Trading the high price of hedonism for hope

Since my recent visit to Italy, I have been thinking about the trap of hedonism. From a yogic perspective, hedonism is a concentration of energy in the sacral and solar plexus chakras, or areas of the body. Here is where individual lust, when it is allowed to, takes over the bloom of ever-lasting life. The mind-body forgets that life is not individual, but a collective and infinite rebirthing.

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Ercolano sits unearthed in the middle of a crowded Naples

I keep thinking about Vesuvius covering civilizations at their peak of hedonism in layers of ashes and dirt. Over and over again. We unearth the remains. Stare at the walls still painted in lust, and forget.

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Hedonism on the walls of Pompeii

We forget that we are still here. Captured in our lust. We are not doomed to repeat history, we simply choose to do so.

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This photo was taken in Rome, near the Vatican. If you look closely you will see a bride being photographed in her white gown near underpass where the tents of the homeless are huddled. 

Today, Naples sits piled in apartments filled with crowded life whose waste litters the streets. Plastic discarded after a single use blows amongst piles of dog poop and cigarette butts. In the cracks of pavement, green life stretches to find air and water before it is snuffed out by passersby who are thinking of yesterdays and tomorrows filled with want.

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Live blooming in the cracks of Pompeii 

Three hours away by car, Rome’s streets pave over more lost civilizations. What is left reminds us of the individual ego’s striving for power. Huge monuments raised to its mighty hand stand erect, guarded by machine guns slung over shoulders. Reminders of wars waged, battles for life lost and “won,” and the many, many spoils of victory.

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What was once Egypt’s is now Rome’s

A vast city inside a city houses the spoils of wealth stolen in the name of God.

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Vatican City crowded with visitors

Gold halls lined with painted angels watch over a vast fortune robbed from distant and not so distant lands. Lesser gods trapped in a fortress that has room for only one ruler. Yet, we walk the halls in awe. We  cannot help it. The splendor overwhelms and consumes us.

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A feast for the eyes, even the ceilings of the Vatican are lined in gold opulence.

Below, the echo of the goddess can only be heard when the feet are still and the many voices clamoring to be heard, mute. The want for air is nearly unbearable. Yet we hold onto our crowds, striving, always striving, to get ahead.

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Crowds outside the Colosseum 

I keep thinking we are one fiery breath away from annihilation. Again. We have thinned the air with our crowds and choked it with the pollution of our breath. We have chosen to guard the pillars of our mighty past and erect more as we overlook the goddess who sustains us.

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Mother Earth birthing and supporting life

Instead of honoring the Mother who brings forth new life, feeds, and provides for all our many wants, we trample her to near death in our quest to strive ever higher in dominion.

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A memorial to war in Rome is carefully guarded by men with guns.

It is difficult not to be cynical in this world so focused on the outer it has largely forgotten what sustains it. A world that fears so much what unites it, it would rather destroy itself, over and over again, for want of division. For want of lust to feed the false self. A temporary pleasure of the body that has forgotten the soul housed in light who choose not to see.

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The imposing remains of the Roman Colosseum 

And so I find myself sitting in my comfortable home in America, looking around at all that I have and all that I am in danger of losing. I find myself thinking about my individual choices and if they serve only me, or something greater than my individual self. I live in a town that has recently decided that recycling is not worth the monetary expense, and has chosen to override the planetary expense of not doing so. I live in a nation ruled by a man whose lust for power strives to over-ride all that is of the common good. It is easy to be consumed by the ugliness and despair of what feels like an impending doom. I would not blame our Mother if she  decided it was time, again, to swallow us up.

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Vesuvius in stasis 

But, there is little good to come of wallowing in despair, and much to be gained when one reaches beyond the darkness to grow the light. There is an empowerment of the inner that can be awakened when one looks beyond the myopic lens of the individual wants and sees that choices can be made to grow this light that we all share and that feeds all life.

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A male hummingbird in my garden drinking nectar from peach blossoms

I know that the old ways are not enough. That for me living in my small town in New Hampshire, it is not enough to simply rinse cans and separate paper and food waste anymore. That I must search for ways that are more sustainable, such as growing vegetables and joining a local CSA. I know that I can move beyond not just buying nontoxic and organic products, to making more of my own as I search for those that I must buy in biodegradable and reduced packaging. And, I know that I can search for more innovative ways to reduce and reuse and share ideas that I find with others. There is that realization that “more” can always be done to nurture the good of all, and not just the one. And, that in doing so, one can find not only hope, but joy.