by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
In the time since last writing, I have bumped into more angles about illusions that I have to talk to you about. They’re pretty common because they’ve to do with staying sane. They’re okay for the purpose of rest: not okay to escape into forever.
I acknowledge that here I’ve allowed myself to be dogmatic and unequivocal in the position I’ve taken – that we are, as humans, connected. This orientation is now embedded in the old lady I’ve become. I choose to forget that reality and indulge in the illusion of a separated self so I can take for granted my present life and move easily within it. But in reflective moments I try to get real and acknowledge how much I’m supported by a big web of life.
The Illusion That We’re Not All Connected
Some call this subject philosophy and others science and some are sure it’s religion – this issue of connectedness.
The common everyday illusion – of which I partake part of the time – is that we’re not. We see through our own eyes, speak from our thoughts, and act with our bodily parts. All mine. Except that the entire structure of a life – even for a survivalist who lives in a bunker – is connected to those who have gone before, who co-exist in our own time, who built the roads we travel , who work on the oil rigs that provide our fuel, the iron that forms our tools.
But the point isn’t even that material goods link us. Life on this planet is itself a big web of connection. The air we breathe is full of air expelled by other humans, of other animals. Botanists are finding that plants respond to each other, in amazing ways. More animal languages are being identified, not all among mammals.
If we’re alive, we’re connected.
We may not think as people who are inter-dependent, but in reality that’s the state we’re in. Our relationship to each other moves and changes. We are born into dependence, grow into independence, may resist another’s controlling attempts and act in counter-dependent ways, and if we’re fortunate, we land among other people who recognize the strength that lies in inter-dependence, where individuals share their gifts, their insights, their humour, their activity, and build communities of interest.
The best fun is that which we have with other people, no??? And I think the Kingdom of God that Christ pointed us toward exists wherever people have found themselves able to share fully.
So we act over and over again as people who are self-directed. We’ve grown big shoulders – we can deal with the reality that in the end we’re alone. That’s our illusion. And that’s the problem. “We’re alone” is an oxymoron. A whole lot of people being alone means they’re not alone. They may not be communicating and actively assisting each other but the feeling of sometimes being alone is shared by many who co-exist.
Aloneness is an illusion. But I know that I can feel alone when the chips are down, and maybe dealing with that is one of the life lessons that everybody has to face at some point. Aloneness, in a crowd – an illusion, but a real feeling. Religion gives us the possibility of connecting with a divine reality that relieves us of this loneliness. For those who cannot accept this choice, other ways are found. Or not.
But seeing through the illusion of separateness (that what happens to you has nothing to do with me) to a vision that allows one to join the wholeness of the human experience – may be necessary for Planet Earth to survive.
Our Earth Needs Us
Serious environmentalists have been calling for planetary unity for years, but the huge wall that keeps us from all joining forces is the moot point of whether the scientists have got it right. But does the exactness of the information really matter?? The evidence of our own eyes tells the story: climate extremes, change in the migration patterns of species, big changes in lakes and rivers, melting tundra so that graves float up: on and on.
How soon disaster may strike, where and what, are not really the point in terms of just getting on board and recognizing that the present and future are OUR problem. Human beings have the problem.
The State of the Earth, the State of Justice
“We’ve Got to Get It Together” was a ‘70”’s song heralding a necessary anti-material revolution. That era of reflection altered the behaviour of a lot of people, many of whom have made the effort to continue to put energy into activities that might alert the government and the voters to awareness of how the policies enacted by those who have a large share of the society’s resources serve very often to grow their own share.
We see the success of the Winners over the past decades, as more and more of the world’s resources rest in fewer and fewer hands. We personally can’t alter this momentum BUT we can take it seriously and see if there are roles that call to be filled that we might have the skills for. If we want to be effective, I think we can, in our own corners. It will add up.
Letting Go of Being Altogether Correct
We’re in trouble if totally stuck in the illusion that others’ experiences, economically or environmentally, have nothing to do with us: that our intellectual questioning is more important than getting on board to help the earth and its people.
Yes, we don’t want to waste our energy and resources unless we’re sure that our help is needed. But placing oneself in the centre of all wisdom rather than identifying with the pain that economic and environmental degradation is sending upon the people of the earth is sociopathic: a kind of madness, a form of narcissism. It’s probably how Hitler managed to become leader of a country – intellectuals argued in their salons about the fine points of his policies, as the brown shirts marched under their windows. At some point, we just have to look reality in the eye and decide to act, in however modest a way.
Our sphere may be quite small. We may need, in order to live with any kind of tranquility, to retreat sometimes to the illusion that the suffering of children, of the poor, of workers in dangerous insufferable conditions, of people learning to recognize the sound of drones overhead has nothing to do with us. BUT we can’t live in that illusion forever, or all the time. That is soul-deadening and will destroy us as a species.
Is There A Tidy Summary?
No, the pain in the world can’t be summarized.
How to be can’t be summarized.
So I’ll just say, Thank You to all the people who have taught me about community, connectedness, the joy of realizing we all belong.
The world is full of both pain and joy, and if we’re able to know some of the latter, lucky us. Sharing that is maybe one of the most noble tasks for people who care about people. But doing our bit matters.