Here Again

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I keep waking up each morning, usually in the dark, and begin the regular round of tasks through which another day opens itself: loading and running the dishwasher; feeding Kiva, our cat; making a pot of coffee and drinking a couple of mugs to satisfy the Kiva inside me; taking morning pills which now include a blood thinner; reading a book (currently Dimensions of Mind); sitting for half an hour in what I call meditation. And then there are my new ventures in life.

The “Three Sisters” garden in the backyard is doing marvelously (the corn stalks are two feet high; the beans plants are several inches high and getting ready to climb the corn stalks; and a dozen zucchini sprouts broke through the dirt this week).

The mother dove’s experience, being played out in our living room window, is more worrying. About a week ago, I found an egg shell, with evidence of a failed birth inside, on the ground beneath her nest. Then a few days ago, there was a hatchling in the nest. We could see its small wing flapping. But yesterday, the mother was staring straight ahead again, as she had been for the previous two weeks, and we feared the worst.

It was hard not to feel that life had turned against her and that she was a casualty of the fate suffered by so many all around us, near and far–sometimes very near. Now today, she seems to be interacting with another being in her nest, once again. Clearly, it’s time to let her be; to accept that whatever is going on in the nest, we have no part to play in it.

I’m reading a book by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (1900—1980), “Escape from Freedom”. It maps the course of capitalism, since it’s arising in the Middle Ages, into modern times, when there is no longer any trace of collaboration between capital and labor; just isolated individuals trying to earn their livelihood in baren corridors ruled by unbridled wealth. This book (first published in 1941) examines the psychological aspects of this situation; and in the 80 years since its publication, its depiction of the isolated, powerlessness of individuals has become ever more undeniable.

Fromm describes a dimension of the capitalism that now dominates our world that is not so evident: namely the role played by Luther and Calvin during the Reformation, when capitalism had its beginnings. Fromm argues that the fathers of Protestantism were full of self-hatred, and that they depicted the “God” they saw operating in the world as a remote and hateful one.

I encountered a Lutheran view of the relationship between human beings and “God”, when our two sons were attending the Lutheran Prince of Peace School in the East Mountains. I wanted to join the school board in order to be a more effective advocate for our sons and a requirement was that I take a class introducing Lutheran beliefs. It was a revelation to me to encounter the view that humanity lacks the power to initiate a relationship with God–because we are fundamentally unworthy of His attention. That, as well as having to proclaim Jesus as my one and only savior during a Sunday service, ended any thought I had had of joining the school board.

I guess I had assumed that all Christian denominations believed that we could be infused with the holy spirit, or—as a New Age church I had been attending before moving to the East Mountains expressed it—we can contact “Christ Within”. Years later, after we had moved both sons to different schools, my son Jon shared that he had been informed I was going to hell because of my interest in Buddhism.

For the past year I have been reading books that present alternatives to the “business-as-usual” destruction of our planet by the extraction economy controlled by giant corporations. Until reading “Escape from Freedom”, modern man’s sense of helplessness and insignificance felt like a deplorable but strangely prevalent perspective, which had also settled into my own psyche. Of course, there can never be a satisfactory explanation for humanity’s unwavering role in Earth’s destruction. But to learn that the Protestant denominations were already, centuries ago, laying the ground work for human beings to treat themselves as unworthy of life’s great gifts–introducing the perspective that we have been excluded from the bounty of creation and are condemned to live lives of isolation and insignificance–was a connection that I had not made previously. If it is true, it sheds a light on our role in the desecration of Earth.

Why am I one of the lucky ones? Because I ran away from my work as a computer programmer at the age of 32 and discovered that I could do things for which I had not been trained: unloading scallop boats in Nova Scotia, picking tobacco in Prince Edward Island, riding horses and bailing hay in Alberta, and doing manual labor in an open pit copper mine in British Columbia. For the following half century, I have managed to not be dependent on the industrial complex for my work; and I haven’t had to fear being fired because some large corporation decides it’s time for capital to down-size its labor force.

Reading “Escape from Freedom”, I have a better understanding of why so many people in this country are supporting a leader who has nothing but contempt for them as human beings. Perhaps it really is true that capitalism and religion alike have taught them to view themselves as insignificant, powerless and replaceable cogs in a world that doesn’t notice them as individuals, let alone care about them.

One comment to “Here Again”
  1. I have read Escape from Freedom. My brother and I do a book club once a month and that was one we read years ago. We have the liveliest discussion about politics, religion and science. I want to offer my experience with a faith tradition- religion if you prefer. My experience spans decades and certainly I think many are rethinking what they believe. It makes me sad to learn of your experience at the Lutheran church. I know there are more progressive views and denominations than the one you encountered. Through the age’s religion has been a negative experience for many and much hurt has been done in the name of religion. In Tolstoy’s book, A Confession he says the orthodox church in Russia killed many in the name of love., such a misconstrued idea of love! This of course caused him to rethink faith in God. But in the end, he did find faith separate from church dogma. I think more and more people in these divided times and many churches are also rethinking how they live out Jesus’ command to love others. I think certainly that should be our measuring stick! So not all churches are created equal!
    I enjoyed reading your post. I especially liked the phrase the ‘Kiva in you… ‘ hungry, relaxing ??

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