consequences

Chain Reaction of Misery

Excerpt from Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön:

It’s painful when you see how in spite of everything you continue in your neurosis; sometimes it has to wear itself out like an old shoe. However, refraining is very helpful as long as you don’t impose too authoritarian a voice on yourself. Refraining is not a New Year’s resolution, not a setup where you plan your next failure by saying, “I see what I do and I will never do it again,” and then you feel pretty bad when you do it again within the half hour.

Refraining comes about spontaneously when you see how your neurotic action works. You may say to yourself, “It would still feel good; it still looks like it would be fun,” but you refrain because you already know the chain reaction of misery that it sets off."


See also: Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

The Product of Our Actions

Matt Running Columbus Half Marathon, October 21, 2012

"Nothing happens without a cause. Things are the way they are not because of chance or the will of a deity but because people have acted in particular ways and generated particular consequences. The world we inhabit is the product of our actions, which are themselves reflections of our minds. . . If we do not care for one another, who else will care for us? Who among us has the right to say of another, 'He is of no use to us?' For better or worse, whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. Learning how to care for one another is a central part of the path and of the practice."
    
~ Andrew Olendzki, "Medicine for the World," Tricycle Magazine, Summer 2008

Look Back with Firm Eyes

 Adirondacks, August 7, 2011

Self Portrait
by David Whyte, from Fire In the Earth

It doesn't interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

 

On Fire with Hunger

Excerpt from “An Insider’s View of the Oil Spill,” by Rick Bass, from a longer story originally published by the Virginia Quarterly Review:

Oil spill cleanup, containment efforts, hearings in wake of gulf disaster. (Washington Post) It wasn’t like baseball at all. It wasn’t like anything. The closest thing was maybe hunting—pursuing, with blind instinct and whetted desire and only a handful of clues, the hint of one’s quarry far into the wonderful wilderness of the unknown. Lands no man or woman ever saw, or ever will see, 10,000 feet below the ground. Beaches that received sunlight and warm winds hundreds of millions of years before the strange, momentary experiment of mankind arrived, cold and shivering and with neither fire nor fur. Beaches that were then buried over, still hundreds of millions of years before we first stirred, so anomalous and far from the spine of the main and older tree of life.

You were haunted by dry holes. The nature of the work—the rarity of the treasure—dictates that you’re wrong more often than you’re right. This rarity is what makes the payoff so spectacular. But despite knowing this, after each dry hole, you couldn’t sleep. You couldn’t believe your maps were wrong. The earth was wrong, you told yourself. You must have just missed the pay by a few inches. Not by miles, but by inches.

I believe the word for such behavior is denial, a noun commonly associated with its closest cousin, addiction. We were addicted to the intensity of our hunger—the almost limitless depths of it—and to the certitude that we were needed, that we were vital. Such a feeling is not quite as wonderful as the condition of being loved, but it is similar, with its dependencies, and far more reliable…

I remember those days so well: the power and heady feeling of being needed, of possessing a valuable and honored—and honorable—skill. Finding oil is an honorable skill. The independents—who are fast going out of business, like the independents in any industry—still know this.

The dangerous truth is that the hungers in the men and women who are working the crane lift-gear levers of the world’s major energy corporations are every bit as hungry as I was. They are good at what they do and are on fire with their hunger, and they will track the oil down to the ends of the earth. But they—unlike the independents—have few limits on their powers.

They will find oil, and will drill into it, no matter what the depth, no matter what the pressure. If we continue drilling at such absurd depths, BP’s will not be the last such blowout. It will instead only be the first one, the one that disturbed our blithe innocence.

Read more…

A Plague of Insatiability

Excerpt from “Dysregulation Nation,” by Judith Warner, New York Times Sunday Magazine (June 20, 2010):

Chris Jordan's Cans Seurat, 2007 60x92" Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.

In the late 1970s, the historian Christopher Lasch famously described America as a culture of narcissism. Today we might well be called a nation of dysregulation. The signs that something is amiss in our inner mechanisms of control and restraint are everywhere. Eating disorders, “in general a disorder of self-regulation,” according to Darlene M. Atkins, director of the Eating Disorders Clinic at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, grew epidemic in the past few decades, and in recent years have spread to minority communities, younger girls, older women and boys and men too. Obesity is viewed in many cases by mental-health experts as another form of self-dysregulation:a “pathologically intense drive for food consumption” akin to drug addiction, in the words of Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Charles P. O’Brien, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, who have argued for including some forms of obesity as a mental disorder in the coming version of the psychiatric bible, the DSM-V.

In book publishing, addiction memoirs seem to have evolved into the bildungsromans of our time, their broad popularity suggesting that stories of self-destruction through excess can be counted upon to inspire a reliable there-but-for-the-grace-of-God affinity in readers. We read about dopamine fiends sitting enslaved to their screens, their brains hooked on the bursts of pleasure they receive from the ding of each new e-mail message or the arousing flash of a tweet. We see reports of young children so unable to control their behavior that they’re being expelled from preschool. And teenagers who, after years spent gorging on instant gratification (too-easy presents from eager-to-please parents, the thrill of the fast-changing screen), are restless, demanding, easily bored and said to be suffering from a plague of insatiability.

Mental-health professionals report seeing increasing numbers of kids who are all out of sync: they can’t sustain attention, regulate their rage, moderate their pain, tolerate normal types of sensory input. Some of this is biological; a problem of faulty brain wiring. But many of the problems — in both children and adults — according to Peter C. Whybrow, director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California in Los Angeles, come from living in a culture of excess.

Under normal circumstances, the emotional, reward-seeking, selfish, “myopic” part of our brain is checked and balanced in its desirous cravings by our powers of cognition — our awareness of the consequences, say, of eating too much or spending too much. But after decades of never-before-seen levels of affluence and endless messages promoting instant gratification, Whybrow says, this self-regulatory system has been knocked out of whack. The “orgy of self-indulgence” that spread in our land of no-money-down mortgages, he wrote in his 2005 book, “American Mania: When More Is Not Enough,” has disturbed the “ancient mechanisms that sustain our physical and mental balance.”

More…

 

Boogie Man

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story

"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."

~ Lee Atwater, from a February 1991 article for Life Magazine.

Multitasking

From "The Autumn of the Multitaskers" by Walter Kirn, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2007

It isn’t working, it never has worked, and though we’re still pushing and driving to make it work and puzzled as to why we haven’t stopped yet, which makes us think we may go on forever, the stoppage or slowdown is coming nonetheless, and when it does, we’ll be startled for a moment, and then we’ll acknowledge that, way down deep inside ourselves (a place that we almost forgot even existed), we always knew it couldn’t work.

Istvan Banyai

The scientists know this too, and they think they know why. Through a variety of experiments, many using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity, they’ve torn the mask off multitasking and revealed its true face, which is blank and pale and drawn.

Multitasking messes with the brain in several ways. At the most basic level, the mental balancing acts that it requires—the constant switching and pivoting—energize regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously appear to shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning. We concentrate on the act of concentration at the expense of whatever it is that we’re supposed to be concentrating on.

For more on Walter Kirn:

A Vast and Unsustainable Act of Taking

Cell phones, Orlando 2004

"The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits."

Photographer Chris Jordan

Cell phones #2, Atlanta 2005
Thanks Kit!