Tuesday, July 10, 2012
On Seeking Balance in the Contemporary World
The world in which we find ourselves during this period of history presents great challenges for anyone and everyone who seeks to tread the path of the middle way, avoid extremes, cultivate a balanced psyche, and pursue a life in harmony with the environment, with all life on the planet, with other people (both politically and economically), between and among cultures and nations, and within ourselves on a spiritual level.
In the contemporary climate, people have been pushed into polarized political camps by politicians, commentators, pundits, and demogogues. Polarized opinions have widened the gap of disagreement and wrought vitriol in the public discourse. Pursuit of compromises which would reflect the best interests of the broadest segments of the population is no longer esteemed as worthwhile. Indeed, both sides exhibit such an unwillingness to bend that they prefer to block legislation which is drafted to promote the greatest common good. Polarized points of view, which are so common in the contemporary world, actually oppose the ideals expressed in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which was created to, "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure domestic tranquility."
As wide as the political gulf has become, the disparities between the wealthy and the middle class and between the middle class and the poor have never been greater. The intensity and pervasiveness of individuals' focus on personal interests, accumulation of material objects, amassing of capital, and quest for social status has never been more pronounced and pervasive. This perverse fascination with personal gain to the detriment of the greatest common good inveigles contemporary culture with the notion that a competitive edge is the most valuable and desirable personal trait an individual can cultivate. Now, certainly, the individual nature can express itself in a very positive way when it's influence manifests itself as an individual's drive for personal excellence. However, when the sole motivation for competition reveals itself to be for personal gain at the expense of another (or others), then it's value diminishes commensurately with the reduction of others' opportunities and degradation of others' lifestyles.
Humanity possesses a natural inclination for pursuing comfort, convenience, recreation, expression, and enjoyment. However, when those proclivities rise to the level of a desire for ostentation, an appetite for wealth, a devotion to notions of individual (as well as national and/or cultural) superiority, a hunger to accumulate possessions, an infatuation with status, and a yearning for power, then individuals debase themselves morally, ethically, and spiritually at the same time as they wreck havoc on the environment and consume the planet's resources without consideration for future generations' needs.
As a consequence of the psychological and sociological divergences from a middle path of inclusiveness, cooperation, community, compromise, and the greatest common good, extremism dominates all aspects and all expressions in the contemporary world. We can no longer agree to be generous to the needy, merciful to the infirm, benevolent to our youth (who, as students, must receive adequate and affordable educations if they are to offer wise and sound leadership in the future), prudent in our stewardship of the environment, understanding toward one another, accepting of divergent viewpoints as being critical to cultural growth and making wise decisions after informed debate, and magnanimous to our spiritual natures by reducing our stress and increasing our dedication to humanity's highest ideals and the notion of the greatest common good. Instead, our vitriolic extremism advances enmity, undermines our climate, increases the likelihood for conflict, escalates war across the globe, engenders the continuing and increasing spread of extinction of planetary life, and devalues all notions of gratitude and respect commensurately with the exaltation of the cults of greed, wealth, power, entitlement, and superiority.
In such a world, humanity, both collectively and as individuals, finds itself so attached to the illusion of material value, phenomenal accomplishment, and corporeal eminence that the balance required by any truly spiritual foundation has been forsaken. If humanity is ever to even aspire to, let alone actually achieve, universal peace, an all-inclusive affluence that honors the environment, value for the need for diversity of all life forms, and respect the rights of future generations to an equally harmonious and bountiful existence, then our individual, national, and cultural values must change: compassion must replace victory, altruism must supercede personal desire, cooperation must redeem competition, understanding must supplant antagonism, acceptance must displace intolerance, equality must overcome notions of superiority, and moderation must reconstitute entitlement.
There is only one path to such a world. That path incorporates spiritual balance and a ubiquitous education concerning humanity's highest values. Such a redirection of human focus will take time, certainly multiple generations, but it is both a worthwhile and possible endeavor to pursue.
Between the paths of extremes lies a middle way, the way of balance, harmony, and wisdom. Too great of a devotion to self will deny humanity the fulfillment of its greatest collective potential. Too small of a consideration for individual needs and opportunities will rob us of our liberties and all sense of meaning in life and personal value to the community and the world. Only by seeking a balance between the two can we eradicate the destructive forces inherent in either extreme. Only by understanding the true spiritual value that resides in balance and moderation will humanity begin to aspire to a more perfect, more harmonious, more bountiful, and more meaningful world.
This balance is the expression of universal, altruistic love. By keeping the notion of love in mind as we pursue all our endeavors, we redeem ourselves moment to moment, fulfill our true destinies, and realize the value and meaning of life. It we operate out of love, we cannot inculcate divisiveness or engage ourselves in the destructive forces of extremism.
We are born out of love to discover each of our own balanced pathways of love and, ultimately, to live our lives predicated on spreading as much love as possible during our lifetimes. In so doing, we fulfill and redeem ourselves with and through love's moral imperative.