Thursday, October 25, 2012

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E. B. White

photo via elephantine

Hmph. The dilemma of the Manifest Destiny Hedonist? Perhaps.

For as long as I can recall, I've wanted to save the world. (And write books. And love songs. And be an actress. And a lawyer.  At one point I settled for maybe playing the part of a lawyer on a television show which I deemed a good enough compromise.)

With the hope of saving the world in mind, I spent much of my extra curricular high school career aimed towards this end. I was President of Students for Justice, helped implement and establish a school-wide recycling campaign, wrote letters to Amnesty International to free innocent prisoners, joined Greenpeace and the American Civil Liberties Union, gave a PowerPoint presentation to over 400 people on the plight of the Uganda invisible children and even went to Capital Hill to discuss illegal logging of the Brazilian rainforest with the Brazilian U.S. foreign ambassador and the Pennsylvania Congressman. Then I graduated and went to college where I was thrown into a whole new state, living situation and wrenched from the comforts and familiarity of home and the all-girls school I had called home for nearly 7 years (which is, by the way, the length of a life span for a cell.) I lost all of my bearings and was completely destabilized. Lacking both my family and former all-girl-Catholic-school community as reference points, I felt like I was walking in aimless, meaningless circles in my own heart and head. I felt  uprooted, anchor-less, stripped bare of my once-so-certain beliefs and value systems and scared to death. Not only was I afraid of the newness around me, I was afraid of the newness within me. I was afraid of myself. Who would I become in this new environment where I was a stranger to everyone with no history and no past and where everyone was a stranger to me? More frightening, who could I become? The possibilities were endless and I felt like I had been swallowed whole.

photo via andrewandcarissa

And then I found yoga (big.HUGE.monumental.discovery!), and re-remembered how much I love to walk outside and to be in nature. I discovered how much I love to cook and create, and to know where food comes from. I started to journal, began reading more poetry and esoteric spiritual texts, becoming more honest with both myself and others. I ended up transferring and going to a college in a larger city (which fed my spirit) but that was also closer to home (which fed my soul.) I started to realize that maybe being able to enjoy the world in my own skin was in fact a way to improve the world at the same time. These days, loving oneself from the inside out is one of the most radical decisions one can make.

Who is to say that the earth's plates don't shift a micro-inch every time one girl decides to love every inch of her thighs? Who is to say that enjoying - really enjoying - a square of rich, (fair trade!) dark chocolate made with careful hands isn't going to help cocoa bean farmers in Africa? Who is to say that every time I decide to come back to my yoga mat and rediscover my toes (my toes!) and how to balance my weight evenly on all 10 of them, that the balance of love and hatred, light and darkness in the entire cosmos is not somehow altered? And actually, science can back me up here since according to the butterfly effect, one infinitesimal act such as the fluttering of a butterfly wing in one part of the world can effect something as colossal as the materialization of a hurricane in another part of the world.

Maybe someday down the road I will move to D.C. and try to change the flawed system of politics (by using the flawed system of politics.) But until then, I will try as best as I can not to beat myself up for not being enough, having enough, or doing enough to save the world. I can walk lightly, tread softly, blessing the earth with each breath, bestowing small prayers of gratitude in every moment.  I can remind myself, always of my two favorite quotes:

"There are a million ways to kneel and kiss the ground." - 13th century mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi

“Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world.” ― Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

photo via andrewandcarissa

Or, I can always re-read "Where Everything Is Music"  (another one by Rumi):

Don't worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn't matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world's harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can't see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

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