The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute.
The good news is there’s no ground.
— Chögyam Trungpa
This seems like an appropriate way to begin…
We, our family, our country, our global society seems to be in a constant freaked out free fall. With seemingly good reason. The economy is all over the place, the world has been at war for as long as my children have been alive (one of them is a teenager), and while we survived an actor president back in the 80’s – we’ve got a rabid business tycoon turned reality TV star with eyes on the oval office. In the media, even the once levelheaded pundits are telling us that the sky is falling. Again with good reason. Climate change, while still played down by some, is obviously affecting weather patterns.
That’s the bad news. Nothing to hang on to, no parachute.
The good news? Well, if you have read the opening quote, you have an idea. But what does it mean for there to be “no ground?” How does that figure into the reality of our daily lives? Maybe we could start with what it means for there to be ground.
We generally think of ground as a safe place. If we’re on solid ground then chances are we’re not falling. When Matt Damon’s character in “The Martian” gets back to Earth after being stranded on Mars he kisses the ground. Home. Familiar. Comfortable. Solid. Ground.
However, when the rug has been pulled out from under our feet, or if we’re falling through the air without a parachute, our relationship to ground changes. We are in unfamiliar territory, uncomfortable due to the fact that our lives are not turning out how we planned. At that point the ground might be more akin to the solidity of our expectations. The ground of our concrete hopes and fears.
For the coyote in the Warner Bros. cartoons, hitting the ground usually meant he was about to get crushed by a boulder and mocked by his quarry, the roadrunner. “Meep meep!”
I remember distinctly that there were a couple of times when the coyote defied the laws of physics and swam through the air as he fell, or even walked across thin air to safety, albeit temporary safety in his case, but that’s another story.
I wonder if there isn’t something to be learned from the coyote’s dilemma.
Maybe we can adjust our relationship to this free fall by becoming more familiar with how it feels to be groundless. Accepting the vulnerability and intimacy of our groundless situation; our reality. The reality that things not always going to go our way. The reality of human suffering in a world that is in constant flux. The reality that the material and economic choices we make affect not only our lives but the lives of everyone else too. And at the same time, maybe we can loosen up our expectations. We don’t have to give up on our dreams or stop working towards change in the world. We don’t have to give up on anything – but maybe we can soften the ground of our hopes and fears.
Maybe with this familiarity and flexibility we can free fall without the freakout. It seems that we could likely get much more accomplished this way; and maybe even enjoy the wind in our hair as we go.