Tag Archives: woke

How Woke Are You?

11 Oct

Gertie and ET nbcu-U5255-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1483993539173._SX1080_The 1982 movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial awakened many viewers to the idea that there might be an approachable alien life out there. Science fiction being what it is, there have been cornerstone creatives over the years that took audiences to new heights and depths of such discovery. Whether in film or on the written page (sometimes both), the audience leaves the theatre lobby or closes the book cover with their perspective forever changed.

E.T. of 15 Years Ago

Back in 2005, Eckhart Tolle published his book “The New Earth.” On page 258, he writes, “Your inner purpose is to awaken.” Tolle goes on to say we share this purpose with every other person on the planet. He further speaks about the process of ‘awakening’ as being a shift in consciousness and an act of grace.

Flash forward to our present year, 2020, and the Hulu show, “Woke,” starring Lamorne Morris. The lead character is a man, like many of us, caught up in expressing his talents in life when he is mistreated. His traumatic experience awakens his consciousness to another side of ‘the real world.’ Viewers get to see just how disturbing being ‘woke’ can be.

While Spielberg’s movie, Tolle’s book, and Lamorne’s show are entertaining in their own way, each touches on the same concept.

Whether we approach awakening with grace inquisitively or have it dumped on us through trauma, at some point we do ask our inner self, “How awakened am I?”

“It’s Time to Broaden our Minds”

Much like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the “Batman” movie of 1989, we may choose to enter a museum in Gotham and leave a bit of our own artistry behind. Many of us now have technology and social media at our fingertips by which to share these more enlightened moments—or maybe just what we ate for breakfast.

Perhaps we share what someone else wrote, but it expresses how we feel about the present moment. Serious topics might pertain to Black Lives Matter, Children in Cages, Climate Change, or the political climate—but we connect with others and share a bit of energy.

Whether it is nod of understanding or, in these days of COVID, a virtual hug, we share a recognition, a sense of seeing ‘the other’ as one of our own. Much like we could find very human qualities in E.T. We also share a greater sense that many of us are going through a similar process. So, here we are, in this weird year of 2020 and we all recognize the underlying impression that ‘something is up.’

Adaption to Insecurity in Times of Crisis

One thing we can probably say is that from the time COVID was ‘a thing in some far-off land,’ deep down many of us knew it would visit our shores. As we saw countries around the world making efforts to contain a viral infection, others of us experienced very real and lingering trauma. And here is where things get a little fuzzy or static-y, thank Goodness.

A few months prior to COVID watch, Hurricane Dorian struck Florida in 2019. Bad storms strike the Gulf states regularly. Like Katrina before, they take lives and bring devastation to families and disrupt their livelihoods. The reason Dorian remains so noteworthy to me was that a former co-worker shared her personal stories of evacuation, and rebuilding afterward. She and her family were lucky; others where she is are still struggling.

On top of these very real traumas and amid nature’s changes then comes the pandemic. Many seeing this all as the ‘end times,’ we soon had to adapt to some frightening realities: no toilet paper or paper products on shelves, canning jars and lids in short supply, other types of food insecurity like not being able to find staples like pasta or rice, along with a dearth of cleaning supplies. Supply and demand, y’all.

If we are not struggling to not share germs, then we are struggling with the depressing view of empty store shelves. Or maybe we deal with the frustration of “no.” We remain indoors and isolated for months. Those of us used to just heading down to the big superstore or ordering online soon find we can’t just order online—even with the funds and technology to do so. Restaurants close, stores limit hours or supplies. What do we do with this false sense of security? We adapt to insecurity in times of crisis. We also realize things are not honky-dory, despite what some of us choose to believe.

Orientation and Entanglement with “The Be(a)st,” a/k/a Greed

In this ‘land of plenty,’ where did all the plentiful supplies go? In our drive to be and have ‘the best,’ what happened? And if people in the middle class feel the pinch of scarcity to a noticeable degree, what of those who have less than we do? Inwardly, anyone with something might feel a grateful sense of relief for what we have. Even those of us without as much to lose can feel “at least” good about what little they do have. “At least” they are not homeless, or “at least” there is enough to pay the bills…this time.

We would like to think that when hard times come, there might be a rescue of some sort. We might look to the skies, ever hopeful for some angelic cloud to descend and all wrongs to be put right. Perhaps an extra-terrestrial from some far-off planet will take pity on us poor humans and lend a hand. Ultimately, we are told, it is up to us to make change happen.

Again, the society we enjoy implies that when it comes to money, we are all in the same boat. This is where having a compass might come in handy. You remember how to use a compass rose, right? It gives the holder a sense of direction, or orientation of place in space. Too many of us lack one of these pieces of directionality. Our lives in society may be less in the same boat and more at the mercy of the sea itself.

Being in a lifeboat after the Titanic capsizes implies waiting, perhaps a little uncomfortably, for a rescue. Whereas being at the mercy of the sea—well, we need a lifesaver “now.” Being in the water means we are in imminent danger of losing breath, and life itself. Society teaches us the dual notion that ‘greed is good’ (as in the movie “Wall Street”). It also holds the lesson that “it is in giving that we receive” (with a nod to St. Francis). Life itself holds the struggle of inward and outward breath.

Breathing and Balance

Where do we balance in the middle? Are our lives that well situated when it comes to not only money but survival—or, what it takes to survive? We need some type of an accounting. Ask the many who are no longer working, or whose prospects of working are slim-to-none: Former actors and theatre workers who find themselves unable to work. Waitstaff whose restaurants or catering jobs may or may not be open this week. How about people whose lives straddled both of those industries?

And then there are those front-line workers whose lives have not had a break since the pandemic. Those who must meet with the sick, ill, dying, or those on other types of life support. While some of us can ‘weather the COVID storm’ by working at home, still others are forced to return to essentially unsafe workplaces. All of this in an effort to ‘get back to normal’ in such uncertain and abnormal times.

Many of us consider giving, donating, generosity, and sharing as necessary outward energies. It is what makes us show up to events and want to participate. Inwardly, the air and other energies we receive are just as necessary. We are what we consume, right? We basically cannot have one without the other. It is part of our makeup.

What is not part of our DNA, however, is the money aspect. Try as we might, we use this tool in a variety of ways, but too often we use the ‘lack of money’ as a reason for not sharing. Generations back saw this lack for what it was and called it The Great Depression. Now that money is that much more an essential part of life, to pay for our essentials, we continue to struggle. We dare not call it another Great Depression, though—it does not seem to qualify for some odd reason.

If it is true that ‘money makes the world go around,’ then the ride for many of us may well be nearing a halt. Were you lucky enough to get a stimulus check recently? What did you do with it? Were you able to be generous with it? Did you use it to pay off an essential bill, stock up on food, or did you stash it into savings for an even rainier day? How have the weeks and months been since then? Is everything ‘back to normal?’

Status Quo? Don’t Think So…

Eckhart Tolle’s book “The New Earth” does reference a number of enlightened passages and texts in describing his vision. What of our vision? Not all of us have the wherewithal to produce a book worthy of being an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Who do we tell what we see in our lives—each other? Does what we share on social media accurately reflect what is really going on?

Maybe it does—maybe we are out and about having marvelous vacations while this pandemic wreaks havoc. If so many of us spend our lives in the ‘virtual world,’ how do we know what is really going on? Maybe we just cannot see the hardships many of our fellow humans experience. While one person is having a marvelous meal they made, others visit the food bank or are dumpster diving to rescue edibles. To each his own? Bootstraps, sucks to be you, and all that? Do we see it and just write it off? Where is our empathy? Moreover, how soon can we change this dire scenario?

Would seeing more of the darker aspects drive home the idea of where we truly are in space—our honest orientation? With winter coming soon in the northern hemisphere, this may well be ‘the winter of our discontent.’ To what lengths will we go to either face truth or hide from it? Many of us find it easy to understand and empathize when someone we know has a problem with drinking or drugs. Life is hard. But just as many of us may not understand how someone can have a problem with money. No money? How is that possible in this day and age? Surely, there must be something we can do.

I saw a news report the other day that said one-third of Americans cannot pay bills. That’s roughly 33 percent of us—or 109.4 million people whose lives are in financial jeopardy. This 33 percent is a little more than the 20-25 percent living with mental illness and a little under the 48 percent who have heart disease. Strength to you if you happen to belong to all three categories along with being jobless during this pandemic.

The first somewhat unwritten rule of trauma survival is when you see something, say something. We do not want to keep letting the bully get away with inflicting pain. Do not let the hurt keep festering and getting infected. There’s plenty of infection going around these days, viral and otherwise.

I’m Going to Tell…

And when we share how our lives are, do our friends ask what they can do about it? “It would be nice to win the lottery,” they may say. If any of us had it within our power to make great changes happen, (to borrow from Streisand), would we…could we? How many ‘GoFundMe’ campaigns is it going to take before we recognize how vast the economic need is? Right now, many of those near and dear to us are barely surviving. If they are, it may well be thanks to the kindness and generosity of those who “can” share a little more than us.

While we may hear the stories of crime and rampant greed that make the headlines, we may fail to hear about the needs that also do not stop. Budgets, funding caps, and closures rarely hit the media. Another axiom of truth: There is always more. How many of us are living in a kind of suspended animation right now? Money for the internet bill has to come from somewhere. How much of this stasis is due to not having any money or enough of it to survive let alone thrive?

On top of the news about one-third of Americans not being able to pay bills, comes word that those in legislature—who we could say are the ones with the power to provide some relief—are not moving forward with additional help. I hope we all have a favorite celebrity or wealthy relative to whom we can turn for a solid assist. The other two-thirds of Americans who are surviving, thriving, and have money to burn and see no problem with how things are. How generous do you suppose they will be?

I am fortunate, I know. I work full-time and oversee a household that includes my three adult children. One of the three works part-time a few days a week at a job he actually loves to do. But he was out of work for weeks during the height of lockdown when most everything closed. Overtime hours stopped and I was grateful to be able to work from home. Our rent is a competitive amount for where we live but is not outrageous. We have not been able to pay our utilities for a few months, so we are grateful for the lockdown-induced moratorium.

With those few hours of overtime, my pay generally covered most of our expenses with my son contributing toward buying food every other week. His contribution aside, here is my current situation:

10/9/20: Bank overdraft $-136
+Payroll deposit $1016
Balance: $880
-Rent Payment $-872
Bank Balance: $8

What these figures do not show is we did not go food shopping last week. Nor can we do much this week, either. So it will mean oatmeal for breakfasts and pasta for dinners. Oh, and traveling to the office will be interesting these next two weeks with a whole eight dollars to spend. Ever industrious, I can at least hand wash some laundry. And with the abundance of free choice, I even get to pick which days I get to ride the bus. But at least I am not over drafted at the bank…today.

This is the type of financial limbo with which many families contend. It is the exciting highwire act of trying to balance life and survival amid the other realities of daily living. If I am one of the fortunate ones, then I really feel for those others in the 33 percent who are struggling with far desperate situations, because I know there are many. Those whose fortunes rely less on Wall Street and more on Main Street jobs. The economy is doing great. 686.1 Billion spent on national defense; no problems there, so they say. Just look how secure we are.

Time for a Wake-up Call

As woke as I may be, I still feel optimistic that things will get better. I also realize they could also get a lot worse. It is time for a wake-up call, so I am sounding the alarm. I’ll be the canary in the coal mine. This is why I am sending my balance sheet to my legislators. I would encourage you, if you can, to do the same. These folks we elected to congressional office to speak for us could be doing a little more—those whose political jobs and healthcare are paid. Our society demands that people need money to pay the bills. We need to demand greater participation in the process—whether it is another stimulus check, basic income payments, healthcare for all, or all of the above. We need it badly, and we need it ‘now.’ Says the writer of this piece now treading water.

Before we awaken to find ourselves on the street. Because that is usually the next bill to be paid. I can see where we are. Is our perspective forever changed yet? I am asking those captaining the boat: May we have a life preserver now, please, if it isn’t too much trouble?