our basic problem and the solution
June 13th, 2019
Is this all a bad dream?
My local nonprofit hospital system, Mission Health, was recently bought out by the for profit Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the largest hospital company in the country. Now the quality of care is plummeting. The number of staff cuts, I’m told, is staggering. It’s as if a monster has swallowed the hospital whole and will soon spit out a skeleton. Mission has lost its mission, and we have lost a great hospital.
The fact is that HCA is just a giant chain that doesn’t care, both figuratively and literally. I have to wonder, didn’t anyone see this coming? A public outcry could have stopped it. The situation seems all too much like the story, “…and then they came for me.” Any day now, any one of us could land in the hospital. Is that when it’s time to start caring about quality of care?
I’ve heard that this did not have to happen. I’m told that Mission had many years left of fiscal solvency: years, with public input, to make a better decision. Together, we could have stood up to the monster and said no. Now what? It’s like the Nazis have taken Poland. Now what will it take, a world war?
I don’t know what to do about Mission. I don’t know because I do know why this happened, and it’s a much bigger problem than our local one. It’s about much more than saying, “not in my backyard.” This is happening across the country, across the world, not because of “evil corporations,” but because this “evil” is built into the system. It’s built into our culture. And it’s not new.
This process has been going on for at least 5000 years: since civilization began. Tribes, states, nations, and multinational corporations: these are just bigger and bigger “monsters” in the evilution of a society based on competition: on violence and domination.
Yes, we are being raped and sold into slavery. But there are no bad guys. There is just a bad system. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
The above cartoon sums up the situation. An even more graphic analogy has to do with protecting your garden from Japanese beetles. A gardener might say Japanese beetles are little monsters. They swarm in and devastate the garden. But in this situation, we are both the gardener and the bugs. The question is, how do we all avoid getting caught in a bad system?
An easy way to get rid of Japanese beetles is to get up early in the morning when they are moving slowly. Then you can just pick them off and put them into a shallow container. One or two beetles will simply fly away. But if you put in three or more, they grab onto each other in their struggle to escape. They become one writhing mass, everyone holding down everyone else.
It’s like a bunch of humans trying to escape a burning building. That building: our world, our home — is on fire. This is hell. What can we do? It’s not really a matter of doing. It’s a matter of how we see ourselves. What we have to “do” is merely to see, to really feel, that we are all in this: this boat, this house — together.
The word eco-, as in ecosystem, means “house.” The house is on fire. The system has to change. The climate is already changing; the political climate has to change too. There is nowhere to run. There is no escape. Try to fly to another planet and rest assured, someone else will pull you back down. We are all in this together, till death do us part, in sickness and in healthcare.
The good news? It’s all in our hands. It’s all in our hands because it’s all in our heads. We made this happen. We made this up. Fortunately, the human capacity to be “selfish,” to be individualistic, to think in terms of us & them, is also our capacity to be systems thinkers: to see the boat, the house, the fire, the big picture.
The problem has always been the same, and it has always had a solution. There are countless examples of it being solved, but others who haven’t yet solved it just pull everyone else back down.
A big part of the solution is this: as in any burning building, any sinking ship, we need, as difficult as it is, to “remain calm.” What we’re seeing in this struggle for survival is fight or flight. Our job is to get out: not of the situation, but of fight-or-flight. Fight and flight are not our only two options. They aren’t viable options at all.
We have to proceed from one premise: that we are all in this together. No one is going to get out alone. And the only way we can keep that in mind is if we stay calm.
The trick is, you can’t do that in your head. Not when your life is threatened. This is one reason we’re looking again to psychedelics. We need something to change our minds. How can we see beyond the dire situation that we are in? How can we restore a sense of unity? How can we “remain calm?”
It doesn’t necessarily take drugs. It can be yoga, meditation, somatic therapy — anything that gets us not out of our heads but back into our bodies, where the challenge really lies. All our addictions take us away from the body. But we have to stop hiding out in our heads.
This article, or any speech or sermon, is not going to change your mind. Fight-or-flight is in the body. It’s not just psychological, it’s physiological. In the body is the problem and the solution. We need to occupy ourselves.
The truth is, there are no bad guys. There is no emergency. We are just holding each other back. There is nothing we can’t do together. There is nothing we can do alone. The situation is just like a nightmare. The worse things get, the closer we get to waking up. It’s all just a bad dream. But if it wakes us up, was it really bad?
If you knew this was all a dream, if you knew you were dreaming, what would you do?
I had a lucid dream once. The first thing I did was try to rape someone. I woke up.
Rape is fight. Fight is not an option. And waking up, that is, out of the dream, is death. You can’t wake up in the dream of life if you don’t care about everyone in it. If you think you’re just a part of it, you’re still asleep. You’re still just dreaming.
We wake up in the dream when we get not out of our heads but into our bodies. Then the mind becomes the servant, not the master. Or rather, the whole body makes the decisions, not just the head.
When your whole body, including the heart, is making the decisions, you are thinking/feeling about everyone, every–body. You have compassion, empathy, hospitality. You care about everyone equally because then there is no “one.” There is just One.
Unity. This is The Holy Grail. This is the only thing that can restore the land to health. And we find The Holy Grail within.
The answer, the solution, the water to put out the fire, the plug to mend the boat, the fix for our healthcare system, our political system, our ecosystem, our home, is love. Find your heart and anything is possible. Then life can be what it has always been. And what is that?