We’ve just come out of a year that was called the “gloomiest” for humanity in over a decade… 2017. The verdict isn’t out yet on 2018, but judging by the news and social media feeds, the trend continues: gloominess mixed with anger, hostility, apprehension and anxiety. I know these feelings intimately.
I’ve been through an interesting personal journey over the past year or so. In my last post, I wrote about why I am no longer a “New Ager.” It doesn’t make sense to me anymore to — among other things — meditate on money to solve my personal financial crises, let alone the financial crises of the nation and the world. There is a real danger in slapping mental, emotional, and spiritual band-aids on systemic failure — the danger of perpetuating systems of oppression. And, there has never been more temptation to do so than now, when acknowledging reality feels utterly depressing. We don’t want to go there.
Well, during this past year I went there. I allowed myself to step out of the “positive thinking” bubble and just be real. I let go of any “inevitable happy ending,” as John Holloway writes in “The Scream.” We aren’t guaranteed a Utopian future: the future is up to us. Over the past year, I’ve struggled with my faith in humanity, in the future it is writing and whether there are enough of us to change the balance of power.
I’ve pushed back in frustration and indignation, I’ve argued and appealed. And I’ve reached a pivotal point that I believe could only have come through this intimate experience of engaging with all that is wrong in our world and all of my negative feelings about it: I choose not to let it defeat me.
If we allow the oppression of the corrupt powerful and an unjust system to rob us of hope, love, compassion, faith, creativity, and strength, then we have truly been defeated. If we spend our days in anger and hate, or despair, then they have won.
The point is to keep hoping, and loving, and believing, and creating, and resisting, and breathing into your own Power and putting down your roots into this Earth and into your community and giving and drawing nourishment no matter what “they” do — the people in positions of power who abuse that power.
There is something rejuvenating, strengthening, and other-worldly about reading James Baldwin, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa, Thich Nhat Hanh, about listening to Dr. King or the Blackfoot elder Narcisse Blood speak, and now I know what it is. They are undefeated. They have looked at the darkest parts of humanity, have looked tyranny and cruelty and domination in the face, have suffered at their hands, and have not looked away. Instead they have dug deep to find the well of dignity and grace within themselves to meet these violations without losing themselves. And then they speak.
They and countless others don’t just “take any shit,” to use a popular phrase: they use that “shit” to fertilize their own garden, to grow something beautiful, to feed their own work that will bless humanity.
This is what it means to be undefeated.