There are two great forces setting the edges for individual human consciousness: power and love. Disagree? Hear me out.
For me, every act has its roots in one of these poles, and has a rough opposite towards the other pole. To explore this, let’s play with words for a bit, shall we?
Domination, control, judgement, resentment, hierarchy, ego; think of something ‘bad’ — each thought reinforces power as the goal, drives the quest for it.
Compassion, justice, equality, community, empathy, kindness; think of something ‘good’ — it signifies selfless care for others, the kind of love we today only accept as coming naturally to us in the idealized sense of a man-and-wife marriage. (song break)
“What is love really if it only affects, one aspect of life?
That’s like a musician who only accepts, his own musical type
That’s like a preacher who only respects sunday morning, and not saturday night
That’s how a soldier can come to reflect, that Love is more than a man and a wife” – SOJA
The problem we often can’t see from our own eyes is that every expression of power or love has its own self-reinforcing logic for the powermonger and the lover alike, which will be invisible to others who act from the infinite number of different points between those poles. Institutions created to maintain power enforce their own logic on the people within them; this is why you would do exactly. the. same. things. if you were the CEO of that company you hate, even though, from high atop your soapbox, you say you wouldn’t, not in a million years.
And it breeds cynicism.
I know so many people who think to themselves, “I could be loving to everyone, if everyone else wasn’t so greedy and hurtful, and pain and suffering weren’t random and undeserved” — and I know how much these people care, but they let themselves become cynics, and succumb to seeing first the worst in others. As my favorite author, Charles Eisenstein, explains in his unreleased new book:
The derision of the cynic comes from a wound of crushed idealism and betrayed hopes. We received it on a cultural level when the Age of Aquarius morphed into the age of Ronald Reagan, and on an individual level as well when our youthful idealism that knew a more beautiful world is possible, that believed in our own individual destiny to contribute something meaningful to the world, that would never sell out under any circumstances and would never become like our parents gave way to an adulthood of deferred dreams and lowered expectations. Anything that exposes this wound will trigger us to protect it. One such protection is cynicism, which rejects and derides as foolish, naïve, or irrational all of the expressions of reunion.
And this is crucial:
The cynic mistakes his cynicism for realism. He wants us to discard the hopeful things that touch his wound, to settle for what is consistent with his lowered expectations. This, he says, is realistic. Ironically, it is in fact cynicism that is impractical. The naïve person attempts what the cynic says is impossible, and sometimes succeeds.
This is a far better explanation than I could ever muster for why I generally refuse to accept steadfastly cynical, simplistic explanations for the complexities of human action in the world. Cynicism can be helpful to draw attention to a wound, but it soon outlives its usefulness once attention is fixed. Healing only begins with action.
Most of this discussion is inspired by my early release copy of Occupy Love, a documentary I’ve been eagerly awaiting after backing it on IndieGoGo last year. But what inspired me to write the post is an email from Charles, who also happens to have a few beautiful moments in the documentary. It was Charles’ last book Sacred Economics, that changed my outlook on life, money, and lots else almost a year and a half ago).