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I thought I'd post a follow up to this topic. Fortunately, things are looking up. I'm out of training and flying solo nights and weekends (rotating shift, ugh.) Obviously, if there's no one around, no awkward topics come up. But even when people are present, getting along with them has become easier. For some reason, the gatherings have been smaller lately and it's easier to manage the conversation.
Management has since publicly stated that discussions of politics are not allowed after a rather awkward and testy departmental meeting (I'm not the only liberal, and he's much more vociferous than I am.) However, everyone ignores that directive unless management is present. Nonetheless, I've so far managed to negotiate the minefield. I don't think anyone realizes I'm a liberal, though the fellow I mentioned above may have a clue.
Thanks for the suggestions and support. I don't feel like a spineless coward now.
I get bored very, very easily in mundane conversations so I've become quite adept at taking them 'deep'. It doesn't have to be Buddhism, it could be whether alien life exists, or if there are other colours in other dimensions... whatever you want. But what I've learnt is that almost everyone loves these kinds of discussions, even if their normal appearance is superficial - which is really just their own desperate attempts to make sure they fit in by hiding everything they regard as potentially controversial about themselves.
Which is also another important consideration... see their suffering, not what they present themselves as. Because they're all hurting. Some were bullied in school, some abused by family members, some with parents with cancer, some struggling with an addiction, some who've just found their partner has been cheating on them. You don't have to know the details of the suffering, but knowing that it is there in some form and holding that in your heart will dramatically change how you interact with them... much softer, much more concerned, and greatly liberated from your own suffering.
Franche-Comté, North East, Haute Saône. Quite an off-the-track area for tourism, more of a passing through region, than a stop-and-stay one.... Very influenced, cuisine-wise, by the previously-German Alsace-Lorraine region.
I once played the part of a Fortune teller at my daughters' School fund-raising fair one summer. I used 9-star Chi and the baGua to find people's Birth Numbers and thereby tell them their fortune. I remember telling one guy he had an affinity with wood, and that if he could he should find himself a favourite tree and just go there now and again. To my astonishment, he then told me he worked for the Local Authority as a Park Keeper and attendant, and that at lunchtimes, whatever the weather, he would go to a particular tree and always sit under it or shelter from the weather and eat his lunch there, under its boughs. he claimed he always felt better, invigorated and ready to face whatever the afternoon brought.
Weird, yeah, from our limited perspective, but I'm sure there is so, so, so much more to reality than we have even a modicum of awareness of, and it's kind of fascinating to ponder on why, karmically, someone would have an affinity with wood... many lives as a tree?! I have a numerology reading with my birth number plus many other numbers attributed to different aspects of my life. One of the numbers said that after the age of 35 I'd experience significant spiritual growth, and, well, here I am having just turned 35 alone in Spain for six months, kind of doing a retreat. There's something in those things, for sure, but explaining the hows and whys of it all is beyond me. Just another peak into the awe inspiring mysteries of existence.
^^ We're back to the little girl and the starfish washed up on the beach... ^^
There's no argument against the small acts of kindness... they all matter deeply. But these small acts haven't been enough to stop wars, to end poverty, to look after our environment, and so on. And maybe in the past this wasn't so urgent, because our capacities for destruction were relatively small. But now we live in a world where we are capable of destroying a whole planet, so it's clear that we somehow need to raise our game, and somehow engage in big acts of kindness.
I live with this reality every day, with a son who relies on daily medical care to stay alive. If the world goes upside down, he will die in a matter of days without access to his medical requirements. So I am quite aware of living on the edge in that way, despite not currently living in poverty. I certainly wouldn't suggest he should die or that the world would be better off. But I also recognize that were we forced to live within the confines of the natural world, he would die. In many other countries, children like him die. So don't think I don't understand what that means.
I most certainly didn't say or suggest that people deserve to die. I said, imagine our current world and all of its problems if we added all of those millions of people back into the mix. I'm not suggesting we don't work on the related problems and let people die. But if we are going to discuss population control as a valid way of saving the planet, then we have to look at the uncomfortable aspects of that as well, which includes nature, cruel as she can be, taking over.
So, you tell me, what are you doing in this moment to prevent nuclear war? What are you doing about the Syrian children who were bombed the other day? What are you doing about the famine in Somalia? What are you doing to stop the earthquakes that have killed so many in the past few months?
Focusing on what you can actually do isn't sticking your head in the sand.
My point is more that you should believe more in your capacity for goodness. Yes there are very obvious things in our day to day lives that we can do... the 'small things', and the small things amount to a lot - they are the moral glue that keeps communities and societies functioning. However, within you, I have no doubt that there are endless reserves of untapped goodness that are mostly untapped because humanity as a whole seems to have a self esteem problem. Perhaps because for so long now we've been called sinners and what not, and also because we can see the state of the world and our contributions to it. Irrespective, with some imagination and some will then whatever our immediate circumstances are, we can use them for the benefit of others. I don't know your situation so I won't make any suggestions, but there are, for example, parents whose children die of cancer and who then raise funds for research and end up helping thousands of others kids... a small example, but a demonstration of what can be done when we harness our compassion, and probably much more than the parents might previously have believed themselves capable of.
Well said, and true, but as with so many of these things it’s about how things turn out in practice. I don’t think many people would have responded as Terry Waite did, by focusing his creativity within the confines of his own mind to alleviate loneliness.
Yeah, and this is the very large caveat to what I said above. It's simple enough to say that our mind determines our experience, but we don't all have the same mind to start with, and are each burdened with our own very individual karma that, for the most part, pre-determines the mind with which we will be able to respond to our circumstances. For most human beings on this planet it would be almost miraculous and at least extreme good fortune to find ourselves such a circumstance and have any wherewithal whatsoever to respond in such a positive manner. There's no easy solution to this. The best we can do - those who are fortunate to have awareness of dharma - is to work diligently to develop ourselves such that our efforts to share this wisdom with others has credence. It is so, so, so unbelievably complicated. We all wish to solve the problems of our world, but this is a tangled knot of cosmic proportions, and suffering is going to be with us for a long, long time yet. It almost makes me feel like giving my life to Jesus and be done with it.