Sometimes, if we listen real close, our subconscious speaks louder than the cacophony of voices that we’re thoroughly aware of. That we are, in fact, surround-sounded by, until most of us unconsciously don earplugs.
There is, after all, way too much noise in this mangled world from the overabundance of sociopathic and apathic voices, who in turn overamplify the nervous protestations — anxious self-assurances that one doesn’t quite believe — that the emperor is indeed well clothed. We become enclosed in a wall of sound that feels real, papered with all sorts of behind-the-scenes power plays, acts of cruelty and lack of courage, unkindness and self-interestedness. We are subject to a world built on slippery-slope mountains of untruths and skulls.
Yesterday morning, when I woke early after an already-sleepless night, my subconscious told me to “forget” my cell phone and computer when I left home for a #ReclaimMLK event.
That simple act transformed my day into an exile from this society.
It was a quiet Friday, with much of it spent — serendipitously, or magically perhaps, given the friend I ended up spending much of this muted day with — inside a downtown San Francisco café that I’d never noticed before. Espresso was only $1.35; the decor was bedraggled Eastern European-esque, not tech sleek or corporate at all.
As the many-decades-long owner, who graciously knew the art of “old world” conversation, remarked, with an expansive sweep of his arms, “We could be in Prague or Vienna.” There, still, at least in the nontourist areas, cafes are about lounging, dialoguing, reading, socializing, community, and staying as long as you desire, not the debased human condition of alienation. “Take away people’s cell phones,” he added, “and they don’t know how to do anything. They can’t talk to anyone, can’t find anything, can’t figure out how to meet their needs. They don’t know who they are.”
In the many luxurious hours of reconnecting to self and others in a way that not having a mobile phone or wireless laptop to reach for during silences profoundly allows for, conversation ranged widely, wildly, intimately, both as internal chat and with friend. There were so many takeaways — healthy ones, healing ones, afforded by subconscious becoming conscious — but the crux might be this:
We need to redouble — tenfold, or hundredfold — our efforts to remake ourselves into humans. Any of our projects for social transformation — or simply managing not to feel so depressed that we give in, give up, or settle for stasis — without us as humans, are doomed from the outset to fail. We can’t people them, literally.
That thousandfold exertion of rehumanizing ourselves might, it seems to me, be an intentional, complementary, simultaneous blend of three engaged practices — whether anyone is “listening” to us practice them or not:
Active empathy + heartfelt honesty + egalitarian caring
The emperor is more than bare skinned, shivering from cold abandonment. They’ve become a skeletal, rotting corpse.
In such a state, love in all its forms — what just might make us our most human and thus humane — is next to impossible. It, too, shrivels and dies from the exhaustion of running away, whether out of fear and/or mistrust, under the weight of hierarchies calibrated to kill.
As my friend who joined me off-line yesterday for a journey to another space observed, today, in a now-back-online reflective text exchange:
“If we are patient and just keep doing good, leaning in the direction of good, then sometimes the truth shines through, and we find solidarity, shared purpose, respect, mutuality, and connection.”
It’s gonna be hard, which itself is a voluminous understatement. It is bound to wound again. Yet I’m striving this afternoon to reset self and practices, to let go of expectations of reciprocity — though not the hope of it — to disengage from all those parts of the world — many, or most — that conspire to steal our humanity at every turn, to break us from even wanting to be human.
I’m redoubling — tenfold, or hundredfold — my own efforts, my own yearning, to remake myself as human once again.
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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, “sign” from some SF street art, January 16, 2015.)