(This was written a few days after the US election in 2016.)
“Living well is the best revenge.”– attributed to George Herbert, but apparently it was already old in the 1600s
I received a missive earlier in the week about connecting with our sexual energy in the face of the (frankly awful) situations in the world. The people we are angry at do not suffer because we deny ourselves pleasure and connection… we do. And I thought, “Yeah. That’s true. Orgasms all ’round. They hate that.”
As I lay in bed this morning, I came up with a whole list of other things that “they” hate, including vegetables (especially served in a vegan meal), drum circles, yoga, meditation, chai lattes, potluck suppers, permaculture, weird hair, co-ops, collectives, and anything fairtrade or organic.
They would also really hate me if they knew me, even though I look enough like “them” that they wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance.
Then I stopped myself. “Oh, but they love it when I think ‘us and they’. That plays right into ‘their’ hands.” I fretted about that briefly. Then I thought, “Also, revenge is a lousy motivation.”
So, I got out of bed and carried on with my day, secretly plotting disruption through joy.
Because, lying there considering the possibility of revenge through orgasm, I realized something important.
Most of the things on that list are parts of what I like to think of as the “living well”: the energy that sustains life-itself.
Belonging and Meaning and Connection and Beauty and Sharing our gifts.
We need to do the things that give us joy, lead us to connection, and bring us into harmony with our surroundings and our communities. When we deprive ourselves, thinking that they are frivolous, we are cut off from our sources of support.
We can’t be effective when we are depressed and anxious, fearful and furtive.
We need (actually need) affection and relationships, laughter and good food, fresh air and regular infusions of water. We need moments of levity, and tastes that remind us that we are alive and can experience pleasure.
We can sustain ourselves for long periods without those things, but if you look back at that whole Maslow’s hierarchy thing… he never said, “This physical security on the bottom rung is a need, and all those other things are nice to have, if you can get there.” No.
These are how we become whole: through belonging, and meaning, and connection, and beauty, and sharing our gifts.
And it is needed most when the social fabric is under threat. Because the secret of the living well is that it is replenished as it replenishes. We put ourselves into community and our community is strengthened. We reach our hands out to one another and the ties that bind become stronger.
Living Well is the best Refuge
We have been offered mediocre counterfeits, and told that they are all that exists.
Sex in lieu of intimacy, money to stand in for security, prestige in place of the luxurious wealth of deep beauty and the time to appreciate it, and fame and power, oh, power, instead of connection and community.
The Living Well is abundant.
It is the essence of abundance, for it is what becomes possible when we stop competing and start cooperating.
It is what happens when we acknowledge our life force and our mortality, and our kindredness with all those who share it (the green ones, and the crawling ones, and the ones who fly, and the ones who swim, and the ones we haven’t even imagined yet).
And it is deeply empowering, this Living Well, because it gives us something precious, something sacred, something that we can protect, that will protect us in turn.
And suddenly the need for revenge seems pale by comparison.
This Living Well is the best Refuge.
It is the nourishment (and joy) that sustains us in dark times. It is the stuff we are made of. Don’t hold yourself apart from it.