[Excerpted from Rep Dem is a Spiritual Good #2
“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 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
This is a Something Deeperism essay.
The Something Deeperism Institute tab has some introductory essays. Those essays are also included in First Essays & A Readable Reader.
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