I teach at a high school that is so poor that students have to use plastic zip-lock bags filled with their sandwiches to play football at lunch. There are ants on the classroom floor and the achievement level of students is so low because they feel rejected from a world of wealth and good fortune. Instead they eat the same lunch everyday (Chinese food loaded with sodium and msg) and are as hopeless as a writer with carpal tunnel syndrome. By lunchtime I am exhausted and filled up with a tension so thick that all I can do to release my distress is think about fine food, wine, women and massage parlors. Unfortunately, I do not have the money to indulge myself in any of these recreational pleasures- so I spend my afternoons feeling my discomfort, focusing on my breath and wondering when the day will come were I will write the great novel that will finally set me free. The irony of my daydream is- I lack the discipline to write anything long winded and I am better at dreaming than I am at doing. So, I try to sit in the lotus position for twenty minutes a day and except my fate “as it is, in the present moment.”
But this is not easy for a guy who cannot stop thinking that he has become THAT guy who thinks “why am I not in this other position? Why am I not that other guy? Why am I me?” I do agree with certain mystics and New Agers who suggest that the situations that we find ourselves in are predetermined by our past karma and the only way that circumstances will change- is if we change our karma. But this is hard when you are unaware of what you karma may be. If I could just understand my feelings and needs than maybe I could tell a lot about my karma. Maybe my karma has something to do with going from a childhood of privilege and opportunity to a mid-life filled with frustration, procrastination and inability to know what it is that I want to be when I grow up? Every day I look at the help wanted section on Craigslist because I am not certain that I want to be a high school teacher any longer. The mental and physical exhaust that the job entails- is not what I was looking for when I decided to set out and save the world.
I often talk to my students about the year 2012. They all seem to have rather fatalistic attitudes about this year as representing the end of life on earth. I try to tell them that it is not the end, that they should focus on thinking about new beginnings. I try to suggest ways that they and I could make small transformations in our lives- that may just save the world from annihilation. But they can’t hear me. The school is falling apart, rats often run across their shoes, the backyard of the school is a toxic freeway and on the other block sits a Chevron refinery that pumps out smoke stacks of chemical pollution that corrupts the air that we all breath. My students parents are loosing their homes and jobs, their brothers and sisters are being shot, their school looks like third world dormitories- why should they believe that hope is something that they could have? After all, they hear everyday, someplace or from someone, that America is the greatest country in the world, but when they look around them this is not at all what they see. As far as they are concerned- the end of the world is already here. They are just chilling out in limbo.
So I have started to look for another job. I thought that by this point in my life my novels would be selling well enough that saving the world would no longer be a hard thing for me to do. Now that I am married and with little money in my bank account I have to find more efficient ways to make a living than to rely upon my deluded dreams. Being a writer will one day pay, I still believe this, but for now there is a world that seems to be cracking apart- and I need to put aside all of my personal ambitions and get to work. So I consider myself lucky that I was hired to teach at a high school in the hood. I thought that this was a good place to start doing what I could to help humanity avoid the crash course it is on. Teaching the disenfranchised seemed like a good way to get back at all the franchised who are “living it up” while indiscriminately disregarding all the rest. But ten-hour days and hours of hopelessness and disregard are wearing me down. I am looking for some place else to go.
I dream now of no longer being that guy who says “why me?” I no longer want to hear myself think why the fame, fortune and deep belief in what I do for a living has not come my way. Instead, when these thoughts come into my head I make myself stop and look up at the sky or feel the breath come into my lungs. I attempt to convince myself that these thoughts are nothing but the workings of my conditioned ego that wants to assert itself in this tempestual world. Three years ago I was fortunate enough to ask the Dali Lama a question that had been in my mind for most of my life. “What does one do when they no longer no what to do?” I asked. He looked at me in a state that expressed deep consideration for my question and then said- ”In what ever way you can, go through the entry level and do what you can to work hard to save the world.” So I took his advice and took a job teaching while putting my authorial ambitions aside. Tonight, is Friday night and after a long week at work one would think that I would return home from school and rest and relax. But instead- I have been searching for jobs on-line, for ways to make this world continue to work. I realize that no matter what I do my authorial talents will not be immediately recognized and I will have to start at the entry level. It is probably simplistic to think that what I write is worth a buck, but I cannot deny the fact that our world is falling apart and that somehow, someway- I may just be the man who will save this troubled world.