A Blissful Place

Like many of you, the mariner feels a need to respond to greater tragedies in the world. However, there are two points to be made. First, he will solve not one great tragedy no matter how hard he tries. Second, No matter how much the mariner learns through personal education about a great tragedy, his knowledge inflames only his own soul.

A similar opinion is reflected in a few responses to posts. The mariner must agree with the general premise. True, he will not live long enough to see many great tragedies resolved – if they ever will be resolved. So find something pleasant to do until he dies.

However, a look backward through written history shows that tragedies have been overcome not by one or two powerful individuals but by hoards of people who took matters into their own hands. Discounting the contributions of science and technology, this has been the case most of the time. Further, no set of population has agreed to the last person that a given premise is absolute. Without elaborating, freedom marches could not have occurred with Martin Luther King alone. He had a few companions. Also note that both racism and “paid” slavery still abound. Still, the freedom movement made changes to American culture. One must, over the millennia, take one step at a time.

Occupy America and Tea Party movements are more evidence that it takes more than one person’s angst to change culture. To quote a great American phrase, “E Pluribus Unum.” It takes one hundred pennies to make a dollar. Consider yourself a penny – can’t make a dollar without you. To be more absolute about individual responsibility, be a citizen who votes – a power for change few citizens have had in history. 48 percent of eligible Americans do not vote. The mariner would recommend voting in caucuses and primaries as well. Further, when was the last time you shared your opinion with an elected representative?

The counterpoint is made. Yet, there is truth in the first paragraph. This modern age requires more than a millstone and corn to make breakfast. Although each of us is only one person, we as individuals are super-engaged in every level of local, national and global society. Our lifestyle is dependent on every level of local, national and global society. Our personal lives face daily confrontations that simpler times did not require. Further, in simpler times, tasks generally did not require much stress on the deeper machinations of our personalities.

In the United States, given a few exceptions for the wealthy and starving artists, having a job most of our life is an absolute requirement for survival. That means working steadily all day five days a week (a fairly recent limitation created by collective bargaining – but I digress). It means doing more than that if one needs to assure job security and lasting success. Virtually every job is stressful because time, not our own, is of the essence.

In the United States, children and parents and grandparents and cousins and friends disburse all over the world, leaving less of an envelope of unspoken comfort and protection. It is both blessing and curse in our American culture. As we have moved from an agricultural society to a post-industrial, technology driven society, a new festival has emerged – the family reunion. Used to be every day was a family reunion, though too much of a good thing can sometimes be too much. The mariner is reminded of a good friend he knew during the 1960’s. The friend said, “Never been more than 54 miles from home.” Queried about why, he said he never felt the need. He was an older farmer; he and his wife had four generations of family nearby.

So while we are more involved in our society than ever before, we tend to find less in the way of curative family and friend activities. In effect, were it not for a spouse, a great many individuals literally would live more than a day’s travel to a family member. Those without family or spouse emotionally have a harder life and tend to shape their lives in a way that guarantees curative time with friends and in solace.

The Western World is captivated by the noise and innovation of democratic capitalism. We tend to forget the healing aspects of religions that never experienced a Puritan-driven reformation, never heard of James Smith or John Maynard Keynes. One of my favorite anthropologists, Joseph Campbell often spoke of the need for each of us to have a blissful place. His definition of bliss was for religious purpose as well as emotional. Nevertheless, it takes training to sustain a blissful place. Perhaps that is why yoga and new age movements are growing in popularity – these movements reflect a need solved long ago in Hinduism and Buddhism – two religions that never faced western influence until the world grew too small. Still, as religions, they do not fare well in Western culture. Find solace in Pilates or Tai-Chi.

The mariner concedes we need solace. He also advocates that the world needs our constant attention because of human, chemical, planetary, and equality dynamics – but he digresses.

Ancient Mariner

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