Civilization And Its Discontents

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Jean Claude Photography

“Seek the Path. Do not seek attainment. Seek for the Path within yourself. Do not expect to hear the truth from others, nor to see it, or read it in books. Look for the truth in yourself.” — P.D. Ouspensky


“Our World is not divided by Race, color, gender, or religion. Our world is divided into wise people and fools. And fools divide themselves by race, color, gender or religion.” — Nelson Mandela


“America has been blessed with the most extraordinary resources, talent, prosperity and power. Yet over the past 40 years, as a nation, we stopped even trying to be good, to be just, to be ethical, to be merciful. Such concepts went from the elements of a moral spine to the quaint platitudes of a discarded righteousness. Who can name one domestic or international policy — backed, as policies are, by the tremendous force of American wealth and power — where the dominant political conversation had anything to do with words such as those? Our collective behavior toward children, the poor, the planet, one another and other people around the world has been and remains so devoid of any sense of moral responsibility that we have landed on a trajectory of chaos that could hardly have led us anywhere other than where we are now.” — Marianne Williamson


“Just as we open and heal the body by sensing its rhythms and touching it with a deep and kind attention, so we can open and heal other dimensions of our being. The heart and the feelings go through a similar process of healing through the offering of our attention to their rhythms, nature, and needs. Most often, opening the heart begins by opening to a lifetime’s accumulation of unacknowledged sorrow, both our personal sorrows and the universal sorrows of warfare, hunger, old age, illness, and death.” — Jack Kornfield

When I was twenty, I identified my neurotic discomforts as the result of being too limited, too American. I thought I could heal myself by travel, by becoming more international, by integrating into another, older and wiser culture. Don’t laugh. I was just twenty, after all.

OK, now, sixty years on, I think the human race in general is pretty neurotic. The human condition is to be so narrow and traumatized, it’s begging for some serious healing maneuvers. Fear and avoidance guides and directs human events, creating even more suffering. Humans are caught in their own ignorance and superficiality. Leaders at the top of the power pyramid exacerbate it by their scapegoating and fear mongering. Americans are tearing at the already fragile fabric of social cohesion in the most reckless way, aided and abetted by the president of the country, of all people.

Can they back away from this path or will they push the whole country into chaos and disunity? I’m biting my nails and hoping for the best, but I worry about the fools, as Mandela calls them. It’s impossible to know how many wise ones we can rely on to show up and speak up.

You can’t put a nation on the couch and lead it to insight. America is an extroverted culture. It doesn’t enjoy introspection. It exteriorizes its lack of insight, creating new traumas that are passed down the generations.

In spite of all this, our fears and projections will have to be dissolved by understanding eventually. Now is as good a time as any. The responsibility rests with the individual. Looking inward and noticing our motivations is a simple but rarely used way to heal ourselves.

I don’t think it’s the only way. Others can help if they care and have wisdom.

Ouspensky has a point. Looking inward is important. Imitating others can definitely lead you astray. I do think that the right questions arriving at the right time can promote insight. The right teacher can help the right student. Ouspensky’s statement can be taken as absolute truth, for example, promoting the mistake of not relying on our own vision.

It’s not so black and white. We live in a community of beings. We can help each other along the path. There are good teachers in the world who save lives by their insights and care for others.

Otherwise, why do we write?

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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