Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 31 "In the trenches" (compromised edition)

There comes a point, if you're operating in an academic bureaucracy, when you have to accept that some days you're going to have to do things--or, more accurately, not do things--in a way other than you want or believe in.

Frickin' inevitable, but no less depressing. But you suck it up, and move on, and recognize that, even in less-than-ideal circumstances, there are always better and worse, more- and less-human choices.

Years ago Dharmonia and I had a good friend and fellow Buddhist who worked in a medical lab, specifically in a section which made use of animal subjects. I don't think that I would have the moral guts to work in such a situation, because the suffering of innocent beings would be too painful for me. But J.W. had those guts--to recognize that, if an animal-subject-employing lab was going to exist, better it should be run by someone who cared about that suffering, rather than someone who was oblivious to it. He stayed in that job for a long time, and endured (witnessed) the suffering that went on there every single fucking hour, and worked at the actual, boring, infinitely-slow incremental processes which could make for real and lasting bureaucratic change, until the day arrived when that particular medical lab completed a transition to using absolutely no live testing subjects. J.W. stuck with that daily witness, that daily suffering, until a day would arrive when that suffering, in that lab, would end. And never, ever, ever resume.

I've got another friend who works, bizarrely enough to those who know me, for Homeland Security. I don't tend to think of her as someone who is going to be believe in Der Leader's moral imperative--particularly because her specific area is disaster-recovery. Which sometimes means picking up bodies. Or parts of bodies. Because, as she says, "better it should be done by someone who feels a little bit of compassion."

That's how change happens. By facing and making the impossible, heartbreaking, tiny little incremental steps by which we can together decrease suffering and increase wisdom. By, as our mutual Buddhist teachers said, "showing up for the impossible."

Even if it breaks your heart.

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