Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Seat of Separation: Chairs and the XL Pipeline

What does chronic backpain have to do with the Keystone Xl pipeline? Probably nothing directly, but in a round about way they might be connected.

Recent statistics show the number of adults with chronic low back pain is on the rise. Doctors recommend three courses of action: (1) Lifestyle change, (2) Medication or (3) Surgery. When diagnostic testing reveals no definitive cause, treatment is based largely on the patient accurately describing the intensity of pain on a scale from 1 to 10.

This is from the current post by yoga teacher J. Brown. I enjoyed the fact that he doesn't offer a list of yoga poses to address chronic back pain - enough of that around already. And as I read, I started thinking about that phrase "no definitive cause." And chairs came up.

Chairs originally were a designation of privilege. Reserved solely for royalty, religious and government leaders. It's only been in the past 5-7 hundred years that chairs have become more commonplace around the world, something that might give us pause.

Consider how much sitting you do in various kinds of chairs everyday. In cars. On buses and trains. In offices. In homes. How often do you sit on the floor? Use your whole body in a whole manner?

In my opinion, the way many of us rely so heavily on chairs is a contributing factor to things like chronic back pain.

However, I want to go further. Think about what chairs do. Among other things, they separate humans from the ground. The earth. Just as those original chairs set the elites apart from everyone else, and created a false sense of superiority, chairs today separate the masses (including the elites) from the planet we live on.

Obviously, chairs are not evil. They are simply an excellent symbol of our current state of affairs.

It's not terribly surprising, for example, that we oil pipeline companies making deals with state governments to trounce the rights of indigenous people. Or that their truck drivers are able to, with a straight face, say things like we have “corporate rights that supersede any other law" as they transport tools and materials that will be used to exploit the earth for profit.

Odds are that the decisions that led to the XL pipeline were almost all made while sitting in chairs inside sterile offices. That's just one of the many manifestations of disconnect and separation present in this situation.

Let's go further. Many people want to change all of this. We are waking up to the fact that the planet has suffered greatly as a result of human greed, hatred, and ignorance. However, too often, we are prone to sitting in chairs and in our heads, trying to come up with ways to challenge the status quo. Our meetings are mostly static events, driven by talking, and controlled by tables, chairs, and squared spaces.

Stopping something like the XL pipeline, and envisioning a new way of living, can't really come from this. Not only this anyway. There must be movement. Must be reconnection. Much be creativity when it comes to how we gather, what we do together, and where we choose to meet.

Today, I feel grief and outrage that this pipeline project is going through. That multinational corporations and the leaders of multiple nations, including the U.S., are so myopic that profits trump everything, including the promises of their ancestors.

It's time to move beyond the seats we are comfortable in. Our pain and suffering does have definitive causes, if only we are willing to look much deeper, and begin responding from that place.

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