Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Leaving negative cycles and entering positive ones

A cycle is something that perpetuates itself, when one action or thought leads to the next, which leads one back to their original thoughts and actions, making one act on them again, differently or otherwise. David Trombley, who I met a few days ago at Occupy Ann Arbor while traveling at home, said that there are two such cycles--positive and negative. David described a positive cycle in his life, poetry, like so:
My advocation, however, is poetry. I have been writing for five or six years now and also teach with the Ann Arbor Free Skool. I write about my experiences, my worldview. You can do what you want with poetry. It helps me stay centred in the here and now. It is about creative ways of approaching life. It is a positive cycle, an inspiration cycle, an exercise in mindfulness. If you are mindful, you open yourself to inspiration. Once inspiration comes, you can get poetry out of it. Poetry leads to more inspiration, making you stay more mindful.
Mindfulness, inspiration, an appreciation of the here and now are powerful things we should all be thinking about and acting on to tread more lightly on this planet. Negative cycles, though, are those that not only harbor ill-will and ruthlessness and violence in our daily lives, but also when scaled up can cause us to be burdens on other people and the world. David talked about how greed, the violence perpetrated because of greed, and the personal gains because of greed lead to more greed, in a never-ending spiral towards inequality, injustice, and unsustainability. The negative cycles of the world result in some people making a lot of money, resulting in them wielding enormous power and influence, and then setting the system up such that it continues to benefit them at the expense of human dignity and the environment.

At the same time, whether we like it or not, many of us as individuals are stuck in negative cycles that now are social norms. We are compelled to spend our lives working on things that do not interest us, just so that we can pay for a car and a home that will provide us a roof over our heads just so that we can get back into the car, be stuck in traffic, to earn money so that we can pay for gas when we have to next. We are stuck in a mindless drudgery, in an economy that does not care about our feelings, emotions and effort, bur rather about how much time you can spend trying to prop it up, so that it can perpetuate itself, get ever larger, and ever more unstable. We are stuck in negative cycles of inadequacy, in which what we have is never "good enough," compelling us to trash what we have just so that for a while, we can have something that will in a few months be "not good enough" again. The pressures to stay within such a negative cycle is enormous, for everyone we are surrounded by, everyone we see on TV is participating in it.

Positive cycles are those (which on the surface may not seem related to sustainability and the environment, but in all actuality are deeply related to them) that lead to contentment, appreciation, introspection, and then an outward manifestation of those thoughts into actions that will allow us to tread lightly on this planet. Once we start down a line of thinking and doing, like David talks about, we inspire ourselves, pushing ourselves to do more to try to break the negative cycles of existence and replace them with positive ones. We inspire others around us to think for themselves, to rid themselves of the shackles of this mindless drudgery of "the economy," to do something more meaningful for ourselves, our communities, our neighbourhoods, for our world. Positive cycles are exemplified by features that do not need laws or regulations to keep them in check. Rather, they can be let lose in the world without restraint. Who could ever say that inspiration and appreciation and mindfulness should be tamed and regulated? On the other hand, violence, a negative cycle, must be tamed, curbed, enforced.

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