Do you ever wonder, if we’re always creating our realities, why some people have to go through horrible experiences we wouldn’t even wish on our worst enemies?
I’m not just talking about people’s personal experiences. I’m talking about worldwide systemic oppression, manipulation, and abuse of millions, if not billions, of people across the world and across millennia.
I’m talking about the colonization of entire countries and the deliberate destruction of their indigenous identities.
I’m talking about girls being mutilated for no other reason than to withhold from them the pleasures of sex.
I’m talking about human trafficking and slavery.
There aren’t a lot of spiritual teachers who have the guts to talk about this.
The white ones won’t talk about it simply because they don’t feel they are affected by it. They may have a vague idea that there’s something going on in the rest of the world beyond their pretty borders. They may, once in a while, proselytize about it from their handmade vegan yoga mats and encourage their followers to send “love and light” to the starving children of poor nations. But they really have no idea at all of the wounds and scars that billions of people around the world have to nurse simply by virtue of being born in a different part of the world.
And then there are those who don’t talk about the ills of the world because they’re afraid that if they do, they’ll “attract” more of the ills of the world. If you ever come across any of these teachers, ditch them. They just don’t understand how creating with your energy works. Just because you’re willing to explore something that you’d rather not have happened doesn’t mean you’re in alignment with it. There’s not much to learn from so-called gurus who try to keep selling you the million-dollar lifestyle anyway. Sure, having a million dollars to throw around is nice. But is that really all there is to life?
So we go back to the main question.
If we’re always creating our reality, why do things such as colonization, mutilation, and slavery happen?
Last night, I sat down and accessed my Higher Self for the answer. There was an answer, all right, one that made my blood boil as I tried to grapple with it while making fish soup for dinner. Because sinigang and spirituality go together. Obviously, I didn’t like the answer I received, which very likely means it’s the answer that actually comes from my Higher Self.
Here’s what she said.
“The reason these things happen is so you can learn to love the unlovable.”
Well, fuck that. Fuck me and fuck that. That was my instant reaction when I heard the voice coming from my inner being. I don’t want to learn to love the unlovable. It’s hard enough learning to love people who are actually very lovable but have done a few unlovable things. Asking someone to learn to love all the ugliest, vilest, most hate-filled things in the world is practically impossible.
There’s a lot of anger, of course. Anger for my parents, who were taught growing up that English was the superior language of the world. Anger for my grandparents, whose lives were disrupted by two world wars they didn’t want to have anything to do with. Anger for my great-grandparents and my great-great-grandparents and their ancestors and all the people they loved, for the men and women who were beheaded, raped, burned alive, hanged from salaysay trees, drowned to death, tortured to insanity, and forced to acquiesce to keep themselves and their children alive. Anger for myself, for being led to believe that my brown skin and harsh Ilocano accent put me at a disadvantage. And anger for my friends, who still believe what is best for them is what their white superiors say is best for them.
I knew the answer I would get wasn’t going to be pretty. There’s nothing pretty at all about the systemic oppression of innocent peoples. But it still hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t prepared for it at all.
Maybe because there’s still a part of me that wanted the answer to be different. Some part of me had wanted my Higher Self to tell me that these things happen because white people are trash. That the world—with all its green meadows and sparkling oceans and all the baby penguins waddling in the snow—is a bad and ugly place. That humans are evil by nature, except for us because the oppressed can’t be evil, right?
And yet, and yet, and yet, another part of me knows none of this is true. No human being is trash. The world isn’t a bad and ugly place. And humans aren’t evil by nature. That’s just something I know because I know. No one told me that. I know just because.
It just doesn’t make sense, does it?
How can inherently good people, people who were made from the very fabric of the universe, end up doing bad things to people who don’t deserve it?
We can try all our lives to understand. We can take out the history books looking for something might come up that will help us make sense of things. And the rest who refuse to try to understand will keep joining street rallies with witty one-liner signs and signing Change.org petitions and showing up as @white_people_r_trash on Internet forums demanding the Kardashians to stop putting cornrows in their hair and Hollywood to hire more actors of color.
Or maybe it’s not our place to force the understanding upon ourselves. Our minds will likely never get to understand. In fact, our minds will likely try to keep pulling us back to that place where we refuse to explore the pains we have inherited from our ancestors who suffered under their white colonizers, masters, and oppressors. Exploring the rage that arises when someone cuts you off in traffic is hard enough. Exploring centuries, maybe even millennia, of emotional trauma for entire populations is way harder.
But the heart will keep trying to call you back to your true self, and your true self isn’t someone who carries the baggage of an entire population on her shoulders. That may be one of the roles you choose to play, and there’s nothing inherently good or bad in that, but that’s not who you really are.
Your heart will keep dropping hints here and there and everywhere. You’ll stay restless, directionless, like a ship without a crew lost on stormy seas. You’ll keep being angry at Buzzfeed activists and their lack of understanding about how the entire world works but you’ll keep seeing signs leading you away to the thing you know you were always meant to do. And you’ll keep being pulled into situations you never wanted to be in but still feel quite at home at.
Your heart will keep calling to you to finally face that thing only a strong, independent-minded, heart-centered woman like you can do. To lead the spiritual revolution. To encourage others to go within to find their true strength. To empower your own people so that they too can find the courage to listen to their hearts and be who they were meant to be. And to do that in your own way, however that way shows up for you.
We’re not going to know why our ancestors were oppressed and why we still bear their burdens if all we do is sit down in front of the computer, or attend lectures by the world’s foremost academic experts on socio-political history, or discuss it into the dead of the night with our closest, craziest friends. Maybe it’s not even likely we’ll find any answer remotely acceptable even if we meditate on it for hours on end.
But maybe, just maybe, the heart can open up a path that can lead us to an answer we can eventually learn to accept. It’s not likely to be a straight path. It’s most likely going to be a long and winding path, with sharp twists and turns and detours and hopefully even a few shortcuts. And it’s most likely covered in fog. You can only see just enough of what’s ahead to take the next step, but you can’t really see far enough to know what’s in the distance.
It’s a path that requires faith. It also requires that you ignore that perpetually self-righteous voice inside your head telling you, “Hey! Hey, look here! Here’s a white person descended from the slavers. Here’s the great-great-granddaughter of a colonialist. Here’s another perfect opportunity for you to feel good about refusing to explore your feelings of anger!”
There’s no going back once you step into the path laid out by the heart. You may pause for a while and contemplate how to quit—because living from the heart can be scary at times—but you’ll go ahead anyway. Anyone who’s ever decided to listen to the whispers of their heart and follow it where it wants to go knows there’s not much awe and wonder in living a life that’s ruled by the head.
So maybe, just maybe, the only way to answer the impossible question of “Why is there such a thing as systemic oppression?” is to stop trying to find the answer in the first place and to start living life the way your heart, in which your truest self resides, the self that actually knows the answer to it all, wants you to live it.
When you start writing that song, when you start building that school, when you start doing the things that light up your very being and stop doing the things that make you question yourself and your worthiness of being here—maybe that’s when life itself will get out of its way to show the answer to you.
And, as with all things that the mind cannot understand, maybe the answer that will show up for you will be something you’ve always known all along but will still hit like a ton of bricks when it hits you.