“You're under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.”
I've reached that stage of life where that quiet assassin called 'nostalgia' is driving in its sharpened knife. My retro yearnings are rearing their head. My friend and I constantly swap stories of 70s TV programmes from the mighty THREE channels pumped into the googlebox in those years. Fond memories of Ford Mk 1 Escorts, classic Jags (the car of choice for your TV criminal) and Capris screeching up and down my street make the heart pump that bit faster. The early days of home computing - ah, my beloved first ZX81 - and the kind of sweets that would drive food standards crazy (well, until the government gets rid of them to keep Trump happy) all come to mind. A slight contented smile creeps on to my face.
Of course, there is the obverse to this utopic world of times gone past. Corruption in high office. Racism systematically spread across the institutions. Working people impoverished whilst the rich enjoy the high life. Police brutality....
Hold on. Wait a sec. Have I stepped into The Doctor's TARDIS and spun back five decades or have I just turned on the TV set for the latest broadcast news? It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I'm not pretending that there haven't been improvements. There is a much greater general acceptance on vital human experience with respect to racism, sexism, LGBT+ and so forth. Yet to pretend that we live in some Brave New World where the prejudicial and pretty fascistic attitudes or actions of times past are consigned to history is, without a doubt, a dangerous fiction. Apart from the wide acts of individual racism its systematic counterpart lives and breathes. Councils refusing to remove statues of slave traders - until people take matters into their own hands. Windrush - which still continues to pour forth its legacy. No holding to account for black deaths in custody. Stop and Search figures heavily skewed towards members of the black community. And that's just the UK. Cast your eyes westwards over the Atlantic and the jaw drops.
Have things improved for those who would not identify as straight? Undoubtedly. Yet I still hear things that make my skin crawl - "spot the poof' is a phrase I've heard several times recently. The automatic shutdown by many of those whose experience is as Transgender is very live and kicking like a horse. As someone who experienced year upon year of physical and psychological assaults in secondary school for being a 'poofter' I feel my blood boil every time I encounter such casually tossed words. I have friends disconnected still from their birth families because of their 'sick' love for someone of the same gender.
And for women? The mere name 'Harvey Weinstein' sums it all up in one fell swoop. Need I say more?
Things have improved. It would be disingenuous to try and state otherwise but for many they still experience daily prejudice, especially those who are of Black and Minority Ethnic origin - and I'm not convinced that any hard-fought success in bringing about an equal society is safe right now. In the UK the Brexit debacle (and it is a debacle, whichever side of the fence one stands) has given permission for the underground racism to re-emerge. In the USA this is effectively at the point of a culture-based civil war. Perhaps it needs to be.
Growth is based on being prepared to being open to learning - not simply having the learning itself - and it is here that I encounter most of the problem. It means leaving ego and this sense of self-identity open to the understanding that they are not fixed and have no need to be so. A letting go of the "I am right and right I will forever be". mentality.
Yet for this to occur there must be a change of consciousness. In this the Summer of Love got something right way-back-when, before the often creeping conservatism of aging dulled its sharp edge and the dog-eat-dog world of the Thatcher-Reagan alliance all but rode roughshod over its idealism, luring people into the greater love of consumerist mammon.
The answer lies, I am convinced, with entering into the understanding, experience and awareness of the intrinsic oneness of things. Every moment our brain, designed as it is by evolution to be helpful feeds us perceptions of the world. At least when it's working well. We know this piece of food will keep us alive. We know that form is the what we embrace as our loved one. This and That. Up and Down. Left and Right. In and Out - all differentiations made by the brain to help us traverse the road of the day-to-day. Trouble is we confuse this helpful signposting with reality. What is seen, heard, smelled, touched and tasted is all in the interpretive force of our minds and magnificent nervous system. However, as I've said before, look deep down to the sub-atomic and it's all one big ocean of energy which rises up in waves - this one shaped as a human, this one a tree, etc., but all the ocean making its shapes. All truly is one.
What happens if someone truly lives that reality? If you know deep down, balls-to-bone as The Oracle of The Matrix might put it (forgive the very dualistic sexism!), that each thing we perceive is just another pin pressing forward on the universe-sized pin-art plaything. As each pin rises and falls back its ever-changing shape tells a moment of life in reality.
If this is so then surely, surely, the Old Ways should die - the paradigm of separateness, differentiation and comparison gone and taking with it the insidious diseases of racism, sexism, nationalism and any other -ism that touts one over another, a winner ensuring the opponent not simply loses but is enslaved or annihilated?
It should. Therein lies the rub. Stepping into this consciousness is not something that, usually, mystically happens without the laying of some foundations. For the foundations to be laid there must be a willingness to be part of building that Brave New World. All too often that willingness is not simply missing, it is violently opposed, since it requires the initial acceptance of a key question: could I be wrong? Suddenly the separation of right vs wrong becomes narrowed, perhaps to the vanishing point.
Yet how often does that question get asked? Not much at all given current battlelines. In reality the opposite often rises up from fear of that questioning of personal surety sneaking into the synapses. Welcome the cult of extremism. Don't be misled. Extremism is a virus that can affect all. The White Supremicist driving hard into peaceful protesters and the New Ager looking down the nose at the mainstream may be poles apart in the harm, the evil, that gets done, but they both arise from the same locked-in syndrome of Feeling. All. Superior. There isn't one of us who might not find our foot slipping down that slope. Especially the self-described 'Enlightened', for that matter - I'm considerably more enlightened than you!
To lay the foundations and build the house where all are invited, requires rigorous honesty within oneself and a dedication to stepping across the border into the new paradigm beyond conventional perception, not just the once but every moment. I think this is what is truly meant by that too-often used word, mindfulness. It is, in this very perceived moment, the opportunity to step once more across the border, or perhaps more accurately, to open the cupboard door that leads to Narnia. The leaving behind of the prejudices of illusory separation into the Presence which is the reality of Oneness.
That all sounds high-fallutin' don't it? It it means nothing to you, no worries. That's fine. If it makes sense, the cupboard door is open. Dare you step into it?
Because it is daring. It means risking being completely and utterly misunderstood, at odds with most of the world. Don't think you'd be the first. 'He was despised and rejected of men', they labelled The Christ, and he wasn't the first either. He had, though, a great way of both inviting people to cross the cupboard-threshold but also warning what it meant in reality - be in the world but not of the world. Understand how to use what your brain tells you wisely and know it is all a useful fiction. Know that those who take it for real will hate you - how blessed are the persecuted? Know that you are this particular form of a wave on the ocean which takes many names - Reality, Divinity, God, the Ground of All Being, Ultimate Truth, The Father - for 'I and my Father are One'.
But this isn't some easy New-Agey peace and love, man. For if you take that very very seriously, you will also, take living in the world very very seriously. Too many people who spout 'what we see is illusion, it is all one really' go on to derive the false conclusion that means that nothing in this perceived world really matters. That black guy asphyxiated to death by a white cop? Ah well, just the universe experiencing itself as a black guy on the one hand being murdered by a white guy on the other - all an illusion of 'real reality' and ain't that just interesting? This is palpable and, I believe, a dangerous misunderstanding of what 'all just waves on the ocean' means. Jesus, for instance, knew and experienced that oneness intimately. Yet for him the result is to stand up to those who would separate into haves and have-nots or powerful and powerless or true-believers and infidels. He railed against such systems of greed, hatred and ignorance and wasn't afraid to speak out against those who built their careers on such separation. The self-perpetuating religious elites were 'whited sepulchres', all pristine and oh-so-proper on the outside but full of corruption and death on the inside (not much changed there). The rich who ignored the needs of the poor - "today your soul shall shall be required of you" the Christ warned. Those who waged perpetual war - "Those who live by the sword shall die by it". He also knew that in standing up you'd better be ready for the consequences. The words placed on lips that speak his Truth - "You will be hated by everyone because of my name". Question racism? Hated. Question misogyny? Hated? Question obscene wealth? Hated. Question elitist power? Hated. And so on. To take a step into the cupboard is to be prepared to take up a cross of your own, following The Man from Galilee to the inevitable conclusion.
I refer to Jesus simply because he is the figure best known to me. In doing so I am certainly not recommending institutional Christianity, which to my mind long ago started following the ventroliquist's dummy of the Church's own need for power and control and not the outspoken rabbi from a small Roman province. That rabbi, that ocean-wave of two thousand years past has risen up in very similar forms since then, as well as before the one called Jesus. Each time the reaction from those who couldn't step past their need to stay separate in the power, wealth. elitism or hatreds has been the same - the road to a new calvary for the one who opposes them.
So if you feel compelled take this step into the cupboard, cross into The Kingdom, take seriously what it means. If you truly embrace the Truth that all is one and perception is a brain-fuelled illusion you'd better be ready to stand fast when those who quite like the brain-fuelled illusion want to put their perceived fist through your face.
If you're not ready, go simply on your way. No judgement. It's there waiting for us.
Oh, and if you are a right-winger and think the expression of a spiritual all-is-one sounds rather socialist, well hmmm........... Jesus is a rather lefty libtard bastard I'm afraid.