Thursday, September 23, 2010

From Polarity to Harmony: The Win/Win Way Through

I'm noticing how polarized humanity seems these days, across virtually all aspects of human life. Meanwhile, our challenges grow more pressing every day. That's generating more fear, along with a greater willingness to implement new ideas. While it doesn't seem we have a shortage of new ideas, we do seem to be lacking any that offer a new solution. Instead, we're proposing more radicalized versions of the same old, tired solutions we've already tried and that haven't worked before.

An either/or approach to anything sets up a win/lose game. And when faced with a win/lose challenge, humanity's position (because we can be VERY stubborn creatures where our competing values and beliefs are concerned!) is to dig in our heels and fight to win the battle for our side, no matter the cost. While there are shades of gray in this present battle and nuances involved in every issue, when we distill down the fight to its fundamental polarity, the essence of it is an all out, no holds barred ideological war between the "no self other than god" camp and the "self is all there is" camp - which, ironically, will collectively leave us with a sense of loss no matter which side wins.

The question we must ask ourselves before this battle progresses much further is this: might we be fighting so strenuously because there are relative aspects of truth to BOTH these sides? What if the deeper truth is we are a both/and species, living in a both/and world? Might there truly BE a unified field that is indeed greater than us all (a higher cosmic intelligence, if you will) AND an existential material reality that is urging us, as uniquely individuated expressions, to be more, do more and know more as we intelligently evolve?

Having "tried on" that theory to see how it fits, I've been delighted to find that a great deal of peace, joy and opportunity for higher self-expression and self-actualization has arisen as I've deepened into the experience of myself as both/and being. As an individuated being, I have increasingly come to know myself as a highly creative, loving and talented person. That awareness feels both marvelous and joyful - when I direct my creative energy in service to other people, and encourage them to express their own genius in service to others as well. It feels awful - because it creates in me a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety - if I use my gifts to enrich myself at the expense of others. Knowing myself to be an inextricable part of a unified field has helped me understand why life works that way.

What I've come to believe we're being called to do as a species, as well as to personally experience and integrate at this stage of our evolution, is to SYNTHESIZE two apparent polarities: the cosmos as "all thing" and the cosmos as "no thing." All-thing (a material expression) and No-thing (a non-material field of infinite potential) are not competing truths or realities. Together they form a unified system; one that creatively self-expresses as an ever-changing collection of unique forms. It seems likely that what we are in fact part of is an infinite field of ideas, feelings and perspectives, eternally expressing and perfecting itself through its creative use of form and self-perception. That field both objectively experiences and subjectively knows itself as something greater than the simple sum of its parts across space and time.

That lives; therefore we live.

Interestingly enough, any simple study of biology teaches us that for any organism to thrive, no matter its size or complexity, the whole must be greater than the sum of its many parts. Otherwise there would be no reason for those previously independent units, which were already wholes unto themselves, to form a larger unit and dedicate part of their energy to the maintenance and support of that larger structure. Each one of us is an amazing example of how such smaller unique wholes (in the form of the 100,000,000,000 cells in your own body) come together to create a living human being, which - because we have been gifted the power of self-awareness - we KNOW without any doubt is greater than the simple sum of its many cellular parts.

If we apply this objectively experienced and subjectively known truth to the universe that created and contains us all, it becomes apparent that everything is based on that one fundamental principal. Everywhere we turn, we find smaller wholes that have come together to create something finer than a simple addition of parts. If that's true for a water molecule, a rock, an orchid, a beaver, a person and a planet, why wouldn't it also be true for the cosmos that in turn contains all these things, including us?

What's amazing is that this rational (mind-based explanation) yet gnostic (able to be experienced) synthesis of the all-thing and the no-thing, when embraced as the truth about ourselves and applied to all else, generates enough energy to resolve all our current conflicts by moving us not to one side or the other of the self versus no-self battlefield, but by transporting us beyond that battlefield to a brand new playground ripe with possibilities.

Once we accept there is truth on both sides of the debate, and that neither was ever entirely right or wrong, we understand the only way for this war to end well for any of us is for us all to fuse the two half-truths into a much grander understanding of life, out of which solutions to our challenges will naturally emerge.

For example, the bitter political debate we're engaged in exposes the fundamental conflict between a form of collective (no-self) totalitarianism - appearing in its benevolent form as a disempowering nanny socialist state, and in its malevolent form as a murderously fear-based fascist state; and a form of supreme individual (all-self) chaos - appearing in its benevolent state as an inequitable and socially irresponsible libertarianism, and in its malevolent state as destructive and deadly anarchy. While each side has been promoting the most benevolent form of its preferred system for quite some time, what we're most likely to end up with, presuming this war continues unabated, is the most malevolent form of one or the other. That's because all attempts at compromise will be overrun by increasing violence and fear, creating an environment that sets people up to embrace the extremes for the sake of simple survival.

Any of the approaches outlined above generate a few positives and a whole host of problems for humanity down the line, because they are all half-systems. Since problems expand over time unless they're corrected, embracing a half-system will inevitably trigger a need for us to either legislate away personal freedoms over time through some form of externally imposed governance (a shift toward totalitarianism) or to forcibly overturn the collective half by force to provide more personal freedom (a shift toward chaos.)

The fact is, we've already seen all four of these models in action, yet none has managed to succeed well enough to convince its own citizens it's the ultimate social solution. If none can convince a majority of their own citizens they work, they surely won't be successful in convincing others to adopt their ideology over the long haul. Additionally, what we're just now learning is that tweaking a model that has already failed at its core only causes that model to fail in a different fashion, but in a more spectacular way because the tweaking keeps it afloat for a longer time.

We can synthesize our political polarities by acknowledging that an individual can't thrive without belonging to a healthy collective that offers ALL its members - no matter the circumstances of their birth or their physical gifts, challenges or intellect - a wide open pathway to self-fulfillment and joy. Nor can we create a healthy collective unless a majority of its members are healthy, self-actualized and willing to contribute some reasonable amount of time and energy to the support and ongoing nourishment of the collective.

Combining the needs of the individual with the needs of the collective is what's required to develop a whole-system model. While modern culture has, over time, left behind the old economic models in which a person was either born into wealth or poverty and basically stayed there forever (peerage and caste systems) the new paths to success we've created have been mainly offered to the children of the wealthy, members of the social majority and the most enterprising and talented spirits born among us. The paths to success narrow considerably for poor and middle class children, the culturally or racially disenfranchised and those born with mental, emotional or physical challenges. They disappear almost entirely for those who have the great misfortune to be born under violent totalitarian regimes or in desperately poor nations that lack infrastructure.

Even when these pathways DO lead a person to success - as they often do for the children of the wealthy and the middle class - they typically end before most children self-actualize. Our capitalistic system is designed to train us how to become adequate enough to enter the economic workplace and do okay in life. It doesn't encourage each of us to discover his or her own inner genius and nurture that to fruition, because our present half-system, which promotes the individual and neglects the larger collective has already grown so impoverished it needs the merely adequate energy of most of the able-bodied just to survive. To convince young people to cease aiming for self-actualization, we reward their bare bones development by training them to leverage adequacy to serve themselves and their family first, their close friends and the community second, and the larger society last - if they serve it at all. What we've failed to do is set any expectation that people have an ethical responsibility to gift of themselves back to the society that enabled them to achieve some measure of success. Perhaps that's because when we stunt a tree by starving it or forcing it to mature before its time, the limited fruit it produces won't be nearly enough to feed the animal kingdom.

That capitalistic nations don't ethically guide citizens toward serving the larger collective, combined with the way they reward selfishness, duplicity and greed, leads to a concentration of wealth in the hands of those few who manage to fully leverage their personal talents. The wealthy then hoard their money to protect themselves and to ensure a comfortable future for their offspring. Hoarding creates scarcity, which chokes off the pathways to success for the multitudes. That reduces the odds that our society as a whole will thrive. When only a few in a living system are happy while the majority are miserable, the system - as we know from biology - must either transform or collapse.

The global economic suffering we're observing today is symptomatic of the fact that a majority of people feel disenfranchised by their present system, which explains why they don't like to vote and don't want to pay taxes. In the West, that's the result of systems that originally placed too much emphasis on individuation and material success, and not enough on creating a healthy, sustainable society out of which enlightened, self-actualized people can consistently emerge.

The opposite approach, a system that inhibits personal self-actualization for the sake of the collective leads to totalitarianism applied through militarily enforced socialism, fascism and oppressive theocracies. We've witnessed how those forms of governance decimate free thought, hinder the exchange of knowledge and destroy artistic creativity. Enslaved people can't be stripped of their ability to think or imagine because that's an inherent aspect of human nature. Instead they must be made to fear using their innate abilities. That's because any capacity to imagine radical new ways of being and doing makes people dangerous to a state that depends on conformity for its survival. When imagination and freedom are suppressed too long however, the society loses its capacity to innovate, which means it can't address new challenges. The collapse of the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes testifies to the cancerous nature of a system that subverts individuation.

When we grasp that to date all our competing systems have been only half a design, it's becomes apparent that this endless war between the supporters of self-annihilation and the proponents of unfettered self-interest can't solve humanity's problems, no matter who wins. What's called for is a collective awakening to the realization that we are a both/and species, living in a both/and world. We are, by nature, imaginative, creative and unique life expressions, operating within a grander unified field; one whose abundance we are entitled to freely and fully draw upon in order to awaken our individual genius. Because we are entitled to draw upon its abundance, we are also beholden to gratefully pledge to it the excess fruits of our genius if we hope to thrive in a place of peace and prosperity.

That we've never before implemented a whole systems approach which supports the freedom of the individual while at the same time fostering our individual commitment to serve the unified field - and thus serve ourselves - is GOOD news! It points us in a radical new direction and offers a vision of what we might become if a majority (or even a large minority) of us discover the joy of becoming fully ourselves and then direct all our unleashed genius toward making life better for everyone and everything else around us - because that includes and benefits us over time.

The spiritual underpinning for all of this, the groundswell pulse of energy that is urging us to transform our failing economies, our governments, our educational systems, our judicial systems, our religious institutions and the way we interface with our planet and all other life forms, is flowing into humanity now in the form of a cosmic invitation to evolve. We're each being pressed by life itself to discover, hone and express ourselves as a beautifully unique note; then to express that note in human harmony. Achieve that, and what will be asked of us next is to play humanity's harmonic in concert with the rest of the living orchestra, in a way that renders the whole cosmic symphony grander and more beautiful than it was when we were playing out of tune in search of ourselves.

I, for one, can hardly wait to hear the melody.

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