What strange times! What can we say?
Let’s start with what we all can agree on and go from there.
Example 1: Let’s demand aware clear honest thought searching for truly better ways of thinking and acting, with the whole process guard-railed by the understanding that to the degree we do not prioritize sharing kind joy we are going in the wrong direction. Any human dogma that fails to accept that principle (not so much those words, nor even those concepts, but the inner-senses-of-things they imperfectly but not therefore necessarily inadequately point towards) is meaningless/boring/not-believable to human minds and hearts. So to the degree one abandons it, one disappears from the conscious moment and becomes an amoeba, pushed around by whims that rise up, as whims always will, declaring themselves, as is their spurty want, great Truths. Much wiser to keep working to better and better center oneself around the Truth–deeper and wider than human ideas, and thus not liable to literal/definitive descriptions, but not therefore completely severed from human ideas (think of how a good poem can, when read with an open mind/heart, imperfectly but still meaningfully recreate the author’s experience within the reader’s conscious moment). That way one can compare a given whim’s claims against the Joy within that alone knows that and how human thought and action actually matter. We don’t need to be enlightened to agree on this principle, and we aren’t hypocrites if we agree to it and don’t always live up to it. The point is to agree that this is the goal and to throw back words and deeds that do not live up to it: “please try again!”, not “you’re out of the club!”, which anyway clearly violates the sharing kind joy rule.
Example 2: Let’s demand clean government. We will not all agree on everything. However, we can all agree that our only hope is 1) clear honest well-considered win-win policy decisions are superior to randomly generated / whim- & prejudice-based ones (if not, we humans have no method for coherently thinking our way to truly better thoughts and actions, and are thus at the mercy of chance and history, which would imply there’s no point having political opinions, or any ideas at all [note that you have no good reason to suppose this, and to the degree you do suppose it, you don’t suppose you should bother thinking anything, and so you undercut all your thoughts, including that attempted-supposition]) and 2) our individual and group decisions are, on the whole, clear … win-win. So let’s agree that we will not tolerate dishonesty, nor will we stand for doing any old stupid thing, no matter how much money or other powers request that stupid thing. Ah! But here’s the rub! For most will assent to these principles, but then, in the same breath, they’ll come to completely different conclusions about which politicians are lying and which ones are doing any old stupid thing for the sake of money, ego, or blind worldly dogmatism grabbed with religious fervor. How? What is going on here? And how to fix it before it critically undermines our shared interests with the persistent myth that we are not on the same team and cannot share kind joy?
Example 3: Let’s agree that human ideas and feelings are not Gods, and that we must therefore ask over and over again for the great God to bless us and make us wise enough to understand that and how it is True that what we say and do really does matter, and that we really are all in this together and cannot escape one another and so must find a way, if it takes us eternity!, for everyone to share kind joy with everyone.
What strange times! What can we say?
Upon death, I’ve heard, the soul is led to the River Lethe, where it forgets all but its deepest, most profound, most spiritual lessons. There, every bit of you that is not Love disappears. Everything not soaked through with Love is, as some have put it, burned in the fire. And so, the theory concludes, the eternal purpose of human beings is to understand and live Love. Insofar as we accomplish this, we succeed. Insofar as we don’t, we fail and gently disappear.
Another, related, line of thought runs thus: We are all in this together and the whole rises and falls in accordance with how well we all treat each other, and also by how well we all treat shared resources: our immediate and larger environment, our governments and their organizations, our written and spoken thoughts, and so on–these structures within which all live.
There are of course those who hold that it doesn’t matter what we do. After all, the game goes on forever and there’s no stopping until all are saved. Even, they reason, if we blow up this world: that’s cool–we’ll just inhabit other forms in another world and keep on rocking. Perhaps. I couldn’t say for sure from where I sit, on a tall stool at the great front window of some no-account SouthEasternConnecticut coffee shop, watching the rain stop and a wintry droop-leafed rose bush wobble in the gray winds, the various accounts drifting see-saw all around me. However, it seems safe to say that as far as we know it would be best to not blow our hand. Better to go easy on one another and our shared physical and mental space, to seek more and more wisdom and, no matter the details of our lives, to focus first and foremost on sharing kind joy. Granted: that’s the sort of thing everybody knows, irregardless how foolish we all sometimes are and how high-flying our theories sometimes get; but, you know, at Christmas we remind ourselves of these platitudes, and that, trite as they may be, they are still True, which still Matters.
Authors: Bartleby Willard & Andy Watson
Editorial Concerns / Copyright: AMW
[correction to CNL 2018: delete “no-account”]