A breeze flowed into the interior of California from the Pacific this morning, brightening the day and even allowing a bit of blue sky for only the second time in a month. And for the first time in a moon you can actually see the stars tonight!
Whether winds will pick up and fan more devastating conflagrations remains to be seen, but for a moment there is respite, and peace. If we can’t seize the day, we must seize the moment.
It was the grimmest meditation at streamside in 25 years of living here. The leaves around me were coated with a layer of ash. Spider webs were completely clogged with airborne debris. The air smelled not so much of smoke as traces of chemicals.
The creek is still flowing however, and I sat, masked against the toxic ashes wafting down in the breeze, for an hour and half. Nothing could keep out the toxic metaphysical atmosphere though.
For an hour there, I felt a palpable sorrow–not just personal sorrow, but a collective sorrow, into which my personal sorrow merged and was superseded. Even the sorrow of people killed in the nearby town of Berry Creek felt like an intense, but diffuse sorrow.
Collective sorrow’s source is the personal dimension, the unaddressed and accumulating hurt, grief and suffering of countless selves, which is dispersed in human consciousness, and makes the human condition one of sorrow.
The world is a terrible place, and the Earth is mirroring the sorrow of man. It isn’t just that the mechanisms of the Earth’s ecological systems are under dire stress from man’s runaway fragmentation of ‘the environment.’ Rather, nature is reflecting, to anyone who can still see and feel, how woefully destructive we are as a species.
Removing a racist statue or halting a pipeline is not going to stop the juggernaut of man’s destructiveness. That isn’t change at all, except to those on the progressive side of America’s chasm of competing narratives.
We need to turn inward in a true way. Turning within doesn’t mean hiding out from bad news. The primacy of the inner life sounds solipsistic to those who don’t have one, just as passion is equated with outrage to the superficially minded.
So what is change, and what would actually change things? Certainly not the application of the American work ethic, or commitment to some cause.
Just as sound flows from silence, right action flows from complete inaction.
Why did I sit amidst the ashes for so long today? Why did I let myself feel collective sorrow?
Because the Earth is mirroring the sorrow of man, and I was curious about it. Because to turn away from what is, into the escapes of entertainment or activism, only generates more conflagrations, literally and metaphorically.
For an hour, the passive observation, though it gathered undirected attention, did not penetrate beneath and beyond collective sorrow. But when I asked why, and left the question, I found on leaving that sorrow had been left behind, and at least temporarily had been transmuted into clarity and compassion.
The universe, which is synonymous with the cosmic mind, knows no sorrow. When the separate self completely ceases to operate, then the heart and mind participate in the state of meditation of the universe.
If you live in the fire ravaged western states, or the flood ravaged southern states, you realize at visceral level that the Earth is reflecting man’s fragmentation and sorrow back to us.
Facing and remaining with personal and collective sorrow, it’s transformed within us. That is true change. The rest is merely chasing bubbles on the surface of the cauldron that is this world.