The world burns at the hands of well-intentioned people. They attend their church services, wear their crucifixes, and still manage to overturn buckets of gasoline into the flames. Almost no one is cognizant of their spirit disintegrating into ash. Americans respond to the billowing black smoke by retreating back into the figurative womb. We grew weary of the World Wars and the nuclear arms race last century and then, we grew weary of growing weary. Despite the climate of fear, nuclear war never was practical from a business standpoint. The elitists continue the war mongering to guarantee their flow of currency, their torrent of power. In other words, using an old, tattered phrase, “The show must go on.” Somewhere around this planet, there were some disconnected strangers laughing. Although, as always with dark humor, the laughter does not mean it doesn’t hurt. Everyone’s incinerating here. Desire hurts. Unrestrained desire turns people into implacable, impulsive pleasure seeking machines and as machines, they only seem to understand appearances and hierarchies. Machines are incapable of understanding spirit and unfortunately, they are the chosen administrators of this world. The administrators, under the guidance of the oligarchs, pass down their mechanical behavior to us. They execute the oligarchs’ vision for humanity. This position selects the prize for humanity to work toward. The prize is image conscious success, and success in this life implies satanic success. It’s a numbers game based on income, assets, and dividends. Attaching a number to a person to gauge his or her worth strikes against everything good in this world. If you’re still playing the game, church and prayer won’t save you. You will not be redeemed because you think so highly of yourself.
There was a crazy-wisdom teacher in India named Saraha. He said that those who believe that everything is solid and real are stupid, like cattle, but that those who believe that everything is empty are even more stupid.
-Pema Chodron from Start Where You Are
Is the mind meant to swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other? If it truly was, then destroying in the name of God would be the pinnacle of existence. We would take on the burden of defending Him as if He needed a feeble human to do so. We would supplant Him. We would worship the same gods we’ve always had: money, power, status, sex, and self-glory. Even the ones who realize the absurdity of condensing the world into two choices ensnare themselves into the same trap. Which is it? Good or evil? Love or hate? Mercy or severity? Apparently we’ve gotten carried away with Zoroastrianism. “Since I’ve been awake,” they would smugly say. Declaring that they possess the gift of sight is ultimately a declaration of blindness. This behavior parallels the way the masses don’t even bother to examine the world in which they live. They reach a consensus that life is more important than objects and yet, brands, franchises, and corporate tribes still rake in millions and billions. Will we then avoid brands at all costs, even refuse to wear a t-shirt that’s violated with a huge logo but was given away for free? Do we see the trap for what it is?
I can acknowledge my faults. I’ve made claims without the support of thorough and meticulous research. Thank God for libraries but unfortunately, knowledge monopolists stow away our researchers’ work for profit. Databases, such as JSTOR, guard these bits of information as if they’re weapons, as if they can degrade truth itself and reduce it to a commodity. By examining my own writing with an unbiased, critical eye, I’ve discovered that, in the age of hyperbole and moral disintegration, truth seeking presents a daunting challenge. This is why we each have our own path. You cannot take my word as unadulterated, absolute truth, and I cannot believe your every word unquestioningly, without analysis, without inspection, without suspicion, and without deliberation. We must leave our minds as open as our lungs are to the air. We’re all grappling with incomplete information and we cannot, while we sleep, register every bit of existing knowledge in our neural database. However, hubris, like a reassuring whisper, tells us otherwise. Hubris is a conniving, deceiving phenomenon.
There’s a pervasive myth infecting our impressionable minds today. Corporations feed off of this myth, advertisements prey upon it, and the populace panders to it. This myth compels us to buy into fleeting, shallow trends and to sell our moral character. This myth urges us on to sacrifice our capacity to feel for others; it lulls us into a restless sleep. This myth is thinking positive, thinking positive as a strategy to obtain what you want. Whether it is an executive office or a place on stage, we’re told that if we just want it enough, our dreams will materialize. If only we’d believe, we can escape. If we believe, we can leave the gang of peasants and join the ranks of the privileged, the famous, the wealthy, the beautiful, and we’d finally be complete. We wouldn’t have to look at our sagging, wrinkled faces anymore or report to our narcissistic superiors. We’d finally be able to scorn the peasants from our own seat atop the teetering empire. Everything is possible but only if we think positive and believe that we’re special. Nevertheless, with a false but convincing hope, we do what we’ve always done – work at menial jobs that don’t engage our minds and buy gadgets to bury the meaningless pattern of work, buy, work, buy.
The good occurring in this world isn’t newsworthy nor is it widely discussed. Good deeds won’t capture our attention like a natural disaster or a conspiracy plot come to light, but that is attributed to the way the good is portrayed. The good in a breaking story can be quite boring; it is, after all, the drama that seductively pulls us in. We enjoy our stories when they’re unpredictable and chaotic. Our anticipation verges on obsession when a twist of events shatters what we thought we knew about the world. Whether it is real or fiction, a tragic story makes long stretching waves. More specifically, an act of nefarious violence, like terrorism, sends that shock wave, like a volcano erupting and spewing ash to coat the sky. The lava flows from the news to the cinema and vice versa. The violence unleashes the powers of hell; it effects our lives, our creations, our attitudes, and our future. There is, however, a source of all this unrest: our minds. Fear can weaken, fragment a mind no matter how attune to reason it is, no matter how wise the person has become. Self-righteousness has equal disastrous effects.
The dominant culture of the day will pester us, coax us to join in. The culture pleads with us to conform as if it knows the very best for us. The problem is that the human soul is beyond a storybook wedding, owning a vehicle, paying a mortgage, reproducing, and chasing after financial security. While those things are perfectly acceptable, our souls, ineffable as they are, will not be carrying those things onward to the next life. The soul doesn’t follow a sterile formula and a predetermined path, and it certainly cannot be bought, stolen, or owned. If we can assign some adjectives to our souls, describe our souls, it wouldn’t even come close to the essence within us. Even the word ineffable inadequately describes who we really are. Mastering ourselves, knowing ourselves is a disconcerting endeavor, but we must persist. We must look within and not rely solely on our culture. If anything, society is the least capable of understanding us. As society tries to classify what each of us want and who each of us are into clean and tidy categories, there’s bound to be conflict. Our popular culture lays out a set of rules, rules that limit. These cultural rules cap who we are by trying to conceptualize our inexplicable, elusive identities.