As Close as I Can Come to Optimism Regarding The United States of America

If there was some kind of betting parlor for it, I’d bet two thousand dollars on the triumph of lies brought about Trump’s presidency–lies effectuated by the degradation of consensus reality produced by the mindless use of social media….

I will vote for Democrats, and fight for Democracy–but I would bet money on the imminent midterm elections giving congress to the GOP, and the 2024 election being stolen by Trump or a Trumpy, with the collusion of a GOP-led congress. Then will come theocracy, an end to democracy, a restoration of racial segregation–and worse. I fervently hope I’m wrong.

The optimism part? I’m certain that something over half of America will be outraged when the country is stolen by the extreme-right corporate oligarchy; when flagrant racism and the oppression of women becomes the order of the day. This outrage will split the nation into a de facto geographic balkanization. Something like discrete mini-nations, official or unofficial, will become the norm within the USA, formed around progressive zones: California, the NE USA, Washington State (Oregon could go either way), in reaction to the takeover of the theocratic right…

Militias formed by progressives will defend these stubbornly progressive regions. But the federal military, with the US Army and Marines, its Navy and Air Force, its tanks and missiles, will be controlled by the rightist regime. Only a sadly improbable revolution organized from within the federal military could lead us back to a unified democratic nation. Still, optimistically, there will be areas of the USA–the geographical USA at least–which may remain free and Democratic…locally. And who knows what technological innovations, what hacks, what new drone technologies, could be deployed by the Unified Progressive States…

Is that the wind? Or is someone here?

The monastery, on the lower slopes of Mt Everest, was a tumbledown affair, there being only five surviving monks to maintain it. Renegade soldiers had attacked it, a year before, and now all five of the surviving Vipassana monks were working to rebuild it stone by stone, with their bare hands.  I arrived weary, and my head throbbed–I wasn’t used to the thinner air here. I bowed to the nearest monk, a man of middle aged in the robe of a Master, and said, “I am here to study. I was sent by Hanh.” The monk ignored me, and adjusted the stone on its crumbling wall. I had used the proper language. Why was he ignoring me? I was nettled. It had been hard enough to get here, without being ignored too… “I am Dedeman,” I said. “I am here as appointed.”

The monk ignored me. I was puzzled. There was no vow of silence at this monastery and I had committed no solecism. 

One of the other acolytes spoke to the Master. “I thought I heard someone say, ‘I am here.’ But–I believe it was the wind.”

“Yes,” the Master told him. “No one but else but we five are here–thus it must have been a trick of the wind.”

I smiled. “Perhaps if I set to work with you? I am here, after all, to work…”

“Again I heard a sound like ‘I am here,” said the acolyte. “Perhaps an echo?”

“If a newcomer was here,” said the Master to the acolyte, “I would sense it. A man is not here if he is asleep. There is someone here who is asleep. He speaks in his sleep. No one is truly here but we five…”

Suddenly I understood. I gathered all my attention to the present moment, and to the sphere of fine energies around me; I stopped identifying with my weariness, my irritation. I was now quite present. “I am here,” I said.

“Ah yes,” said the Master, nodding at me. “Here you are. We have been expecting you.”

Upon Prestidigitation Mountain

“You!”

“What? Who’s that? I can’t see who’s talking…!”

“I’m down here, by your feet!” Pierce  called out, shouting up to the giant. “Careful where you step  with your gigantically reeking feet you great enormous lummox!”

“So!” cried the God of Daily Irritations. The giant towered over the human who dared to challenge him in the castle carved out of the upper quarter of Mount Prestidigitation. “I see you now: a little shred, a worm, a mort of a man! How came you here?”

“The clouds parted in the spring wind–and thereupon I beheld your ugly hulking goat-faced person, flinging persistent irritations, minor mishaps, and annoying bad luck upon the people of Oblivious Valley!”

 “But I am invisible to mortals! How could a vile monkey-dropping such as yourself see me at work?”

“Ha! Were you not such a thick, dim, blockheaded nitwit you might have logically deduced I have used Revelation Spectacles! I inherited them from Uncle Mortimer who was too cowardly to put them on! Now, you discourteous lout! Explain yourself!”

“Tiny pink fleck of snot, you see but you do not see! I was tasked by the Dark Gods to spread small woes so that you would be too busy to guess the Great Woe, and do something about it!”

“And what is the Great Woe, you unspeakably tremendous waste of space!”

“Why–it is letting small things distract you from the Grace of Living! But you shall never report this to your kind, for now I shall crush you under my feet, and make you the blot you have always been destined to be!”

But as the giant lifted his gigantic foot, Pierce drew his sword, braced its pommel in a crack of the stone floor, and leapt to one side. The foot came slamming down and impaled upon the sword. The giant leapt about, clutching at its foot, and howling, “Aiee! Fuck you, you little shit!”

“No fuck you!” cried Pierce. “For I am away to inform my people of your perfidy–fare-unwell, you pestilence!” And with that, Pierce sprinted under a stone table and out the drainage pipe he’d used to enter the carven castle. . .

The Parasitic Vine of Habits

Of course there are good habits. I’m in the habit of meditation, that’s a good habit. I’m in the habit of cleaning up after myself in the kitchen. A good habit. But within me operates a parasitic vine, or several of them intertwined–of bad habits. Such is the human condition.

The grip of this parasitic vine can be challenged, and some of the ivy, some of the strangle-weed in my inner self, can be cut away. It’s got a hard bark on it, and it’s resistant to cutting, but it can be done. Or more accurately it can can be *seen* away–there is a process, called self observation, allowing us to turn some of our attention to ourselves in the most objective perspective we can manage, and in seeing a negative, problematic habit, we’re able to work against it by degrees. First, just seeing it–not just saying “I see that I have this habit” but literally seeing it as if it were physically manifest–has the curious effect of gradually weakening it.

And this means seeing it without self-reproach. Honesty but not self-condemnation. Just “Oh, there is my tendency to deflect blame onto someone else…Or: ah, once again I see my tendency to lose myself in social media…Or: yes, once again I see that I have the bad habit of spending energy defending my vanity…” Seeing it as a kind of vine is a bit of a revelation–I realize these bad habits work together, reinforce one another. And in the organic structure of my psychology they are almost literally parasitic vines. They draw energy away from me that could be used for a thousand positive experiences…When I build up the “databank” of self-knowledge, of seeing myself, I am less identified with the bad habits, less subject to their grip. By degrees I can become someone realer, and freer…