The Veil Hides a Sharp, Ragged Edge

May 6, 2011

I live on the edge. A keen ever-present sense that the ‘worst’ could fall at any moment. One tiny instant of time irrevocably alters life’s path. It can be global, such as a shooting that triggers global war; or local, such as an earthquake; or individual: a heart attack.

It can be sudden, but so often it’s a matter of a tipping point. We rock back and forth, and suddenly, we don’t come right again. Instead, we fall into whatever awaits below.

Global warming. Overpopulation. Ignorant populace. Religious domination of a supposedly free state. All too easily we could topple into a new dark ages – after massive violence and decimation. Not pretty.

How does one live, knowing how close horror is to us – just the other side of a thin veil that both is, and is not reality.

Reality is what actually happens. We aren’t at war today. But it could so easily have been that reality was war.

I could not wake up tomorrow. I could die at any moment, from any miraculous connivance of autos, meteorites, fire, slippings – any number of things could end my life in an instant.

So far, reality has been that I have woken up. I have made it through each day.

Humans, alas, cling to patterns like this and make assumptions off them. If I always have woken up, I always will. Oh, I know I’ll die, but – I DON’T BELIEVE IT. I don’t live according to that reality, but according to the alternative reality I’ve constructed – I, and every other human. I will not die. At least, not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not this year.

The world will not change such that my life will be inconvenienced. Why should I inconvenience myself today to prevent something I DON’T BELIEVE will happen. Science? Data? Tests? Wtf? Why should I believe something that makes me uncomfortable?

How do we survive? Mostly, we wrap ourselves in a comfy blanket of beliefs. The more we fear, the thicker our blankets. Hence the violent, vehement reaction when someone’s blanket is tugged. Religious outrage to atheism, for example. Or worse.

If we are at all aware of others, and of our very real inter-connectivity to the rest of our species and our planet, we carefully select a few causes to support, and feel we have done what we can. But again, if anyone tries to point out we aren’t actually doing any good, or are creating more problems – at the very least wars of rhetoric erupt.  / George Monbiot’s posts  / on the green movement’s blindness to the real issues around energy production are a perfect example.

I’m not criticizing. Just the other day I was telling my sister that I couldn’t think about something, because I’m spread too thin already. There’s only so much I can focus on, and only so much potential disaster my mind can cope with. I am but human.

So what can we do? At best, try to keep the blanket as thin as you can, so you aren’t impervious to the needs of others. The republican budget that devastates aid to women and children is a perfect example of a way-too insulating blanket.

Accept that you can’t change everything you’d like to. Don’t give yourself a hard time for not being active for everything you know is critical to our survival (am I listening to myself here? I am way too prone to guilt).

Mostly, though, just check yourself occasionally. Ask yourself why you’ve chosen to care actively about this and not that. Have you actually investigated the consequences of your choices? Are you trying to keep improving your awareness and your responses?

And always, always, be wary of your own confirmation biases. They’re calling it all sorts of other fancy names now – but whatever they call it, it boils down to: we accept as true what we want to believe, and ignore all else.

Don’t do that. Try your hardest to see both sides of an issue. Recognize that what’s  important for you, personally, might not be in the best interest for most people, so don’t let your decisions be too personalized  (corporations not being taxed? prayer in school? Good for you, maybe, but what about all the people you hurt?).  Take a stand, but do it on evidence, not belief. Beliefs save us – we can’t live without them, but they are so very dangerous.

Always, always, examine your beliefs.

Don’t let what you believe hurt anyone else.

Don’t let what you want to believe control anyone else.

Only take actions based on facts. Do the research – don’t ignore global warming because your political party tells you not to. Look at the evidence. All over the world farmers – down home good old boys country folk – are noticing the effects of shifting climate. I’d rather listen to someone who actually lives off the land than some bureaucrat who lives off his hands being deep in corporate pockets.

Think. It’s our only hope. As an individual, as a species.

Think. For all our sakes.

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