This post represents the conclusion of a two-part series on slavery and freedom. Part one can be found here.
There are those among us who bear no traces of captivity or bondage, no scars from being fractured from one another and within themselves. Accordingly, those to whom this applies rarely, if ever, recognize the existence of any such slavery or division. Those who complain about such things are whiners, they believe, blaming all society for their misfortunes, when it is their own poor decisions, ineptitude, or bad work ethic that’s really at fault.
We all know these people. Some can be found around the office—the ones for whom the work is not only natural, but the only thing, their raison d’etre for being an adult or human (or something). They require nothing more from themselves or the world than excellence in the task and career placed before them. Others we know from childhood or loose acquaintance, people for whom the sun simply seems perpetually to shine. They are young and making lots of money, sometimes have successful relationships, and seem to be perpetually coming into their own, again and again.
There is little one can say to such people, for they believe they have no personal need to be comforted or otherwise supplemented, and often extend that belief even unto those who do not share their positive fortunes. No one would need to be comforted, they say, if they had only acted in the right manner in the first place.
As for the rest of us—the tired, the disillusioned, the spiritually hungry, the financially burdened, and those who simply see all that today’s life has to offer and find it sorely, sorely wanting—our options beyond subservience to the “lucky ones” are quite limited. Revolutionaries meet one of three fates. Most are taken out back and shot, nipped in the bud before they can do anything worthwhile, and immediately forgotten. No one likes a loser. Some may fight with courage and make some small mark before getting killed and thus becoming martyred—beloved but generally impotent symbols of ideals and failure. Last are those who win, the ones who topple the tyrannical regime. These ones should be the most familiar, as they are almost always the ones who become the new tyrants.
Bunch of dead end paths. Seek ye not destruction. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.
Doesn’t the Scripture make you cringe, in light of the circumstances? Doesn’t that alone place us squarely in the absence of God, the very definition of the state of hell?
Shall not the prisoners of hell try unto the end of ends to rise up and destroy it?
But we don’t, not really. We surrender. We allow our spirits and backs to be broken, left only to popping blood pressure meds and Ativan. The warden and his officers are very good at their jobs.
So perhaps we find and hold fast to the Good People, as I’ve said before. Perhaps we take comfort in the previously discussion tenet that nothing is actually unnatural, that nothing exists outside of nature and can therefore never truly oppose it. There are only different systems and patterns within the same framework—and some patterns and systems involve differing levels of balance and harmony than others. I concluded last time (nearly a month ago, at this point), that the cosmic (natural) response to imbalance is a “grim adjustment.”
That’s true. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Oppressors and destroyers and even the enabling, condescending Lucky Ones, possess much less mastery over their own fates than they imagine, and would have us all believe. In the end, they are not exempt from the rules. In proportion to their offense and their imbalance, they will get theirs.
In the face of the natural promise of adjustment, that law of gravitation back towards the center, one of the many faces of Eternal Return, you should see quickly that there is no real need for personal vengeance or tumultuous uprising. You don’t need to cling to all that, because it’s not really your responsibility to fix all of the things beyond your control. You can let go of that. It’s being handled. You can relax a little more.
Why don’t you relax your ego a little bit, while you’re at it? Maybe, even if just as an intellectual exercise, if you can realize that your personhood is not a fortress that you need to defend against constant external threats, the rigidity of your individual self diminishes slightly in importance. Let yourself float upwards and outwards, through time and space, far enough out that you can see all the crazy sparks zooming around you in the night of space. You can see, flying around you, not merely your tragedies and betrayals and attacks, but everything. All that you live and breathe and love and hate and do and think. Nothing but tiny little glimmering sparks traveling between a holy fire below and a holy void above. All a part of the whole, all beautiful, all flawless, all sacred and nothing damned.
When you stand in space and look at the sparks of your world, there and then you are free from all bondage and hindered by no disunity. It isn’t when our minds are free and large and down to earth and royal that we experience our highest potential—it’s when we see that it’s all a bunch of swirling light. When we see how wonderfully small we really are. Everything else is large, but not us. Speak of it in whichever language you are most comfortable—God’s Will, the rhythm of the Tao, the Wheel of Samsara, or one of many universes and realities existing randomly in the dimensions of the strings—for it bears pointing out that each of these interpretations can reasonably be called by a single name.
Remove yourself from the center of the universe. Let’s further remove our employers, our political and economic masters, from their preferred perch on high as demigods. They may be our superiors in this life we have before us, and indeed they may command a disproportionate share of our lifetime lot, but here in the darkness, amid the swirling of the light, we see that they are no more the masters than we are. The high and mighty are merely our fellow servants walking alongside us in obedience to a much larger invisible scheme.
Capitalism and modern post-industrial society can no more put out the furnace of the sun than your boss can lawfully kill you (and it is worth reminding everyone, especially those in the midst of very difficult and stressful weeks, that your boss actually can’t kill you). We need fear none of this. We need be intoxicated by no paranoia, and without getting carried away hoping for ease and silly things, we yet can remain unbroken by despair.
The truth is that we are not alone, and what is as true as the air I breathe is the fact that those above you can no more steal your time than they can extinguish that very breath. Write it down, guys. Burn it into your skulls. Your employer cannot steal your time. Neither can your spouse or your kids or your responsibilities or your obligations. Even if our brains be incapable of perceiving the truth that time is circular and not linear, we can certainly understand that it is not proprietary. Its nature is such that it cannot be stolen, consumed, wasted, or lost. Every second of your life—now, before, and ahead of you, remains about your existence for all of eternity. Every moment is yours forever.
It’s a liberating concept, but it’s also a demanding one. It means you have to stand up and take ownership of all moments, to give up on watching the clock and hope for quitting time and instead embrace the notion that every minute is sacred. Even the most boring and arduous moments spent in your black felt swivel chair, staring at multiple computer screens, are yours to live. Where you are forced to spend your weekdays might be dictated by outside forces, but the choice as to whether you would like to show up and truly live is yours and yours alone.
I encourage you to make that choice.
All it takes is a few of us who realize there is no unholy thing, no unholy role, no unholy task, no unholy day. The nature of our society will remain the same. The circumstances, rules, politics, nature, and color of the room of your workplace will remain exactly the same—but it’s the atmosphere, the energy that fills its seemingly empty spaces that we’ve got the ability to transform.
We will not change the world. The world changes in its due course, all on its own. In the meantime, tragedy and injustice will continue unabated, and yet even our worst and darkest of days will always remain days in which we had the privilege of living. We’ll stop staring at the ground, stumbling aimlessly, eternally surprised, again and again, at where we find ourselves.
Instead, we can start showing up, intentionally and on time, for everything.