Relevance

The striking gong propels a resonate hum into the distant horizon. Slowly stretching my arms to the sky, an escaping sigh indicates it is indeed time to greet a new day. I scan the dark room to ascertain where I am. The constant travel still tosses a confused haze over my waking eyes however, outside the tall windows a familiar Himalayan silhouette gently tickles an azure halo.

Encased within grasshopper-green rice fields, tucked away in a tiny pocket of Himachel Pradesh, is the monastery and surrounding locales I’ve called home for the last four lunar cycles. Bustling underneath twisting Tibetan prayer flags, time has provided the quintessential classroom for unfolding lessons since before the rains began, providing gentle protection from the suffocating heat and impaling downpours of monsoon season. These Himalayan mountain towns submit to a weather pattern all their own, while the remainder of India has endured the nastiest of nasty summer heat and a ravaging rainy season, ripening the country for travel.

As my North American home balances precariously amidst threats of an impending government shutdown the obscure web appears worlds away, as does the ridiculous nature of a political force involved with such a proposition. What is designed to work for we the people is undoubtedly selfishly motivated and the childish antics of threatening to pull away from the responsibilities accepted to prove a worthless point, are duly recognized.

When pondering the legitimacy of what I am attempting to accomplish on the other side of the planet I continue to weigh whether my endeavors are better served at home. Perhaps making contributions to society through a more active standpoint would move forward the causes for democracy and planetary health that I so adamantly believe are our responsibility to pragmatically support.

The facts however, continue to pacify my sense of purpose. Tantalizing options I’ve entertained to return to the US are equal parts selfless and ego driven moving me no closer to the truths I’ve left home to uncover. I’ve also decided that it is no less respectable to live an alternative lifestyle and adjusting to satisfy the degree by which others accept what I’m doing as relevant is not a move I am willing to make.

It’s an enormous challenge balancing worldly responsibilities with an exploration of the desire to break free from all that binds us. We are mothers, sisters, sons, caregivers and providers; responsibilities exist and there is no way around this, nor was there designed to be. One of the fundamental aspects of this game is accepting the circumstances of our lives not as an unchanging hand that we’ve been dealt, but as ever-morphing diversions that must be recognized as such in order to transcend the constraints we have accepted as self-imposed boundaries to growth. The illusion is not in the rules themselves but in our perception of these rules.

The machine in which we are integrated gathers power by replacing independent thought with automated notions. We’ve been handed blueprints of what success looks like. The American Dream is no longer about reaching our highest individual potential and instead involves surrounding oneself with more increasingly decadent aspirations. Within the societal model we’ve been exposed to since birth, we’ve been convinced that our lifestyle is important to maintain without ever questioning, why?

Taking our country’s leadership as the example, there is little directive for the population to break free from the ingrained patterns of conditioned complacency and fear-based grasping at security and safety. Therefore it is up to each of us individually to unlock our own conventional thinking long enough to glimpse what lies beyond the doors blocking the path to this freedom.

It is only walking through this entryway that we may access the opportunity to develop the fullest expression of ourselves. Knocking on this door however, requires acceptance of the unknown, awaiting our arrival on the other side, a prospect that may be unsettling for most. The illusion of control often explains that no good can come of risk and avoids the uneasiness of questions that may remain forever unanswered. Breaking the façade also means facing the truths we maintain a steadfast vigilance to hide. At either end of this spectrum the internal dialogue is more important than the result of such inquiries, merely signifying the opening of the door and taking the first step.

As for me, Mother India is chanting her playful mantra inciting a delightfully tempting provocation to once again dance with her children. After shaking off the sleepy haze of monsoons, I am rested and beyond ready to learn some new steps.

The gong has sounded; it is indeed time to wake up.

~ by Christine Fowle

Questions

As I trudge through the rising mire of conjecture regarding what should and shouldn’t be done regarding the escalating crisis in Syria, I continue getting stuck. Something repeatedly, is tapping the inside of my psyche begging to be heard, but every time I stop to listen. Silence.

"What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad's capabilities. At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”[1]

I don’t understand. Something limited? Something proportional? What does limited mean? What is proportional? These words are changing the composition of my interior landscape.

Degrading the enemy and upgrading the opposition. By killing and supplying weapons?

This is what’s being said, isn’t it?

“Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.  This would not be an open-ended intervention.  We would not put boots on the ground.  Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.”[2]

We would not put boots on the ground. Limited in duration and scope.

The words echo in my ears.

“I'm confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors.  I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.”[2]

Confident in the case our government has made?

Comfortable going forward without approval? Paralyzed and unwilling.

The gripping in my chest tightens with every spoken word.

“A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited. I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end. But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.” [2]

The war in Iraq is over? Did we win?

Caution isn’t appropriate? Doing nothing is the only other option?

There’s that word again: limited.

“Here's my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community:  What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”[2]

I also have a question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community.

What message will we send to our own children if instead of dropping bombs we find another way?

“If we won't enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?”[2]

As individuals and as nations we are being confronted over and over again with the same gruesome tests. What does it say about our resolve if we continue to choose guns over dialogue?

Words cannot communicate the injustice, maliciousness and insanity responsible for the murdering of innocent men, women and children. Nor can images place us into the center of a battlefield.

The footage we’ve been exposed to is horrific. So are the options we are being presented with. Regardless of what is now so vividly flashing before us, never, will we experience the scope of unforgivable carnage if our country goes to war. We will never see the men and women we murder. We will never know the full extent of the sickening devastation we engender.

Trust is an illusion and control, even more derisive. Dead human beings however are not conceptual imagery. Dropping bombs and supplying weapons does not guarantee one single thing except more bloodshed. It is counter-intuitive to believe otherwise.

Just one more war and then finally we’ll have peace?

Really?

Syria is but one battle. What about the next? And the next?

We have the power to do something revolutionary. Life is presenting us with the ultimate moral challenge, propelling us into playing the hero in our own story. We can be the generation that chooses peace over war and dialogue over violence.

How does the story end?

“We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.”[2]

 

~ by Christine Fowle

[1] Jeff Mason and Yara Bayoumy,  “Obama wins backing for Syria strike from key figures in Congress”, Reuters - September 4, 2013

[2] President Barack Obama, “Statement by the President on Syria” August 31, 2013