It's always your turn
This week I got a flat tire on my way to something important. Twice. And it wasn’t just a bit low on air. It was completely, rubber-floppingly, all-the-way-to-the-pavement flat. Both times. Fortunately, the first time I wasn't far from home and I happened to be next to a tire repair shop. So I left my car with the experts and caught a ride to my event. Someone else driving gave me a different perspective along an otherwise well-travelled route, and I noticed a quote on a billboard I hadn’t seen before:
According to the internet, well-known psychologist Carl Rogers made that pronouncement. I had never heard of that person until I Googled their quote, but I didn't need to know who they were to agree with that slice of wisdom pie. I feel quite strongly that no matter what we're doing or how we're doing it, we're always practicing something. I spent many years putting other people's needs before my own in relationships, so I became a person whose needs were not prioritized. That dynamic only changed when I began to practice a different way of relating to loved ones.
That gem of an insight also reminds me of something my Taiji/Qigong teacher has been saying for years which I now say to my students all the time: it's always your turn. Even when you're not the partner "doing the action" in a training drill, you still have an important role and you are still working on something. Even if all your doing is standing still while your partner identifies all the open targets in your posture, you are working on confront by watching strikes come in and keeping your awareness and your wits about you.
Beyond its application to martial arts, this concept feels especially poignant this week. According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have all the tools and ability to avert the worst outcomes from global climate change but we're not employing them effectively. To avoid impending doom, nations and industry must take drastic action and they have to do it soon. Like yesterday. But year after year world leaders negotiate incremental adjustments they fail to accomplish. As a global community, we're not doing what we need to do about climate change because we're still practicing what we've been doing the same way we've always been doing it.
Meanwhile, people of parenting age in China aren't getting married and making babies in sufficient numbers to keep the population up. This week a city in China launched its own state sponsored match-making app and included all the local residents without consulting them first. This move is such a glaring example of the simultaneous missteps of missing-the-point and making-things-worse.
Marriage rates are down in China for a myriad of reasons, including economics. Many folks say they can't afford to get married, but instead of addressing the root-causes, the government does what it's most practiced at doing: forcing people to behave how the government wants them to behave. And best of luck to anyone who wants to avoid a stalker or an abuser, or who isn't getting married because they happen to be gay.
The whole situation is a horrifying example of dehumanizing one of the most human things in the world: romantic love. Sure, the State has lots of data about all the people and it can certainly group two of them together. But this "service" is not likely to use metrics chosen by those people. The state sponsored match-maker is undoubtedly making matches according to its own criteria, pairing couples based on what is most likely to further the government's interest. Add this to the stack of things created “for people” that doesn’t actually take people into account.
Another highlight from this week is the 20 years that have elapsed since the US invaded Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein and discover all the weapons of mass destruction he was supposedly hiding. I heard an interview on the BBC news with Richard Armitage, who was the Deputy Secretary of State during George W Bush's administration when the Iraq invasion began. Armitage spoke rather candidly about what made the US operation such a catastrophe.
The most striking observation to me was how Armitage described the ignorance of the US national security team. Apparently the folks in charge thought it would be easy to just show up, install democracy, and then leave. They had no understanding of the tribal nature of Iraqi politics, governance, or societal structure. So we didn't know what we were doing. But we ran in there, guns blazing, and did it anyway. Because we thought it, that made it a good idea... because that's what the US always does. And then everyone has to deal with the consequences of our national practice of arrogance and ill-informed assuredness.
Another quote from Carl Rogers fits nicely in with this consideration: "Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas and none of my own ideas are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me." Thinking about your values and imagining your principles is one thing, but it pales in comparison to the embodied experience of living-out those values in the way you move through the world.
It's always my turn. Even if it seems like my individual actions have no effect in shaping the grand universal design, I am still a participant. I can choose to participate passively, going with whatever flow happens to present itself to me, which lumps my effort in with that of the prevailing wind. Or I can participate deliberately, choosing how to engage with the people, places, ideas, and world around me, which adds my efforts to the stack aimed at the outcome I desire.
As Paul Rulkens says in his TedxTalk, "If you do what everyone else is doing, you get results that everyone else is getting, and those are normal results. And the thing is, what we are after today, are extraordinary results." The time is long gone when mere minor shifts could save us and rescue our one and only planet. Today we are facing the accumulation of several generations of fossil fuel use. That means we have to take a several-generation-scale step in a completely different direction if we hope to end up in a different place.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.