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Inner And Outer Dissonance

Inner and Outer Dissonance

By Rachel A. Buddeberg


I was born into the wrong life:
Unconventional ideas
with a conventional lifestyle.
I can see things clearly
without the inner strength to change them.
I can see how to live
without the courage to live it.
I got a radical brain
and conventional habits.
It’s tearing me apart.
Eating me alive.
I don’t know how to break free.
Glimpses of freedom
are quickly covered again
by the voices of norms.
I never learned how to do this
and the dissonance is pulling me apart.
Longing to find the support
to bring inner and outer into alignment
and don’t know where to look.
Even there are the stories of convention
preventing me from seeing and acting.

In my poem on inner and outer dissonance, i was trying to capture something that i had still trouble articulating. Being “born into the wrong life” didn’t quite express what i was sensing and probably was too jarring to get my point across. Slowly, i understood it more: There is an inherent contradiction in my life – and i would claim in most people’s lives (well, us Northern hemisphere, Western types, at least). Let me try to explain, maybe with more success than in the poem.

Those of us who critique the current status quo also benefit from that same status quo, which then turns our critique onto ourselves. I grew up in a bourgeois household, comfortably middle-class. As i was enjoying those comforts, i was learning to critique “the bourgeoisie” for their comforts, exploitations, and destruction of the planet. They were doing all the wrong things, i saw clearly, and they must change! What i did not admit – and often still don’t – was that there isn’t a thick dividing line: They are just as much me as anything.

Maybe it’s our blindness to privilege that gets us into this situation. Probably, actually. I am more interested in exploring, though, what it does to us. Clearly, if i critique and judge “those people” and am really part of that club, i end up judging myself. I am guessing now that a lot of my habitual self-hatred stems from this: Somewhere i know that i am “holier than thou” – that i really, at bottom, am just as much a part, and more importantly a benefactor, of the systems as the people i am pointing my fingers at.

Maybe our “sins” are different. Certainly, the scale is different. Someone who is part of the US plutocracy has way more influence on the status quo than i do. Yet, if i let go of my place & my stuff and travel, for example, i would have at least the following privileges: At very first, it would be a choice. I didn’t loose my place. I gave it up. That is a very different experience from the average homeless person. Then, i remain white, which will open doors that i often don’t even admit are opened by my skin color. And i would always have the option – as much as i don’t want to use it – of leveraging the safety net of my family. I could move in with someone. Sure, it would at least be embarrassing and not very convenient but it’s not like my family lives in the slums with 30 people in a tiny hut. Not even close. Many have a guest room.

My point here is not to make us feel more ashamed about not doing enough. My point is that this very shame is a direct result of our unwillingness to admit our privilege, own it, and embrace interconnectedness. Once we realize that we’re just as much of the problem as “they” are, maybe completely different solutions will emerge. Of course, it might also be way more depressing because the extent of the mess we’re facing is far bigger than we want to admit. Halting the destruction of this planet will require all of us to give up the comforts we’ve gotten used to. And then some. We probably don’t even realize just how privileged we are.


Rachel A. Buddeberg is a feminist philosopher, freethinking humanist, and student of meditation and Buddhism.  At 45, she is trying to perfect the art of failing and hoping she’ll fail at it! Thus she is leaving behind the inner normative voices that bind her to a life of servitude and fighting for outer freedoms so that everyone can thrive! Her journey is uncovering what this looks like. You can follow it and other meanderings at

[Top photo credit: giuseppe]

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Comments (3)

  • Catherine de Marin

    Thank you for sharing your practice: the art of failing – you inspire me to be a bit more courageous. Glad we’re on the path together.

  • Lisa

    Your poem really speaks to me. After reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, I realized that even when working in international economic development, I was hurting people. Privilege is a very sneaky thing. I also blame myself for giving up on trying to engage people, like the lady with the designer bags in your poem. Maybe if I have more empathy for that lady, who feels powerless in her own way, I could get her to see that her actions matter. But that takes a lot of courage, which I’m not sure I have yet.

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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