A POINT OF VIEW about the state of things, New Years 2007
I received a questionnaire in the spring of 2007 pursuant to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of my college graduation. One of the questions was, “What is the most important and surprising event since you graduated college?” It started me thinking. I decided I couldn’t give a simple answer. Ten years later not much has changed. I’d like to share with you what I came up with.
Important changes since 1957: the information age, fall of the iron curtain, fall of the Soviet Union, assassinations of our visionary leaders, introduction of eastern spirituality to the west, evolution of racism and sexism, environmental crisis, global economy, our American culture of fear, our American culture of consumption.
Meanwhile life goes on. People are doing greedy, dumb, angry and hurtful things and people are doing courageous, smart, kind and loving things. About two percent of these events, mostly the negative ones, show up in the media, but daily life goes unreported.
So, after careful deliberation, I realized that the surprising and important changes for me in the last fifty years are within me.
First is my own disillusionment about my country. When I left college in 1957, I still believed that we were the good guys. I have come to realize that we are both very good and very bad with lots of subtle shades in between.
The good part is in the Bill of Rights – as Lincoln put it, “a nation of the people, by the people and for the people” and the extent to which we practice it. Examples are; a partially functioning judicial system, a mostly functioning electoral system, a mostly egalitarian culture, mostly freedom of speech and worship as well as a miraculous ability to mostly cooperate for the good of the community.
We and our forebears hold these democratic, egalitarian ideals, yet have so often and profoundly fallen short. Hidden between the lines of our history books are many disastrous acts of ignorance, arrogance and greed – the genocide of the native people, two hundred years of slave labor and another hundred years of Jim Crow, stealing land from Mexico, taking land from Spain in the Caribbean and the Pacific, from Columbia to build the Panama Canal, from Hawaii, dominating the “Banana Republics”, overthrowing elected governments in Iran, Nicaragua and Chile, assassinating foreign and domestic leaders, and destroying small countries like Viet Nam, Cambodia and Iraq.
Second is my self-discovery and personal experience of an infinite consciousness that is the benign motivator of Everything.
That leads me to an oft-times uncomfortable “split personality.”
On one hand, I’m anguished about the dilemma of us humans. I want a just and peaceful world and I can even see the possibility of it (many are working hard to realize that possibility). Yet, when I see an exponentially expanding population dependent on finite resources for survival, I feel hopeless and discouraged. When I see the greed and violence of the Haves and the desperation and violence of the Have Nots, I am hopeless and discouraged. When I see human beings polarized (good/evil, right/left, us/them), I am hopeless and discouraged. When I see people paralyzed or passive or complacent, I am hopeless and discouraged. I feel frustrated and, frankly, scared for our grandchildren and the human race.
On the other hand, there is a point of view that I have found. It’s way up on “Mount Olympus.” It’s a place of deep inner peace from which I can see human history. It’s a place from which I can see the ebb and flow of civilizations. From there, I know that everything in creation is born, grows to maturity, declines and dies. Everything. Every single time – continents, mountain ranges, species, civilizations, empires and humans – you and me.
There is a Rightness about it and I find peace in that.
The American Empire is in decline. Our Consumer Culture cannot be sustained. We’ve gone as far as we can go in the direction we’ve chosen. It’s time to make way for something else. Perhaps something better.
There is an old Quaker hymn that goes, “For every thing, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”
So, I do my best to take what comes without taking it personally. I do my best to keep an open heart and an open mind. I do my best to live with integrity and do as little harm as I can. I do my best to hold my “Olympian” point of view.
Sometimes I don’t succeed: I had a dream the other night. I dreamed I was looking from a second story window at a downtown street as American soldiers, our young men and women, in crisp, new uniforms with weapons and full packs were embarking for the war. I wept.
And sometimes I do succeed: Within the deep Peace of my Olympus, I experience joy in the love of my family and friends. I see the hope, inspiration and determination of people working to make things right. I experience my therapy clients coming to life and an inner sense of well-being. I feel the exuberance of the cycle of life and death.
And Happy New Year