|Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco, May 2015
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Whenever I am standing in one of those long lines at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, I look around me in awe. What if all the shelves and freezers were not so readily replenished? How soon would this orderly line turn into a desperate mob? And what if the plastic cards clutched by each person in that line suddenly led to nothing more than "DECLINED," what would be the next step? How much of your life is shaped by unspoken assumptions? For example, the assumption that there will be electricity when you flip on the switch, the assumption that there will be water when you turn on the faucet, the assumption that the garbage truck will come every week to empty your bins, the assumption that there will be gasoline for your car when you are running on empty, the assumption that all the satellites and servers will keep churning on and on 24 x 7 x 365. How of many of your behaviors are dependent upon such assumptions? How many of your opinions are shaped by them? Take an inventory of those you love. Hold them in the mirror of your mind. Can you imagine those you love threatened with starvation? Can you imagine them threatened with death by dehydration? Can you imagine them pursued by rape-gangs in military uniform? Darfur may be the first Climate Crisis holocaust but it won't be the last, and there could well be a new Sahara coming to the U.S.A. Today it’s Darfur, but tomorrow, or next year, it could be Kansas or Texas or L.A. We are never more than a few ticks from collapse – even in the best of times. It isn't just something that happens somewhere else. It can happen anywhere. It may happen everywhere. Seriously.
To have coconut water at all is a luxury, but at Rainbow Grocery, on any day of the week, I can choose from a dozen different kinds. We live in a paradise. Of course, there are consequences. This paradise is fueled by a hell. I do not say this to make you feel guilty for drinking coconut water. I drink coconut water. (It’s not disruptive like Palm Oil or Quinoa.) I just want you to be conscious and grateful that you were born into a paradise, and I want you to use your time well. Yes, I could frame it differently, i.e., negatively, but it would still be a paradise -- for better AND worse, and yes, it is indeed fueled by a hell. It did not have to be this way. It could be another way. But it isn’t – yet. There is no purity. There is no removing yourself from the equation. There is no blamelessness or innocence (except in the children and the beasts, of course). We are all dependent and complicit in some way; we are all both part of the problem AND part of the solution. You cannot rise above it, or burrow under it; you cannot disentangle yourself. Those who live off the grid on sustainable farms are as just as co-dependent and complicit as urban dwellers held hostage by wage slavery and the food distribution system, just in a different way. In the near future, without sustainable cities there will be no security for those sustainable farms; and without those sustainable farms there will be no basis for the sustainable cities required to provide security. We will all rise or fall together. Seriously.
Do you imagine that the people of Darfur are different than you? In Darfur, there is a woman whose heart beats just like yours, and whose lungs swell just like yours. She feels the same tenderness for her children as you do for yours, and she has the same quality of goodness in her wishes for their future. Together, the two of you could change the world -- if you were only to meet her INSIDE YOURSELF. Don't ask me what to do. Just ask yourself how to be the best person you can be, because that is the only answer, it is all you can do. Yes, be the wisest, calmest, cleverest, kindest, strongest, healthiest, most creative, person you can be. And don't ask me if it is hopeless. There is only one answer, there is always hope, IF WE keep it alive. I do not write this to scare you, or depress you. I write this to empower you. I want you to discover the heart of a warrior within yourself. Warriors are full of fear, but they lean forward anyway.
Remember all of this the next time you stand in one of the long lines at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Remember the next time you select your favorite kind of coconut water at Rainbow. You have to meet it all where you find yourself and work it all out from there. Remember all of this. Make your prayers actions. Make your actions prayers. Make your choices prayerful actions.
Gratefully, consciously. Remember.
“All we have to decide,” said the wizard, “is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Richard PowerAuthor, Speaker, Yoga Teacher (RYT500)
Richard Power's Primal Reality Quadrilogy Available Now from Amazon.com
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