“Well, It Can’t Hurt?” Yes It Can! And Does…
by Antonio Dias
“What’s wrong with striving? How can it possibly be bad to try? Isn’t it irresponsible not to?”
We hear these cries, either around us, or internally, whenever we contemplate an alternative to striving.
We ‘re tempted. We quaver. We cave in. Of course, “What harm could there be? It’s only prudent after all!” we say, walking away, shaking our heads.
The thing is, it is harmful. It is even irresponsible, and certainly causes more problems than it resolves, to continue along a fuzzy trail, accepting what our Egos would like us to continue believing. Ego isn’t concerned with our effectiveness, but only that it continues to dominate us in whatever hell-hole of a life it might reduce us to.
Drug addiction? Fine, remember I’ve got plenty of justification handy! How could I possibly do anything else? – Oh! except maybe “Try to get better…” as I trail off, and nod off, until it’s time to go find my next high.
Power mad? Sure! Fine! Give up everything that could possibly mean anything to me or anyone foolish enough to want to get close! My Ego won’t mind how low I sink. It will be warmed by the bliss of its complete control over a power-mad sap like me.
Angry? Filled with Hate and Righteous Indignation?…
Those are just the ways that a focus on striving and trying hurt us directly. What about what our lack of attention on anything else does? These effects are even more damaging.
We only have so much attention. We only have so much potential energy at our command. If we consume these in a cycle of addiction and withdrawal, without ever changing our habitual responses, we won’t have any attention or energy to turn to anything that might actually do someone or something some good.
Setting up a panel, starting another “War on” fill-in-the-blank, getting all screwed up with optimistic motivation to try harder; these are wonderful displacement activities, but they don’t do a damn thing about any of what we purport to be exercised over. When they don’t work, it’s all because of “unintended” consequences, “Who could have known!”
While we’re occupied with these place-holders we patronize our emotional states. We lean on the intoxicating “benefits” of anger, or fighting “Evil,” and just don’t have anything left to contemplate any of the actual results of our choices. After all its our intention that matters most, right?
When we begin to actually tear into this house of cards of mutually supporting rationalizations and self-justifications it shames our “common sense” notions that an alternative to striving is some kind of “do-gooder,” pie-in-the-sky, Utopian fantasy; that will distract us from the “real” hard work of getting things done!
These attitudes are dangerous. The results are all around us. Caught up in the frenzy of urgency we never get around to clearing our heads and establishing a focus and habits that support and strengthen our ability to see through the traps and find effective action.
Sincerity does act to limit the damage of the short-circuits we fall into out of urgency. It steers us around the traps of futility and self-domination that attempt to force us back into an Ego-feeding pattern. Humility shows us that the world isn’t waiting with baited breath for our “solutions.” A physical practice strengthens our organism physically, mentally, and opens up a space for empathy and compassion to grow. These begin to work on us internally. We gain a sense of what we can shape and what is beyond us. This lesson propagates and disseminates through our work and as an example. Whatever is good about what then happens is not ours to own, but a Gift we’ve shared in.
This is an incremental process punctuated by tipping points and unexpected breakthroughs, by Grace. Urgency and self-importance only get in the way. As does any sort of righteousness.
As for saving anything, until we find our selves in losing Ego-domination, there is nothing more we can do than to stop doing what Ego demands of us. The first step of letting go of Ego is to suspend belief in its commands. When we first stop, we are flooded with all the symptoms of withdrawal. Anxiety peaks, and then subsides as we look around and see that the world has not stopped turning because we let go of the “controls.” We begin to lose the panic that without Ego telling me what to do “I am nothing!” The vigor within our organism begins to find room to establish itself.
If we are concerned with injustice, then this is the first step to actually doing something about it. Colonialism starts at home! We need to free our selves of this domination before we can begin to see a way to do anything with wider implications. Without going through this step – and I make no claims to know what is on the other side! – we are only playing ever-more subtle – to us – games of domination. This is not an easy nut to crack. But the path reveals itself as we go along. As with any embodied change it takes time and concerted effort to reach its full benefits.
One of the first benefits, and one I can say I’ve tasted, is the benefit of finding time. As the rush to the Future abates, the present fills our attention more and more. That shouldn’t be surprising, but it is! It’s a cause of wonder. Yet,
“There’s no time!” is the perennial cry!
Just ask yourself, “Who benefits from my remaining in a state of urgency?”