“We should feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, kind, joyfully sharing, joyful. / We are all in this together.”
The degree to which a human’s thought understands that and in what sense those values are True, their thought is meaningful (believable / followable / tolerable / actionable) to them. To the degree they don’t, it isn’t.
The universal values get their power and meaning from the fact that they relate to what is really True (ie: not some relative, opinion-based, or ‘given the form of human perception’ truth). But we our feeling/thinking/acting is limited. Therefore, we cannot gain literal/definitive/1:1 insight into the universal values, and pretending we can causes us to trade desperately-clutched ideas and feelings about the universal values for meaningful engagement with them. The goal is therefore not a literal account of the Truth of the universal values, but rather a whole-being insight (ideas, feelings, and a core spiritual insight without which knowledge of any possible Truth is impossible — all interacting meaningfully [though of course not perfectly/literally/definitively/1:1] with one another).
No one’s ideas and feelings about “Truth” are equal to the “Truth”, because it is by definition wider and deeper than ideas and feelings. That’s OK. We’re just humans. Even holy scriptures get interpreted in human brains. We none of us have all the answers, but we all of us share the same basic awareness of the answers and of the path — aware, honest … joyful — towards more insight into the answers.
More wisdom in an individual involves more and more active, living insight into the fundamental values. This requires better and better internal communication: ideas and feelings organized better and better around a non-relative and self-aware insight into the spiritual values — allowing one’s thoughts to more and better believe in, follow, tolerate, and act upon their own conclusions. More individual wisdom is equivalent to more meaning within one’s conscious moment.
More group wisdom involves an atmosphere where wiser sentiments gain prestige and power, and less wise sentiments lose prestige and power. This correlates with more meaningful communication within the members of the group. Collectively agreeing upon the paramount importance of and non-literal/non-exclusive nature of the fundamental values allows individuals to awaredly share the starting point necessary for any human to gain meaningful insight into their own feeling/thinking/acting. Knowingly sharing a respect for the only possible meaningful starting point for human thought and action allows people to meaningfully engage with one another.
Internal meaning in individuals or groups is difficult to achieve and maintain. Whether posing in nihilism or this or that faith, we people are inclined to believe that our merely-human ideas and feelings about wisdom and goodness (including that such things are poppycock) are themselves Wise and Good.
It is inherently tricky to meaningfully relate limited ideas and feelings to an inner wisdom that must be unlimited if it is to provide the firm foundation for thought and action that our ideas and feelings require to care about, believe in, understand, and follow themselves. In response to this fundamental spiritual conundrum (the translation of the infinite by and into the finite), we people often either try to rule out any talk of “True Goodness” (ie: non-relative standards founded upon a shared basic human insight into an Absolute Reality), or we convince themselves that we, our group, ideology/system, and/or hero(s) have a lockdown on “True Goodness”. In both cases we (usually mostly hidden even from ourselves — and often flipping from the one miss to the other) trick ourselves into letting our ideas and feelings escape into fantasies of being True! Good! Right!
[Note that you don’t have to use the term “True Goodness” to be talking about “True Goodness” and that you don’t need to be talking about “True Goodness” to assume it in your thought, speech and action. With “True Goodness” we’re pointing towards a general direction, towards the direction of assuming the Truth of the universal values and thus prioritizing “aware … We’re all in this together!”]
Of course, what we should do is accept our need for real insight into the fundamental spiritual values (otherwise we slip and slide in ultimately-unfounded conjecture), while constantly returning to both the outwardly-and inwardly-verifiable safeguards that help individuals and groups avoid confusing ideas and feelings about “Truth” (ie: non-relative insight) with the Truth Itself.
Safeguards for individual wisdom include many internally-verifiable checks: Do I listen first? Am I kind to, respectful of, and gentle with everyone? Do I take time to seek for wisdom each day? Am I honest and forthright in my dealings with others? Am I in control of my thoughts and actions? IE: Can I relax and make decisions that I believe will benefit everyone, or at least harm no one? Or am I driven by lust, fear, greed, anger, and the like so that I cannot properly consider the well-being of myself and others? Am I thinking and acting “aware … joyful”? Do I really want what is best for everyone? How well do I know, accept, understand, and rejoice in “We are all in this together forever”?
Safeguards for group wisdom have to be shared by many individuals and must thus be more outwardly-verifiable: Are we operating open, honest, transparent, and in a spirit of fair play and mutual respect? Do aware, clear, honest, gentle, win-win, accurate, competent, kind, creative ideas win out? Or do selfish urges gain authority and power in our group?
Both those sets of safeguards apply to individuals and groups, but the former set is easier for individuals to gauge and the latter easier for groups (many people looking at the same operation) to apply.
Individuals often join together in spiritual groups or even just close relationships. If these organizations and/or relationships are healthy, then the two sets of safeguards will overlap. But in large organizations where relatively great power and wealth are in play, the distances between individuals and the stakes felt by individuals encourage people to deceive themselves and others. For this reason, governments must focus primarily on outwardly-verifiable safeguards against corruption, madness, and idiocy.
More individual and shared spiritual wisdom is a good goal; but notions about spiritual insight and/or chosenness also make good smokescreens for madness and corruption to hide behind. The risk increases as power and group-size increase. Therefore, governments should be fundamentally secular so as to better protect the spiritual lives of their inhabitants. Forced belief is no belief at all; and demanding people swear allegiance to xyz Truth tempts people to lie to themselves and others about the most sacred things.
YES: we must agree on the fundamental spiritual values if we are to speak meaningfully with one another.
BUT: when you justify actions with blanket metaphysics like “we are collectively choosing this because it is wise, good, and/or holy”, you force people into blind-follower-mode and away from meaningful engagement, communication, and collaboration. That’s why Shared Something Deeperism in a large nation state focuses both on public commitment to the universal values and on outward, publicly-verifiable safeguards against abuses of political power.
The fundamental spiritual values are already True for everyone. And they lend themselves to many tends that can, to the degree the citizenry pushes back on group-thinks and pays real attention, be publicly verified (loosely organized from more- to less-publicly verifiable):
Is this person following the rules? Are they acting in open and transparent ways? Does this person speak clearly, honestly, and accurately? Are they competently justifying their decisions? Is this person protecting the integrity of the institutions they serve? Are they adhering to established rules and standards for power-sharing? Are they eschewing private gain for the public good? Are they respectful, kind, and gentle in conversation? Do they seek and discover win-wins with others? Are they playing fair and in the spirit of shared success for all?
We will not agree on the best way to live the shared values, but we can agree that they are a shared starting point.
Furthermore, it is self-evident that all our political ideas become meaningless to the degree that we cannot view our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully discuss our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully influence our government’s decisions and action.
Therefore, we can agree that first and foremost we must keep our government open, honest, accurate, competent, fair/rule&law-abiding, and transparent (else we lose our insight into and power over our government’s decisions and actions); and that we must work together as best we can from within that framework of meaningful communication (which we create and sustain via a shared public commitment to the universal values and a healthy representative democracy).
The USA is losing its way in large part because its citizens do not possess a shared reality. The truth about the so-called “liberal media” is that, while there is bias and spin to some extent in all discussion of political facts, the mainstream US media is very careful to vet the actual facts that they state. Trump has declared a war on half the country and all facts. This is a bad but not completely unpredictable development in a nation that has split into two sides, with the Republican side attacking the media (“roughing the umpire”) for a generation or two.
In the USA of today, it feels like people don’t really believe the other political side has meaningful access to the universal values. The other side’s members are seen as either too idiotic and/or too morally flawed to grasp those fundamental values without which no human thoughts are meaningful to any human. Or at least they are such hopeless putzes that they cannot relate the fundamental values meaningfully to political decisions.
And so both sides believe the other side is wandering in the dark of meaningless, but somehow self-satisfied and prideful nihilism. How could you meaningfully converse with people like that? How could you meaningfully collaborate with them to safeguard your republic?
Part of the universal values is the sense that “we are all in this together”. It is, therefore, not possible to live meaningfully to the degree you imagine others are so evil and/or clueless that they do not have meaningful access to the universal values. Extreme partisan distrust is, therefore, harmful to the internal meaning of both individuals and groups.
Cooler, wiser, gentler impulses must prevail. Otherwise we’ll all wreck everything for everyone.
We can admit that we may differ in some places and to some degree on our interpretations of the facts while still making the effort to discover and examine the facts together.
We can vote out politicians who are clearly undermining the foundations of our shared representative democracy, while avoiding the extremes of conspiracy theories that dig twist contort until basically honest, uncorrupted, competent and well-intentioned politicians are suspect.
We can agree that some of the concerns motivating Trump’s policies — like what do we do with the rise and not-always-fair and/or -friendly-to-democracy China?, or what do we do when so many people want to leave their countries and start living in this one? — need to be taken seriously; while also agreeing that his blatant attacks on our shared democracy, his race-baiting, his denigration of all who do not bow mindlessly to his will, his dangerous re-escalation of the nuclear arms race and neglect of meaningful communication between nuclear powers, and his denial of climate change and reversal of environmental protections in general: all this represents an immediate existential threat to us as a nation and a world; and that we must therefore vote against Trump and for Biden, who has shown a willingness to help reverse these dangerous trends.
We don’t have to agree on everything; but we should agree on stopping this disaster together and working together to gain mutual trust and understanding.
We humans do not have the luxury of only getting along with and working with people who agree with us. We all rise or fall together.
Even if it is inevitable that this world fail — and we don’t know that it is and should work together as best we can to together succeed –, the spiritual energy created now by admitting that we are all in this together and must accept one another as fellow participants of the One Light will, it seems reasonable to assume, aid us in the next shared adventure.
We are, it seems reasonable to assume, never going to get rid of one another.
So our only hope is to learn to be glad to know one another.
copyright AM Watson