In an imperfect world

Quinn wanted to know how I respond to systemic injustice, wicked problems, and other things that are so far beyond individual scale that they tend to reduce people to helplessness.

I used to be paralyzed by these thoughts. I fumbled with class divides, marked as privileged by language and accent and access. I avoided relationships because I worried about the statistics showing discrimination against married women and mothers. I felt torn apart by guilt over being part of the brain drain, tempted to think of what-ifs.

I'm learning to pick my fights and focus on doing the best I can.

So, yes to…Even though it will probably be much harder to…
Pursuing my passion for code and writing, despite knowing that there are scary people out thereDeal with such people if they make me a target
Blogging about what I'm learning, sharing whatever I canContribute to open source code while at IBM (it's doable, but there's quite a bit paperwork ;) )
Both my husband and I keeping our names, and to always phrasing it as decisions we both make for ourselvesGo with non-patrilineal naming for children
Promoting equality through avoiding deemphasizing motherhood and emphasizing parenting, valuing homemakers and caregivers, and appreciating people who choose not to have childrenDeal with gender-role assumptions, subtle professional discrimination against mothers, and ageism in technology careers
Managing my finances myself and resisting the pull towards consumerismget everyone to live below their means and manage their accounts reasonably
Microlending and encouraging entrepreneurshipGet people to self-start, or solve systemic biases against the poor
Living as full a life as I can with W-Deal with the occasional biases against and the certain challenges of a relationship with a large age gap
Making the most of where I am and helping other people get startedMove back to the Philippines and make a bigger difference there
Working reasonable hours at full capacity and investing in building a full life as wellChange the work-life expectations for executives or startups

It isn't about solving the world's problems. It's about facing the world lovingly, finding unknown depths of energy in yourself so that you can keep on going even if life challenges you.

Here's something from people wiser than I am:

The bodhisattva vows to save all sentient beings, but that is not a goal in the relative sense. The bodhisattva realizes that what she is saying in that vow is completely impractical. You can't really do it. We see this from the mythical story of the great bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. He had a literal mind in the beginning. He took that vow, "Until I save all six realms of existence, I will not attain enlightenment." He worked and he worked and he worked to fulfill his vow. He helped beings, and he thought he'd saved hundreds of millions of them. Then he turned around and saw that an even greater number than he had saved were still suffering, and he had flickers of doubt at that point.

At the beginning, when he took that vow, he had said, "If I have any doubts about my path, may my head split into a thousand pieces." This vow came true at this time. His head began to fall apart. He was in tremendous pain of confusion, not knowing what he was doing. Then, according to the myth, Amitabha - a great buddha of compassion - came to him and said, "Now you're being foolish. That vow you took shouldn't be taken literally. What you took was a vow of limitless compassion." Avalokiteshvara realized that and understood it. Through that recognition, he became a thousand times more powerful. That's why the iconographical image of Avalokiteshvara often has twelve heads and a thousand arms. You see, once you take the meaning of saving all the others literally, you lose the sacredness of it. If you're able to see that compassion applies to every situation, then compassion becomes limitless.

... The path is what there is to work with, and that work is there eternally, because sentient beings are numberless, and we have to work with them eternally.

Trungpa, Gimian, and Kohn's Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness (p73-74)

Sometimes it feels like the world rolls backwards faster than we Sisyphi can push it up. That's okay. We get better and better at making little differences. We get better at making bigger and bigger differences. There's no game over. There's no happily ever after. There's just the constant work and growth of being human.

Sometimes I roll backwards faster than I can push myself up. I forget something. I ignore someone's needs. I make mistakes. But if I can keep focusing on small things I can do to move forward instead of trying to keep score over the entirety of things, then it's easy to find the energy to start again.

The world also rolls forward, unexpectedly, through no effort of our own. Keep an eye out for those moments. The world is full of things that aren't right, but it's also full of things that are.

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  • In an imperfect world, we are only human.

    I try to keep my ideology on some of the things I learn from my favorite books.

    Programming Perl : the 3 virtues of a programmer (laziness, impatience and hubris) you just need to do all three at the same time otherwise you’d end up being a bad person :)

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy : the answer to life the universe and everything is 42, basically the universe does not make sense, just have fun with it while you’re around.

  • Thanks for this post. The story of Avalokiteshvara is insightful and is very relevant to my current stat of life. I am glad I read this story and I will pursue what has been advised to Avalokiteshvara :-)

    God bless you!