Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Love-ism

Living on a planet that is about to change dramatically over the next 100 years requires a revolutionary look at where humanity has come from, where inertia may lead it, and where humanity can collectively will it to go. Love-ism takes a harder look at the world than one might think, but offers thoughts on how to integrate the best of who we are with the best of who we want to be. No one could live up to the standards all the time. Even just part of the time would be a chore. Love-ism is a lifestyle more than a philosophy. It’s all about putting effort into trying to live an Epicurean lifestyle, each moment in the now, staying aware of and living by one’s code of ethics in as many of life’s moments as possible. That should remain the goal. One can do no more than one’s best, but no one should ever settle for less.

Some seek to climb an imaginary stairway to heaven. Others strive to raise their consciousness. You can try prayer, scourge and fasting if you like. However, as Alan Watts used to explain, the seekers among us are so anxiously striving, they miss the point. The Buddha taught that desire is the error in us. But, in our intense desire to rid ourselves of desire, we develop desire for non-desire. It’s inescapable. There really is no place to go: not within, not upon Sephiroth, not to heaven, not to nirvana. All our striving to go somewhere, be someone, leave a name, build a body of work, leave a legacy, imprint time with our names and mental faculties is no more than Narcissus, the youth, looking into a pool-like mirror and falling in love with himself.

The Universe is so much larger, and by embracing all of it, we find that which we seek. Sisyphus kept pushing that boulder up the side of the mountain, just as do we. The end is never reached, never even really in sight, but in our hearts, we can feel it tugging us, drawing us into the maelstrom. It is not easy to be completely honest with yourself. Everyone thinks they are, but we all lie to ourselves every time we indulge some deep-seeded belief we never even stopped to consider. There is no point in getting that boulder to the top of the mountain, because you see, this particular mountain has no peak. Why push the boulder if there is no summit to reach? Why not just rest up next to it, drink a sumptuous wine and eat of honey and bread?

Love-ism does not demand that you accept any of the ideas, theories or assessments contained in these pages. What Love-ism does require is that you stop accepting the points of view, philosophies and religions of others. Love-ism urges you to conduct your own inquiry into the subject matter contained in this book along with whatever additional subject matter you find yourself compelled to investigate and then to assess the information garnered through your inquiry intelligently and thoroughly so you may arrive at a philosophy of life which is uniquely your own, built upon a system of beliefs which well up from the depths of your innermost truths. However, Love-ism does insist on one basic life strategy, and that strategy is to treat all life forms as well as your local ecosystem and the entire Earth environment with loving kindness, honoring and respecting the equal rights of all life on the planet as well as all future generations.

The path of Love-ism is built on a ladder of its own, so to speak. The ladder is not physical, there is nowhere to go and no special ritual or accoutrements are needed. The ladder is life, and the rungs are the lessons experienced and insights gained, but even more than that, they are the emotions experienced and shared. The way one travels this path is alertly; with eyes and heart wide open.

The first lesson involves moving past childhood through developing a pervasive respect, care and loving kindness toward others.

The second lesson leads one out of adolescence through application of a constant and rigorous self-analysis.

The third lesson embraces the development of one’s apprentice lifestyle by learning to cultivate beauty and retain modesty of personal consumption.

The fourth lesson encourages one to step out on one’s own in commerce through the foundation of honesty, openness and truth in all one’s dealings.

The fifth lesson brings a calm satisfaction and broad, but balanced, prosperity out of non-violence and peace.

The sixth lesson liberates us from worry through a broad compassion for all life.

The final lesson is transcendence of need, transcendence of want, and immanent presence within purpose through learning to come into touch with your Higher Self and express your unique heart’s desire with your true and honest “will to power,” but completely without concern for what anyone will ever think about you, without concern for status, reputation, or the acquisition of wealth and possessions.

The most basic tenet of Love-ism regards the need for all individuals to show respect, care and kindness to every other living thing. As one grows in one’s ability to see oneself in others, one begins to transform more and more of one’s energies from competitive, mutually destructive behavior into cooperative, mutually beneficial exchanges. You see, society will not change unless individuals change first. There lies the truth in the oft repeated Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see.” Not only is it impossible for society as a whole to modify its behavior until after a large majority of individuals have made the changes internally first, but it is also a far better method of encouraging change to let one’s life be an example as opposed to try to force others into behavior modifications. Furthermore, as we know, neither individuals nor any group have the right to force conformity with any particular bias on anyone else.

Attempts to force any kind of particular result to occur from a specific set of circumstances has always been a failed approach to life. One is never able to exert control over variables external to oneself, although individuals seem to constantly delude themselves into believing they can. Often, it seems to me that those most prone to exerting pressure on others to conform to their wishes are also those who exert the least degree of control over themselves in their own lives. Perhaps this is an underlying cause for the need some people have to be what is commonly referred to in this time period as a “control freak.”

Personalities with control issues are able to wheedle their influence on others through both overt and subtle methods. One may shout, yell, demand, stomp one’s feet, browbeat, or threaten others. However, other people often seek control by softening the approach through manipulative behavior which seeks to buy favors or flatter another into a specific course of action. It is incumbent upon all individuals to learn to see through these kinds of behavior patterns and to quietly, but directly, point out the coping strategy being employed, inform the other that the strategy will not work because one sees through the ploy, smile, and let it go. One will receive an excuse in response, perhaps a deflection or denial. There is no point to arguing. An argument would be what the controlling personality would want to cause.

Individuals with a controlling personality lack, by varying degrees, emotional security, trust, patience and rational techniques for analytical thinking. The need to exert control arises from a deeply seeded need to be valued by others. Growing up, their voices were not heard, their wishes not respected, their hopes unfulfilled. This may be a result of being reared in a family where one of the parents exhibited the same behavior traits. This sort of passing on of one’s learned behavior responses and patterns leads to a cycle of perpetuity, guaranteeing that future family members will continue the same struggle over power, while really only seeking recognition, validation, and a sense of belonging which incorporates feeling like a valued member of the family and society.

Modern medicine will tell us such an individual just needs to attend group sessions, and in most cases, prescribes a drug, ignoring the value previously found in individual counseling. That approach is the equivalent of giving someone with the flu a facial tissue and a pair of aspirin without even trying to rid the body of the invading virus. The person suffering from the flu is not a diseased individual; they have a viral infection that, once eradicated, will leave the body healthy again. In the same way, someone struggling with control issues is not a bad person and does not have a defective mind. They do not need a mind controlling drug which will effectively force conformity by eradicating personal will. They merely did their best to develop a coping strategy to deal with an uncomfortable, early-life situation, and the only role model to copy was the person creating the uncomfortable, early-life situation. The “virus” in the latter instance reveals itself as the cycle of behavior, and that is what needs treatment. The treatment must be twofold, individual therapy to assist the individual to improve their behavior strategies and changes in the society which creates these kinds of cycles of behavior.

Society is quick to point its collective finger at individuals instead of itself. Really, everything about the way modern societies are structured reinforces the domination of the group over the individual. As babies learn language, a few social skills, and motor coordination, they are indoctrinated into society. Immediately, any blank slate, or self-determinative predilections that may have been present, or which one, many decades later, may wish had been afforded, are all dissolved into the lap of mother, school, television, toys, church, national pride, individual identification with homogeneity in religious preferences and racial and color characteristics, peer pressure, faddish predilections for a sense of cool and indoctrination into the social and cultural order including celebrity worship, a fascination for accumulating wealth and possessions, and adherence to the existing social and political hierarchy. There’s no getting around it either.

A child did not ask to be born. Children are the product of their parents love and lust for life and each other. However, with the arrival of each new child, responsibility grows for parents and society to provide opportunity for that child, like all other children born, gestating and yet to be conceived, to freely express the greatest fulfillment of their potential and imagination. Obviously, some rules need to be established for common welfare. However, properly functioning conditions within culture, society, government and education which embody the principles of Love-ism, when pervasively expressed, will change the cycle by disengaging the fuel source.

When all babies are raised feeling secure, happy, valued, loved, cared for and understood, none of them will grow up to be needy, anxious and insecure control freaks. This relieves the pressure on interpersonal relationships in adult life, leading to reduction in stress and greater fulfillment. Once again, a synergy is established in the form of a self-perpetuating cycle. But look at the difference in the cycle: 1) respectful, freedom encouraging, supportive, helpful and expressive of the inherent value of all others as opposed to 2) fearful, competitive, underhanded, violent, destructive, treacherous, possessive, manipulative and domineering towards others.

One cannot wear blinders and subscribe to Love-ism. The next-most basic tenet of the philosophy is personal responsibility. No person is capable of accepting personal responsibility for any moment lived without being fully aware within the moment. However, if one merely stops and reconsiders whoever one has dealings with as oneself while taking pause for a breath, one should find all their dealings with others more enjoyable. It is so easy to live life off the cuff, spontaneously, letting words come out of one’s mouth without considering them first, causing pain with each faux pas. However, it’s just mental laziness and shows a complete lack of consideration and respect for others.

Accepting personal responsibility for one’s words and actions requires vigilance of thought and detailed, honest self-analysis. One must be willing to begin from the premise that one acted incorrectly in every instance and try to disprove that hypothesis. One must be willing, initially, to inwardly accept complete blame for every situation that arises and then analyze to what degree others contributed. Whether discussing any situation with another or engaging in introspective evaluation, one must strive to keep an open mind.

Many individuals are too hard on themselves, while others can be too lenient. It is my estimation these personality traits arise as learned behavior responses to the environmental factors affecting individual growth in relationship exchanges. Wide variations in coping strategies express the breadth of diversity among human personalities. Modern society labels some of these coping strategies pathological, abnormal, psychotic, neurotic, eccentric, odd and insane. Like R. D. Laing, I contend these labels are more usefully applied to the sociological situations the individual had to endure than to the individual being assessed.

Coping strategies arise to aid the personality to deal with the world. If the world is crazy, so must the coping strategies be if the individual is to survive and feel safe. The error of science lies in treating the individual after it is too late to correct the problem. A correct course of action would be to treat the source of the maladjustment in behavior strategies, in other words, fix whatever it is in the environment causing the burgeoning personality to develop poor coping strategies. Alas, it is far easier to try to reprogram the individual unit with conformity promoting group therapy, or drug them into conformity, and when all else fails lock them away, than it would be to try to correct the evils in society which lead to the maladjustment. Unfortunately, until humanity deals with the root issues, physicians will be able to do no more than drug the infirm into a stupor of quasi-“normal” behavior. That is no way to respect and love other living beings or respect the right of self-determination which vests in all other sentient life.

Now, after accepting mindful and aware, personal responsibility for all one’s actions and developing persistent expressions of respect, support and kindness towards others, the next important tenet of Love-ism is a dedication to the cultivation of beauty while remaining modest in our sprawl, pollution, appetites and consumption. The way humanity seeks to bridge every discoverable gap and ooze its influence into every pore of the Universe is counterproductive to the creation of a harmonious, peaceful and fulfilling existence for the vastness of this splendorous mystery we agree to encounter together.

At the same time, humans really would enjoy a better life in a better, more beautiful world if they considered the benefits of sharing an increased harvest of cooperative labors while sustaining a smaller, more ecologically integrated population. I would expect one of the better ways to deal with Climate Change would be planting trees, and allowing more and more of the land to remain wilderness. All the cement and asphalt in the cities will turn them into ovens which will soon turn to deserts. The more hospitable land that protects its water with rainforests and other forestation will provide the most sustainable habitats.

Irrespective of Climate Change, the broader consideration and respect accruing from adherence to the principles of Love-ism will only serve to build greater bonds, offering opportunities to engage in peaceful cooperation instead of destructive and deadly war. And if we kill off all wildlife on the planet, we will stifle evolution and doom ourselves as well. Only by understanding and accepting everyone’s and everything’s vital individual role in the ecosystem can we see interdependence and keep our path on surer footing. Personal responsibility is the key to unlock that door. Through the door we see our place in the ecosystem, and the natural outcome of that can only be modesty in consumption remembering to maintain a mental vigilance to avoid waste as well. Yes, every person must take responsibility not only for oneself, but also for one’s culture and the world in which one lives.

Individuals can take the steps on their own to this point. However, we are more than individuals. Humanity is also a collective. As a collective, there is an additional prerequisite to achieving balance and harmony both among and between each other and with nature. That, of course, is the development of a persistent and vigilant dedication to honesty, openness and the truth. Agreements to enter this realm must be firm, or the sand castles built upon them will crumble with the first wave of subterfuge.

There can never be trust where there is not also truthfulness. Equitability and fairness cannot thrive in a den of deceit. We have to remember, we are not only ourselves, but each other also. To harm you, harms me, because it harms all of humanity forever and ever in the ripples of effects that will pass through families as learned traits and come back to be expressed at our own progeny some later day. The least bit of indifference can change a whole history of future activity. Every action and deed we exert sows seeds through those future ripples. Karma, indeed! We need not have eternal or reincarnating souls to see how significant it becomes to treat each other with loving kindness and reverential respect. To do less undermines every basic principle upon which the Universe continues to unfold.

Aspire to greatness and avoid banality of spirit. This is not achieved through economic reward or having your name in an encyclopedia. No, the best of who we are lies in how we treat others every moment of our life. Try to remember, the only real moment is the ever-present now. It is in this very instant, the now in which you exist in each moment of life, that you find redemption and salvation!

As we live more meaningfully, there is only one vision before us, the specter of a sacred heart, no not within Jesus, but within each of us as individuals. We must honor our own greatest potential by becoming our own saints and igniting into flame those personal and individual sacred hearts. The greatest expression of our heart is showing Love to others.

Love never embraces violence, killing or war. Violence is diminishing of everything. Violence leaves the perpetrator a reviled and ugly figure in the eyes of others, and consequently, destroys the character and spirit of the perpetrator in one’s own eyes. No civilization that truly believes itself civilized can build a broad prosperity upon a waste of resources and precious lives. Warring societies are always consumed by hate and anger, either with those with who they are at war, each other, or both. No one can achieve their highest human potential in such a culture and no culture can foster the best of human ideals when awash in blood. No, only through peace, understanding, and mutual acceptance can humanity begin to look forward to the kind of cooperation which will yield an ever-nearing approach to perfection.

Evolution of the mind now is set in motion. Our humility and compassion for all life connects us to the entire ecosystem. An ethereal ambiance of symbiosis sizzles with each act. Thoughtfulness becomes a way of life. Mindfulness pervades one’s awareness. Considerate compassion breeds like in response. A synergy grows. Soon, one is content and secure within oneself. This is the moment of liberation. With eyes, hearts and homes open we are free from want. We are not free of needing, or free of lacking; but we will be free of wanting, of desire. Once we are free from want, we are free of all our limiting shackles.

The resulting vision is transcendence. There is no more separation. There is only Love.

The pathway to Love-ism, to this idyllic, peaceful co-existence with oneself, each other, all life on the planet, and the environment, lies in being the solution. Each individual must commit to living rightly without reward, simply in the knowledge it is the right thing to do, and so becomes its own reward. As one individual embraces change, the cycle in that family will be broken, assisting the social evolution in that line. A friend will join, and so, another line evolves. Slowly, in time, one by one, a movement arises. Like minded individuals congregate together, and a subculture evolves. The reinforcing, kind, supportive, cooperative respectful society which develops will insure the ultimate evolution of society, because, clearly, it is the fittest survival strategy. Embracing the path of Love-ism, and treading that path like Lao-Tze or the Buddha, frees life from bondage to a world where each individual is nothing more than a mouse on a treadmill. By struggling and competing with one another throughout recorded history, humanity has excelled in learning how to destroy through victory over our neighbors. Imagine, if we stop tearing at each other’s throat and learn to find enjoyment through working together, just how much beauty, abundance and fulfillment will we be able to achieve? Dream, imagine, and dream again. There is a new world, and it awaits your arrival around the next bend.

No comments: