Lately it’s been difficult to write about Occupy Wall Street both for lack of time (what with all the marches, rallies, and meetings) and also because there’s so much to say. It’s hard to know where to start. There are a lot of emotions.
So many meetings, so much to do. There’s so much to fix in our society: corruption in politics, financial sector crime, wars for profit, environmental pollution, human rights abuses, access to health care, growing economic disparity, low quality high cost education system, debt-based economy, and vast societal discontent. Those are just some of the large-scale systems that require big changes. The magnitude and breadth of those challenges are overwhelming. The feeling is one of drowning, can’t tell up from down, which way to swim for the surface.
Many people in, and out of, the OWS movement are angry at the state of the world. Some are also angry at each other. From the micro to the macro, from the Kitchen running out of food when it comes to your turn in line to Bloomberg’s “private army” the NYPD evicting the OWS camp from Liberty Plaza in the middle of the night barring the press and arresting over 200 protestors, there’s a lot to be angry about. Anger is fiery and hot. Most o us tend to refuse the emotion, try to push it away. This aversion only serves to give the anger more power. Sometimes by allowing the feeling to be there I find it roars up in my chest, clenches my belly, tightens my hands… and then it dissolves.
It’s a scary world out there where peaceful demonstrators are beaten, sprayed with chemical weapons, arrested and humiliated all in the name of “public health” or “park regulations”. It’s pretty terrifying that the government officials charged with protecting us are working to pass legislation to allow for indefinite detention of civilians without charges right here in the US of A, land of the free. The prison industrial complex is just one example of modern day slavery systematized privatized and legalized by our corporate-backed government. So if you are scared, don’t worry you’re not crazy. Fear in and of itself is not a problem – take it as a sign that you are seeing clearly. Make friends with your Fear, respect it, maybe have a conversation over tea and cookies.
There’s no shortage of passion among the activists at OWS. But passion can feel like a tsunami, sweeping away logic, reason and normalcy. What’s left in its wake is the raw, naked, vulnerable and tender ground. This is the ground of awakening. It also means that everyone is extra touchy and jumpy. We are all a bit raw from the birth pangs of the revolution. It isn’t easy to develop consensus in a group of highly passionate individuals.
We want a better world so badly it’s absolutely maddening. Desire is like a starving coyote gnawing on my viscera. It’s painful, it’s profound, it’s mystical – this driving force is arguably responsible for all advancements in civilization, all forms of our modern creature comforts, all works of art and ingenuity. The desire for improvement is a beautiful human quality. This allows us to have a vision, to set goals, and to work together in accomplishing important tasks. However the Buddha pointed out long ago that the root of all discontent and suffering is desire for things to be other than what they are. In every moment we humans manage to find fault. I’m either hungry, or sleepy, or lovesick, or homesick, or worried about some near or far future. All this looking forward (and back) is actually preventing me from experiencing the real brilliance of this very moment with all its sparkle, erotic charge, freshness and vigor.
Yeah, this one is such a cliche. We hear the word so often. “Oh, I loved that movie!” and “I love turkey burgers,” or “I love my iPad 2.” We know those are mere perversions, misuses of the word “love”. We are limited by language, but real love, or true love, or unconditional love is actually so big that it encompasses, embraces, caresses all the myriad of other human emotions. Love is what creeps in through the empty spaces between thoughts when I look up at the sky. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or dark, cloudy or clear, sweltering or frigid. Love is what keeps us coming back to 60 Wall St to attend another slew of meetings after yesterday’s chaos at Spokes Council. Love is what drives the direct actions, the meditation circles, the People’s Library and People’s Kitchen. This love is wide open, universal, unequivocal and unwavering. Sometimes it hurts and we know that is the reality of life.
“If your house falls down, get on top of the ruins and dance.” -Doña Leova
Love is both the light and the dark, the harsh and the soft, the strong and gentle, the light and the shadow. This power of goodness exists not in opposition to bad, instead it envelops all experience. This energy of wakefulness is present even in the deepest sleep. Love is the ground on which we walk, the air we breathe, the smile on a friend’s face, the heat of fire, the coolness of ice. Nature exhibits love in all her glory. What better hope do we have than to follow suit?
#OccupySamsara is a column dedicated to the heartfelt yearning for all sentient beings to be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering. Samsara is a Sanskrit word used by Buddhists to describe the cyclical nature of our own and societal suffering and dissatisfaction.