Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Letting Go

There is a saying in AA I like that goes “Let go let God.” And even though I don’t believe in God, or at least a monotheistic supreme being who looks like a cross between Fabio and Walt Whitman staring at a butterfly on his finger, I still feel good when I hear that phrase spoken.

It means nonattachment.It means the world flows. It means the green mountains are always walking and the eastern mountains travel on water. Letting go means the mind as it is in itself is free from ills. If from the Mind arises this world, why not let the latter rise as it pleases? Or, for that matter, fall apart.

Letting go means letting go.

Letting go of the radioactive waste spilling into the ocean from the shattered Fukushima nuclear plants. Letting go of the sociopathic bastards on Wall Street and Obama’s cabinet. Letting go of Tea Party wackos who want to put a summary end to the social services that keep them and their grandmothers and children and crazy uncle Fred in his ramshackle Topeka mobile home fed, warm, clothed, medicated, and educated.

Letting go of the soulless corporate CEOs who want to kill higher learning and replace it with competition and meaningless tests.

Letting go the West Virginia mountaintops getting blasted into eternal annihilation. Letting go of the stumps and barren slopes that were once the Amazon rainforest. Letting go of the oily goop suffocating the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico deposited by 4 million gallons of British Petroleum crude.

Letting go of the fact that not one person was arrested for the Deep Horizon disaster, or the collapse of financial institutions on Wall Street. While 15 million people languish in jail for possessing marijuana.

Letting go of the rape, pillage, murder, torture and horror that is war.

Letting go of everything that makes me mad, frustrated, impotent, and depressed.

Why worry? Why care? What is the point of that? Wouldn’t it be great to sit back and watch as it all crumbles and realize right down to the marrow in your radiated bones that there was nothing you could do?

To worry about something is like trying to solve a math problem by chewing gum.

Or so I’ve heard it said.

Letting go is different from not giving a damn. You still care. You still have feeling for the things and people that are being destroyed, or destroying themselves. It is the simple recognition that you are not in control. Of anything. Except yourself.

Letting go does not mean surrendering to futility, or giving in to those darkly thrilling nihilistic impulses that sometimes awaken in the blood after a few shots of tequila and a line of pure Bolivian coke. It does not mean (although it is tempting) that since you do not have control over the things and people enmeshed in destructive behavior, to join in on the havoc and fun and buy a Hummer, load it with cases of Jack Daniels, and going fishing with sticks of dynamite lobbed into the local pond. Or draw the curtains, kick back, and watch war porn and Glee until the bank kicks you out onto the street. Or go about your business in a Brooks brothers suit making gobs of money by manipulating the market or shuffling fraudulent mortgages or denying health insurance coverage to somebody’s leukemic kid.

Letting go does not mean giving in. Entering the domain of the amoral and apathetic. That’s a dull, stultifying, brain-numbing place to be. A swamp of fetid, miasmic rot. Dead bloated dogs. Rats big as terriers. Sinister boot-swallowing muck. Things may look sweet and manageable on the outside, but inside, you are dark water under a coat of shit-brown algae.

I’m not sure what letting go would ultimately mean. But I do love that speech George Clooney gives in Up In The Air in which he takes all those imaginary items - house, car, marriage, relatives, job - out of his backpack and invites you to feel the lightness of that. Every time I hear that speech I feel a little giddy.

Impotence is not inevitable. There are options available. One can join, say, Chris Hedges and Ray McGovern as they chain themselves to the White House fence to protest Obama’s wars in Iraq and Aghanistan and now Libya, get arrested, cuffed, shoved into a police van, and spend the night in jail hoping you don’t get shuffled off to a black site when no one is looking.

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison,” observes Thoreau, rather grimly, in his essay “Civil Disobedience.”

Civil Disobedience is not incongruous with the idea of letting go. It is not incompatible with having, and exercising, a conscience. One can let go of worry, feelings of impotence, take the high road, and do something noble and altruistic to fight corruption, tyranny, and evil, even though you will not see positive results within your lifetime.

Which means you will have to let go of ambition, self-aggrandizement, or any notion of heroic action that will have the dramatic impact that is the stuff of cinema and Shakespeare.

Civil disobedience is a private and unheralded act with highly uncertain results. But it is better than armed rebellion. Revolutions usually end in rubble, heads tumbling into baskets, and another form of tyranny.

The words conscience and consciousness are so similar they must be intermingled. And not just semantically. “Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded?,” asks Thoreau. “Through this wound a man’s real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now.”

I do not envy the life of the sociopath. Being without a conscience means being without feeling. Empty of everything that makes life rich and meaningful. Including, I guess, worry. Anxiety. Which brings me back to square one. The idea of letting go. And letting God. Which I take to mean fate. Destiny. Kismet. Karma. Throw of the dice.

Or that divine essence, whatever it may be, holding the universe together and imbuing the consciousness of living beings with a sense of awe, and caring.

How do you let that go?

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