I’ve just returned from a blissful – and very busy – week in Ottawa with my daughter and her family. Freida just keeps getting bigger and bigger and things are unfolding as they do with a new baby in the household. The inevitable exhaustion has led to colds so the cooking that I did this time just focused on an enormous pot of chicken broth (aka Jewish penicillin. By the way, if you’re skeptical about this, check out what the Mayo clinic has to say about it: “scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does have effects that might help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining“). I also managed to reupholster a set of antique dining room chairs (which we discovered had been made by the Stratford Furniture Co Ltd in the early 1900s some time). What I didn’t do all week – partly because I didn’t read any newspapers and partly because the kids don’t have TV in their home – was keep track of what was happening in the “light” news. This means that I missed the entire build-up to the great Daily Show debate between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer. So, once I’d unpacked and settled in, David and I cuddled up and watched the build-up that took place during the week and finally the face-off (you see, I am Canadian). In case you didn’t see it, here’s Part 1 (just click here for Part 2 and Part 3).
The thing about all of this is that the essence of it – in my opinion – is that it’s time for some honesty; time to stop the endless flow of “bull” that’s passed off as news or reality and move to simply and plainly dealing with the truth. The reason that this resonates so much for me is that it reflects the struggle I’m dealing with in my own life I think. Let me explain.
For months now I’ve been working at separating out the core of what I believe in and who I am from the facade that I have had to present for so many years within the context of my work. How many times in the past have I felt the discomfort of thinking that, as Stewart put it, I was saying and presenting things that were “disingenuous at best and criminal at worst“? Yes, I know; nothing I did was criminal in the sense that the things done on Wall Street were criminal. Nonetheless, supporting things that in my heart I knew meant that education wasn’t living up to its promise and presenting the government “spin” to blur awareness … well, honestly, that has always felt reprehensible to me. No more of that for me. For the first time in my life I am in a position to present and support what I really believe in, what I honestly hold to be important, what I authentically cherish and value. For the first time I can relax into the “real” me … without the required trappings of my professional position. No more illusions. No more “optics”. Just honesty.
And here’s the connection. I always thought that my job was t0 – as the eighteenth century Quaker saying goes – “speak truth to power“. I think that what Jon Stewart was saying – and may his words be heard by those who lead change (Obama, were you listening?) – was that it is time for a return to “real” reality. Not the stuff that 24 hour news channels feed us. Not the stuff of reality TV. Rather, the stuff of corporeality and materiality and relevance. It’s time to strip away illusion and stop proceeding through life as if some magical wand (the Wall Street shenanigans Stewart was talking about) would give us just what we want … just because we want it.
So what I experienced as I watched the March 12th 2009 Daily Show with my sweetie was that the time may have finally come for this struggle to get to the honest essence of living to be not only my personal quest but also – on a huge scale – one that we … as a society … have to deal with. In one of my favorite books (Ishmael by Daniel Quinn) we are told that every culture creates and enacts a story about itself. Ishmael teaches us that the story that we seem to have been telling ourselves for some time is that we can take what we want and do what we want and still the earth (and the people who live on it) will survive. That seems to be the premise that Wall Street’s been feeding on … and feeding us. What Jon Stewart did for all of us (more on the significant power of social media in another posting coming soon!) was say “enough”. Enough illusion. Enough pretense.
Once in a long while synchronicity seems to be flourish. Jung (who coined this term) described synchronicity as “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events“; a governing dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history. I know that for me retirement has provided this new space for a change in my personal patterns. I’m hoping that what Jon Stewart did for us all with this interview was to open up a space for at least a serious discussion about the changes in our social patterns that are needed if we – as a group – are to flourish.
What do you think?