Sometimes the mind and tongue go quiet for a stretch, precipitated by an event or experience, or just because.
This time, for me, it was the BBC video series entitled Planet Earth, a monumental piece of work that brings us, as never before, into the wilderness areas of our planet, as they remain at this time.
Watching this series daily has left me quite speechless; and therefore, I have been inactive in my blogging or reaching out to people by phone.
I am poignantly aware that the very technological advancements required to visually record the Earth’s wild creatures in the far reaches of their habitats, such that they are not disturbed in the course of their natural activities, rode in on the trajectory of industrialization, which also gave us toxic pollution, mass extinctions, shrinking habitats, global warming and all the other threats human beings have posed in pursuit of information, understanding, and ostensibly, reality.
So, if it was necessary for worldwide human consciousness to behold this planet and realize our place in the family of living things, then we have hereby accomplished this. Done deal! Time to celebrate and to retreat! And, on the way, let us make amends to the native peoples we considered primitive, who had figured all this out already before we decimated them.
Pythagoras, who was born in 507 BC, is credited for coining the word philosophy (love of wisdom). To him, a “philosopher” was someone who “gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself . . . to uncover the secrets of nature.”
But, now we must go beyond this original definition of philosophy to find wisdom, to give ourselves up to something else entirely: to the recognition that our notions about discovering the meaning and purpose of life, or uncovering the secrets of nature, have been misguided ones.
We have seen the ends of the Earth now--mission accomplished--so, the question is: will we, the people, be willing to act with the wisdom actually called for in our time--to shift our systems and morph our power structures? Can we stop advancing and relinquish our strangling power over the land and its marvelous creatures, and instead withdraw, back down, give way, surrender to our hard-won larger view of life?
Do we have the larger smarts to put to rest all our fascinating illusions and fantasies of figuring things out through the human mind, our inventions and our instruments?
In the bookstore the other day, I stood before the shelves marked Western Philosophy and noticed how dominated those book spines are with male names. Nice try guys, thank you very much. But let's have some feminine wisdom to guide our species now.
What if there is no meaning and purpose to life except to live it in a state of poise and grace? Maybe it’s kind of jerky and pathetic to keep believing that we will ever comprehend the hows, whys, and wherefores of the universe. It’s like an abused and jilted lover who just keeps calling and coming back for another kick in the head, or a neglected child who just cannot accept his parents’ indifference, trying in vain to get their attention, only to be hurt and dismayed again and again. There are instances where hope springing eternal is just stupid. The universe will never be ours. It's not available for that. Can't we get over it?! Why don’t we give up on nailing the universe and find fulfillment in the here and now with the aspects of life that are wholesome, available and satisfying?
I am suggesting that we set aside our childish things, to enter and consider lives of love (there's that L-Word), craft, community and intimacy, rather than ideas and puffed-up, jacked-up enterprises built on myths, misgivings, and false understandings.
The whole scientific enterprise has surely brought focused and precise attention to unsolvable mysteries; such as, Pi, The Golden Ratio, fractals, the intricacies of body functions and sense-organs in living things; but we don’t, and never will, understand them or know why there is life here on Earth. All our efforts will only bring us deeper into the shapeshifting mysteries of life and death. We would do better to concern ourselves with conscience than with science.
Rather than penetrate these mysteries, it would help us immensely to really understand something: that it is for us to embrace, love, protect and revere them, not to parse, categorize, compartmentalize and use them. Let us retreat from dissecting and theorizing about them, not with a sense of failure, but with a sense of maturation.
Do we really need more science? Do we need more technology? Consider that the answer is: no, we don't. What we do need is greater mental and physical health, greater wisdom and intimacy. And we wouldn't need a fraction of the hospitals, prisons, techno-medicine and machinery, if we were living healthier, more loving lives to begin with.
The healthiest and wisest people are psychologically strong enough to soften and be tender, to expose their vulnerability, to let down, give way, express their fears, longings, idiosyncracies . . . and to share themselves with another person, one whom they admire on many levels, to share the experience of spiritual and physical energetic surrender in the act of sexual love.
How are we doing with that? Do we have healthy sex lives? Have we lives with time for stillness, slowness, sustained attention, quiet, peace and pleasure? Or are we continually fooled, like a fish, by the next glittering thing out there--the next thought, idea, prospect, product, structure, icon, expert, or procedure?
Do we celebrate our world and the gift of life with simple gestures, recognizing the things that truly bring peace and pleasure; such as real care and affection, acting in all conscience and virtue?
As creative beings, have we cultivated our creative gifts? Do we know how to let down and enter a passive-receptive state that fosters imaginative power through wholesome means?
The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes the rituals and practices of a people dedicated to wisdom and peace. So much of their attention is focused on preparation for death, on having the spiritual fortitude to die in peace.
Sooner or later we all have to surrender to life, to mystery, to that which we don't understand. Some will do so with grace, peace, and dignity, others will not.
If we truly want disarmament and ecological restoration in our world; if we are willing to take the path of health and sanity, we must learn the art, honor and pleasure of surrender, of laying down and relinquishing our misguided pursuits, our divisive attitudes and ideas, and our physical and mental tensions.
We also want to put aside our cynicism, which has arisen from the consistent thwarting of our breathless pursuit of impossibilities and illusions: dominating, classifying, and understanding nature, the psyche, or the universe. Instead let's consider sentiment, love, and brotherhood not the naïve, embarrassing, and obsolete concepts we taint with our cynicism, but the very center of a salt-of-the-Earth, reality-based life that brings about health, contentment and satisfaction.
©2008 Jari Chevalier