21 March 2011

Part of the Conversation

Eco-psychology, a modern term for indigenous wisdom, reminds us that absolutely everything, including tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns, is a form of speech, an immense conversation of which we are a part. If you have lost your voice out of shock, numbness or impotence you can begin to reclaim it by speaking this truth to another, be it tree, river, sky or receptive human.
Aninha Livingstone
PhD Candidate, Meridian University

Over the last two weeks I have often felt voiceless as I listened to “experts” discussing the global economic impact of the earthquake and tsunami, and then the continual problems at the nuclear power plant affected by these disasters. My voicelessness arises from not knowing what to do with my rage at being told what to focus on. How rapidly these experts shift their conversation from the thousands of people dead, or trying to survive after these events to the drop in the stock markets, to concerns about manufacturing being held up – to matters that seem to me callous in the face of the human tragedy.

I’ve spoken about this very little, in comparison to the amount of anger I feel. Why? Because each time I’ve wanted to talk about it, the response from others has been that economic concerns ARE human concerns. Since I cannot deny this reality, the conversation quickly draws to a close. Yet I’m left with my rage, with a sense of powerlessness I cannot seem to shake.

I do understand what this is about, in part. Our culture holds as axiomatic a belief that we should focus our time and energy on those things we can do something about, those situations we can fix, on keeping ourselves and our immediate families safe from the unknown. Yet shit happens. We spend our dollars and time on potions and exercise, on plastic surgery and weight lifting to keep ourselves young, and we’re encouraged in this at every turn. Yet we age anyway. And we will die eventually, or sooner.

Everything about the society in which we live wants us to seek security and safety. Yet the world offers neither. The playwright Tom Stoppard wrote, “Life is a gamble, at terrible odds. If it was a bet, you wouldn’t take it.” So we make the choice, it seems, to pretend we can change the odds, and in doing so, pretend we’ve reduced the risk. We become callous and cynical.

It seems to me that focusing our conversations on economics and production, on stock market fluctuations and nuclear meltdowns allows us to avoid participating in the conversations we really need to have. Conversations about what we do with our lives and our inner resources, in the every day, how we live with each other, are more difficult ones to have. Talking with our selves and others, even without words, about our fears and dreams, our failings and hopes, requires risk. And though I feel angry that, too often, our public discourse doesn’t include these conversations, I must admit that I too, avoid that risk. In avoidance I contribute to the very thing that generates my anger.

Maybe this is where my anger comes in handy, serves to teach me something. Maybe my anger too is a form of speech, a conversation that it’s time, and past time, for me to be more fully a part of.

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