This quiet little post involves a theme I have previously mentioned.
the primary season is upon us, a small part of the never-ending season of trying to end divide and rule and to establish liberty and justice for all
last night i put the headphones on (actually earbuds in, but i’m a child of the 70s, so I reflexively write headphones) and became immersed in the sounds of the language i love, the second language i have been trying to learn for years, looking also at youtubes of south american brothers and sisters who are trying to resist oppression and being met with bullets and bombs paid for by my corrupt hegemonic neoliberal government
i don’t know where any of this will wind up, but I know that the places i must go are not all online or outward
the first piece i ever did for anti-capitalist meetup was about a socialist philosophy that came out of india which emphasizes the need for inner nurturing as part of taking practical steps to heal the planet
the first group i ever joined at daily kos was religious
another group i have joined emphasizes meditation
another group i have joined was formed by a dear pagan comrade of mine who manages to be both loving and strong for the people
some of the hands and heads i kissed and bodies i hugged yesterday belonged to the now very old and weak republicans who brought me into this world
a couple of years ago, when i put my political journey story together, thoughts about inner peace were scattered throughout
I hope to try to not let the complexity of the problems and the uncertainties of the information flows keep my mind off the desperate and what is best for them in an imperfect world. I think that is my obligation, and it also, I believe, contributes to my inner peace.
With me, the key is to integrate my social consciousness with my life as a contemplative who recognizes a vital need for inner peace of some kind. A personal mission-mentality is not ultimately self-sustaining. I grew up seeing many religious burnouts, and I have read about socialist burnouts. We all need solidarity and sources of inner strength for the tough times, even when we must soldier on anonymously.
But, if it is a matter of duty felt at our core, as opposed to imposed from without, we put aside the risk, the cowardice, the shyness, and the fear of failure and humiliation, and we do the best we can. That is what I have tried to do in writing this personal political pamphlet. It is not perfect, but I am bringing it in for a landing, because otherwise, it will either not get done or eat me up, which would not help anyone. So here it is.
Outside of the family structure, the neighborhoods in which desperate children grow up also may do nothing to extend to the children external or inner peace. Other neighbors probably have problems of their own. Unemployment and underemployment are always rampant. Gun shots go off, fights break out, sexual assaults occur, and drugs may be the core economic engine of the local economy, despite decades of “drug war.” Addicted persons may have no access to drug treatment.
I know of no answers other than to say family stability generally is not happening in the good old U.S.A. underclass, to a large extent tied into drug addiction, which includes alcohol. It would appear that the U.S. has an epidemic of an economic and medical nature to which mostly an after-the-fact law enforcement solution has been prescribed, providing a mismatch of needs and bad timing of expenditures.
Even families that succeed on a certain level, such as by remaining drug-free, can themselves be powerful instruments of alienation. Even sober parents and sober milieus can provide inducement to self-medication in the next generation. In my situation, my parents each grew up in houses with a parent or stepparent who was an alcoholic. I am fortunate that both of my parents have been teetotalers my whole life. I am thankful to them for their gift to me of their sobriety. But because of my mother’s mental problems, and her constant cruelty, particularly toward my father and sister, things were quite bad enough to produce completely alienated self-medicating-prone children. In fact, as it was, I grew up with rarely a moment’s inner peace whatsoever, all temperance, baptism, church attendance, nightly “family worship,” and religiosity notwithstanding.
In looking back, other than whenever I was around mi abuela, my extremely limited accessing of inner peace did come partly from my father and mother and partly from the religion to which they introduced me. My so infrequent as to be almost entirely absent inner peace arose from: (a) being sung to by my father while rocking back and forth sitting next to him on a front porch swing (I particularly liked him to sing “How Great Thou Art” and “Rock of Ages” while we swung), and engaging in joyous wrestling matches with him on the living room floor; (b) before my mother got depressed and mean, having her occasionally share a can of Campbell’s soup with me, along with saltines smothered with margarine; (c) internalizing the words of the 23rd Psalm and other existential or peaceful passages of the Bible; and (d) quiet semi-liturgical group singing on forgotten Sunday nights of certain old hymns that emphasized solidarity beyond the nuclear family (hymns like “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” a song written by an 18th century working class Baptist pastor who was inspired by love for his parishioners ). Categories (a) and (b), which were related to positive guilt-free nurturing I received from my birth family, ended when I was around five years old. Categories (c) and (d) never completely left me, were a gift from my religious heritage, and formed part of what many followers of my religion refer to as that “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV), which better translated is “a sound of sheer silence” (NRSV).
Given that the tiny bits of positive inner peace I carried into adulthood came from my childhood religion, and that it was my parents who exposed me to these bits, I conclude that even dysfunctional families and religion can do some social good. True, the combination of these particular dysfunctions is not ideal. In my case, the combination of the two became a more or less continuous nightmare largely created and mediated by my deeply-disturbed but religiously-addicted mother. Hence, although my religious endowment, which ultimately was present because of my family, was not entirely negative, its association with my family while growing up was almost entirely negative. In fact, because of my father’s position in the church, we had to be completely quiet about any family problems, including the major turmoil we were living on a daily basis with my outwardly moral and upstanding mother.
To this day observing silence is the best way for me to foster inner peace. How can a child be expected to experience “a sound of sheer silence” in a world of yelling, ugliness, and hatred? How can one expect the child’s parent to avoid yelling, ugliness, and hatred when that is the endowment he or she received or receives from his or her family, neighborhood, and society? Alienation so easily begets alienation. For some admitting, if not embracing, one’s Steppenwolf (Hesse, H., 1927. S. Fischer Verlag) may validate the cold journey in the steppes. I remember reading Hesse’s controversial classic around the same time I discovered contemplative prayer. I began to feel less alone with the knowledge that Hesse had given artistic birth to this sad character. It helped me begin to turn my back on religious fundamentalism, to risk damnation, and to find my own authentic way to acceptance of the great treasure that can be life, assuming basic material needs are met.
i do not know where our journey ends, but i believe that before, during, and after the need for inner peace will be a recurring theme