Revolution from Within Part III
June 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
A day trip to the Montreal tam tams a few weeks ago heralded quite a tragic sight: A young blue parrot perched on a crazy woman’s shoulders. His wings clipped, enslaved to her shoulders, the parrot had taken to virulently attacking his owner. He used his beak to puncture and scratch the skin on her face and arms, which were pockmarked and bleeding. His owner was trapped in a prison of her own – that of a sick mind – and attacked the poor parrot reciprocally, even trying at one point to strangle him – a technique she called “training.”
My reaction to this episode was so strong I realised I must have somewhere inside identified with what was going on. I have often been haunted by the oppression and abuse of animals. I’ve always felt that animals, just like us humans, have a deep desire for their own free lives, and to expand in their own true natures; that somehow they are worthy and integral beings that matter in the grand scheme of life.
But if we’ve imprisoned and abused animals throughout the course of time, we’ve also done it in equal measure to one another, as the phenomena of human trafficking, slavery, exploitation, and abuse of all forms can attest. That is why, if we chose to, all human beings can identify with the oppression and domination of animals, just as we can imagine what that experience might feel like in our own lives.
Gloria Steinem wrote in her famous book Revolution from Within “The truth is that, like every other part of nature, human beings have an internal imperative to grow.” What she meant is that with a little encouragement and love the undiscovered potential that exist inside each person can naturally flourish.
Today we’re living in a society in which, however externally free we may be, we are almost never “good enough” – smart, beautiful, rich, talented or powerful enough – and this predicament is its own kind of prison. We forget that we have an intrinsic worth, and perhaps this isn’t an accident. Our economy is in so many ways fuelled and sustained by a collective low self-esteem. Steinem explains: “The idea of an intrinsic worth is so dangerous to authoritarian systems … that it is condemned as self indulgent, selfish, egocentric, godless, counterrevolutionary, and any other epithet that puts the individual in the wrong.”
If we were to at some point stop the internal dialogue (our crazy owner) that tells us we are never quite enough, might our life (the parrot) be a little more free? Might we consume a little less and find our own path a little clearer, without the added pressures of measuring up to externally-imposed ideals. Might we find that beauty, power and even happiness can be found through self knowledge?
And finally, with a little practice, there is a revolution from within: “We are so many selves. It’s not just the long-ago child within us who needs tenderness and inclusion, but the person we were last year, wanted to be yesterday, tried to become in one job or in one winter, in one love affair or in one house where even now, we can close our eyes and smell the rooms.
What brings together these ever-shifting selves of infinite reactions and returnings is this: There is always one true inner voice.
Sometimes the most revolutionary thing we can do is love and accept ourselves; the impulse to declare that we matter has formed the basis for revolutionary movements since the beginning of time. At this point, we have the power to grow back our clipped wings and fly home to ourselves.
And then, we might hear the Sufi mystic Rumi calling:
Come, come, whoever you are. Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.