Monday, January 31, 2011

Acceptance and American pride

I just finished reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I had not read it since college and I remember it making quite an impression on me then. Reading it again, a passage stood out to me that I found quite comforting. Siddhartha is an old man by this point, and is trying to impart to his longtime friend Govinda what he felt like he learned about the world that finally helped him to find peace within himself and some sort of enlightenment. He says to him:

“Therefore it seems to me that everything that exists is good – death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me. I learned through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not to resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it.”

Sometimes it is really really hard to love the world as it is. There seems to me to be so many wrong, fundamentally twisted, unrecoverable, sick and devastating things about the earth we live on right now. I watched the new Zeitgeist film last night and had these feelings over and over again. But then I thought of this passage. And I asked myself, what if I decided to accept and love the world for what it was, instead of continually brooding about everything that seems to have gone wrong? And what if loving the world as it is, actually helps me more to make a difference in it because I can work and live from a place of peace and acceptance for what is, as I try and change what might be?

I have been surprised by the times I have felt surges of American pride as we are traveling. It is a nice feeling and I am grateful for it. When I hear really good American music on the radio, or see an amazing American film, or describe all of the diverse and beautiful geography of our country to others, it makes me feel proud. And helps me take one more step forward to accepting and loving the world (and my country) for what it is. Not that I need to ignore what is wrong with our country to find peace, but I need to start accepting and loving it as it is first, in order to believe in its potential to heal and evolve.

On a walk today in Christchurch, I went to the banks of the Avon river where a number of ducks were sleeping with their beaks in their feathers. I saw the river flow continually, but stay as a river in front of my eyes - always moving, always staying.Thinking about Siddhartha's own revelation when finally listening to what the river had to say, understanding that time wasn't real, that everything is one thing.... We are all of the same cloth, the same substance, and all go to and come from the same place... I felt peace too. When we realize that ourselves are not separate from everything else we see and experience in this world, acceptance seems to come much more easily. I would like to work on this more.

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