The greatest sorrow I feel is when I see someone mistaking peace with apathy. I’ve dwelt in that delusion myself. Now I see it as a temporary suicide — a form of limbo that diminishes the whole world.
Apathy is very common in spiritual circles. Often I meet people who seem wonderfully peaceful and content at first, but then I notice they change the subject a lot. Their eyes glaze over when certain topics come up — like that some people are fat while others are starving, or that children in some countries are dying right now when a $5 water filter could save them. Apathy means people don’t want to talk about the wars that are being waged in their name, or the child labourers who got sick making their iPhone. They think politics is something other people do. They prefer to focus on “positive things”.
“Oh look, a butterfly… isn’t it pretty?”
Genuinely peaceful people don’t withdraw from the world. Only frightened people withdraw. Many people who seem peaceful are really like swans: they glide gracefully above the surface while flapping frantically underneath. They are secretly desperate to experience true peace of mind but they don’t admit it. They feel too ashamed of not experiencing it already. False imitations of peace become their addiction — numbness, narrowness and apathy. But apathy is not peace. Apathy grows out of the absence of peace. If you feel like you have no power, apathy seems like a smart choice. But power isn’t something you have; power is channeled, and never through apathy.
Usually I take the view that other people’s lives are their own specialty — there is no greater authority on you than you. But then I meet another swan who’s wearing apathy like a shield and I can’t deny I want to hug them and shake them at the same time. My head says I should leave them alone, but a deeper feeling calls me on. It feels like a visceral instinct to wake them up. We evolve as a collective, not individually. Letting them block me out would be my own form of apathy.
My trepidation is because I see these people like lovers who just lie there. Waking them up requires trust, and without a framework (like a coaching relationship) I’m often too impatient.
Waking up is about dancing to your own music....
I’m completely against the popular self-help metaphor of people floating in a river of well-being. I’ve been told many times that I don’t need to try; that life should be effortless; that I can simply lie back and be carried by the river of life. No, no, no! We are not only in the river; we also are the river. It’s a simple but critical distinction. Einstein said we should reduce everything to its simplest form but no further. To claim we are passive floating beings turns a useful metaphor into a ghastly deception.
It’s equally unhelpful to think you can “go with the flow”. You are the flow. You are both the flow and the flowing; the masculine and the feminine; the yang and the yin....
My spiritual friend who inspired this article told me yesterday: “My heart goes out to the starving people. I pray life will get better for them.”
Oh good, I said. And after you prayed, what did you do then?
She told me she’d left it in god’s good hands — and I think that demonstrates in a nutshell why people continue to starve despite there being enough food for everyone. It’s childish to pray without also acknowledging you are god.
Prayer either connects you to the internal clarity you need before you can manifest your will or it does nothing at all. Most people who pray don’t really pray, they simply pass the buck to an imaginary friend. And that’s nothing more than theatre. Maybe you’re so good at theatre that you can sell tickets and start your own church. But the starving people will still be starving while you float down your imaginary river, going with the flow.
Living deliberately means you stop lying back and accepting whatever happens to you. You stop pretending the universe loves you and realise you are the universe, so it’s your job to love yourself. It’s your job to decide what your life is about. It’s also your job to make it happen.
You can’t micromanage it all consciously, of course. You have unconscious processes for that. But you have to experience your intention. You have to accept responsibility.
Basically, you have to give a fuck — only then can you midwife your creation into existence.