Short of becoming monks, sannyasis or forest dwellers on the Olympic Peninsula, we have to grapple with the world and what is happening to humankind. Too many people, spiritually inclined or not, think they can separate themselves and live in purely personal terms, but that is a dead end road, for them and humanity.
Turning inward in the sense that the commentators in North America mean it—being concerned only with me and my family—is not an option. Doing so isn’t renunciation of the world; it’s resignation to self-centeredness and self-interest.
People can blame Washington, Kiev, or Brussels all they want, but we usually get the governments we deserve. If democracy means anything, it means that—however corrupt politics is in moneyed and militarized practice.
Even President Obama trips on the blame DC trope, as if he isn’t part of the problem. His ‘I’m above it all’ attitude has worn really thin, especially since he rode into office on a wave of hope and the promise of ‘transformation.’
It may seem absurd to talk about renouncing the world in such a materialistic culture and times, but the attraction of doing so, even a perverse form, is growing stronger amidst the ashes of the North American culture hearth. Indeed, the urge to turn one’s back on the world may be the last temptation on the path to illumination.
In Hinduism, the sannyasi is “a religious ascetic who has renounced the world by performing his or her own funeral and abandoning all claims to social or family standing.” ‘Performing his or her own funeral’ is over the top, but more and more people are ‘abandoning all claims to social or family standing,’ and that’s not a bad thing.
Of course, the motivation isn’t any sort of spiritual compunction, but because the old compact has collapsed, though politicians and mainstream media still echo the same tired refrains about jobs and manufacturing, competition and technology.
Corporations are transnational, and don’t operate in terms of nations or given peoples but rather maximizing their profits. Political discourse the world over is still nationalistic however, though it increasingly seems just for show and manipulation.
A struggle for what kind of global society we will create now that the old order has collapsed is underway, but it’s taking place below the radar of politicians and pundits. It’s occurring at a much deeper level than the news entertainment channels, running their partisan horse races even as they beat the dead horse of the body politic.
The vast majority of people, in the West at least, have given up on humanity, much less the present world, and to them this question must seem nonsensical. We aren’t talking about the world however, but the living generations, and the diversity of life on earth.
The closer one gets to the top of the high mountain, the harder it is to see. Clouds, fog and exhaustion combine to disorient, and progress is painfully slow, if there is progress at all.
I recently heard a Google executive, who had previously worked at high levels in government say that the only area in which one still has the feeling of creativity is technology. This was met with near jubilation, as if it proved that technology would save us.
It can’t and won’t. In the same conversation the head of Google, when asked what the Net would like in a decade, replied, “like electricity.” By that he meant it will be so embedded in our lives we’ll take it for granted. As long as it’s working of course.
The more dependent and interconnected we become on the analog of consciousness—the World Wide Web—the more eroded and indistinguishable we become. The antidote is to cultivate an inner life, since that will prepare you if the breakthrough occurs, and sustain you if it doesn’t.
With few exceptions, both as individuals and cultures, the immense faculties of the human brain have been used for material, outward advances. Promoting that same orientation, as the politicians and experts are doing, is irresponsible, even unconscionable.
Machines will soon be able to assume most of the faculties of the brain. That means the new technologies will either lead to the atrophying of the brain, or be used in a completely different way, to support the spiritual development of the human being.
The radical change in direction for humanity from outer to inner won’t just happen. Enough people have to take responsibility for themselves and humanity to make it happen.
That entails creating the space and stillness for insight every day. The brain actually grows with insight, but it shrinks with non-stop ingestion of information and the accretion of memory. Leave that to the computers.
This is exactly the opposite of what the vast majority of the supposed experts on the brain are promoting. But it’s true, and it will prevail, hopefully sooner rather than later.