The Daily Crossroads
Sat, 1.17.2015. Last post I asked how we manage to live ethical lives in a corrupt world. Life is an Odyssey: every day we navigate between the monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis and resist the seductive song of the evil Sirens. But today I step back from activist answers like joining Greenpeace or picketing the White House. Today I'm going to talk about awareness, maybe what we used to call "consciousness raising." The first step to improve any situation (I'm thinking) involves acknowledging current and historic reality. Yes, the world is full of corruption and I'm inextricably entangled in it -- I pay taxes for misbegotten wars; I own stock in companies that cheat; I keep a wild tropical bird in a cage in my kitchen. And I wonder if the Chinese Foxconn worker who made my smartphone commited suicide due to the working conditions there.
Can a ritual of acknowledgment help? We have holidays of commemoration: for thanksgiving, for honoring military service, for supporting workers, for waving the flag. Those rituals don't secure benefits for homeless veterans or raise the minimum wage, but they bring the topic forward and raise awareness and encourage dialogue.
Without cynicism and without expectations of magic, we wear pink ribbons for breast cancer and dump ice water on our heads for ALS.
For my own "integrity in a corrupt world" campaign, the principle I'm trying to be mindful of is our planetary interconnectedness and interdependence, our mutual reliance on one another to make our contributions to the commonweal as honestly and ethically as we can.
So my own private ritual will be to take a couple hours each stitching project or each week to sew a symbol reminding me of our interdependence. I picked an equal-arm cross. The cross is a resonant symbol in many cultures (see Wikipedia), but my first thought is "crossroads," which signifies (1) a choice (listen to Robert Johnson's famous song "Cross Road Blues" with its implied choice between God's blessing and a deal with the devil) and (2) an entrepôt -- one of those big cosmopolitan cities with lots of goods being traded and lots of multicultural interactions. I used to have a tagline on my website: "Dispatched from the crossroads." So I guess it's where I like to sit and think.
I googled "equal arm cross" and came up with lots more meanings, like the ones on Symbolic Meanings. I like the idea of its representing the four directions (and four seasons).
Of course, my first version (top) looked bland so I added the circle, turning it into a Celtic cross -- a connection with my roots. A couple years ago, when I was researching the Holy Grail, I came across a definition that said the cross (male) part represented "regeneration," its "wings" capturing the motion of the divine spirit; the circle (female) represented the universe (and/or an egg).
So... as I create one piece from many stitches, integrating the cross and the circle shapes with my square patch, I can give a nod of acknowledgment to the UPS driver who delivered my supplies, the automotive team who assembled his truck, the oil industry workers who keep the gasoline flowing, the Amazon pickers who packed my box for delivery, the steel manufacturers who produced my pins and needles, and the cotton mill workers who wove my cotton and oversaw the design printing... and all their school teachers... and their parents... and the folks who pick up their garbage. On and on. Every one of them finds themselves at a crossroads every day. Will I do a good job today or sleepwalk through my tasks? Will I adhere to the quality code or not give a crap? Will I understand that someone else might be having a terrible day or flip him the finger? Will I do it right or cut corners?
Just writing this out reminds me that billions of people do in fact do their jobs right every day or I wouldn't be sitting here comfortably stitching in my well-functioning home. Maybe there is still hope that congressmen, bankers, football coaches, bishops, and other powerful people can have more courage at the crossroads.