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The Yearning To Yes

July 17, 2012

The future is a figment of our imagination. It’s in our heads. Visions of catastrophe, wars over water or oil  — or of a peaceful new world. All in our heads.

I’ve got to stop reading the paper! It’s washing my brain with its version of What Is. Imposing its view of reality as consisting of: The election campaign. And Google vs. Apple. And Barclays bank manipulating interest rates. And the heat. And corporations buying up our democracy.

But that’s just one slice of the cake. It’s some editor employed by a publisher that’s incorporated (that would be both Mr. Murdock AND Mr. Sulzerberger) who is literally editing reality, leaving out what doesn’t fit their political worldview or corporate agenda. It’s also filtering today through yesterday’s perspective, which was obsolete 6 hours ago!

And what that editor edits out is possibility. They tell us about what’s dying but not about what must follow. About the fire but not the Phoenix. They edit out our love and empathy for each other. Our pain at the marketplace’s ability to divide and conquer us. The human root that connects us one to another.


Shelley and I board the hot bus at New Paltz after visiting my brother and his lovely new fiancé. As soon as we do we have to head to the back where the only seats are across the aisle from each other. But a woman with a two year old on her lap gets right up and moves across the aisle to sit next to her husband, leaving two seats for us to sit together.

A good thing, we think. Until the kid wakes up like a volcano. An over-heated bundle of restless, constant cranky loud and non-stop energy that immediately dominates the tone of the ride for us all. Crying, squirming, incessant, with a bottomless ADHD-infected pit of need sucking the peace right out of the air.

I just want to shout “SHUT THAT KID UP!”


In our media culture – liberal or conservative – the message is simple and always the same: Resistance Is Futile. Its weapon is despair. It seeps into us along with the morning coffee. We open the Times, or watch the Fox, and drink down our daily cup of sadness before heading off to work.

The media thinks Occupy was a flash in the pan. To this day they have no idea what was really going on last fall. And maybe I don’t either, but I suspect it’s what Jackson Browne once called “The fitful dreams of a greater awakening”. Something is trying to emerge, and globally, and will, simply because it must.

And when it comes to the future, all I know is, it’s ours, it’s open wide, it’s soft clay. But only if we know this and start claiming and sculpting it. That’s why I choose optimism over despair. Not because I really know things will get better – how should I know? But simply because I have learned that when it comes to my life or the life of the world, optimism and despair are equally self-fulfilling. This makes my choice an easy one.  

And besides, the future is never what we expect it to be, and never has been. Our view is distorted by our limited vision.

What we expect of the future is always so yesterday.


Oh yeah, the kid is driving me to distraction. And not just me. The whole bus seems to struggle to ignore him. His parents look completely defeated, as if they’ve been dealing with this a few months too long. I try to read. Forget it. Or write. Yeah, right. Or listen to my music…but insatiable screeching demands for attention pierce the melody.

So I do the only thing left to do. I reach over and grab that lousy kid out of his mother’s arms and strangle the living shit out of him before anyone can know what’s happening!

Oh yeah! That’s exactly what I want to do!


All I know for sure is the best parts of you and me need to emerge, or else. And somehow, I sense a collective, aching urge to connect, to love, a sometimes frantic striving for the light, like that dream I once had of awakening deep beneath the sea with my last gulp of air, desperately groping to reach the surface before my lungs burst.

And we’ve got to reach out together to God or That-Which-Is-Highest-In-Us-All, because we may really be drowning and it may only be the God who created us who can save us from our self-destruction. 

And with my own personal process, there seems to be something emerging inside me, something veering into view, that yearns to yes, that seems insistent on saying…

Abandon all despair, ye who enter me.

    Let me enter you!

Stand still long enough

     Sit still long enough

            To let me take hold.

     I am that which is naked, flowing, slowing, and immensely happy

            And — oh yes! —  inevitable.

But every morning I read all the news that’s fit to imprint.  Sapping the living daylights out of me, leaving me punch drunk and spiritually starved, until all I know of what to eat is more of the same. I fear that I’ll become like the man who ate only candy and, starving for nutrients, kept eating more candy until he died of malnutrition. That all I’ll want, in time, is more of what the money that has bought me will buy.


Finally, sensing that maybe this kid is getting the better of me (ya think?), I decide to fight fire with water.

I sit with hands turned upward upon my knees, and breathe, in and out, focusing on just this as best as I can. A screech comes, I notice it, along with my jangled nerves, and return to my breath.

Things seem to get worse. An Asian woman decides to get up from her seat and sit down right in the aisle, just a few inches behind me, leaving me feeling even more intruded upon. I keep breathing.


The next conversation I’d like to have with you is, How can you and I change the conversation? Impose peace? Stop reading the paper and start writing it?

How can we recognize the inner utopian urge that thrives on recognition? That flickering flame in me that, meeting yours, starts to flare.


And between breaths I notice this woman on the floor has begun to play with the kid. The besieged mom — clearly fretful that she’s alienated all of us  — something softens in her face.

Then the middle aged woman riding with her partner, who’s seated in front of us, leans over and back and mumbles something to the mother, then starts talking to the kid, and then takes him into her arms, relieving and astonishing his parents.

Have I had something, albeit small, to do with this? I’d transmuted my exasperation into in- (and ex-) halation, and within minutes we had that family surrounded with random and unreasonable acts of kindness.


The utopian imperative. The yearning to Yes. That which must never die. We can save ourselves and save us from ourselves all at once.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. David Richman permalink
    July 17, 2012 11:33 am

    Om shanti. Works every time.

  2. July 17, 2012 11:54 am

    “Have I had something, albeit small, to do with this?” you ask.


  3. July 18, 2012 1:11 am

    The problem with love as a solution to the world’s problems is that unconditional love is nonsensical and impossible and we all differ about what the proper conditions of love are. In other words, love is as much a source of conflict as hate. We fight because we love different things. The solution, if there is one, is reason, but that is something our anti-intellectual culture has failed to cultivate. In the meantime we resort to violence and authority to manage our differences.

    • July 19, 2012 5:15 am

      Ed, I couldn’t possibly disagree with you more.

      “We fight because we love different things”. That sounds reasonable to you? One man loves Islam, and one loves Judaism, and THAT’s why they fight? Love is not a source of conflict. Conflict arises out of, usually, one kind of fear or another. Fear that what you love will hurt or deminish what I love, for example.

      And beware the authoritarianism of the mind. Its message to us is, “Trust only me. Listen only to me. Don’t listen to the heart…or the gut.They’re not reasonable.” It’s a kind of oppression.

  4. murray permalink
    July 20, 2012 8:59 pm

    Charley, this conversation with yourself is really powerful. I love the honesty. I love the anger, hostility, frustration and awakening. This piece is your most intriguing. Keep writing so I.I,I can keep reading and evaluate my own responses, no LIFE!. Good work.

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