The Perils of Being Co-Opted
I still receive weekly physical therapy for my shoulder fracture last winter; a blessing to still be regaining range of motion and flexibility. Most of the costs are covered through my HMO health insurance and Medicare – definitely a blessing. I thoroughly enjoy working with my physical therapist; we share a love of swimming and respect for the approach of Compassionomics in health care– another blessing.
And last week the entire physical therapy department, along with many others, moved to a gob-smacking gorgeous new medical facility; my first time there my physical therapist jokingly welcomed me to the Four Seasons.
It is such a privilege to receive good medical care at all, to have that care subsidized by the safety nets of private health insurance and Medicare. And walking through this gorgeous “Four Season” new facility, I had the uneasy sense of being co-opted into so much privilege while so many, many people do not have access to any safe medical care at all, let alone affordable, let alone downright pleasant.
I recently posted about The Privilege of Innocence, offering examples of “staying woke” and “fighting the forgetting” once we do know of the privileges life has afforded us. The luxuriousness of this new medical facility stirred something in me besides my own wanting to contribute to easing the pain and suffering of the human condition. How much of what I’ve been privileged to experience and enjoy has come, not out of innocence or unawareness, but out of being co-opted, however innocently or unaware, by a system cobbled together, not so innocently, not so unawarely, based on so much inequity, even injustice?
I teach and practice gratitude – for the clean water that reliably flows out of my kitchen faucet, even though I do know other citizens of our country have had their wells and water supplies poisoned by toxic leaching from nuclear power plants.
I teach and practice gratitude for the reliable flow of electricity to my home, even though I do know of massive power outages that have caused deaths in other parts of the country.
I teach and practice gratitude – for the safe streets I get to drive in my neighborhood, not pot-holed, not subject to gun violence, even though I know many people in neighboring cities do not experience the luxury of that safety.
I’m deep in the quandary of wanting to live a moral and integrous life, of wanting to live a wise and compassionate life, of wanting to contribute to the betterment of society, to the easing of the condition of humankind. And am facing how my efforts can be tamed, silenced, co-opted by not wanting to risk the comforts and privileges – not taken for granted – that I’ve become accustomed to.
This is the quandary for millenia of philosophers, spiritual practitioners, activists, plain ole honest good folks. I’ve posted this quote from the theologian and social activist Thomas Merton before:
Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. – Thomas Merton
And so I’m working on staying awake, caring, engaged, and realistic, not de-railed by guilt or despair, not side-tracked by doubts and misgivings. Offering encouragement to many on their own life journey of healing and awakening. Grateful that physical therapy continues to heal my shoulder, even if I’m embarrassed by the luxury of the new setting.
You don’t need to do everything. Do what calls your heart; effective action comes from love. It is unstoppable, and it is enough.
– Joanna Macy