When Will We Ever Learn?abracad, · Categories: purpose, spirituality
The history of mankind makes for depressing reading. It is a story of recurrent conflict between different groupings with the mightier invariably exploiting or eliminating his less able neighbor. Looking around the world, wars continue to rage; the only difference is that the means of destruction have grown exponentially more horrific.
It takes no great leap of imagination to view mankind simply as clothed animals, and indeed whenever any account of particular depravity comes to light it is common to hear the perpetrators described as animals. But this is an insult to the animal kingdom, which though often savage, acts only from the instinctive drive for survival; ie bears kill to eat, men kill for fun.
Recent global events such as the continued economic turmoil in supposedly "leading" capitalist nations, shocking images of riots on the streets of England, and horrifying scenes of starvation in Africa in the midst of a civil war all underline the fragility of so-called civilization.
Sure, the development in our ability to express our inhumanity has also been accompanied by unprecedented progress in technology of all kinds, plasma TVs, smart phones, computers and the like are now ubiquitous - provided you can afford them. But do they bring happiness? Those "fortunate" enough to be in work must work ever-longer, ever-harder, just to maintain that (ever-increasing) "respectable" standard of living. Until they get fired / their business fails / they suffer a coronary…
But, hey, aren't we supposed to be Spiritual beings undergoing an earthly experience? And isn't that experience supposed to be about learning, and improving? It’s hard to see that building bigger and more efficient weapons of destruction constitutes any kind of improvement.
From Selfishness to Selflessness
The biggest obstacle to mankind’s Spiritual evolution is individual ego, or self-centeredness. Ultimately we all originate from, and will ultimately all return to, a single source (commonly termed God, Spirit etc.) And yet, in our current existence upon the earth-plane, we perceive and act as individuals. It's as though we’ve been blindfolded, dropped in the middle of a desert, and left to find our way home. The illusion – so eloquently highlighted by Zen Buddhism – is that we are totally separate from our fellow man and the universe we inhabit. Sure, we form alliances (and that is a small step towards the essential realization of oneness), but when we do so it is usually for our individual gain.
Even the amoral "god" that is science hints at our inter-connectedness. Each tiny particle in the universe exerts a constant influence upon every other body large or small no matter how many billions of light-years away. Quantum theory has shown that elementary particles originating from a single event (eg the big bang), remain somehow connected, regardless of physical distance (an effect Einstein called "spooky action at a distance"). That influence may be infinitesimal, but the mathematical theory of chaos suggests even infinitesimal effects can have significant effects, eg the flapping of a butterfly's wings could be the tipping point that generates a hurricane on the opposite side of the world. Psychologist C.G. Jung's theory of Synchronicity, experienced so often in the form of uncanny coincidence, suggests a deeper level of reality containing connections between the apparently unrelated.
Does it really matter? From the Spiritual perspective we have an infinite amount of time to get this right, if we don’t make it by the time this universe winds down to die we’ll simply get another go. Indeed, who knows how many previous attempts we’ve screwed up? That said, who wants to experience any suffering that’s avoidable? So we all have a duty to start applying the lessons of the past.
Let's acknowledge the many glimmers of hope that already exist, from the relief worker selflessly serving the world's most troubled regions to the very many who call in on an elderly neighbor to check they're OK, contribute to charities not just during high-profile appeals but as a matter of course, or pray for the wellbeing of others, etc etc. All these acts of essentially unconditional love (and countless more) represent expression of our true Spiritual nature.
Within our blindfolds we all cling to the illusion of isolated individualism. Perhaps our greatest purpose in this lifetime is to shake off that blindfold and to experience the unity of all. The most dedicated may follow something akin to the Zen path to enlightenment. The rest of us might simply try to increasingly practice tolerance tending towards unconditional love towards our fellow beings, while reflecting on the utter futility of seeking material gains.
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