President Obama had a wonderful visit with Pope Francis last week. It was a trifecta—the celebrity head of a dead religious institution meeting with the ex-celebrity president of a dead country celebrated by a global media culture devoted solely to entertainment and sentimentality. God help us.
Pardon my slip. As the saying goes, God helps those who help themselves. But given there is a universal religious impulse, as inwardly insistent as physical hunger is outwardly real, there’s less and less food that satisfies from any quarter. So much of what passes for spirituality these days is either the residues of old time religion, or the shell game of New Age gurus.
The resurgence (or is it regurgence?) of papal ring kissing has become a staple in the global media. But it demonstrates the utter hollowness of religious institutions in the global culture, originating and emanating from America.
Besides, Pope Francis has twice demonstrated that he’s not even new wine in old wineskins, as he pretends and the media showers him. His ugly reaction to a UN report charging that the Vatican has been more concerned with the “preservation of the reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims” during the worldwide child abuse revelations was telling.
Twice, the pope wrongly and egregiously said: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.” The media sycophants ran the quotes but continued the sycophancy.
Of course, we should expect the dying institutions of print and televised news to uphold the dying institutions of organized religion. What else are they going to report, their own demise?
Entertainment and spirituality has become one thing, driven by a global celebrity culture that Pope Francis gives his imprimatur, no matter how much he protests his star status. Witness Francis’s master manipulation of his image, and the media’s fawning reportage of him.
From a genuinely religious perspective, because priestly pedophilia and Vatican cover-up alone the first thing Jesus would do upon his long-awaited Second Coming would be to disavow any connection with the Roman Catholic Church.
Let’s get serious. There’s a kind of race going on between those adapting to man’s increasing maladaptation, and the maladapted like me working to bring about a new human adaptation altogether.
Awakening is an inherently inward and private phenomenon. It is individual but not individualistic. The essence of awareness to my mind is conveyed in the phrase “eyes that have been bathed in emptiness.” The word I use for that is meditation, but the word isn’t the thing, and doesn’t matter. Another person might use the word contemplation, or even prayer (though not in any supplicating sense). Few proponents would say ‘navel gazing’ however, but if this is what’s meant by that derogatory term, I’ll defend it.
Speaking personally, if I don’t inwardly bathe in emptiness at least three times a week, the dirt of the world and residue of experience begin to overwhelm me. That is my maladaptation, and I’ve nurtured it all my life. To my way of thinking, it is what a human being does.
It’s fine to build fast electric cars and commercial rockets to supply the space station and go to Mars. But if people think that technology will save the planet and humanity from the ravages of man, they’re not just mistaken; they’re part of the problem.
To know one is the future is cold comfort when one has no place in the present. Change happens, but transmutation doesn’t just happen—we have to keep doing the spadework of self-knowing, observing alone and questioning together. A minority of people is actually doing the former, but there are very few groups of people actually questioning together.
An awakening human being is no longer a social animal. He or she still likes and relates to people—indeed, much more deeply and compassionately—but not as part of a group, not with identification or identity.
Identification is always with a group; identity is always of the self. Both belong to the past, and no longer serve the present. As such, upholding and promoting them can only generate more and more disorder and chaos.
Methods, techniques and systems of meditation are antithetical to true meditation, because we can’t use the tools of thought to quiet the noise of thought. They only put the mind to sleep, or hypnotize or trick it into being quiet.
Observing the movement of thought/emotion without the observer is the key. When awareness and attention are passively brought to bear on the movement of thought/emotion, they grow quicker than thought, and quiet the mind completely.
The real test of meditation is in how one reacts or responds in relationship. And the distinction between reaction and response is the difference between ignorance and wisdom.