Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Vast, FREE Energy Field That We Are

What I've been mulling lately is the fact that humanity itself has for eons been an energy commodity, one we've self-directed and used in service to whatever it is we desired to create. Our energy has gifted us the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the great cathedrals of Chartres and Notre Dame. It's gifted us a global library of wisdom that is overwhelming in its breadth and scope. It's gifted us telescopes and space ships, electron microscopes and super-colliders. It's produced technologies to make our lives better, and technologies so destructive we could ruin the ability of this planet to host complex life forms for many thousands of years. Human energy is, when we examine it from this perspective, a great beast of a resource, one that - if we cooperated - could be consciously directed and applied in service to whatever shared vision we chose to hold as a species. Never mind fossil fuels, wind energy, geothermal or solar power; the greatest energy pool available to us is humanity itself. That's because solar, wind and fossil fuels can't think. They aren't creative, they don't know beauty, they can't feel what we feel, know what we know, love what we love or desire what we desire to create. While we can still steward them in support of our visions and ingenious designs, they can't produce those dreams on our behalf. Only we can do that.

For thousands of years, it seems that what we've chosen to create using our vast and growing repository of human creativity and physical energy has been a society that services the desires and whims of a wealthy few, whose happiness is attained by purchasing the energy and output of many, many others. In essence, that's because we've been selling our time and physical labor to the highest bidder, in exchange for the cash we need to purchase the products of other people's labor and creative output (energy = reward.) This arrangement has led to constant imbalances between the haves and the have nots, because in every era some few people have been able to capitalize more fully on what they had to offer in comparison to the offerings of others. They found themselves at the right time, in the right place, with the right idea to resolve the right challenge, and connected with just the right people to help them create it. Whatever it was that enabled the output of one person's creative energy to be desired by many, it's clear that a few humans in every generation have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, while the rest of the people struggled to put in their time and take out whatever they could get in exchange for their own hard work. The fundamental inequity in that system is that whenever someone comes up with something new that happily advances the whole of human civilization, our system rewards them with material wealth far beyond their capacity to spend it in a given lifetime. As more and more inventions explode on the scene, more and more material wealth gets bestowed on those few lucky persons. Because there's a limit to how much material wealth exists on this planet, while the human race can expand and reproduce indefinitely, we've lately run into trouble with that formula for success.

This defines the economic system we devised thousands of years ago when material wealth seemed infinite, much of the planet was still an unexplored mystery and the human population was but a fraction of what it now is. That system has not only caused imbalance, it's led to multi-generational imbalances, because monetary wealth (unlike stores of grain or cattle that rot and die) could be passed down from parent to child. Children of the wealthy quickly began to apply a whole new economic formula that trumped energy = reward. They found they could use the power of their inherited wealth to purchase whatever they wanted in the open market without having to invest their own energy in productive social pursuits (money = power.) Centuries ago we labeled such people royalty. Today they're simply called the upper class. In any case, for as long as we've employed an energy = reward system, it's fostered a division between those who daily have to sell enough of their energy to provide for their own survival, and those who do not. Of late the imbalance between these two classes has widened precipitously. It's gotten so bad that we're facing imminent social and economic collapse, because the billions of people who today need to sell their daily energy can no longer find buyers who will pay them what it takes for them to survive.

Technology is partly responsible for the fix we're in. Where technology has taken us over the past few hundred years is into a mechanical replacement cycle. Fossil fuels are now being fed into machines that, in turn, replace human energy in the production process. Machines don't demand wages, benefits, have medical issues or family problems or negative attitudes. They don't question authority, and they don't wonder why they're creating what they're producing. Fixing a machine when it breaks down is much simpler than dealing with a person and all their feelings, needs and wants. When we retire a machine we can throw it away without mercy or compassion, or take it apart and recycle its many parts.

In a post-industrial society, human energy is now no longer as necessary for the production of goods and services as it once was. We even measure that by tracking what's called "productivity." Productivity is a way of determining the amount of goods and services produced per man-hour of labor. As more and more products are produced using fewer and fewer man-hours, productivity increases. This is good news for producers since it increases their profitability, but it's bad news for humanity, which needs to sell more of its man-hours so it can pay its societal bills. Meanwhile, the pool of human energy (which translates into man-hours) has grown huge over the years - we now have nearly seven billion people on this planet! That means human energy, which is in lower demand, has been getting cheaper than even the price of fossil fuels. This increased competition to sell human energy to fill the few remaining slots where human energy is still required for production or service has driven down the price of human energy on the open market. Additionally, globalization has enabled businesses to seek out the absolute cheapest human energy pools and draw upon them to produce the goods they create. Unconsciously then, we've elevated the value of using technology to cheaply produce goods and services above the value of caring for the human lives that are supposed to consume those goods and services.

This imbalance is unsustainable. Not only because it cheapens human life, but because in the long run, the energy = reward formula entirely breaks down as the imbalance between the haves and the have nots widens. When people are denied the opportunity to input their energy into society via the open market, they are likewise denied the opportunity to earn monetary rewards. And what are those rewards, but cash prizes (allowances, really) that enable us to pay our mortgages, purchase cars, buy energy, food and clothing, provide education and medical care for our families - all of which ARE the products and services being offered for sale by the for-profit business establishment?

The are really only two ways around this systemic breakdown without redesigning the entire system. The first is to outright gift money to the people who can't get jobs, so they can infuse that cash into the for-profit engine and keep the machinery running and themselves alive. This is often derisively called, "the nanny state." The second option is for businesses (and the wealthy people who run them) to bypass serving most human needs altogether, mainly by making products that other corporations need and that governments will purchase, or by making products that primarily serve the needs of the very rich. An example would be the continuous production of new war machinery, which governments can then use to blow up other countries' war machinery, along with those expendable people who aren't contributing much to their society anyhow. Governments can then contract with the weapons companies and pay them to make more of the destroyed war machinery, only this time better and stronger, thereby keeping the business "economy" running. Where budget cuts occur in this type of corporate state are in the arenas of public health, education and welfare, as well as the arts and other human services that the jobless folks can't pay for anymore. The general population in such a state is provided only with as much as people need to barely survive so they can continue to energize the ongoing production of war machinery, and nothing more. Another example of how this type of state functions would be through a stock market and banking system where the wealthy can buy and sell each others' holdings and try to make even more money off of each other by using the money they've already made, without offering any new products or services to the general public. When companies in this kind of state do offer a service to the public, it's usually grudgingly, for their survival needs alone, and on such onerous terms it enables companies to bleed as much free cash as possible from a struggling, stressed population without offering them much value in return.

Until we first realize this is exactly the kind of state that we're creating, and that the political battle being waged today is a war of values between the nanny state and the corporate state - neither of which serve humanity's long term interests - we can't fix it. When enough of us do realize it, painful as it may be to accept the unvarnished truth, we will likely need to redesign our entire economic paradigm. The old energy = reward formula clearly cannot hold, since it already failed us in the past. Meanwhile, it's getting clearer all the time that the money = power formula is only increasing our social imbalance and creating more suffering. So then, what formula might we wish to consciously adopt to replace those outmoded equations?

I would humbly suggest we go with something like wisdom = value added. Unless we end the practice of materially rewarding people (paying them allowances) in exchange for their physical effort and instead begin to celebrate the wondrous, diverse and unique creative capacity that is contained within every human life, our species is likely to continue to suffer, struggle and experience stress. The thing is, even while our supply of fossil fuels is running dangerously low and we're discovering the risks of nuclear fission, we still have plenty of energy available to us - it's called human creativity, ingenuity, talent, skill and physical ability. Wisdom, which emerges from the sum totality of every individual life experience, seems to be something we can produce in infinite supply as we employ our human energy for the sake of our own evolution. To value and nurture what we can produce in seemingly infinite supply (wisdom) means we can create eternal value added so long as we thrive. In a very real sense, humanity has the innate capacity to become a self-designing perpetual motion machine, utilizing the wisdom gleaned from past generations and all their trial and error experiments - combined with the energy, ingenuity and creative capacity of the people alive in the present - to construct an ever-better platform for new generations to then build upon. Right now, we have on this planet seven billion amazingly diverse minds and bodies that carry within them a vast potential to contribute the best of what they are to the world at large. We're just tragically wasting much of that energy, allowing people the world over to suffer and die unloved, unsupported and unappreciated, because we think we no longer "need" their human labor to earn a profit.

So here's the deeper question we may wish to answer: For what purpose are we focusing on earning a financial profit, if not to better the world in which we live so that all of us can thrive, ourselves included? What good will all our money be if we don't create and maintain a healthy, stable human society? And because happiness is a huge factor in maintaining human health and stability, shouldn't we be supporting the expansion of happiness in everyone?

Perhaps one solution to the imbalance that presently threatens to topple modern society is to cease perceiving ourselves (and each other) as mere energy units to be bought and sold, or as liabilities or assets on some vast global business accounting statement. Perhaps the solution lies in remembering who and what we are - living, feeling, reasoning creatures within a vast living ecosystem - and then asking ourselves why it was that we started evolving and building societies to begin with. Was it to ensure that everyone on the planet would be endlessly enslaved to a monetary for-profit paradigm (energy = reward?) Or was it so we could personally suck all the juice out of life at the expense of everything else (money = power?) Or was it, perhaps, to help everyone and everything alive live better, feel better and become the best they can be as they mature, so we can all benefit from what everyone and everything else has to offer?

Perhaps we'll never know what the original intent of societal construction was when it first began, but surely we can thoughtfully consider what we'd like it to become - what feels best for us to create in the here and now - and then aim for that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Power of Perspective

It's easy to look around today and notice that our world is filled with chaos. State sponsored violence is on the rise in many parts of the world. All over this planet people are starving and dying, natural disasters are disrupting things, climate is changing, species are disappearing, resources are being rapidly depleted and civilization is quaking from massive shifts in human behavior.

Many of our traditional religious teachings inform us that humanity is in some sense broken, that we're atoning for the sins of our past human failings. The laws of karma and original sin are examples of such teachings. From the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve's consumption of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is a story most Muslims, Christians and Jews alike grew up hearing and believing. It teaches us that mankind disobeyed god's command to accept his law without question, thereby triggering a cascade of tragic life events that are still reverberating in our world today. That's why, whenever a global tragedy strikes, we hear biblical literalists describing the event as god wreaking vengeance upon humanity for having violated one of his laws. Now I don't know about you, but that description of humanity's relationship with god as one of a naughty child who's being punished has never felt to me like it's the truth. It's uninspiring, and it makes my heart clench with fear and guilt instead of expand with gratitude and love.

Meanwhile, I've noticed that our modern scientific teachings feel equally uninspiring. Scientists scramble constantly to design new mathematical formulas (or beef up the old ones) to explain the fascinating new things we're observing, but much of what they've been doing for the past fifty years has added little of genuine value to the compendium of human wisdom. If I discover a color I've never seen before and give it the name "lefleus," what have I actually learned about the nature of the color? Or about how colors work, or why they arise, or how they're all connected to each other? My sense of modern theoretical physics is that it's long been doing just that - creating complex mathematical equations and slapping them down like names on what we're observing - without really explaining what we're seeing or how the cosmos fits together.

After years of trying to reconcile the world's spiritual and intellectual teachings with my own experiences and observations of life, I've discovered that for me to feel happy and my heart to be at peace I must continually shape (and reshape) my own perspective of what and how I imagine this world to be, and then live according to my own realizations. Because my observations, feelings and life experiences too often contradicted what I'd been told to believe was true, the constant confusion I experienced had created within me a powerful cognitive dissonance that made me unhappy and downright mentally ill. That meant I either had to start trusting myself and my own sense of things, or else I had to accept without question the things other people wanted me to believe.

Tough call. Who was I to imagine I might better be able to understand and define my place in the cosmos than all the amazing gurus, avatars, thinkers and doers that have walked this world before me? Wasn't it true they were the smartest, most brilliantly innovative, most spiritually "tapped in" people who ever lived? Some have even been labeled gods and are worshiped by millions today. Then again, how did they get to be that way? By accepting everything they'd been taught without question, or by making the second choice - the harder choice - to trust themselves to be able to set out on a journey of intellectual inquiry and spiritual self-discovery and ultimately find a way home? What each of them had in common, I realized, was that they'd somehow found within themselves enough courage to trust in their own capacities. That empowered them to decide for themselves how they wished to perceive their singular precious life. Later, as their perceptions grew more clear, they then figured out how to expand that understanding through the broader lens of our shared humanity, so that others might find the courage within to embark upon their own journeys.

The moment I accepted my own truth - that I quite simply didn't believe a lot of the things I'd been taught since I was a child - I realized I needed to invest a lot more time in contemplation, study and actual experience of this mystery in which I am embedded. I also discovered, after much frustration and effort, that there exists a significant gap between what I know to be true about life when I'm in the thick of it (simply being) and what I'm able to say about it when I try to describe or define my experience in ways that other people can understand. I began to notice very quickly how many people seemed positively eager to argue with me over the descriptions of life I put forth, as if they could negate the truth of my experiences by challenging the language I used to describe them. What that's taught me is how to listen carefully and respectfully to others so I can hear how they are describing their own experiences, and to discern whether they're describing something that's similar to my own understanding using slightly different language, or if they're describing a life experience that's different from my own. I've found I can learn much from either situation without making anyone else's descriptions or experiences "wrong." I've also learned it's easier not to try to discuss what I've experienced or defend the way I've chosen to describe it other than with those who are - like me - sincerely trying to appreciate this mystery we're all experiencing, and who aren't convinced they already have all the answers.

If you're wondering by now where I've come to after years of intensive focus on the question, "what is life?" let me share with you what I've come to understand, which is precious little! You're free to quarrel with these thoughts, expand on them, embrace those that resonate with you or discard them in favor of your own interpretation. I simply offer them by way of explanation of what I've been doing, and am not attached to any as absolute truths. I change my mind all the time these days rather than allow it to grow calcified around concepts I'm not entirely sure are true, and am happier for the experience of that!

As yet, all I can know with even the slightest degree of certainty is that - most of the time - I'm sincerely grateful to be alive, and that the life force that has both created and moves through me seems to be a unified field that creates, animates and activates everything in this cosmos. I've come to perceive birth and death as doorways for consciousness, and sense that the life force that moves through those doorways is a force that has no opposite. I know that my spirit soars when I experience beauty, and it feels awe when it honors the vastness and diversity of this cosmos. Whenever I feel anything less than a soaring awe for life, all I need do is step outside and look up. In fact, I’ve learned that, no matter where I am, when I’m fully conscious of and present to life I hold the power to invite my spirit to soar continuously, because I can notice beauty anywhere and feel awe whenever I cease thinking and simply stop to BE with all that is.

I know my heart sings when it feels love, whether through the giving or the receiving. I know that when my heart sings of love I feel that every step I take is an act of grace. I've discovered I hold the power to invite my heart to sing all the time by unconditionally loving what I encounter, because I carry love within me in a seemingly endless supply. Loving life has become an important part of my conscious daily practice, and it's helped me to love myself as well as all else.

I know my mind rejoices whenever it reaches a breakthrough understanding around something it didn't previously comprehend. I've found that the truth is never mundane, never boring, never uninspiring or fear provoking. In fact, only my questions provoke my fears, never the answers I'm given. I’ve realized I hold the power to rejoice constantly, because I've come to recognize and appreciate my own astounding level of ignorance, so I now know I have the capacity to be continuously surprised and endlessly delighted by the introduction of new ideas and understandings.

As for my physical body, it feels relaxed and at peace whenever my spirit, heart and mind are in aligned focus around my spirit's intention. I know that I hold the power to feel relaxed and be at peace in every moment, because I've learned how to consciously align my spirit, heart and mind. When those three aspects of my inner being are working well together - with my spirit setting the highest intention, my heart pointing in the most loving direction and my mind selecting the wisest and surest approach - my body will not hesitate to calmly and peacefully take the desired journey, wherever it leads.

That's about it - all I really know about life in a few paragraphs. Along the way I've had to let go of many longstanding, firm beliefs I once held around concepts like liberty, the pursuit of happiness, patriotism, freedom, the value of material comforts, democracy, hard work, the special nature of humans and so forth, because I found them to be confusing to hold with real integrity. Most of the time I found I couldn't align my spirit, heart and mind around how to fully express those values in every situation, and that instead I was investing an inordinate amount of time asking my mind to explain to the rest of me why I wasn't able to do so. The only value I've found I can hold and express with any consistent degree of integrity, where all of me can remain in perfect alignment, seems to be around the value of love. In every situation I encounter, I've discovered that - if I don't know what to do - I can always ask myself the question, "Is this loving?" before I say or do anything to impact the life of another living being, or even the planet itself. If the answer is yes, I can feel confident that whatever I'm about to say or do will serve the situation, and that all of me will agree with it so there will be no self-rebukes or mental wars of rationalization later on.

Lately I'm even beginning to let go of my cherished beliefs around the existence of any original human wound, or sin. I've begun to wonder if we've been told for so long that we're wounded beings and have caused (and continue to cause) deep wounding to others and to this world that we've come to believe without question that this is truly who we are, that our human nature is such that we'll never be whole, or well, or healed. I'm even beginning to suspect that the wounds I worked so hard to "heal" in my earlier years may well have been the products of my fevered imagination, beliefs I created about myself based on the stories I was told (as well as the many stories I told myself) about the nature of this world and what we humans have believed ourselves to be.

What I'm discovering, as I center more deeply in the intention and direction of life being offered up by my spirit, is that my spirit feels indestructible, indomitable, irrepressible and fully empowered to take what may be an eternal journey toward infinite self-perfection. I don't have a clue how long it may take to get there, how many colorful body suits my spirit may try on and cast off along the way, how many sensory capacities, life experiences and thought processes my spirit may choose to cloak itself in, or how many uniquely different life forms it may wish to encounter and engage, but I'm okay with not knowing all that at this point in my journey. I have to be!

Actually, I'm doing my best these days to stop asking questions of spirit or imagining anything, and to instead notice what IS and discover if I can bring more love to whatever I encounter. When I love whatever is I no longer feel wounded, or broken, or fearful, or less than I imagine I ought to be, because those thoughts and feelings seem to dissolve in the wondrous ocean of love that fills me up as I give it away. I've therefore come to embrace that I'm eternally evolving, not endlessly healing, and to love my growth instead of curse my brokenness.

So then, now that all these thoughts and words and feelings have been committed to paper: What IS life, exactly? I have to confess that in truth, I still don't know. Then again, perhaps we're not individually meant to know the entire truth of life so much as experience it in its infinite unfolding, and if so I'm okay with this truly amazing journey!