Some of you might know that besides being a professional psychic and spiritual teacher I work part-time as a counselor and youth group facilitator at the local LGBTQ center. Nothing like regularly working with kids and young adults who suffer from serious depression, PTSD and dissociation to keep you and your spirituality grounded. It regularly makes me reevaluate what works and what doesn’t in terms of spreading awareness, health and empowerment through my teachings and perspective. It makes me perceive my own privileges better – and challenges me to figure out how to let this understanding inform my spirituality and my work.
See, I’d love to just sign up for ‘positive focus’ as the feel good drug of choice at any time. The problem is that is doesn’t work for most people on earth, because being able to maintain positive focus for even a couple of minutes isn’t as much about commitment and will as it is about privilege. Most people on earth aren’t that privileged.
Privilege means that you are given certain rights and can expect certain benefits and treatment in life which aren’t available to most other people. Especially not for other people who don’t look , love and pray as you do.
In most cases privilege is so commonplace among the members of a privileged group that they don’t even realize the benefits they are granted as special. They simply assume that having these things, being treated that way and finding yourself represented in the media and government is a normal experience for everyone. They don’t perceive a variety of perspectives because their friends, family and social circles are made up of people who look, love and pray at least similarly to them. They don’t really experience the ‘others’.
Like in agriculture this kind of cultural monoculture is not only cost intensive and requires a lot of resources and restrictions to maintain – it actually created ‘pests’.
Isolating a piece of land from the natural diversity surrounding it as is done in conventional agriculture is creating a rift in the Web of Life. Nature always promotes diversity and will be trying to close that rift. Which is why pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, walls, fences and plain force become necessary. They are weapons against nature. Weapons used to defend the rift. Weapons which have been shown again and again to create only more resilient pests. In the end Nature will always get Her way.
Even though we have been brought up to believe in a distinction between the human and the natural world this is just another lie of separation. In truth no such distinction makes sense. Our buildings are build out of wood, stone or metal. Even the chips in our computers require crystals to work. We can built walls and come up with ‘new’ materials in our labs – but we only have this natural world to depend on. We still depend on the resources and abundance of Mother Earth. We still depend on the Sacred Elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Ether/Spirit to survive and thrive. Trying to push them out and reject the laws of nature did never work in the past, isn’t working now and never will. We are part of this fabric no matter what.
Given that we are part of the Web of Life and therefore subject to the laws of nature above everything else the question arises what that could mean for the ways we life, love, pray and built our life. Do we continue to fight the laws of nature? Or will we try to figure out how to respect them better so that we can begin to live in harmony with them and being supported by them as a result?
For this post let us just focus on one law for the moment. The Law of Diversity.
Nature strives for diversity always, because it thrives on it. The more diverse an ecosystem ends up to be the more resilient it gets and the more diversity it can sustain. A meadow always strives to become forest. A true forest is always chaotic and diverse.
Bringing that back to human society we can hopefully see now how trying to maintain a cultural and spiritual monoculture is as futile and as harmful to the earth (and human beings as part of the earth) as an agricultural monoculture. It will be impossible to maintain it without violence. Violence against the ‘others’ on the outside of our walls, fences and neighborhoods. Violence against the ‘others’ in our own midst as well. Violence which in most Western cultures is directed against the feminine, the queer, the transgender, the Black, the brown, the indigenous, the ‘oriental’, the dis_abled, the poor, the Pagan, the Witch. Essentially everyone who looks, loves or prays differently than we do.
It is worth mentioning that the constant threat of violence has caused those of us who find themselves at the receiving end of the lash to build our own walls and castles in self-defense. It is our way to cope with ‘minority stress’ and surrounding danger.
While this is understandable and the establishment of ‘safe spaces’ necessary we need to be careful not to create and nourish the rifts that divide us further in the process. We, too, have to leave our own castles regularly and start to listen to the ‘others’ more. Usually we will find people who have even less privileges than we do. We need to listen to their stories. We have to stop assuming that the stories we keep telling ourselves are more correct and worthy than those of the less privileged. Usually the outsiders are the ones who can take a better look and have deeper insight particularly because of their ‘otherness’.
We need to visit those who have more privileges as well. They need to see us. They need to hear our stories. We need to make our stories heard by them.
Looking at our spiritual communities we need to stop condemning those who pray differently than we do. Especially when their reality has been shaped by violence and structural discrimination beyond the scope of what we are able to perceive and believe yet.
We need to stop judging their practices, emotions and goals from a place of Ego. Instead we need to approach them with genuine curiosity and respect.
Why do they curse? Why don’t they? Why do they kiss the floor? Why do they light candles? Why do they pray to demons and angels? Why are their ethics different from mine and what can that teach me about my own position in the world, my own blindness and my (in-)sight?
We need to come with an open mind and listen. We need to come with the intention to learn in order be able to mend the Web of Life. Only then can we gain understanding and develop true compassion.
If we truly want to live in peace with the earth and each other, then this is the only way I see that happening. Even though we might need to redefine what that ‘peace’ should look like based on our new-found diversity of perspectives.