The blame game is sheerest nonsense since most of us adults who are participants in the US economy and have the right to vote both with our money and our polling place opportunities share the blame for the deplorable state of the world. If you’re as convinced as I am that the blame game takes us nowhere closer to understanding how the US has fallen to the low we’ve reached, perhaps you’ll consider with me this solution: Let’s treat the situation as if we’re all to blame and take up responsibility for our part in generating this deplorable condition and for our part in co-creating the true alternative. The false alternative, of course, remains to deny that the US society is in deplorable condition and keep right on going down the drain with our eyes closed. If we try that approach, we won’t need to worry about being blamed for sticking our heads in the sand because we’ll have already stuck them somewhere darker to prepare for our future drainhood.
For myself, my children, my grandchildren and others about whom I care, I prefer not to go blindly down the drain without doing my best to head back up towards the rim of the basin and perhaps even climb out of the tub, sink or toilet bowl we’re in. I believe we’re flushing our future down the drain no matter what downward spiral we say we’re stuck in. I want to be honest enough to see that pattern at work as we whirl around in our confusion pointing fingers at each other while trying to transfer blame to someone else. We’re acting like terrified children on a merry-go-round screaming at each other to make it stop so we can get off and blaming the person on the other side of the merry-go-round for making it go around faster and faster. Just because we keep seeing the same people on the other side of the merry-go-round does not mean that they are more to blame than we are for the ride we’re all taking. We’re all being taken for a ride. (That last sentence uses a verb in the passive voice that does not disclose who’s doing the taking.)
Perhaps you find spinning in circles amusing. I don’t. After a while it makes me sick to my stomach. So, I decided to listen to my gut and search for a way off the merry-go-round. I found it. I’ve found that the process of getting off made me feel confused and disoriented at first because while standing on solid ground beyond the merry-go-round my head was still spinning as if I were still on board. It took a while to adjust to standing on stable ground rather than spinning around. At first I was still dizzy, even more aware of my dizziness than before. In the process of regaining my balance, I learned that I had adjusted to the spinning as best I could and now needed to re-adjust to non-spinning stability again. In time, I did. Now my stomach has settled and my mind is at ease. Now I can heed my gut intuition as well as reason with my mind as a unified field of feeling and thinking my way forward through life with wisdom as my guide. I enjoy using this new orientation to guide me forward beyond the merry-go-round into more promising, stable territory.
To stay off the merry-go-round in all of its forms and formats in the world, I had to shed the part of me that is tempted to ride along and play the game of spinning tales and using circular justifications and excuses for my decisions and actions. I had to stop pointing my finger “over there” and claiming that the “other guy or gal or they” made me do it. I even had to stop claiming that God or the Devil made me do it. I had to take full responsibility for “doing it,” whatever “it” was from time to time. “Yes, I did it and I accept full responsibility for doing it.” Tough sledding sometimes.
It was not easy to offend the popular opinions of powerful people and go against the flow of social conformity to act according to my heart’s intuition and my mind’s reason as best I could. It has not been easy to make mistakes and take responsibility for them so as to learn all I could from them rather than close myself off from these ofttimes painful learning opportunities. It has been no easier to make right decisions, be roundly condemned for them by others and still take responsibility for them as if they might, perchance, have been right or at least closer to the target than I’d been before. Whether I decided or acted “right” or “wrong” in the eyes of others depended on the views of those who judged my decisions and actions according to their own preferences, prejudices and power to control what I did. The characterization of my decisions and actions as “right” or “wrong” did not depend on their objective nature but on the subjective viewpoint of those who judged. Some judges even relished the chance to punish others so much that they would leap at the opportunity to wield power over me, even arbitrarily, just to feel powerful. I’ve offended a lot of viewpoints as I did my best to swim upstream as a nonconformist against the current of conformity that’s relentlessly sweeping us all down the drain.
What part of me is tempted to go along with the crowd and not offend the status quo of the drain-heading flow? It’s the part of me that’s susceptible to being influenced by social approval, an experience I admit I crave. I much prefer to be approved of than disapproved of. The part of me addicted to social approval is the same part of me that is susceptible to other forms of addiction or dependency under the influence of any of my natural appetites. It’s my ego. Based on any appetite, my ego may turn me back drainward at the least little excuse if I let it. The patterns of my life are aligned with drainward compliance because I was taught all my life to be a “good little boy.” Translations for that phrase for me turned out to be “conformist,” “people-pleaser” and “conflict avoider.” To fail to conform to the expectations of others, displease someone important or stir up controversy was “bad” and was punished by social disapproval. I had to learn to stand up in the harshest streams of social disapproval and nevertheless face away from the drain and do my best to swim away. Sometimes, the best I could do was root myself in place and resist the drainward flow, like the post of a pier resists the flow of the tide swirling by it. The tide of social opinion blames me for resisting its flow. Yet the truth is that all I am doing is standing my ground and refusing to go along with the riptide of popular social viewpoints or the egotistical preferences of authority figures supported by those who blindly follow them as frightened, compulsive people-pleasers, as once was I.
It’s not been easy to learn to stand up for myself after spending my first decades learning to go with the flow and not assert any viewpoint not pre-ordained to win me social approval or at least avoid social disapproval. I had learned to be silent when the risk of disapproval presented itself. In fact, I had learned to take no risks and hide myself from the mainstream of the drainward flow. For some time, I clung to the rim of the basin and held on for dear life. Eventually I let go of the rim and allowed myself to be swept totally down the drain while being characterized as totally disapproved of. There turned out to be no greater freedom from fear of lost approval than to lose it all, drown in disapproval and resurface somewhere down the drain where the flow is freer of the ego’s judgmental attitudes and assumptions.
Freedom turned out for me to be downstream, drainward and then out the drain into natural channels into which artificial drains arbitrarily dump their social outcasts. There are unflattering terms to use as labels for such outcasts. I became identified with them and their social exile. And I found myself in good company. What do I mean “good” in this sense? I mean spiritually free to rise up to become new lives without blaming anyone for our circumstances but ourselves.
Yes, I’m to blame for my going down the drain and being flushed out of the pools of social approval amid which I once swam. I think it helped me to slip readily down the drain that I never swelled with pride when I swam in such pools because secretly I knew in my heart that I did not belong there. Not swelled by pride, I did not clog the drain and readily slipped through. I did not belong in the pools, especially in the sense that no one owned me as their belonging. I was not bought and paid for and required to do my owner’s bidding no matter how degrading it might be, like some slave or prostitute or junior partner in a firm. I always had the option of dropping out and not participating in the pool. And I found that the option to drop out could also transform into the option to rise out.
Both dropping out and rising out diverge from conformity to social norms. To the extent that modern society embraces the norm of citizenry enslavement within the economy, I became abnormal to find freedom from our social institutions of slavery. To the extent that modern society imposes the norm of poor physical, emotional and mental health and loveless relationships upon its citizenry, I became abnormal to discover how to be progressively healthier to the point of wholeness and how to experience divinely defined love. I highly recommend exploring and engaging in such social abnormalities!
Yes, I’m to blame for what has happened in my life and for the decisions and actions that flowed from my life. I still am. By accepting the “blame,” I accepted and still accept full responsibility. And I discovered that with great responsibility comes great power. The converse of the Spiderman Principle is true! My life has proved it to my own satisfaction. If you don’t like being blamed for other people’s decisions and actions, try taking full responsibility for putting yourself in the position to be blamed and then consider exiting that position for higher ground. In the long run, drainward is not really as fun and rewarding at it looks. No addiction or dependency is. Just when you fear most falling ignominiously into utter failure in the pursuit of your highest ideals and most heartfelt dreams, let go, sink to the bottom and swim out the drain to freedom beyond the pools of social approval within which you fear being judged and condemned. Down there in the dark you may be surprised to find your way to the higher, more lighthearted ground you’re looking for.
© Art Nicol 2016