I’ve been involved with some beach clean-ups of late, and this has happened…
At various moments, whole swathes of anger have welled up inside me. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that with the anger has been mixed with feelings of disgust, blame, shame and a deep desire to be elsewhere rather than in the thick of ‘other people’s’ detritus.
And so I had a conversation with a good friend who was also in the thick of it, and asked how she felt. ‘Helpless’, she said.
Interesting, I thought. I didn’t feel helpless at that time (and I can tell you that this lady can Get. Stuff. Done! She appears far from helpless. Far from the apathetic end of helpless, in any case.)
Perhaps she felt the ‘this is but a drop in the ocean’ helpless. And I’ve certainly experienced that.
But the moment that we say, ‘this is barely a ripple on the surface’, this is when we remove ourselves from being present to the power of right action, right now. Realising that where we are right here, right now, is the place that requires our attention; there is no need to focus on all that we can’t change… we only need to focus on all that we can do right here, and to effect some change in the precise place that we’re in.
And when we reduce our efforts, or side-line them, we detach ourselves from the deep knowing that every ripple causes a knock-on effect. When it’s a positive ripple, those positive ramifications become widespread…
I reflected with my friend that perhaps from anger we can aim towards acceptance and forgiveness. And she agreed. She also said how easy we find it to blame… (Hold this thought.)
This Part Is Called Anger
I was angry. I can get teary when I’m angry – which is one way to get the emotion out of the system, certainly. But in this case, I continued to connect to the anger inside until it subsided. I thought about my friend’s different experience in that moment, and frankly, I got on with clearing the endless sh*t.
Anger can help facilitate that – action, I mean (rather than endless ****!). Apathy often blocks any activity, but feeling apathetic can sometimes be the forerunner to anger. And, when redirected into something positive and proactive, this can transform the angry energy into something useful.
We’re so often not comfortable with anger; it’s seen as a ‘wrong’, ‘bad’ emotion. But it’s not…it is itself a forerunner to something better; more uplifting; a ‘better’, lighter energy – but only if we direct it appropriately.
I was ok with my anger and I don’t mind becoming angry (ok, so on one level I do; it isn’t something that I actively seek to feel, for instance…) because I know that it will pave the way to a better space and that it will shift something, both in me, and in the situation. And that it’s a process.
So, I carried on working, until saturation. You know that point when you’ve been working hard, manually, and you get to, ‘oh man, I’ve had enough! Let me have a shower and clean myself up now!’ And then have some fooood… Hard work is such hungry work, isn’t it!?
Later that day someone posted how they thought that the people leaving this kind of junk that we’d found ought to be punished.
My thoughts came back to the comment that I’d said about acceptance and forgiveness, and over the course of the day, the following evolution had occurred:
I went through acceptance – yes, the location was a disgraceful mess. Abhorrent to be honest. And yet is was exactly as it was. It was meeting us where we’re all at right now – in a mess. And so…
I arrived at forgiveness as to why this particular place was as it was – perhaps there have not been enough resources available in the past to abate the frightful situation? You know, appropriate infrastructure, and rubbish disposal facilities and so on which could perhaps have enabled a different solution. (Bearing in mind that I spend large portions of time in a developing country…)
Maybe there hasn’t been the level of education about the impact of pollution; maybe I’m coming at it from the privilege of simply being better informed…
These were some of those, ‘oh, I can see it from a different perspective…’ moments which help the blame-game to shift into the solution-seeking game of – how can we all do this differently…? What different action needs to be taken? And, how do I need to approach this differently?
Blame – Shame – Self-Righteousness
Blame won’t get us anywhere. It separates us. Blame says, I’m right and you-who-I-blame, are wrong. It’s even better if we can attribute our entire blame onto not only one individual, but a whole raft of anonymous people, because then we don’t have to face the ugly truth that blame creates – a great, big gulf of heartlessness. In us.
If we blame a nebulous ‘group’, we can just internalise that finger-pointing (or rant with our like-minded friends…you know, those who are ‘like us’…), and we don’t have to face the ramifications of looking someone directly in the face and saying, ‘this is your fault; do something about it’.
Because that’s a pretty brutal feeling to experience as the attributor of blame – to give someone else 100% responsibility for whatever pickle it is.
It’s just so much easier to blame a faceless ‘them’ and be done with attributing our righteousness.
Exonerating Responsibility and Limiting Possibility
And yet, here’s the thing. The minute that we point the finger, we exonerate ourselves from the 100% responsibility that we need to take in our lives.
We’re all 100% responsible for the way that we’re living. We’re all using the resources, and we all demand the luxuries that modernity afford us. No, we might not be burying our empty crisp packets in the sand and we might be using reusable water bottles and not chucking the single-use empties in the sea. But haven’t we all been at the airport, found ourselves desperately thirsty and bought a plastic bottle? (No doubt, it was disposed of thoughtfully and in the bin…but before we got on the plane to be flown wherever we fancied…burning through fossil fuels to get there!).
We’re all consumers here and haven’t we all regretfully let the wind catch some piece of plastic wrapping that we couldn’t chase down… Or walked past a blatant piece of litter (pretending to ourselves that we didn’t see …?)?
None of us is infallible.
However, blame arrests creativity. And creatively is required for seeking the solutions for doing all of ‘it’ (living on this beautiful planet, that is) differently.
When we blame, we strip ourselves of our own power to create a positive change. Not least because we’re wasting huge swathes of energy into something completely unproductive.
Blame also puts up resistances straight way. Shedding out blame is the sure-fire fastest way to get someone’s back up!
If you’ve ever been accused of anything, you’ll know that the first thing that happens, is that you’ll defend your corner – you did this; No I didn’t’! (Arguably, like children do…?!)
Or we might be shamed by the accusation and underlying inference that ’I’m better than you’.
Shed out blame left, right and centre, and the resistance that will match it will prevent others having their own aha-moments, and from realising how certain behaviours might not be advantageous for the greater good. Blame puts up a great big wall of resistance to any one of us saying, ‘oh, ok, I have done that in the past. I’m going to endeavour to do it another way.’
When we hold onto any form of resistance it prevents us learning from the experience, and the potential to grow into making different choices; choices that will inevitably feel better for everyone, as well. It keeps us closed and keeps us well as truly separate in what needs to be a collective endeavour.
Doing The Best We Can
We all have the capacity to externally shell out the blame to someone else, or even to internalise our own ‘wrongful’ acts and assume that everything is our fault…
Neither of these ends of the spectrum are helpful or productive use of our efforts.
We’re all doing the best we can with the resources that we have available at the time. If we come together, we can strive to generate better solutions for everyone concerned. But that requires us all to open our hearts so that we all benefit – right here, right now, and in the long-term.
I’ve come to really understand this weekend that so much more effective than blame is compassion.
Ultimately, the only way in which we’re going to resolve the issues that we’re facing right now on the planet, is through a love-oriented guide in our interactions with each other.
This requires moving beyond acceptance, and through to the other side of forgiveness, and reaching towards living with compassion towards one another.
But it’s super easy to talk about ‘being compassionate’.
Compassion is not about, ‘oh, poor you’. Compassion is about: we’re here together. You and I are having this shared experience on this earth; let’s powerfully, positively work towards making it an experience that we can all be proud of.
Letting go of the fear-based finger-pointing of separateness; compassion is about leading our lives with an open heart. Compassion says, we’re all built of the same stuff, and feel the same feelings, so let’s get over ourselves (and specifically in this case, get over our own self-righteousness) and stop causing conflict between us and let’s use our collective energy to seek better, more harmonious solutions for the mess that’s surrounding us.
But we have to feel it.
Having reflected deeply on the difficult emotions from ‘simply’ cleaning the beach, I’m pretty sure that we all have to go through these emotions to arrive at that harmonious space which feels like it comes directly from the heart and where it opens into what possibilities can we strive towards, together.
Compassion unites us, and is the only way to enable the collective heart to flutter as one, huge heart.
Together is the only way that we’re going to clean up this great big mess. And to seek better ways of inhabiting the earth. We all need to clean the beaches (along with the rest of it) first – to get dirty and help sort out the mess and then we’ll be in a better position to, together, change the way that we’re living to a more simple, cleaner, more considered option.
Because together we make up the whole. We are all the same in this eco-system in which we act as if we believe we’re top-dog (and some more top-dog than others, at that!).
And yet our hearts beat the same stuff…and they have to start beating together in synch.
And only then will the beaches stay clean.
If you liked this you may also wish to read – There Is No Away – it’s linked, although somewhat early in the season to be thinking about this (unless, of course, you’ve been anywhere near the High Street recently!?) The sentiments are very much timely though…