The other day, someone generously sent me an audiobook of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, which is an introduction to Taoism using the characters of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Tao literally means “way” and Taoism emphasises simplicity, compassion, moderation, humility and spontaneity. This book describes the virtues of Taoism with wit and ease.
Once I finished the book, I put my iTunes into shuffle mode. Curiously, one chapter of The Tao of Pooh came on a number of times. I listened with interest as the narrator spoke about “inner nature” and how we try to put square pegs into round holes by trying to be something we are not.
How often we try to fit in with what our society dictates to us, with what we are told is desirable and what we feel is expected of us by parents, teachers and politicians. How we do do do, rush, worry and stress instead of simply being. We are all different. We each have different interests and talents. We should not all attempt to fit into the same “perfect” mould of what we think is appropriate. We worry that others will not approve of us if we veer off the well-trodden path. But isn’t that boring? And unrealistic? We could always find our own way. A way of really living. A way of seeing the beauty of life instead of the monotony of what’s deemed to be “normal”. A way of not always trying so hard. Because if we honour our true inner nature, living becomes effortless.
I recall a college student telling me: “Growing up is horrible. I used to wish I was older. But there’s so much stress and responsibility. I hate college. Why does it have to be like this? I wish I could just run away.” Is this how our youth should feel about life and their future? This young adult was already deadening her spirit in order to “survive”. But as it says on this blog’s tagline, “life is about more than just surviving”.
In society today, during their most creative and energetic years, children are locked into schools where they are force-fed material in order to pass the exams that will enable them to spend most of the rest of their lives in jobs that they probably won’t enjoy. And the “underclass” of society on welfare have to wait in demeaning queues for handouts and are made to feel that they are a drain on the country’s wealth.
I’m currently reading Gerard Leahy’s Towards a Jobless Society. This book really peaked my interest as it got me thinking about society in a way that I never even dreamed possible. While it’s tempting to tell you every single thing Leahy suggests, I’ll try to summarise his views succinctly.
Leahy believes that the job-oriented society we are living in is depressing and unsustainable. With the advances in technology, a lot of jobs have become redundant. We have the means to produce goods extremely cost-effectively. However, governments are insistent on giving grants and subsidies to keep other companies in business to compete with the companies that are offering cheaper products. Despite these technological advancements, the economy is not any wealthier because consumers have to pay increased taxation to artificially sustain the levels of employment. Governments are also spending money on unnecessary administration and on “job creation”, forcing the unemployed into training for jobs that do not exist. Creating jobs is not the same as creating wealth, which is where the focus should really be.
We are human beings born onto this planet so we all deserve a place here and our basic needs should be met. Using an “island model” approach to get his point across, Leahy proposes that all people over 16 years of age receive a basic income. Nobody will “have” to work in order to survive. Without this pressure, people will be able to express their individuality and creative genius. Some will offer their services such as teaching, counselling, policing and healing on a voluntary basis or for a small fee. Others will write, sculpt, act and meditate. People will have time to spend with family and on personal development.
Leahy also suggests that all products and services be subject to a taxation of 50 per cent, which will be divided equally amongst the population. So those who wish to work will have incentive to do so. And those who don’t want to will not feel pressurised.
Imagine a world where the pressure is off, where we can be ourselves, where we have the opportunity to explore our creativity and talents, and time to work on our personal and spiritual development. Where it is okay to simply be. Where we have the license to share our unique selves with one another. This way of simplicity, spontaneity, compassion, moderation and humility is the way of this wonderful world. It certainly sounds good to me.
After writing this post, someone showed me the following video narrated by the great Alan Watts…
Posted in Modern Society
Tagged alan watts, approval, benjamin hoff, career, children, college, depression, enjoyment, exams, family, frustration, gerard leahy, government, grants, individuality, island model, job creation, jobs, life, money, parents, politicians, politics, pressure, quality, school, society, survival, taoism, taxation, teachers, the tao of pooh, towards a jobless society, underclass, unemployed, university, wealth, welfare, work
Some of you will delight in me writing this. Others will be too indignant or alarmed to read on… Some will presume I’m having it off with Jim Corr and switch off. And then there are others, who will breathe a sigh of relief that, finally, somebody normal is speaking out about their thoughts and fears regarding what’s going on in the world. Someone without a background in economics or activism, politics or finance; somebody regular who’d never even heard of a default or a foreclosure or an NWO up until a year ago.
We can pretend like nothing’s changed. We have offices and kitchens and children to attend to. Christmas is fast approaching. And The X Factor final is on this weekend. But we cannot ignore the growing dole queues, the increasing break-ins, the persistence of the Occupy movement, and the unfair Budget cuts. Our children are growing up in an unprecedented era. Forget about the Púca - it’s the IMF that’s got everyone really scared.
Dole Queue in Cork
There is talk in certain circles that the economy is on the brink of total collapse (no surprise there). Some people are forecasting (and gleefully anticipating) the breakdown of all of society’s major institutions, which are finally losing their grip on the power they’ve wielded over the obedient public for far too long. Even prime time television is warning that we might have to revert to the punt. And if that happens, what little money we have left will be almost worthless.
If this actually occurs, so much will have to change. We won’t be able to afford oil or petrol, thus limiting trade and transport. We won’t have the option of buying new clothes or technology. We’ll have to return to self-sufficiency, which would be no bad thing.
These difficult circumstances would force us to come together as communities. We’d have to rely on agriculture and fishing. The long-suffering Irish farmers would be granted a new-found respect. Our lawyers and accountants and PR executives would have to be taught how to sow seeds and cut trees. Our scientists would be able to dedicate their time and genius to work on tapping into alternative sources of energy.
Fishing in Connemara
When I hear these outlandish but strangely plausible predictions, I try to imagine such a future. I guess we’d have to ration our food and our firewood. We’d only be able to afford enough petrol for one vehicle per village. We’d work in the daylight, and sleep beside one another in large fire-warmed living rooms. We’d have to darn our socks and put patches on worn sweater elbows. We’d drink fresh milk and eat lots of stew. We’d go back to natural remedies and energetic healing. We’d have time to sit with each other, to knit and play games and tell stories.
Is such a world even conceivable? And what about technology? Would our phones suddenly stop working? Would electricity fail? Without the companies that connect us, would the internet perish?
Oh, I’m all for getting rid of money-hungry, ethically challenged governments, multinationals and pharmaceuticals. And I look forward to the day when the food we eat isn’t laced with hormones, pesticides and preservatives. I would gladly embrace a time when we are content to live off the land. When we inhabit a world that refuses to be dominated by mass-produced fear. When we take the time, effort and courage to inform ourselves and think outside the government-constructed box. When we recognise real health and call a halt to the pumping of too-trusting populations with vaccines and medication and other hidden chemicals. I long for a land of free thinkers, where open minds and creativity are a valued commodity.
Despite my idealistic hopes, I also have doubts. I worry that, if things really do go belly up, not everyone will react favourably. Many will be shocked and scared, angry and incredulous. Parents will fight for their food and children will steal. The streets will see violence and riots and looting. Some will go hungry. Others will go mad.
Dublin City © Gearoid Muldowney
And I can’t help hypothetically grieving all the materialistic luxuries I currently enjoy. How would I cope without my car and my holidays abroad? What would I do without the ability to discover new music at the click of a mouse? How would I feel about the loss of lipstick and mascara? Could I welcome a world without the internet and blogging? And if money disappears and I can no longer pay rent, will I have to move home? Or would my landlord accept payment in poems and potatoes?
Then again, this may never happen and you’ll laugh when you remember the crazy blogger who once ranted about the possible links between sudden poverty and freedom. But if the alternative news reports do prove to be correct, at least I’ll have given you a heads up. To encourage you to spend some of the money that’s lying in fear in your bank account. To get yourself some practical essentials. To give you time to install a stove and stock up on rice and tins of tuna. To buy good winter boots and some quality clothes that’ll last longer than your usual purchases from Penneys. Better silly and safe than stubborn and sorry.
Whether or not this apocalypse-like scenario manifests, we cannot ignore the fact that change is in the air. Perhaps this upset and turmoil is a necessary step in our evolution. Masses of people are awakening and there is a definite shift in consciousness. This could be the New Earth that Eckhart Tolle wrote about. And a new way of thinking and living and being will emerge from the redundant ashes of the old world, like a phoenix, ready to take flight…
Images: http://www.allthingswhisky.com/?p=499; http://www.indymedia.ie/article/92133; http://www.ballynahinch-castle.com/fishing-connemara; http://www.flickr.com/photos/gearoid/page10/; http://pinterest.com/pin/418493398/
Posted in Modern Society, Random
Tagged a new earth, accountants, activism, alternative health, anger, apocalypse, banks, breakdown, budget, challenges, change, cheese, cheese-making, chemicals, children, christmas, cold, collapse, commodities, community, confusion, crick, crock, damp, default, doctors, dole, Eckhart Tolle, economy, electricity, energy sources, ethics, exports, farming, fear, finance, firewood, fishing, flat, food, foreclosure, free-thinkers, genius, government, hospitals, household chores, imf, imports, internet, jim corr, landlord, laptop, lawyers, looting, multinationals, neck, new world order, nwo, obedience, oil, open mind, pain, penneys, petrol, pharmaceuticals, phoenix, phones, policemen, politics, poverty, power, predictions, responsibility, riots, robberies, scientists, self-sufficeincy, self-sufficient, sharing, society, starving, stealing, stove, technology, the x factor, transport, unemployment, vaccines, value, vehicles, violence, writing
I was out for dinner the other night when I spotted the waitress approaching a family at the next table. She asked one of the children, “Have you made your Santa list yet?” The little girl responded in a giggling baby voice, “I want a supwise.” Her mother patted her on the head approvingly. I had heard the child speak earlier and she hadn’t sounded like that. Already, at such a young age, this girl was changing herself and the way she behaved in order to gain approval.
This simple scenario reminded me of a number of similar moments throughout my life…
At five years of age, talking to the insects in the back garden, then hearing my parents say: “Wow, look at her! She’s so into nature!” I stayed out there for much longer than I wanted to because I was sure my parents would like me more if I did… Pretending to be into a certain genre of music as a teenager just so I’d fit in… Pushing myself in school and college so I could be the perfect student and daughter… Hanging around a guy I liked and hiding parts of myself because I thought it would make me more desirable… Losing weight because that’s how “beautiful” was sold to me… Pretending to know the politician/author/website my co-workers were talking about so they wouldn’t think I was stupid… Feeling I didn’t belong in an expensive boutique because surely the sales assistants would stare at me for not being skinny/fashionable/rich enough… Marrying a Muslim, changing pretty much everything about myself, and still feeling crushed every time he criticised me… Only enjoying the hobbies I was good at because I couldn’t stand being anything less than perfect…
Most of us are unfortunate enough to care about what others think. Add that on top of a cruel addiction to the drug of approval and you’re guaranteed a hellish existence. How many of you have turned vegetarian just because your boyfriend turned up his nose every time you scoffed a burger? Would you be brave enough to leave your iPod playing in shuffle mode when other people are around even though you have a seriously embarrassing secret penchant for The Backstreet Boys? Do you squeeze yourself into skinny jeans because that’s what all your style crushes/college friends are wearing? Do you observe yourself behaving differently around different sets of people? You don’t curse and you use words like “potentially” and “ostentatious” when you’re around Group A. You laugh uproariously at dirty jokes and innuendo (“In YOUR endo!”) when you’re with Group B. You discuss politics and current affairs/spirituality and health/psychology and literature/celebrity gossip and makeup tips with Group C, D, E and F, while sipping on a skinny latte/shot of wheatgrass/large glass of merlot/Flaming Sambuca.
"Lean too much on the approval of people, and it becomes a bed of thorns." Teysi Hsieh
These days, I kind of hope I’m not good at stuff because maintaining perfection is a lot of pressure. It’s exhausting trying to keep up the facade. I just want to do things because they’re fun and I enjoy them. From now on, I’m going to leave excellence to the experts. I’m delighted that I’m not going to live like that any more. It’s a relief to finally let go and just be. Yes, sometimes my reactions are automatic (it’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime) but when I stop and ask myself, Do you really care what they think?, the answer is a resounding NO!
It’s about time you found out who the real you really is. Get to know yourself and discover what it is that you want and like and need. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding process. However, I’ll bet that most people are too afraid to even ask themselves the question Am I being true to myself? because they’re terrified of the answer. Change is scary and a hell of a lot of hard work.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to waste my life pretending to be somebody else, putting myself under constant pressure, striving for perfection, caring what others think, and giving my power away to everybody else. This drug of approval has lost its appeal. Yes, it will try to claw its way back in. And I will be sorely tempted to give in, just to avoid the crippling withdrawal symptoms. But I am determined to finally kick the habit.
Featured Image: http://www.graphicshunt.com/search/6/butterflies.htm
Images: http://www.imageblogs.org/fabulous-child-photography-to-remember-childhood/fabulous-child-photography-to-remember-childhood-9; http://trendland.net/julia-fullerton-batten-photography/#; http://www.flickr.com/photos/19722425@N02/3890967883/; http://novacaine-kills.xanga.com/?uni33319937-direction=n
Posted in Personal development
Tagged addiction, alcohol, approval, backstreet boys, body image, celebrity gossip, childhood, coffee, college, criticism, current affairs, fashion, fear, fitting in, friendship, health, hobbies, individuality, intelligence, islam, literature, love, makeup, men, music, muslim, parenting, peer pressure, politics, pompous, pressure, psychology, relationships, school, self-consiousness, self-discovery, shopping, spirituality, stupidity, vegetarian, weight, wheatgerm, wine