And When I’m Gone…

I’ve written before about the afterlife and my thoughts as an atheist on what happens after we die.  My opinion is that there is no afterlife for us, but that our legacy lives on in the things we have taught others, the ideas and thoughts we put out into the broader knowledge base of mankind.

But perhaps there is an afterlife we can consider that is more meaningful than that, even.

What if our afterlife is really the lives of our friends and families once we’re gone?  What if, instead of worrying about what happens to our souls and spirits when we’re gone, we worried about what will happen to the souls and spirits of those we leave behind?

If we thought that way, how far into the future would our concerns stretch?

Many spiritual concepts regarding the afterlife deal in terms like eternity.  We are compelled to choose carefully because our choices now impact our soul for the rest of neverending time.   So if the only afterlife we got, the only afterlife we could impact with our decisions now, is the one lived by our friends and family after our deaths, would we still think in terms of forever?

Would we only worry about our children?  Our grandchildren?  Great grandchildren?  The end of our family tree?

Or would we do what we could now to ensure that the world they live in will be the best possible world for the rest of time?

 

From the Book: “I am not alone”

I selected the phrases for my coloring book to say what I thought might be most important to others within the activist community.  But because the coloring book simply has the coloring pages without commentary, I thought I might use this venue to elaborate a bit on why I chose to include what I did.

“I am not alone.”

Focusing on the need, the injustice, the broken bits in the world around us can be isolating.  It can be too easy to begin to feel that the people around you are part of problem, part of the threat.  Even worse, when the work gets hard and the numbers of volunteers and activists dwindle, when the results aren’t immediate, feeling alone is natural.

But it’s never true.  There are always allies, even if they can’t stand beside you.  There are always other fighters, even if they aren’t in the same trench as you.

Part of self-care as an activist is to keep reaching out, to keep in contact with those who are your own allies and supporters, those who are doing the same work you’re doing and can understand the difficulties.

From the Book: “Resist Indifference”

I selected the phrases for my coloring book to say what I thought might be most important to others within the activist community.  But because the coloring book simply has the coloring pages without commentary, I thought I might use this venue to elaborate a bit on why I chose to include what I did.

“Resist indifference.”

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”  — Elie Wiesel

Our instincts tell us that if we’re fighting hate and bigotry, the fight must be waged against those whose hate is the loudest, the most threatening.  But two minutes on the internet should teach anyone that this approach is rarely profitable, especially in the short term.

The real threat is indifference.  We should be less afraid of the few who promote hate than we are of the many who fail to see why it’s a problem.  Oppression doesn’t require widespread hate, just widespread failure to stand up against it.

If we are to change the world, I believe we should start with those around us who are indifferent to the suffering around them.  Those whose eyes have not been opened to the forces which threaten those they care about.  Those who have not yet seen the need to take a stand.  That is the fight we should be having every day.

Bubbles, part 2

I posted a few days ago about the importance of getting out of our bubbles, but we also use our bubbles to keep people out.  We use them as shields to protect our vulnerabilities.  We stay in our bubbles with people who are like us, people who are open to who we are, because we feel safer that way.

If we stay in our bubbles, we don’t have to fear those outside the bubbles.

If we stay in the closet, we don’t have to fear those outside the closet.

But the reality is that we still fear them.  We always do.  It’s the fear that makes the bubble possible.  And the longer we stay in our bubbles the more we fear what’s outside.

And even worse, if we all stay in our bubbles, if we all separate and hide ourselves from those outside our bubbles, the people outside our bubbles will continue to fear us as well.  And the harsh truth is that no one has ever hidden in their own bubble of seclusion long enough to win acceptance and safety from the world outside that bubble.

One of the most powerfully revolutionary things a person can do in this world is open their bubble and let everyone in.  Coming out of our bubbles, our closets, our sanctuaries is the first step to changing the world.  We have to interact with it, confront it, welcome it in order to conduct the kind of experiential dialog which breaks down the foundations of fear.

How is the world to understand those of us who are different if we’re hiding the fact that we’re different?

How is the world to change to embrace us if we keep it at arm’s length?

How are we to find our allies if we do not open ourselves up to interaction?

If the world is telling us that we aren’t real, that we’re not welcome, that we have no place, how are we going to change it if we don’t open up our bubbles and step out to prove we’re real, to seek the welcome we deserve, to make our place?

From the Book: “It is not about me”

I selected the phrases for my coloring book to say what I thought might be most important to others within the activist community.  But because the coloring book simply has the coloring pages without commentary, I thought I might use this venue to elaborate a bit on why I chose to include what I did.

“It is not about me.”

We are drawn to the causes which are personal to us.  It’s only natural, and there’s nothing wrong with fighting the hardest against things which have impacted our lives in some significant way.  But it also leaves us vulnerable to making the fight more about our own feelings, our own goals, our own visions, rather than the big picture.

This was at the top of my list of mantras to include in this book.  The bottom line is that movements are most easily derailed and destroyed by those inside who begin to focus on their own interests without realizing that they’ve stopped pushing for the overall goal.

Even worse is when those who purport to be focused on doing good in the world let their attention turn away from the need for good in the world and towards the fact that they are doing something.  Success should be measured in how many people are fed, not on how many people volunteered to feed them.

True, there is no unselfish good deed.  We get personal benefits of some sort by using our time and effort to help others, but while doing good for others nearly always results in benefits for yourself, it doesn’t hold true the other way around.  Selfish service can easily do more harm than good.

From the Book: “When in doubt, listen”

I selected the phrases for my coloring book to say what I thought might be most important to others within the activist community.  But because the coloring book simply has the coloring pages without commentary, I thought I might use this venue to elaborate a bit on why I chose to include what I did.

“When in doubt, listen.”

Trying to do good in the world is an undertaking fraught with moments of uncertainty and discouragement.  How do you start?  How can you do the most good?  What if you’re not succeeding?  Are you really meeting a need?

I believe that if you have a purpose in mind, some kind of guiding goal, getting yourself back on a path towards that goal is easier.  Those kinds of visionary purposes allow us to measure what we’re doing against what we want to do.  But even then, it’s sometimes difficult to know whether we’re on the right track or even moving in the right direction.

In those times of doubt, the best thing to do is listen.  Listen to those you’re trying to help.  Listen to the people you’re working with.  Listen to those who oppose you.  Listen to your supporters and your critics.  Don’t agree or disagree right away, don’t debate, just listen.

Whether we like it or not, when it comes to impacting the world around us, our actions produce a response.  That response lets us know how we’re doing.  Ideally, we should be getting positive feedback from our allies.  If they are giving us suggestions, criticisms, and resistance, perhaps we’re not on the right path towards a positive impact.  And likewise we should not ignore what it said by our critics.  Some of what is said is likely legitimate feedback.

When changing the world gets truly difficult, maybe it’s time to let the world help us change our approach.

On Bluster and Bubbles

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the bubbles we live in.  If we restrict our experiences, the narratives to which we are exposed, the people and ideas with which we might be confronted, then we can pretend that the world is simpler and more aligned with our preferences.

We can ignore the world beyond the bubble which we wish did not exist.

We can resist seeing the reality of problems or contradictory experiences which lie beyond our bubble and which might make us question our preferences.

But the worst thing that bubbles do is allow us to pretend that the entirety of the real world doesn’t truly exist.

The types of people we fear or despise?  We can erase them from our reality.  We can continue as if they are myths.  The situations in which our particular moral code fails to fit?  We can call them imaginary, allegorical.  We can pretend that they never arise.

In fact, isn’t this often what we do in our spiritual paths?  We construct a universe in which our beliefs make sense, and then push everything contradictory to it out of our bubble.  We decide that “those” people are delusional or misled or evil and that if they do “those” types of things then they’re malicious.  Actual people who have actual reasons for believing differently or acting differently don’t exist.  They’re not real.  There is only us and those who would be us if they weren’t trying to deny the reality of our universe.

So what happens when we step outside those bubbles and actually experience the life outside?  What happens when we acknowledge that our universe is a construct of our own, and one which doesn’t truly capture everyone’s existence?

What happens is that we have to confront the dissonance.  We have to process the contradictions.  We have to figure out the relationship between ourselves and the things we wished didn’t exist, because they actually do.

And that’s why we don’t like leaving our bubbles.  It’s easy to pretend that you can fight and vanquish an imaginary foe, but when you’re staring it in the eye it’s not so easy.  In fact, you may find it’s not what should happen.  You might end up having to defend yourself, or you might end up having to extend aid to a person you expected to hate.  But you probably won’t, then, have the luxury of standing aside and not engaging in some kind of interaction.  You can’t imagine it or pretend.  And it’s frightening to most of us.

But it’s necessary.

Nothing good comes of denying the entirety of reality in all it’s inconvenient glory.