For me the question is always one of how to live, how to be free and happy. Visiting other places invites that very inquiry. In the great "out there" people are in various observable states of wakefulness. The cliche - ignorance is bliss - is evident everywhere as people recklessly burn fuel, eat poison, destroy their home (earth), and allow themselves to be filed into stalls (jobs) that limit them intellectually and creatively. They give their best to a system that forever undervalues them. They appear to be at a great banquet. Yesss bliss. I remind myself, lest I get cynical, of the words of a great mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan who said of ignorance that "it is a shield for that which are not yet ready to face." We are all seeking happiness which we do from the awareness we currently have. The real struggle is that in all of our many stages we share one planet, one life. For those who are more awake the weight of responsibility that comes with knowledge is a necessary burden. So what to do?
From this new view I see that MIkey and I did a partial opt out. We're connected to the (failing) system but we don't let it take us over. Our time, at least for now, is mostly our own. In that way we're somewhat free. We work and use money even if we can imagine a more free society. Like everyone we live in flux in a society that is not yet in agreement about what it wishes to be but we manage to feel free within it. And this freedom is everything. I think that it comes from a never ending conversation about what life, happiness and freedom are and look like. We always ask "why do anything and for what ends?" This conversation has provided a healthy ground for debate, learning, contemplation, change and adaptation. It keeps us feeling expressed in the world rather than squashed by it. It is likely the most important thing that we do. I am comfortable making discoveries and thinking that I understand how things work while knowing that I will correct myself later when I can see more and have a wider view. Anything else is a lie. The only constant is change.
We saw some of the flux I am talking about on the road when we got a good glimpse at the new American poor. They were the middle class. Now they are taking in room mates to make the bills, and realizing that the "new" home they bought faces the wrong way, has little insulation and will break them to try to heat and cool. Many are one unexpected emergency away from loosing everything. What makes the difference between rich and poor? Happy and miserable?
Krishnamurti said, "It is no sign of wellness to be well adjusted to a sick society." I see the society as sick. The only reason I can opt out on some fronts is that I trust myself. I know that living a heart centered and contemplative life provides me with keen awareness and better "data" than any book, school or system can provide. Living near and with nature is like having a teacher always present. It's interesting to note how observation of nature can teach one about the whole universe. While the life man put on top of nature (the system) offers knowledge of a narrow and limited variety. It can't ultimately keep one alive. I trust what is generated by my own awareness. Most important, I trust myself with myself and so the system offers me nothing.
I am also happy with the view that life is hard and punctuated with joy. People through all of time have said so and that's ok with me. How else will be able to leave this world? Look at how some kick and scream and wish for resuscitation of every grotesque variety to give them one more gasp of life on earth while others welcome death when it comes. Observation of nature (a natural system) not only teaches one how to live but also how to die. It is ok to be tired of the story of earth and it's struggle at the end of a life. Perhaps this is why mystics suggest that we live here as a visitor, a passerby.
Having been a visitor for a couple of weeks my own home feels awfully good. I'm welcomed back to hot springs, huge open skies, sunshine, a low cost of living, great community and a garden that promises organic food at the cost of my time and attention. Sold!