The following grew as response to a friend’s email this morning:
Enlightened or Unenlightened Self-Interest, with Gratitude for the Former!
A truly unfortunate aspect to life here on this earth, is so many who have stood for justice across so much time, cannot just once, say for a 24 hour time, show up en masse to lecture us like the errant and short-sighted fools that we are, to set us straight, at least straighter!
Imagine what a stunning experience for fully fleshed humans that would be!
(Any guesses how quickly we’d rationalize and ‘explain it away’ once the lecture was over and the extraordinary voices of reason, observing from their vantage overview location, faded into the mist?)
When I was a young adult student I was told that Mark Twain eventually became quite cranky and unhappy, in large part because he lost faith in humanity. I thought at the time: “Not me! I’m not going to let human foolishness turn me bitter”!
So far, despite a few dips toward bitterness, I’ve managed to stay optimistic. (I do become extremely impatient, fed up, and sometimes angry — just not ‘bitter’, not yet.)
I do not ward off bitterness because as broad cultures and political bodies we demonstrate genuine enlightenment and wisdom. We do not so demonstrate!
I am able to ward off cynicism and bitterness because scattered everywhere, thoroughly mixed into our larger foolishness, are countless individuals and groups who DO demonstrate wise enlightened intelligence, wide-scope awareness of the interconnectedness of All That Is.
These individuals and groups work constantly in creative ways to develop the best we can offer. Their efforts are stewardship in the best meaning of that word.
If they work on ‘earth care’, they incorporate ‘human need’ into their solutions. If they work on ‘human need’, they incorporate needs of all other life into their solutions. They acknowledge this earth supports all life as we know it.
They recognize the unusual qualities in human beings that give us almost infinite capacity to do both harm and good. They recognize that as humans, we have capacity to honor the sacredness of All That Is. They make best effort to “tame the wild ox” for the sake of allowing the best to develop while curbing impulse that divides.
They practice ‘forward risk analysis’, realizing solutions for X can too easily create very damaging conditions for “all the other letters of the alphabet” if “unintended consequences” are not considered, not given descriptions in possibility. They comprehend the damage done to all when oppression and brutality rule any.
They become wisely creative by drawing from the best guidances offered across historical time. They blend “spiritual” wisdom/teaching with secular psychology from more recent times. They “see” how these two ‘disparate’ sources of knowledge often lead to same wisdom. (Psychology has long been ‘intuitive’, as can be noted in nearly all ‘pre-psychology’ human thought and action; it has only become articulated in language to explore behavior from the late 19th Century.)
These thoughtful stewards separate wheat from chaff with more clarity than is common. They comprehend mis-guided use of wisdom teachings, mis-guided use of what has been learned about human consciousness, and make a point to guard against solutions based on misguided use.
They take correction in a time when ‘correction’ is often felt as “attack”. They understand no one among them, despite capacity to “apprehend the whole” is free of “base” human inclination. They “rest easy” with this, more easily than is common, and are thus able to reflect, to revise “solution” more comfortably than is common.
For these thinkers/doers, the word “inclusive” means what we like to think it means.
Their driving “agenda” is not self-serving – or, as I was recently reminded when listening to one of these in an interview – they appreciate that “self-serving” can only yield best outcome when all are served. (Or put a more inclusive way, when all IS served!)
Enlightened self-interest vs unenlightened self-interest.
I want finally to speak to my use of the word ‘sacred’. I have come recently to use this word to mean Everything!
I do not float about in some abstract mental pleasure of worship. I do not attach my use of ‘sacred’ to any set of ‘religious’ teachings. I mean that after many years of wondering about “truth” … after many years of this wondering wandering, I have come to the ‘conclusion’ (more like an ‘understanding’) that ALL is ‘sacred’. Religion has less and less to do with identifying what is ‘sacred’.
We carry inborn capacities that are simply astonishing. So does everything that is ‘not us’. It’s all ‘sacred’ because we did not invent these capacities. They came along with us. Nor did we invent the astonishing capacities to be explored in earth system dynamics, plant, animal, or other life.
It bears repeating as ‘term definition’: All That Is arises from a mysterious capacity of unfolding creation that us earth-bound human folk cannot claim as our invention. Therefore, I separate it from “who we are” by labeling All That Is as ‘sacred’.
This earth, and All That Is here with us, comes under our stewardship not because we declare it so, but because among all that arrives and develops here, we humans are the one representation of consciousness, so far as we know, with capacity to consistently offer intelligent care OR muck it up and create immense, far-reaching harm.
We had best come to “know ourselves” at this level of understanding. It’s the only way we can make any rational claim to “intelligence” of an unusual and far-reaching kind. To the extent we are unwilling or can’t be bothered to understand our own human nature, we risk continued creation of havoc and misery.
There is a large body of individuals and groups who for the most part are consistent in mindfulness about our human nature.
It is because of these people, their intent, that I do not become stuck in cynical or bitter attitudes.
At the same time, I believe we are running amok in our broad cultures and political maneuverings . All over the world this is the case. “American” consumerism, materialism, originates in understandable and universal human traits. It has universal appeal and it shows!
Twain was ‘onto’ this about us. He tried to speak to it. People often enjoyed his wit and wisdom, but it did not have a lot of effect toward core change, did not lead from mindlessness to mindfulness. Twain’s experiments in teaching have been repeated by ever so many who have wanted to create greater “awakening”.
Unenlightened self-interest has been our way. For individuals and groups it yields more immediate results, is more quickly reassuring. Unenlightened self-interest feeds ‘egoic’ need, feels quite satisfying, brings experience of power over perceived threat, and is also “way more fun”!
On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to follow choice of “enlightened self-interest”, we can also experience immediate results of reassurance, satisfaction, power, and “fun”!
So what’s the big deal?
Yes, indeed, what IS the ‘big deal’ that prevents us from settling into a future-path that honors that which is sacred?
It’s a question we would do well to ask over and over until we begin to put together understanding that lets us choose stewardship over ‘conquering’ this earth and All That Is.
… My thoughts for the morning!
And My Best! –MaggieAnn