From Fear to Understanding
By Henry Ramsey
Ask the Internet Gurus how to make money online and they will tell you to create and sell how to ebooks. Online or off, there is a never ending demand for information. Repetitive, packaged and repackaged advice on every conceivable topic from winning in business, body beautification and retiring with riches, to finding and maintaining relationships or solving any problem from hair loss to golf score. With the core of human nature being mired in triviality and seemingly unchangeable, there are no shortages of the mundane that people fret over.
Yet, despite the proliferation of articles, magazines and ebooks, by self proclaimed experts, you as an individual, inside your skin, all delusions aside, still don’t know who you truly are, why you are here, or how to fill that persistently hungry void within. What has all this frenzy of how to and self help accomplished? Even in this information age you remain casting about in the dark, lost in the wilderness of self obsession.
So many seek external solutions to what they intuitively know can only be realized inwardly, through introspection, and yes, sacrifice. Ironically, you are sacrificing now, but wrongly, and to no avail. Sacrificing your time, your coin and your energy in the pursuit of accumulation and diversion; anything to escape being alone with yourself. You have taken the easy route and bought into shallow labels like success, status and possessions. However, as you will see, these temporal illusions are merely the blind leading the blind to the brink of chaos. Humanity's ill conceived excesses, and lack of common sense and foresight, are spawning a confluence of unintended events, hurtling mankind toward ecological, financial and social disaster.
It is not a lack of specific information from which these problems arise, but rather from the misguided underlying assumptions about what you think and do. Occluded perception inhibits real change. Despite a veneer of modern day sophistication, most people continue to believe in the primitive notion of survival of the fittest, the prey on, or be prey mentality, the me first syndrome. Conventional counsel, rousing motivational inspiration, and the latest new approaches, for the most part, only serves to reinforce the existing outmoded model of competition and reaction, instead of cooperation and forethought.
How is it possible to go beyond these assumptions? As disaster survivors can attest, it is often through loss or disruption of what was assumed to be essential that presents opportunity. An unanticipated chance to become free from blind attachment to limiting things and beliefs. This is the shock treatment method, but the same results can be realized through the overt choice to recognize and reject propaganda, and to see beyond the immediate and expedient. It is the degree of awareness of our responsibility and humanity that determines the quality of our true influence in the world, and in turn, is what gives quality to being human.
Evidence from all fronts of worldly sustenance indicates that mankind is at a crossroads. The technology of destruction is approaching doomsday proportions, and the gulf between the rich and poor everywhere widens, elevating hostile passions to overflowing. Further adding to the rift, profligate industry and its sycophants in government continue to plunder natural resources to feed unrestrained waste and unsustainable growth.
In mankind's rush to progress, silence, calm and tranquility have nearly been obliterated . Humanity becomes ever more dispirited as the extent and degree of special moment and beauty in life diminishes. You know intuitively that there is more to life than a lot of struggle, some glitter, and then you die. You unsuccessfully seek relief by filling your mind with endless distractions, mostly 'sounds and fury that signify nothing'. You up the volume on nonsense or self destructive foibles, but only find transient comfort in accumulation and diversion, meanwhile giving little thought to contemplation or introspection. You are shadowed by an undefinable and indescribable fear, a kind of dread, which makes you anxious and susceptible to viewing any impediment to your routine as a uninvited intrusion, obstacle or threat.
The interdependence and proximity of technological systems upon which life now depends allows for access to archived knowledge and communication potential, but concurrently has virtually eliminated privacy, making everyone vulnerable to intrusion and abuse. Science has managed to break down and dissect practically every aspect of
the physical world into its component parts, dispelling mysteries that heretofore were left to the imagination or exploited by organized religion. Science manipulates the pieces to alleviate drudgery and disease, while also providing for the creation of weapons of mass destruction. What has been missing throughout the many divergent ways of looking at the world is the understanding and appreciation that all things from atoms to galaxies are systems. Mega systems to sub systems that are all interdependent on each other, a web of relationships where everything influences everything else.
Living bodies are systems comprised of subsystems. Consciousness can be explained in terms of highly evolved sensory systems. People are complex physical and metaphysical systems that participate with one another through relationships. Past and present relationships engrave patterns in both the conscious and unconscious minds forming the architecture with which to approach new relationships. Wheels within wheels. Thought too is a system, blending, in each of us to varying degrees, the elements of intuition, will, emotion and intellect.
Without the intervention of the human being, there is no right and wrong, good or bad. Nature is neutral, it just is. It is the human being that gives any system its moral quality. Our perceptions of any system can be seen as either stable or in ascension or decline. Unfortunately for us, our moral ascensions are always more vulnerable and harder to execute than the declines. Like water in a drain, declines spiral downward gaining momentum as they go. Building any human devised system, like a friendship or improving society, requires hard work analogous to pulling against gravity. It requires overcoming suspicions and doubt; discerning real motivations and objectives.
There is only one known force, which isn't really a force at all, but a link, that allows the human being to rise above his suspicious, fearful self. The embodiment of love. Embracing love elevates human systems, allowing them to spiral upwards and to evolve creatively in the ascension. Love induces systems to blossom in the same way that fear causes systems to decline. Fear is to human endeavor as gravity is to nature, unyielding. Love can defeat fear, but it requires an effort of gravity defying intensity. Because of this effort, and due to the fact that human weakness can masquerade as success, all human systems must struggle to be in ascension, and too easily loose their momentum and revert to decline.
Fear wants to dominate love, and for the most part succeeds. Love is more than just caring for someone. Love is an abiding devotion and adherence to principle... something one cannot possess. It is an unselfish thought or action whose ripples creates beauty and harmony. Love is a devotion to an ideal which works against inertia and entropy. It is the devotion necessary to learn things, coupled with the humility to emulate those who have gone before, and the discipline to practice. Communities where people act together to create symmetry grater than their individual capabilities, embodies love. When a mother gives up her life for a child is love. Love is the virtue of thrift, commitment, discipline, compassion and caring. These virtues when expressed as love represent that near vanished notion of authenticity. Love brings authenticity to thought and action. Love is a universal link, but because of our unique gift of choice, it takes conscious effort to make it manifest within ourselves and towards others particularly outside the family network .
Fear is self-fulfilling. It brings about the very afflictions it tries to avoid. Imperialism and tyranny, like a jealous controlling individual, drives the participants to infidelity and insurrection whether or not there was grounds for suspicion in the first place. Giving credence to fear is its justification. Fear assumes the worst and compounds its own anxiety and discomfort, leading to spiritual demoralization and helplessness, hindering and distorting beneficial thought and action.
Fear is a primitive emotion that served well in alerting us to immediate threat, a critical faculty in our early survival. As citizens of the developed world, most our fears are now self-induced, a form of hysteria where uncertainty engenders yet more fear. Love, on the other hand, is the spirit to which human kind, in its reflective moments, would like to aspire. But it is fear to which most immediately descend when under pressure. Fear, from the beginning of time to the present, has been the baseline of the human condition. We have developed sufficient wisdom over time to realize this, however, knowing that we have the capacity to evolve isn't enough. It will take wide spread commitment to humility, cooperation and acknowledgment of truth in love before we can proceed to the next step.
People, communities and even countries that work to build and preserve truth and vibrancy through dynamic tension of it constituent parts, protect themselves from malignant intrusions through open discourse and unselfish actions, negating the fear that allows cancer to take root. To lash out and respond in fear is self-defeating. In decline, people and states institute and increase the very perils and restrictions to open mindedness and liberty that they profess not to want. Empires rise and fall. They rot from within as self-righteous and delusional arrogance and myopia spreads.
Love and fear are in perpetual dual but the extent of fear in todays hyper sensitive and instantaneous world is now pervasive. Fear mongering and its attendant reactionary response, has fostered an accelerating decline in the responsibility of both individuals and nations. The growing economic disparity between aggressive self-seekers, and the largely ignorant or dispossessed underclasses is reaching critical mass. Spiritually devoid, delusional and greedy people bully their way, or sell their souls, to obtain and flaunt ostentatious wealth, power and celebrity while the disadvantaged fester and provoke, all this antagonistic action taking place on an increasingly toxic stage.
The common element in this polarization between exploitation and want is a decreasing sense of responsibility and relationship to the whole. Separation adds to the spiraling downward decline of thought and action. Adding to this malaise is the fallacy that we as individuals are not responsible for this separation. We assume wrongly that any inherently incompetent bureaucratic institution, without enlightened guidance, can rein in plundering enterprise or subdue or placate the restless natives. It is only through the conscious effort to understand and know the truth of love as individuals that we can ever hope to come together to find ways to elevate our collective existence.
In nature there is a continuing ongoing relationship. If systems are completely open they will dissipate. If they are completely rigid and enclosed, they will collapse. Successfully evolving systems depend on opening and closing forces negotiating in good faith together, in dynamic tension, to enhance quality and durability. In human systems, this conversation is no less crucial as it seeks to find a stabilizing balance. With friendship, as in international relations, boundaries need to be established defining understanding about what kinds of behavior are acceptable. Furthermore, when boundaries are tested, as they will be, what are the options for settlement. For productive, meaningful conversation to take place and negotiations to succeed, there can be no appeasing of egos, sacred cows or special exemptions. No one can have a claim on privilege or favor. Exclusivity, celebrity and pretentiousness need to be deemphasized. Only a will to see justice done can be acceptable. Relationships that are demanding, or about all or nothing, or rejecting options out of hand, are doomed. There needs to be a trusted unimpeachable intermediary empowered to reintroduce conversation into intractable disputes if there is to be any hope in restoring a dialog between intransigent protagonists.
Social institutions, like relationships, flourish when there is trust. Confidence requires honor in the truth of stated meanings; faith without coercion or deception. Groups, organizations and nations of every stripe live or die by the vibrancy of the truth and authenticity of the ongoing conversation between values of freedom and creativity on the one hand, and the genuine necessity, if there is one, to protect and preserve its existence on the other. This balancing act allows rational relationships to thrive and prevail against the ever present tendency of systems to disintegrate. Caution should be emphasized in protecting system integrity before introducing potentially disruptive external forces.
Democracies, to prevail, should be a prime example of balance, and be premised on the opening values of individual freedom and responsibility, acting in concert through conversation with the closing but dynamically changing values of the rule of law. Popular will must be balanced with honorable and courageous leadership. Philanthropy must be balanced with the risk of dependency. Scientific advances must converse with system wide efficacy.
Of paramount importance and relevancy is the way we perceive conversation between short term gain and long term accomplishment. The overriding consideration must be the degree of thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness means the honest examination of the desired objectives over time. It means adherence throughout to the primary values of truth and love in addressing perceived short term needs without distorting the long term goals. Those trusted with overseeing the mission must be ever vigilant in not allowing principle to yield to exigency, especially when the wiles and demands of the surreptitious or loud and aggressive are insinuating themselves into the mix for personal gain.
If the self interested are allowed to dominate and influence or eclipse principle, the consequent decline in overall diligence becomes the acceptable norm. Capitalism today, the most pervasive and influential system in industrialized society, has become a predominate fixture in perpetuating this decline. International conglomerates wield unchallenged power over people and nations only to satisfy their own narrow ends, yet they survive and flourish essentially unfettered and unchallenged.
Corporations today are predominately fixated on stock price and maximizing profit. In a small town where scale is manageable and knowable, a business realizes is place, role and efficacy in the economy of the area. It needs a profit to survive, a condition understood and accepted, but kept in balance by the ethics, wherewithal and means of the community. In a healthy environment, it is a contributing member of the whole in both usefulness and service adding to the overall welfare and ambiance of the community. Corporations on the other hand lavish outrageously excessive rewards on the higher-ups while they in turn establish destructive precedents that compensate managers for short term results; treat employees as easily expendable pawns, and sacrifice substance to image enhancement. Products and services possessing intrinsic significance become irrelevant. Hyped value, with no regard to consequence, leading to yet more profits, is the primary consideration.
Corporations dominate the landscape. To keep the titans of commerce in yachts and mansions, the rest of us toil in increasingly meaningless, but ever more stressful and time consuming occupations, with credit and consumption heralded by the mass media our reward. A relentless barrage of commercial miasma invades our psychic at every venue, branding their version of morality into the fabric of our daily lives. Image makers, indiscriminately selling manufactured desire, have elevated the irresponsible personality to social prominence, even hero worship. Without intervention, and none appears likely, the declining circumstance of all our lives will continue to deteriorate as greed and intolerance perpetuates itself. Fateful decisions should not be made in a vacuum by people with vested interests, which unfortunately is exactly the situation we now find ourselves in. We have abdicated our intuitive duty to build a more sustainable existence by giving power over our lives to the purveyors of fear and greed.
Finding true meaning has to begin with ourselves, or more precisely, with the self. The self is the ability to experience. We experience primarily through our senses. Seeing and hearing, more specifically listening, adds to our experience. Experience is more than awareness. What you see you may not really observe, sounds may be present but you do not hear, as it is possible not to even be cognizant of your own emotions which may have been repressed by busyness or trauma. To have an experience, one must be present, must be paying attention. There has to be realization of I see or I understand. The self is a dynamic, evolving self-awareness. An aware self is curious and learning and not guided by base instinct. Learning and deeper self-awareness in turn can lead to ever greater self- understanding, self-esteem and compassion for oneself and for others.
Spirit is the energy of the self. The spirit within the self is a conductor of love. An expanding spirit can listen creatively, be inspired by beauty, transcend time and space, and know love. It give meaning to experience. Once the spirit is ignited and then bolstered through learning, one can transcend from ignorance to self-awareness, from separation to unity, from fear to love. Spirit allows for contemplation of a vast expanse in both place and time.
Only through choice, and with determination to rise above self interest, do we find ennobling spirit sufficient to carry us beyond the demands of survival. Discovering intrinsic meaning in the world takes courage, and through this process comes realization that diminishes fear and moves towards love. By choosing and embracing love, we bestow compassion, creative energy, healing and beauty on the systems of existence.
Mankind needs and seeks to find meaning, but settles for beads and trinkets. True self interest, to thrive and prosper together harmoniously, has been perverted and waylaid by the deceiving self interests of lust and greed, hallmarks of guilt and fear. Growing awareness of our shortcomings, coupled with abdication of social responsibility in arresting decay, and our seeming paralysis to change, serves only to further demoralize us. Our hard won abundance is being squandered by spiritually disinterested, self-seeking despots, threatening to cast our fragile advancement into primitive chaos. Fear, which served to preserve the species out of the wilderness, now looms poised to destroy it.
Most of us go about life as though meaning where something outside of us, the purview of philosophers or poets. We focus on results with little regard for process. Our present mindset and world view of exploitation and quick fixes, without regard for spiritual interconnectedness, has gained us temporal abundance but depressing materialism. Individual freedom is now overshadowed by individualistic irresponsibility; decency corrupted by self-righteousness and moral superiority. We confuse justice with revenge, accept the decline of authenticity, and support the misconception that fear can be overcome by preemptive violence.
Because we now have the ability, we should be utilizing every means and opportunity available to us to intensify the search for meanings within the interconnected whole. But there is no venue or leader or guiding principle that can be trusted to launch such a campaign. Because of our pragmatic approach to life, we no longer have authentic heroes, heroes possessing transcendental relevance, to show us the way either in parable or deed. We have been reduced to contrived and orchestrated mass adulation for anti intellectual success icons, race car drivers and ball players. We seek to mark time with trivial diversions with no inkling or thought to embarking on a hero's journey to the self, with its many hardships and dangers.
In a complete antithesis and perversion to the quest for finding meaning in the world, the scourge of mass media advertising is providing manufactured identity, through product worship, to target audiences, most egregiously to the young and searching. Mass marketers cater to interpersonal, spiritual and moral insecurities, and foster irresponsibility by confirming fears and prejudices through the aggrandizement of false idols whose machinations temporarily relieve our feelings of impotence. They endorse and promote immediate gratification and intimidation through peer pressure. They supplant the quest for substance and meaning with drivel and triviality. In attempts to appear righteous they unabashedly employ insidious low ball tactics to play on emotion or loyalties. The absurd and demeaning dynamic of popular culture shows how much we hunger for access to meaning within ourselves, and how far short we have fallen in attempting to find it.
The individual and collective self nowadays rests upon an increasingly inauthentic and insubstantial foundation. We find ourselves evermore hollow and wanting. As we loose the capacity to develop ourselves, we become ever more entangled in a descending spiral where fear gains momentum as civility and love depletes.
We live daily with the flaws, subterfuges and outright frauds that we call contemporary society. Perhaps like the past, tyrants, whose might or cunning makes right, will continue to dominate government, commerce and public discourse for their own selfish ends, allowing freedom and choice only in those areas that appear significant but always subject to behind the scenes manipulation.
There is no leader or movement or conceivable institution that can be trusted to marshal the necessary aura to mobilize any significant numbers to affect any kind of meaningful change. Jesus Christ came into the world on just such a mission, but his ideals and his church were soon enough distorted and perverted by greed and avarice to yield centuries more of self perpetuating oligarchy, discord and violence. The same appears true for other spiritual prophets. By our lack of insight, and in our rush to judgment, we are truly the architects of our circumstance. However, individuals who seek the truth, with the aid and assistance of those wise beings who have gone before, know they are not outcasts in the true scheme of things.
If there is salvation it can only come through you as an individual, and you may be the only one to know it. Once you accept that there must be more to life than ego, diversion and accumulation, and you come to acknowledge that there are worlds beyond worlds, you can set forth with that first step on the journey to understanding. As Mahatma Gandhi implored, become the change you want to see in the world, by thought, action and deed. Learn to appreciate silence, and become conscious of the spirit within and without. Practice right livelihood; seek not to deceive or gain unfair advantage; and contemplate the cause and effect of your actions.
Find comfort and solace through study of sages and prophets and take heed where their words ring true. Practice humility and truthful utterances. Let kind words and deeds foster further kind words and deeds in others. Know that it can be a lonely and thankless task whose only reward is knowing, a true knowing that when fully realized embraces you with love, truth and understanding. As absurd and trying as life can be, it is most likely a stage upon which we can experiment and see the results of cause and effect. We have been granted the ability to choose our course. Through open hearts, we are allowed fleeting glimpses of boundless love, hints of what awaits beyond the veil. And thankfully and with gratitude, we are blessed with daily reminders of this love through beauty, grace, art and the written word.