from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

division & the middle way

I guess I can't not mention Brexit.

It's hard to know how to handle the personal and collective feelings that have arisen over this issue; a bigger schism in national politics, and with bigger implications, probably, than anything since our engagement in the Iraq war of 2003.

From social media, I know that friends and families have found themselves in fierce disagreement with each other, and in the middle of escalating tensions.

I also know that incidents of racial abuse and hate crimes in the UK doubled in number in hours; by yesterday morning, there'd been over 100 reported instances just since Friday. This makes murdered MP Jo Cox's words on commonality more poignant – her murder being the most extreme version of hate crime, of course.

Two stormfronts have collided and created one almighty deluge that threatens to overwhelm us all. Everywhere people are anxious at the uncertainty of it all.

And it's fear that makes people lash out. Lashing out, in turn, is a way of blaming the other, whoever or whatever they are.

We need to turn and face the fear that drives us. We need to get to know it: where is our fear? How is it mirrored in what's happening around us? What's it about, really? How are we adding – or otherwise – to the current climate of fear, pessimism, cynicism?

We have no way of knowing who or what will come ashore and who or what will drown. What we do know – or at least what I believe, which is admittedly not the same thing! – is that global debt-based capitalism, consumerist/materialistic values, profits over ethics, and an aggressive competition-driven focus will not get us out safely.

Our current structures have to crumble, and maybe they now will. I don't wish for the bottoming out and the backlash, but I do know that there could be a breakthrough on the other side.

As always, the middle way may be the way forward. This doesn't mean passive fence-sitting; instead it might mean stopping for a minute, taking breath, scrupulously examining our own propensity for causing division, however minor, however subtle, in our own small lives.

It might mean being aware that we have the choice of adding to, or refraining from, more words of aggression that will only increase the gulf. As Plato said (one of the few things that he said that, as a woman, a poet* and a believer in non-hierarchy, I can actually go with): 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.' 

So maybe we might revisit our own personal hates, our own aggressions and defences, our propensities towards attachments and aversions, as Buddhism says: those attitudes to which we're so fixed that we're blind to others' needs and viewpoints. Perhaps we need to revisit our fixed opinions, and our easy outrage when others' differ. We may need to revisit the way the ego needs to create its certainties and its identity, which often requires sacrificing others to both.

I can be so quick, myself, to jump on bandwagons of campaigning: this is right and this is wrong.
And indeed we do clearly need a personal moral compass. There are times when it's a clear situation: in my book cruelty, for instance is wrong; full stop. If I stand by and say or do nothing, I'm complicit. Mostly, though, it's nothing like that clearcut: situations have many more grey areas than most of us will admit; we like outrage, we like having opinions, we like jumping to conclusions and judging. 'Guilty, m'lud.' 

So we also need to listen to the other, to inform ourselves, to recognise that none of us has access to absolute truth in any situation.

Personally, I'm trying to be quiet, knowing that I don't know, and sniffing the wind, trying to listen to what the times are telling us: what needs to change, what the deeper message is, what I can do about it myself.

And if we can weed out our own unskilful attitudes, then we can help the collective project by facing the uncertainties of our time with openness instead of oppositionality, with kindness and a willingness to listen, to learn, and with an ability to sit at the quiet heart of it all and act, when it's time to, from wisdom instead of reactivity.

* Plato banned poets from his ideal republic. And probably women too – I don't know. 


  1. At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet - Plato

  2. Well, Peter - that's redeemed Plato a bit - a bit - in my eyes. Though given that he didn't want us in his ideal republic, I'm both pleased and surprised that he said that.

    Maybe he just felt poets were too subversive to be given any prominent place?

    Thanks too for reading and responding.


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