March 28th, 2008
The celebrated psychiatrist and author, Alexander Lowen, says that “the loss of faith is the key problem of modern man.” Are we in a crisis of faith? If we are, what are we supposed to do about it?
The astonishing scientific discoveries of the late 19th and 20th centuries have repeatedly shattered the ideological and theological constructs that guided human life for centuries. There’s no solid world out there anymore, no objective world; we now know the world only as we engage it; and so, as a people, we are unsure of ourselves and cynical about trusting or accurately evaluating anything.
In this sense, faith is an absolutely essential part of the life of an artist, a creative person, if his or her work is to successfully address the needs of our culture. But what kind of faith are we talking about here?
Notice the network of relationships among the words etymologically related to faith (from the Latin fides): fidelity, fealty, fiancé, fiduciary, confidant, confidence, defiant, diffidence, infidel, infidelity, perfidy, Fido.
A consideration of these words reveals that the issue of faith is one of trust; and trust is essentially tied to truth. You will trust an idea, a mode of being, an activity, a person, or life itself, if you trust its underlying reality and believe it to be true.
So, what is true for you? And how do you know it to be true?
If we are upset, bored, depressed or self-destructive, it is perhaps because we don’t know where to begin with ourselves, what to do. You can discover what to do by knowing what is sacred to you. So, the first move is to allow for more enthusiasm in our lives (from the Greek “en theus,” infused by God). Through genuine enthusiasm we find ourselves reeentering a state of grace, and of faith. In that state we don’t have to question what and who is sacred to us.
Now is the time to place greater trust in the truth of your own enthusiasm and to follow it with greater faith. You must keep faith with yourself now, to do what you feel enthusiastic about: what you set out to do in those finest hours when you know the energy in your mind and body is right. Have faith in the creative process and in the life force that pulses in you. Nurture it and draw upon it continuously.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
March 11th, 2008
The question, where is your money invested? is experienced by many as a violation, a pointed finger jabbing at them. Well, this gets our backs up precisely because this is where we have compromised our hearts, where we really don’t want to look and listen, where the worm of hypocrisy squirms. It’s what we really don’t want to feel, talk about, and possibly be moved to address. Why?
Because it is still, generally speaking, more financially profitable (higher returns, less risk) in the short term to put money into the coffers of established companies and profiteers, engaged as they may be in disregard of land, people, health and wisdom, and every creature of the Earth.
And so we think we have our money working for us?! We give over our money, which, along with our work, is our most powerful instrument, voice and vote, to this portfolio of doom and Armageddon. And, the game is set up so that the players rationalize and justify detrimental business practices on the basis of having to satisfy their stockholders with high returns. This is a game where profit is the highest value in consideration. So, there you have it.
I was at the Whitney Biennial contemporary art show on preview day and it was a spiritual wasteland, very disappointing. The show mirrors a society that is imbalanced, disgusting, disordered, epically ugly, mad, stupid, broken, mean-spirited and sick. On the audio tour, Ellen Harvey, one of the artists whose work stood out to me, said: “You can’t win, so let’s just start off by failing as extravagantly as possible,” in speaking of her art process. A fitting line for our times. There was hardly a hint of transcendence or visionary attitude in that entire show; instead, despair and hurt and self-indulgence. Is this the best we can do? One wonders about the selection of this uninspired psychic display and what the mindset is there, the agenda.
The proverb “money is the root of all evil” in these materialistically driven times might just as well be “money is the root of all good”. Our money is what we get for the life energy we have expended and both our energy and our money can be put to good, evil or neutral work in the world.
Our money actually does invest us in that which we have invested, even though we are not always willing to look at it that way or to do the real math from a holistic perspective. So then, are we living behind our own backs? Are we content to be strangers to ourselves and each other? Are we actually saying: yes, here, do more of this with our world, kill it, destroy and decimate it, kill it all, just give me another cushion, don’t take away my addictions, and throw in the health insurance.
We have the power, if we have the will, to reform our civilization very quickly, and we can do it with our energy and our money, much more effectively than with our political votes.
If you haven't seen the movie Zeitgeist yet, you can get to it through these links. It's screening at non-mainstream theaters across the country this Saturday. The second link displays those theaters. Part three of this movie gives a historical view of the financial world that you might want to have a look at. I invite your comments on this.
a>Streaming Zeitgeist movie
a>Big Screenings on March 15th
a>Article by Javier Sierra, Sierra Club, "How to Tell Greenwashing from Real Corporate Responsibility"
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
March 8th, 2008
When you focus and hold your attention on a single object or on your own mind-body processes, you are meditating. An age-old metaphor for thought, captured in the phrase “a train of thought,” can be helpful in differentiating thought from meditation.
If you are riding inside a train of thought, carried along in it, you are thinking; but in meditation, you are watching multicolored train-cars passing through the station of your mind. You are observing thought, rather than being carried within it.
When you become adept at meditation, the station may be quiet for stretches of time: no trains. Sometimes you faintly hear a train approaching from a distance, yet it does not end up coming through . . . your attention dissolves it and it never arrives.
Why set aside time in our busy lives to recondition our minds through meditation?--To be awake, yet quiet, peaceful, aware and focused. Peace. Awareness. Focus.
So, why aren’t more people meditating? Well, actually, we are. But for those who aren't, it may be because changing our habits is hard, even when new habits can mean the difference between life and death. For instance, in many studies of patients who have undergone coronary bypass surgery, only one in nine people, on average, adopts and stays with a new exercise and dietary program.
Trying to change our habits requires a lot of attention. At first, looking closely and steadily at things as they are, as one does in meditation, can lead to feelings that many people find uncomfortable. So they opt to avoid really looking. But, if you will persist, stay with yourself, hang in there and refine your observational abilities through the practice of meditation, you will find that the mind is, in fact, not as hardwired as you thought.
Aside from the many health benefits of meditation, which are now widely known and accepted, meditation strengthens your ability to modulate your own reactivity, so that you do not resort to self-destructive coping mechanisms; such as, drinking alcohol or other palliative forms of escape from the feelings that can arise while facing reality. You also are less reactive to others, kinder, more compassionate.
Meditation gets to the root of distress and equips you to live a more wholesome, meaningful, relaxed and insightful existence, even when uncertainty, hurt feelings, or doubt come through the station.
In a world of meditators, we would find many social problems dissolving and evaporating. Big-picture and long-view thinking, grounded in wisdom, would be commonplace. Consideration of and reverence for the natural world would be central. Enjoyment and fulfillment in life’s simple pleasures would be written on our faces. Appreciation of diverse cultures, habitats, spiritual expressions and perspectives would be manifested in steadfast investment in and preservation of them. A large-scale maturation of the human animal, a new evolutionary stage would be evident everywhere.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008