Buddhism 401: How Can we Live Peacefully Together…

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Wat Langka in Phnom Penh

…if we can’t live peacefully alone? Ha! You saw that coming, didn’t you? So did I, once it started gaining speed and shifting direction toward me, grinning like a devil in distress, dressed like an angel in red dress, armed with fleet feet and two gold teeth, androgynous anonymous autonomous and whispering soft incantations, interspersed with the most vile curses, carrying thunderbolts and poisoned letters in mysterious body parts only partially concealed, taking aim carefully counting as if measuring the distance, then…

 

Wham! The thought struck me like a thunderbolt from the sky, knocking me down with its truth and simplicity, clear as a bell and as certain as death’s knell. Surely it’s been said before, but I don’t know where. I would feel guilty if I were to claim it as my own original idea, when it’s as simple and universal as it is startling and unequivocal. We are the cause of our own collective nightmares, and the solution to the problem is as simple to understand as it is difficult to execute, and almost certain to create self-searching…

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Khmer kids clean up

Once each of us has found peace within ourselves, then the Earth will be at peace with itself. This occurred to me partly in reaction to an implied suggestion that my advocacy of meditation and self-enlightenment while governments are collapsing and concerned citizens are resisting, was perhaps maybe just a little bit—escapist? But I don’t think so, not really, not in any metaphysical sense, anyway…

 

In fact these little revolutions of consciousness occur all the time, whether you notice them or not, the evolution in laws governing cannabis and sexual identity among the most notable, inevitability the only price of progress, simply staying the course and waiting for the tide of numbers to create the critical mass needed for a new reality to replace the old policies of repression and prohibition. Could the same thing happen with racism and naked aggression? Of course…

At the risk of trivializing such an important paradigm, and given the partisan squabbling over cannabis and sex, I prefer an even clearer example of ‘conscious revolution’: do you remember the ‘War on Litter’ in the USA by any chance? You’d have to be my age, but it was real, and at its worse in my home state of Mississippi, not the leading edge of anyone’s environmental progress…

But it was real, and it’s very real where I am now, one of the nicest, but trashiest, places in the world—Cambodia—where people simply toss trash, most of non-biodegradable, to the side of the road as if nature were our trash-basket, not our hand-maiden…

What to do? Do you bring in massive street-sweepers, ditch-dusters and shoulder-swipers to clean up the trash that people can’t be bothered to find the appropriate hole for? Yes, that’d be good, but then you’re only treating the symptoms, not the problem. No, you need a revolution in consciousness, that makes people realize what a disgusting habit they have, the same thing that many people go through with their other habits, like nicotine and alcohol…

And that’s exactly what happened in America in the 1960’s and consolidated in the 1970’s, largely thanks to the First Lady at the time and seconded by the Great Environmental Awakening. So it would be unthinkable for any American or European to throw trash out the window today, though millions of Third-World citizens do it every day unthinking. It has to be be taught, and it has to start with the kids, so there you see them on the streets cleaning up the plastic that their elders toss every day…

Could the same consciousness revolution create world peace? If you stop to think about it, isn’t marching in the streets protesting just prolonging the old “in yo’ mo’ fo’ face” mode of political aggression? That’s not what Gandhi did, not really. What would happen if one million people went to the Capitol Mall in Washington, DC, and meditated—not marched? It might be worth a try. Remember the old 60’s ‘sit-ins’ by any chance?

They worked. And I quote the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The sit-in, an act of civil disobedience, was a tactic that aroused sympathy for the demonstrators among moderates and uninvolved individuals.” Sound good? Unfortunately it’ll take much more than that to solve the problems associated with global warming. Who’s ready to give up their air conditioning, and car, and wild wet poolside bar? Anybody?

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