The Dervish, oil on wood, by Vera Rey (a.k.a. my mother Yelena Chemerisov)
Today on the radio I heard that Mayor Garcetti has declared a State of Emergency for Los Angeles’s homelessness. A hundred million dollars is to be spent on more service workers and shelters. Despite being advised to not focus on this issue (as it supposedly “kills votes” and people just wish it would go away without actually having to do anything about it), the mayor is deciding to make it a priority, and to give it a sense of urgency. Of course there’s a sense of urgency! The people I pass daily on the streets here in Hollywood - they need help urgently. I imagine each hour and each day spent in discomfort and hunger is not something that might as well just stretch into longer periods, until the person becomes even more destitute, and the people who are “better off” judge them even more severely (“they choose to live this way,” “why should they get anything for free when I work hard,” etc). I think the urgency is the missing key.
The suffering is not only apparent, but exponential - in that the people who have struggled and sickened and sought refuge without finding any haven are rotting in squalor, while the people who have the energy, creativity, ingenuity, and resources to think up and implement possible solutions are misdirected in their aims. We’ve been programmed to look the other way, we’ve been set up in a fierce rat race to prove our worth to one another in terms of possessions, accomplishments, colorful journeys and beautiful offspring. Believe me when I admit that my baby being born a total cutie pie makes me feel like a huge success, treated to doting reverie from the world which I receive daily in the form of compliments from strangers and friends, each one making me feel like a super human for just having reproduced. This giddy joy has such power to distract me from the pain in the world. But it also teaches me, everyday, that I have accomplished nothing, if I do not augment my happiness with a purpose.
During my pregnancy, and now ten months of my baby’s life, my purpose has been to be healthy and make the transition into motherhood. Most days this task has been all I could focus on, but as I gain more steadiness in this new footing, the shadows in my heart lean more and more into my view. They bow in, slowly creeping, and often withdraw quickly as if they don’t want me to notice, for fear of fracturing my glittering bubble of carefree living. But they know. There’s no such thing as carefree, when 2 billion people on our planet live in poverty. My shadows have had to learn, however, that they cannot disguise themselves as guilt, and take away from my true joy. I think all of our shadows must learn this. We can’t help anyone if we think we shouldn’t be happy out of solidarity for the poor, the ill, and the innocent immersed in violence.
Because there are so many instances of these poor, ill, violent things in our current existence (which also pulls with it the weight of the past poor, ill, violent things), the shadows in our hearts need to be allowed full entrance into view. We need to embrace them and understand their significance. We need to grow stronger through the processes of healing, and then assert our power to influence the world.
Tonight’s moon is so close to us it’s called a Supermoon. It’s aligned with the Sun and eclipsed so perfectly by the Earth that it’s glowing blood-red as it reflects all the light off of our planet. It’s the harvest moon, and it orbits us in celebration of the crops coming in, our work paying off, our stock for the winter, our keep and sustenance. Oh to be as connected to older agricultural cycles than we are in our industrialized stupor. Perhaps we’d tap into compassion easier. If we understood that all the bounty we enjoy comes with a price, a give and take… a tilling, a seeding, a sprouting, a nourishing, a reaping, a processing, and only then - the consuming.
I ask tonight’s moon - do you feel it, our dullness? Our greed? Our distraction? I see you float there, far away with the magic of space between us, holding the distance at an ebbing radius, never wishing to touch, just circling, just leading us in our dance of ignorance. Or can you illuminate our potential? Come even closer, moon, I wish you didn’t fear us. We are quite lost. You’re bleeding for us as you take our shadow. And behind us, that scepter sun is standing true as ever, casting its brightness everywhere except on you, as we pass through.
My new purpose in life, as a mother and a citizen of the world, is to think about the way a world without poverty will look. How it will feel, smell, taste, sound. How it will resonate in our souls. (I think of poverty as including all wars and violence, for it both stems from and causes these things.) My words may not always fall to the screen or paper clearly, my thoughts may not always connect logically, and my actions may certainly not always reflect my preference for how I think the world “should be.” After years of inadvertently subconsciously punishing myself for not living up to ideals, I now shed the snakeskin of perfectionism and striving, and step into an attempt at pure imagination. It’s the only thing that has ever gotten me anywhere. The only place I want to get to, though, is a place right here already within my soul. I suppose I want to figure out how to expand it so infinitely, that everyone else’s universe of being can intertwine and pulse together, strengthening each connection point, beautifying each wavelength in between.
I heard that our president also had something to say today about world poverty and how it had to be our priority… and after the thoughts I had yesterday about wanting to think only about this question of how the world could be without it… well… my thoughts now scatter into tiredness and various things from today float before me… the Pope’s visit… Amma’s birthday… moon in Aries… moon… moon… shadow… red… harvest… light… blood… world… poor… ill… a prayer for the suffering people in our world is left on my consciousness. And a prayer for those of us living with utter joy. And a prayer for every cell and every atom. And every star and supernova. Peace. Blasted through the everythingness like a massive sneeze from the god that is our brain in the act of thinking. Thinking it so. Letting it become.
"Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness. And so to whatever degree any one of us, can bring back a small piece of the picture and contribute it to the building of the new paradigm, then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit, and that after all is what it's really all about."
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