Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Wise words from Henry David Thoreau.

I’ve never lived this quote as much as I have been this year. ‘Quiet desperation’ is such a poignant expression summarizing my struggle (and I’m sure the struggle of the mass of men around me as well). We go through each day trapped in a routine we know as everyday life, putting up a facade to show everyone that we’re okay. Yet as the days go by the routine feels ever more robotic, and it becomes more challenging to refuse that we are indeed not okay. I’m trapped, and I feel alone.

Quiet desperation.

People keep asking me what I want to do when I am set free from my current commitment. I still don’t quite know what the future holds, but I know it’s not a purposeless life. I don’t understand people who work for money. I don’t understand people who work for fame. My quiet desperation is a struggle against worldly expectations, be it wealth, popularity or conformity. I want to, one day, be able to earn the air I breath and the resources I use. My quiet desperation is me not doing enough for the planet. On some days, it gets to be too much.

One of the tragedies of our time is that we carry these weights around with us everywhere, but we feel like we cannot talk about them. Perhaps we have to remember that there is a mass of men around us who feel the exact same way.

Both our civilization, as well as many of us individually, are entering a transition in our sense of self and world. For simplicity, I call it a transition from the story of Separation to the story of Interbeing. As this shift gathers momentum, the old answers to questions like, “Who am I?” “What is important?” “What is normal?” “How should one live life?”  “How does the world work?” “What is a human being?” “What is real?” are becoming obsolete.

For example, on the collective level, we no longer believe so firmly in old paradigms like the conquest of nature, endless growth, or better living through chemistry. The converging crises of our time make them impossible to hold onto.As they unravel, so do the systems built atop them.

For many of us, something similar is happening, or has happened already, on a personal level. This online course is for people who want to learn about the space between stories, and work with it on any level, from the personal to the interpersonal to the political.

— Charles Eisenstein, www.spacebetweenstories.net

Every time I see quotes like this one, I am always reminded that I have a duty here on this planet. It’s not to make money; rather, it’s to help inspire others find their peace and purpose too. I am stuck in the transition from the old story to the new story, and I am desperate to get out. Once I can, you can bet I will be there to help guide others along their journeys. In the meantime, I’ll allow myself to pray for the strength to weather the storm of quiet desperation in the next four years.

This is my story. I’m sure you have yours. So let’s talk. Let’s amplify our quiet desperation.

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0303 – My conversation with Dr. Vandana Shiva

I was in New Delhi a couple weeks ago and took the opportunity to meet Dr. Vandana Shiva, truly one of the most inspirational environmental activists in India, if not the world. I first met Dr. Shiva at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in April 2012. She was a speaker in one of the plenary sessions, and I remembered being captivated by her passion and ability to carry the message. You can watch it here.

I really wanted to talk to her because I identify with so many things she said in that session, and also because she’s involved with Bhutan–a country that I just love–in an effort to turn it organic. Sadly, it shouldn’t be just a cool thing that some people do; it should be a common thing. Dr. Shiva also seems to… get it. She seems to have figured it out–what she’s here to do, what her role is, and what life is all about.

After almost an hour of searching and sweating in the 42-degrees heat of India’s capital, I arrived at Dr. Shiva’s humble office in the southern part of Delhi. Dr. Shiva was hard at work when I arrived, gave me a big smile and kindly asked me to wait a few minutes. The 30-minute conversation that transpired afterwards was definitely worth all the wait. She gave me many pointers to ponder. One of the things that stuck with me the most was her take on socialism. I asked her what her thought on socialism is, and here’s what she said (or what I recalled of it):

“If socialism is about equality, then I’m all for equality. If capitalism is all about maximizing our potential, I’m all about capitalism. But if socialism is about more power for fewer people, then I’m against it. Likewise, if capitalism is all about consumerism, I don’t agree with it.”

Dr. Shiva has a way with these things. I was surprised at how at ease she was about our world. She said that her quantum physics background shaped her philosophically as well, which perhaps has helped her to understand uncertainty and the constant flux that we exist in.

But it is her seeming happiness that pleasantly surprised me. Dr. Shiva greeted me with a big, genuine smile. Not one of those ones where you obligatorily force out for guests, but one that made me feel like she’s actually happy to help another soul. It was really nice to see. The world needs more happy people like her.

I kept asking her whether she felt angry or sad or depressed or confused–emotions that I’m feeling–about this whole thing called life. She served as a living example of how one need not feel negative about the mess that we’re in, and small steps can make a difference. With the work that I do, I hope that many generations to come will have a chance to smile, and a chance to be happy–a chance to live.

Soon, I’ll be doing some more soul searching to shift the attitude that has brought me much negativity. Dr. Shiva has shown me that there really is a way to work in a challenging and at times hostile environment and still be truly happy. I encourage you to check out her work. It’s really one of a kind.