luck! That’s how the cookie crumbles.” The state should not be there to catch you, otherwise you will be coddled and not get back out there and hustle. In this view, losing is motivational.
Those who feel self-satisfied at having made it, are those whose identities completely revolve around money or position. They have no other lens with which to see the world, filtering all parts of their world through these glasses, appropriate or not. They have a profound sense of entitlement. Normal rules—from parking to COVID to the laws governing business meant to prevent corruption and social harm—simply do not apply to them. They are exceptions to the rule. They do not need to be held accountable. Unfortunately, we adulate these people, thinking they have some answers.
To some extent, it is the lack of human substance that makes it so hard to solve the climate crisis. Those with power and wealth want the crisis to make them money, whether carbon trading or sale of clean technology. Politicians and corporate leaders will not agree to anything that will not line their pockets, put them in the driver’s seat, or keep them in power. This is the perfect recipe for “more of the same.” The rest of the world looks on in exasperation and disgust.
Others wish to appear like they are doing something…rebranding and other forms of greenwashing, or shelves of nicely designed plans, to make us believe that something tangible has been done, that “consumers” and citizens have been heard. The underlying belief in capitalism is that self-interest, or as Adam Smith called it, the invisible hand, will generate the common good. This may be one of the greatest ethical distortions of our time, and one that we must dismantle.
Out of this cultural kaleidoscope, our modern sense of self has two faces…we believe we are special beings in the world with something unique to give; but we also fear we are nothing, with nothing at all to offer. We especially worry if we do not appear to be “making it” according to the playbook. Thus, a deep insecurity and isolation runs through our culture. This uncertainty leads to fragility, anger, depression, addictions, suicide, or a host of other manifestations.
These are the key elements that shape daily life in the Western world: appearances augmented by consumerism, individualism, the self-made capitalist spirit, and the wealth and power it bestows. These are all part of the Big Lie. This is not how the natural world operates and it is not the highest of what it means to be human. It is time to walk away from these ideas and become warriors of the heart!
We have had some glimpses of what we most value through COVID…and it is the simple things: freedom of movement, fun family time, physical touch, time for home cooking, casual conversation, gardening and being in nature, social connections, a sense of solidarity that we are all in it together, beauty, music, and art. It is time to take back what it means to be human! We need to move from appearances and consumption defining us, to being defined by the depth of our human spirit. We have reduced and truncated ourselves into a very small box.
In an older book by mental health professional/ecopsychologist, Chellis Glendinning (1994), called “My Name is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization”… she says she we all need to be in “recovery from personal addiction, childhood abuse, childhood deprivation, the nuclear family, sexism, racism, urban alienation, trickle-down economics, combat service in the trenches of the gender wars, the threat of extinction, linear thinking, the mind/body split, technological progress, and the mechanistic worldview.” She says we are dislocated and alienated, leading to massive suffering alone and together…what many now call a “trauma society.” When I travel into the backcountry from where I live, I have to close my eyes and shut my heart to the massive clearcuts and the pathetic debris. When I travel the prairies, I have to shut my eyes and close my heart to the massive blanketing of soil and species with toxins…steering around the grocery food that comes from these places. These are just two small examples of being wounded daily by what our society is doing.
What is a Warrior of the Heart? I believe the first element is courage. Cour-age means to be “of good heart” or a brave heart able to meet danger and fear face to face. This is the one quality that is most missing in the modern era. We do not stand up because it feels like there is no clear way to stand up within a system that institutionalizes, bureaucratizes, commodifies, complexifies and marketizes us. We find it hard to stand up in a system where we don’t know the relationships we are embedded in, from the makers of our textiles to the growers of our food to the sources of our electronics. We do not know the leaders, political or corporate, who are gambling with our lives, livelihoods, and future. We are not sure who is funding the messages about what is wrong. It takes some digging to find where accountability should lie...and usually it is in multiple places.
With great courage, we can begin walking away from this system — its superficial judgements, the hiddenness of moral loss. With courage, we can embolden our communities to take the future into their own hands.
We can take things back down to a human scale…so we know our baker of our bread, the cheesemaker, the egg producer, the lovely herbs and greens, the seamstress, the soap maker. No corporation or government is going to save us...especially as the more extreme elements of climate change begin to impact. Once things start unravelling more and more quickly, we will need to invent new ways of accessing most things. As one Indigenous proverb states, “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.”
A second element is humility and self-assuredness. Our society thrives on arrogance and ego. We are quite juvenile in our development as humans…always needing affirmation that we are doing a good job, how we are coming across, whether we measure up, while on the defense through our ego. We need to reconnect to our primal matrix and recover what has been lost…a simple confidence in ourselves, the development of our intuition and instinctiveness, a sensing of how the unseen world can guide us on our pathways, and a willingness to learn lessons from the natural world and from wise people. With these strong connections, humility naturally emerges.
A third element is respect. In our me-first culture, including needing to find ourselves, our focus has become very narrow. As philosopher Charles Taylor suggests, when our world is a small realm around our immediate self, “you shut yourself off from everything else and condemn yourself to the mindless solitude of the monad, buried alive and condemned to a prison cell without egress.” We disrespect ourselves; we keep ourselves small.
In society, most of the sexism, racism, classism, and other “isms” are fundamentally based on disrespect. We develop a social hierarchy based on differences. How sad that we need to define ourselves by not being that “other” and the resulting assertions that the other ought to have less or is less important, requiring domination, discounting or getting their “just deserts.” We need to unlearn disrespect for self and others. Another facet of respect is the resacralization of the natural world, where we see the sacredness of all living beings and rethink the right to take another life.
A fourth element is self-sufficiency, but not in the way capitalism imagines. Self-sufficiency is not the individual striving for money, fame, position and success. It is a community and collective effort…we are never self-made…we always depend on those around us to block our opportunities or to open doors…even those we do not like often. In this climate change world, with only 10 years to do some serious drawdown of carbon, we need to work with others to mitigate the worse possible scenario. At our municipal town level, I sit on the Climate Action Committee, designing the actions that will reduce our emissions by 7% each year, to get to a 50% reduction by 2030. Becoming self-sufficient together, we will have access to power, shelter, water, food, and mutual aid, ensuring we will have resilience as the chaos and threats increase.
If we relearn this bigness of spirit, heart, and mind, balancing them within a purity of purpose, we will arrive at the door of wisdom. In this Beauty-making Moon, may you make beauty within and without.