Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Serenity and Outrage

The young woman who lives across the street has a bumper sticker on her car that says "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I love that bumper sticker, but even more than that I love that she's paying attention. I frequently leave in the morning at the same time that she does; if I'm behind her in my little car, HER car always makes me smile.

And, heaven knows, I can work up a good head of steam when it comes to the current state of the world. I don't lose my temper very often, but no one does righteous indignation as well as I do. I do a pretty good imitation of outrage, as it turns out. It's a skill I share with the world in this blog. Learn from the master, grasshoppers ;)

But here's a thing. I also have had a yoga and meditation practice for a really long time, and some stuff is actually starting to sink in. Non-attachment to outcome. Serenity in the midst of chaos. Just breathe; just sit. That's what you're supposed to be doing now. Without an anchor like that (and I know it's not the only possible anchor; it's not even my only one.), my youthful outrage would have caused me to spin off into the stratosphere by now. No one looks at me and says "My goodness, that woman is serene" -not by a long shot. I'm just saying I've made progress, that's all.

Perhaps my task as a person of a "certain age" (47, I do believe) is to let meditation teach me about how to foster social justice. Creating a just world has something to do, I think, with ensuring that people are safe. Social workers and social-justice workers usually take that to mean something fairly low on the scale of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Are people eating, and sheltered, and not being victimized by war and abuse? Those are good questions, and we need to keep asking them. But we could also look at creating safe havens, truly sacred spaces where compassion and resilience and tolerance can thrive. And that has to start in my own soul.

It's not that the woman across the street needs to let go of her outrage, grow up and become me. Oh, God forbid. Nor do I need to grow up and become the person who's ahead of me on the path. In fact, I reject the notion of a linear path where people are ahead of and behind each other. Rather, she needs to be fully herself, which involves outrage. I need to be fully myself, and the outrage has mellowed to a gentler passion, and the tempest has calmed just a bit. Not so you'd notice -just a bit. And together, we'll change the world.

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