May the new year
bring you happiness, health, and peace.
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)
When I am optimistic, I choose to believe that every life I lead, every choice I make, has consequence. That I am not one Harry August but many, a mind flicking from parallel life to parallel life, and that when I die, the world carries on without me, altered by my deeds, marked by my presence.
Then I look at the deeds I have done and, perhaps more importantly considering my condition, the deeds I have not done, and the thought depresses me, and I reject the hypothesis as unsound.
What is the point of me?
Either to change a world -- many, many worlds, each touched by the choices I make in my life, for every deed a consequence, and in every love and every sorrow truth -- or nothing at all.Delicious stuff. Highly recommended.
I've argued in this book that the phenomena of wu-wei [effortlessness, flow, spontaneity] and de [the charismatic power that comes from being in that state] are central to human flourishing and cooperation. The only reason we need to be told that is that recent Western thought has been so obsessed with disembodied rationality that embodied spontaneity -- along with the unique tensions it presents -- has fallen off the radar. Thinking of moral perfection as a matter of following rules or calculating utility certainly simplifies things. Reason carefully, throw in a bit of willpower, and you're done. The problem is that this model is deeply wrong. It's psychologically unworkable, given what we know about the way the human body-mind operates. Moreover, it completely fails to reflect how we actually experience our lives.
. . . .
[Scientists] are coming to recognize that the sort of knowledge that we rely on most heavily is hot, emotionally grounded "knowing how" rather than cold, dispassionate "knowing that." We're made for doing, not thinking. This has significant implications for everything from how we educate people to how we conduct public debates, make public policy decisions, and think about our personal relationships.
Our modern conception of human excellence is too often impoverished, cold, and bloodless. Success does not always come from thinking more rigorously or striving harder. In a world increasingly dominated by cram schools, treadmills (literal or otherwise), 24/7 connectivity, and punishing amounts of stress, seeing the world in terms of the power and grace of spontaneity can help us to make better sense of our work, our goals, and our relationships.This is an important book. Get it.
The direction of the Five Mindfulness Trainings is the direction of beauty, goodness, and truth. To transform our collective consciousness into beauty, goodness, and truth, we move in that direction, as we would go in the direction of the sun. We cannot climb onto the sun, and we don't need to. To move in that direction is good enough.And . . .
The situation of the world today is so violent and confused that for a future to be possible, not only individuals, but even nations need to take the Five Mindfulness Trainings.A highly recommended book.
Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in me still starves. In what is probably the most serious inquiry of my life, I have begun to look past reason, past the provable, in other directions. Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the precognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state. I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude. Such interest nourishes me beyond the finest compendium of facts. In my mind now, in any comparison of demonstrated truths and unproven but vivid intuitions, the truths lose.Get this book.
End the world today by refusing to contribute to the pool of fear that has kept the world of sorrow in force. End starvation by feeding your soul. End war by ceasing the war against yourself. It is your happiness, not your pain, that will save the world. Misery has enough company. (p. 193)I had to think a long time before I understood why that bothered me. I had to step back a bit and think about what viewpoints various religions teach. Some religions stress good works and striving to make one's world a better place. Others stress the unreality of this world and the reality of an ultimate Universe/One/Spirit. Still others try to balance the two viewpoints.
After a great blow, or crisis, after the first shock and then after the nerves have stopped screaming and twitching, you settle down to the new condition of things and feel that all possibility of change has been used up. You adjust yourself, and are sure that the new equilibrium is for eternity . . . But if anything is certain it is that no story is ever over, for the story which we think is over is only a chapter in a story which will not be over, and it isn't the game that is over, it is just an inning, and that game has a lot more than nine innings. When the game stops it will be called on account of darkness. But it is a long day. (Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men)
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. (James Madison)
If we are ever in doubt what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done. (John Lubbock)
In a nation of millions, and in a world of billions, the individual is still the first and basic agent of change. (Lyndon B. Johnson)
To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle. (1959)I think what we need to do as individuals, and as a country, is to look at both what we value in the ideal (justice, equality, equal opportunity, valuing each person, caring for earthly home, etc.) and what is manifested as its shadow (ego, possessiveness, devaluing others and using them, competition, focusing on the short-term, abusing the environment, and so on). By saying, "Yes, both parts are who we are right now" is a good first step. The next step, I believe, is to ask, "What do we want ourselves, and our country, to become?"
A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor. ("The Philosophical Tree", 1945).I would like to take this a step further and submit the idea that our country has a shadow side. We value capitalism and business success, don't we? Isn't that the American dream -- to make it big? But what is the shadow side of that? How about:
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.Ouch! You mean the ego-displays we see in our political realm, with the need to be right, the dominating energy, the intense feeling of competition and so on -- all that is in me?
We must embody the change we want to see.If we think of male energy as fire, we need to act as water.
Resistance breeds resistance.So, if we shouldn't resist, what is the best response?
What is the definition of kakistocracy? Government by the least qualified or worst persons. Ka-pow!Or:
"Remember, when the judgment's weak, the prejudice is strong." (Kane O'Hara, 1711-1782) Zowie!Or:
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." (Voltaire, 1694-1778) Take that!Or:
"Do we need weapons to fight wars? Or do we need wars to create markets for weapons?" (Arundhati Roy, b. 1961) Hai-yah!Or:
"No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed, and love of power." (P.J. O'Rourke, b. 1947) Whammo!Or:
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The string of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" (Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992) Gotcha!And while that may feel really, really good, resistance is, ultimately, futile. Why?
"Anger is a great force. If you control it, it can be transmuted into a power which can move the whole world." (William Shenstone, 1714-1763)Yeah.