Spirit = Action

Spirit = Action
Photo: Marina Abramović and ULAY, Rest Energy, 1980.

One of the most obscene ideas is that you can be spiritually special, progressing on the road to some enlightenment, while standing by and allowing the world round you to get utterly fucked. Yoga outside Auschwitz will not cut it. No, it just won’t.

I work hard to find much compassion for people who promote this idea. Maybe some time 20 or 30 years ago, they could have got away with such gracelessness. When the world was just average, ambling along bad. When capitalism was on an up day. When the world was getting high on the novelty of infinite connectivity. Who would I be to criticise a little harmless neurotic indulgence?

But now? No.

When I was teenager I sat on the pew of my Stockport Methodist church each Sunday, rage surging through my veins at the weekly betrayal of Jesus. The drug of my passion surged through my mind carrying me off – I was helpless to stop it. Jesus said we should be poor and then I looked at the congregation. The ultimatum appropriation – the church’s claim to over Christianity. I was off my head, spinning, dizzy, with all the newness, my body, my mind, this world – this world of suffering, of injustice, stabbing me to death each day. Rest was a foreign land I had never heard of.

I have always felt a hatred of conventional “spirituality” for that reason – my hatred is deeply flawed of course, as hate always is, not least because the feeling itself is excruciatingly spiritual.

I took 20 years off to cool off. Carrots in the field. Nappies to wash. Stuff.

But, returning to the fray, I soon started to wobble, despite two decades of practised repression.

I tried to do my best within XR. “Regenerative culture” “self-care”. Okay whatever. But what did it actually mean in practice? Feel bad, take a rest. Love yourself. Ban Nietzsche. The outcome: distraction, disintegration, depression - burnout.

Is this harmless? No. Because we are here now, not 30 years ago. The good times have gone, the slack, the self discovery, the me me me. Now we all face hell.

I try to be kind. Live and let live. I am no longer young, not so extreme. Take the middle ground Roger, I tell myself. But what does this mean when 500 million Africans are lying in the dust in a decade’s time. We are firing that mass murder weapon today to manifest this outrageous obscenity. In a decade the devil’s work will be done.

The devil is us.

What does moderation mean in a time of mass killing? To walk on by? This will be the eternal question asked of the 2020s. The decade when we finally threw it all away.

The paradox – there’s always the paradox – is that the spirit does not live in “spiritual places”, the quiet retreat, the calm mountain view, but in the site of confrontational action. Any “spirituality” that undermines such action is plain evil. Regenerative culture, if it is to mean anything real, is only found in the agony of courage carried through into collective transgressive civil resistance. The body over the mind. The spirit over the body. The community over the individual. Drama over “contemplation”.

“That was the best two weeks of my life” as I like to tell people in my evening talks – that’s what was told to me many times by people referring to their outing from complicity into truth – otherwise known as arrest. The journey, in community, from cowardice to courage, from self obsession to service, from indecision into action. From a “safe” place to the real place.

This is how it seems to me - sitting in a prison cell is a spiritual act, the only place of rest – not sitting in the pew, not in the yoga class, but when looking at the intricate roughness of the chipped wall day in day out. Here is God. In a Time of Evil we know deep down we will only find him here. So silly to have pretended otherwise.

To contact civil resistance projects around the world: ring2021@protonmail.com

The Climate Situation
is F*cked

Help me to get with the job of sorting it out.