Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Letting go of our ideal world

One of the things I find most difficult to let go of is my vision of an ideal world.

For many years now I have worked as a social and environmental activist trying to bring about change through education and community development. At first this work came from a sense of outrage: how could people be so greedy and selfish, so blind to the suffering of others and so ignorant of the beauty around them? After a while I began to realise that people do not mean to cause harm. Mostly people act out of fear, or out of a desire to build a secure, happy and safe little world for themselves and their families. So my work began to be about developing awareness, building connections and demonstrating a better way of living.

But of course no matter how noble our desire for change may be the world does not conform to our ideals. If we are too attached to this ideal then inevitably we will begin to feel as though our work means nothing, that nothing is changing. And we think that we cannot be happy while the world is the way that it is. At this point a feeling of hopelessness sets in. Even though we realise that we cannot change the whole world we still cling to our precious vision, we still refuse to accept the way things are even though we can see that we are struggling against the current.

Image: Copyright AD-Passion.

Letting go of how we want things to be is easier if we are able to acknowledge that we cannot always see the full picture, that reality is a much more complicated place than we can comprehend. It's useful to use the metaphor of a camera lens to see this more clearly. We can zoom in close and then our little world and our concerns about it are very real, or we can zoom out and see, perhaps for the first time, that our planet is a tiny speck of dust in the immensity of a vast universe, and that our human species has existed only for a second in the larger timescale of universal ages. We see more clearly that these things are not our responsibility to fix and we can let go of our struggle to change them, our need for things to be a certain way.

In reality the polarities of hot and cold, dark and light, good and evil are necessary to sustain the dynamic equilibrium that makes our world the wondrous, diverse and magical place that it is. The universal laws that govern life are constantly working to keep these polarities in balance but this is not a static process; there is a continuous movement from balance to imbalance and back again. From our limited perspective we cannot see this very long-term, very large-scale process. We see only that things look out of whack to us and so we panic.

Ironically by letting go we are freed to act in ways that we may not have seen from our narrow perspective. When we are tethered to an ideal we quite often also tie ourselves to all sorts of dogmas that prevent us from making a wise and loving choice in the present moment. We are too busy scheming, too caught up in our strategies and plans to see the potential for change right here and right now. Usually this change is what we social engineers might see as insignificant: perhaps it involves correcting a prejudice we've been carrying unconsciously in our minds, or maybe it's a simple connection between two people. Yet if we use our telephoto lens again we see that small acts such as these can change the world too: because the microcosm is just as significant as the macrocosm. It just depends on how you look at things.


Anonymous said...

Really thank you

Maya Devi said...

Hey no worries :) I'm glad you got something from the post...

Anonymous said...

wow this is quite hard to accept... so whats your purpose in life now that youve let it go?

Maya Devi said...

My purpose is to express the highest aspects of myself, to align with what is beautiful and true, and to enjoy the beautiful play of light and shadow that is the reality we exist within :)

Paul Jacobs said...

thanks for your thoughts. It is good
to let go of things at times, but the
idealism that lives amongst people is
often the engine for self improvement and looking critically @
the world around us. This is an important human need which should always be nurtured.

Jen said...

I like to think that we can still work to make the world a better place while remaining detached, and therefore not becoming bitter and twisted!