“Is it better,” I was asked, “to focus on building our own “alternative” culture, or is it better to “convert” those in the mainstream to our way of seeing?”
Can you convert dinosaurs?
Can you convert an old, fuel guzzling Cadillac boat of a car into a hybrid?
Can you convert a Catholic into an all-one-god believer?
We converted ourselves, did we not? Once I was an ignorant, fuel guzzling, waste-producing human being. Now… I am actively trying to streamline myself- by changing my mind I change the world I live in. I still create waste, surely, but it is not as thoughtless as it was when I was younger. I still eat, I still buy things, but it is not with as much unconsciousness as it was in the beginning. By changing my actions, I learn to create more life than death. By relating to others in as healthy a manner as possible, a little of me rubs off onto them instead of them rubbing off onto me.
We are converting our old paradigm as well as those attached to it in order to provide a healthier alternative. We might not get everyone; we surely won’t. But those who get it, who are enlightened by our way of being, will spread that lightness, will thank the universe (gratitude vs. victimization) for whatever breeze brought it to them and they will go on and affect others.
At the same time, we cannot simply try to convert people without providing some solid ground to stand upon. So we create a world that we would like to see. One where we can eat organic foods, find sustainable forms of energy, create works of art and literature which speak to the soul rather than the ego, go to events which foster openness and freedom of expression instead of commoditization and capitalism.
Catholicism, if anything, has a great marketing scheme. They have this heaven place where you’ll go if you’re good and this hell where you’ll go if you’re bad. If you get brainwashed into their system, why wouldn’t you choose Catholicism? If I didn’t know better I certainly would. After all- they are guaranteeing me a place in heaven if I follow their rules and, according to them, heaven is a pretty sweet place to spend the rest of eternity. Basically: if they convert me, they’ve got a sweet reward: heaven.
Of course, we are not trying to create a world that is separate from this one. We are living in that world now and the only thing to actually see is to strip away the layers which block us from seeing it and living it. Once upon a time, I covered myself with many blankets to shield myself from a light that I was afraid would burn the little me away. Then I got naked in that light, came out from under those blankets, and the burning, though painful at times, felt so good… so warm, so loving… and it continues to do it’s work… and I continue to see more clearly every day.
No one came by and said: Michael, you ought to join our movement, convert thyself! Be thou healed!
Instead: something, I don’t know what, a book or a song or a rhythm, came by and said: check this out- here is a choice… you can live like this, or you can live like this. And everyday there has been that choice: to live consciously or to live unconsciously. Through trial and error I have found that the conscious choice, rather than the alternative. has always brought more happiness to myself and others.
So the world I create is a world of conscious participation. A world in which I make choices, a world where I am not the victim of :: insert your favorite oppressor here::. When I share this world with others who are also on the same path of participation we find much joy in being in each others presence. We find we are creating very firm foundations of trust and love and the world itself seems and feels to be more open and receptive. We find we want to bring others into that fold.
When I look around myself, and right now I live in a rather suburban setting in San Diego, I see the standard walls, the standard muteness, the standard homogeny. People live according to a dis-ease that they have inherited from their families, their friends and their culture. Self-destruction, doubt, fear… and they pass it along to their children. The walls continue to be built, and the narrow minds, the fear based economy and homogeny continues to roll along.
In our own macrocosmic minds, we know that if we insert one seed of fear, one seed of doubt, it will, if we allow it to take root, make our entire kingdom crumble. Conversely, we know that if we take one seed of hope or love or truth, and implant it within ourselves, it will cause our own walls to crumble as long as we nourish that light.
Likewise, if we move into the society we live within, and see that as one more loop of the fractal of the universe, those countless nameless faces who we pass by everyday, reflections of ourselves, synapses of our own minds, and we infect them with our own light, little by little their own walls crumble. It may take them lifetimes; it may take us lifetimes. But can you imagine a more beautiful work of art? A more beautiful world? Good. Then do it.
We can come back to the safety of our own community anytime; it will always be here nourishing us. We can breathe deep. We can do our practice. We can strengthen ourselves upon our own gifts, upon our connection to that which is divine. And we can share this with our friends and family, this beautiful community we have.
But to keep it only to ourselves, to build a kingdom and not go out and try and share it with others, to stay within those walls, preach to our own choirs, laugh at our own cosmic jokes and wonder when the rest of the world will join us, is to be the very kind of person we thought we had changed from: it is to live within our own walls. No matter how crystalline and alive they may seem, unless we are actively trying to let others in, to be more open, more inviting, we may as well be back to where we started.
So in answer to the question posed: It is better to be doing both: to be creating our own alternative and to always be finding ways of sharing it with others, inviting others in, converting them to a healthier way of relating to themselves and all of existence.
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