I feel lonely and scared. A little guilty. What have I done wrong? Where did I go wrong? What is evil? What is my part in the long, stupid strides of mismanaged resources? Some things happen, we’re given this or that, this or that is taken from us. Where does the evil come in? When is it our fault?
It is always our fault, never strictly mine or yours. It is always our possibilities that are shepherded into beauty, joy, fun, kindness, a rich harvest and a fair share in that harvest, a space where we can find ourselves and meet others in a way that spreads health that is spiritual at its core, but that always cares for the body and the mind–that understands if suffering happens it is right and good to accept it and bare it and make the most of it, but you should still work constantly to avoid and reduce suffering for everyone, including yourself. Anyway, there’s always suffering. The point of life is to live joyfully life-overflowingly creatively kindly and to spread that kind of living–not to prove some pointless point to yourself or your neighbors, and least of all to God!! So much for the cult of suffering. Not that the cult of pleasure’s any better. The reason pleasure is good is because it allows you the freedom to discover your inner wisdom and develop your latent talents in a way that praises and shares the Light honestly, creatively, joyfully. It is pleasant to be healthy and to be in healthy relationships and to go on physical and mental adventures; those things are good because they help the Light play and exult in Itself.
I’m not a prophet, nor am I an enlightened master. I’m just some poor sinner who wants to do better and believes that we all know deep inside that we should serve the Lord our God with all our hearts and minds and our neighbors as ourselves, that everything else follows from this, and the degree to which we put anything else before this two way spiritual effort–into the Light within and out into other people and our shared physical, mental and emotional environments–we are moving in the wrong direction and need to adjust our course.
There are various intellectual and/or emotional doubts one may raise against this doctrine, but the words themselves aren’t supposed to be True or False, they are supposed to point (imperfectly but not therefore inadequately) towards an inner sense of things that a human mind-as-a-whole understands to be True. And if there is no Truth and if human lives don’t truly matter–then why are we bothering coming up with intellectual and emotional accounts about what’s going on and what we should do? Valuing spiritual goodness and wisdom is both experientially and logically prior to valuing emotions, ideas, the physical world, or anything: our thought-as-a-whole must fundamentally knows/believes/understands/cares-about The Love That Actually Exists And Matters; and if we don’t care about and believe in and understand The Love That Actually Exists And Matters Most, neither our hearts nor minds can think of any reason how it might care about, believe in, and understand anything (without the possibility of wisdom, even saying “wisdom is impossible” is emotionally and intellectually self-contradictory: if wisdom is impossible, how am I supposed to take that statement? and what’s to make me adopt it or notice it over another, and yet you keep going on as if you had something to say–?!?!)
Anyway, most people are willing to agree to virtues like goodness, kindness, accuracy and honesty, and working together to get the most out of what is given to us while sharing the riches fairly. The evil generally comes in via unwise interpretations of those celebrated virtues. Actually, it comes in because people only pretend to care about goodness and etc, but since we often succeed in at least partially tricking ourselves, it isn’t enough to convince ourselves that we can and should consciously seek to keep moving more and more towards what is Truly Best for ourselves and others–we also have to improve how we relate those necessarily intellectually- and emotionally-vague spiritual goals (necessarily vague since what actually matters is not ideas or feelings about what matters, but a Reality prior to our ideas and feelings) to individual and collective choices in the here and now.
Or is it so complicated? If a person actually did care most of all about the True Good shining within, then he or she would put in the effort required to at least not overstep themselves and pull down huge slabs of evil onto the laps of all of us. And yet–there are so many examples of religiously-motivated evil, that it seems obvious that merely convincing yourself that you are putting the Light first proves nothing about what you are really up to. Additionally, then there’s probably also such a thing as straight up madness masquerading as piety.
Both faith in Goodness and faith in one’s right to blow off Goodness amounts to overstepping one’s Knowledge and causes one to squander and destroy resources (here taken in the largest since: time, energy, ideas, feelings, traditions, political establishments, material wealth, social connections, etc etc), thus understepping one’s obligations to the Light within and to ourselves and others. So what are we to do? How to get and stay in the sweet spot? As individuals? As groups?
Without accuracy and honesty in your self-assessments, your can lead one’s thought to any conclusions, and so thought becomes a meaningless, chaotic mess. Ditto for thought that doesn’t have some clear standard for what it prefers. And if what you prefer is not actually what is Best, then you may be able to reach conclusions, but they will mean little to your heart and mind, and so you won’t travel with your thought to its own conclusions–you won’t really be making choices, just watching them as precepts nonsensical to your truest self direct your thought and actions. Of course, no one is perfect, so it is more appropriate to phrase these maxims in terms like “the degree to which my thought is not accurate and honest, it can twist itself into any contortion”.
What about public life? The degree to which a collective allows inaccuracies and lying, it is like a mind divided against itself–its shared thought all contorted, confused, hijackable by stupidity, greed, all manner of folly. At least that’s true of a liberal Democracy where rights to free-speech and freedom of movement of association are protected. And other forms of government are terrible to live in. So let’s at least agree to stop lying.
Ah! But look what comes next! People believe what they want to believe. And nowadays many spend their lives in neighborhoods and media outlets that tell them what they want to believe. And so it is hopeless. Our break with reality and the resultant descent into political nihilism is inevitable: for if a collective has no shared truths, then they are have no collective meaning and so as a political unit they are nihilists: they share no meaning, only random hoots and hollers of animal fears and prides.
Many label blind followerism a great evil because it allows leaders and followers alike to ignore reality and be guided by whatever delusions light their fires. True enough–but cynicism has the same tendency and is also often used to expedite blind followerism; it should therefore also be recognized as a great evil. So I should step back from the above outburst. Declaring everything hopeless oversteps what can be known and encourages opportunism.
But what is the way forward? It seems clear to me that what we need is not for some individual–be he ever so wise–to explain what is good and how to live, but for all of us to get together and figure out together what actually deep down care about and believe our country can and should be and do and to work together to keep moving towards that (itself constantly reassessed and tweaked) goal. The only hope for individual progress is to clearly and honestly pursue the Goodness within that alone knows what is actually best for us. Likewise, the only hope for collective progress is to all together clearly and honestly discuss what Good things we can together do. Combining religion and politics tempts politicians to hypocrisy and voters to laziness; but combining religion with the universal value of “Goodness is real and it matters to us all” forces us to admit that we are all in this together and are more alike than different, and so, while asking politicians to lipservice it clearly undoes any good collectively prizing Goodness might do us, perhaps we could at least agree to agree on this one thing without which we can agree on nothing meaningful (ie: “Truth and Goodness are real and matter”).
But what forum would work for us? Don’t we all hate each other? Or at least haven’t we all given up on each other? Am I going to go to Trump country and be a good sport? Or would I rather stay in New York City where 90% of us voted against Trump and we can all agree that we didn’t do this rash and foolish thing? Ah, but that’s just it: everything we do we all do together. Admitting that is the first step towards us as a nation thinking clearly and making good decisions.
People often make poor decisions. Groups of people are stupid mobs–that’s a long-established fact. They get together and agree with each other, rile each other up, egg each other on, light torches, and go out into the streets to hurt other people. That’s the sort of thing groups of people can do. So why be surprised when they make the comparatively more subtle error of pouting away their democracy?
I don’t know how to stop the evil, how to make things better for us all. And I don’t know how to get us find the way together. I feel sick to my stomach with worry and fear. God help me!
Editor, co-worrier, and copyright holder: AMW