We are a very polarised species right now. This probably comes from being over- and simultaneously under-informed. It’s very easy to blame the media and I’m sure that the media has changed a great deal since my days of reporting. However, we get the media we deserve just like we get the government we deserve. If we turned off the news, it would change very swiftly.
So, why do we need either news or government? If we were capable of living according to Jesus’ Beatitudes, we wouldn’t. Heck, if we were capable of following the ten commandments, we wouldn’t! But we don’t follow either – and I include the vast majority of Christians in that. We don’t want to choose to be humble; we don’t want to be told that the meek will inherit the Earth, we don’t want to love our neighbour as our self. We like to be told what to do for two very important reasons.
a/ So that we don’t have to think for ourselves or take responsibility for our actions. ‘It’s not my fault; I was only doing what they told me to do.’
b/ So we can complain about those who do guide/lead/control us and about those who do or don’t conform.
Both a/ and b/ are symptoms of a society living from ego consciousness. This is quite natural; being awake and in our true consciousness is tiring and often scary; it requires us to step outside the tribal or family thought and think anew.
That’s the true meaning of the Greek word metanoia which, in the Gospels, is usually translated as ‘repent.’ We are meant to keep re-thinking, updating, re-assessing.
Fr. Richard Rohr, with whom I’ve been privileged to study, teaches that the true self does not get offended. The ego does.
Just think about that… And how often you (and I) get offended. And please don’t think I’m standing on the moral high ground here; I’m as guilty/daft/biased as anyone.
So, what’s the purpose of taking offence? It’s in order to feel superior. If you are offended by someone’s words or actions then you are holding onto the moral high ground: They shouldn’t have done or said that. They are wrong. You/We are right.
Feeling inferior or superior are essential ego games.
We are living in a pretty Godless world at the moment … and I include fundamentalist religion in that statement. Fundamentalist religion holds to the letter of the law. Jesus, Buddha and the great prophets of all faiths held to the Spirit of the law. And the law – whatever it may be – needs to be renewed and reinterpreted for each generation as we evolve. Heck, the law needs to be interpreted for every single situation.
I would suggest that we are no better off for being Godless. Yes, I know there is huge evidence of abuse by churches and religious institutions, including the new and horrific details coming from Canada right now, but that’s got nothing to do with God and everything to do with the human ego presenting God in its own image.
If you have a faith in something bigger than you, something that creates, loves and resurrects the fallen, then that faith alone gives you all the significance you need. You know you are loved and valuable and an integral part of Creation. You know that you matter just as much to the Divine if you are homeless, if you are a passionate campaigner for the planet or if you are currently building space ships for trips into the Cosmos itself. Mind you, you might not be doing any of those things if you already knew in your soul that you are valuable. Or you might.
Knowing that you matter is essential for good mental health.
Without that knowledge, we must seek for significance amongst our peers and by our behaviours. And that is always going to need renewal, reinforcement and superiority.
The ego says, ‘I’m right and they are wrong,’ at every possible opportunity. All over social media at the moment are the highly polarised debates about the existence and effects of Covid-19 and the vaccines. I can scroll down my feed and see one post about the incredible insensitivity and selfishness of people turning down vaccination, followed by another about the ‘sheeple’ who don’t realise that the vaccine is developed to control us and make us all sicker.
The pro-vaccine people are generally what might be termed ‘intellectuals’ or ‘liberals’. But those who are anti-vaccine are generally driven by emotion.
Intellect and emotion rarely debate well.
Both sides tend to lump anyone who is doubtful or confused into the opposite camp from their own. But as faith is the opposite of certainty, surely there is always just a little room for doubt?
There seems to be some belief, hidden deep in our ego-consciousness that, if we proclaim loud and long enough, the ‘other side’ will hear us and come to realise that we are right.
Guess what? They won’t. We are preaching to the converted or simply setting up a squabble.
The contemplative … that is, the person who tries to hold both sides in a central blessing to allow the situation to resolve itself without blame or outrage … is trained to be able to say, ‘I don’t know.’ And contemplatives are okay with not knowing. Not knowing is the default condition to pretty much anything, if you consider it. We don’t know if any of us will still be alive in an hour’s time … and once you take that on board, all priorities have the opportunity to change.
There’s a Kabbalistic phrase that I love: ‘the decision cannot be made until the decision is ready to be made.’ I suggest that we all tend to make decisions far too swiftly in this modern, crazy, internet-led world. I know that when I dive into a swift reaction-led decision, all too often I change my mind with a little contemplation later.
I delayed having my first vaccine until my body told me that it was happy for me to have it. That was all I needed to know. It’s my body; they are my emotions and it is my medical history. My body and my ego were scared because of a bad reaction to a previous experimental vaccine. They needed time and love to consider, to do (genuine!) research and to make what was, for me, the perfect decision in the perfect time.
If you have a vaccination when you (for whatever reason) believe that it will be harmful to you, then you are committing emotional and physical self-abuse and nobody should make you do that. The energy around that is not going to help anyone. If there are harmful side-effects, they will bite much harder when there is unhappiness or coercion in the frame.
If you truly believe that the folk who aren’t vaccinated are a threat to you, then you are probably right – our beliefs are incredibly powerful. But yelling at them for their own belief isn’t going to help. Both reactions are based on fear and fear + hostility = war. Even the most allopathically-minded physician nowadays is taught about the vegal nerve which is pivotal in our immune response. Our best response to any threat to our immune system is love. It’s as simple as that. So we are being incredibly counter-productive by hitting out at ‘the other’ no matter how strong our conviction.
So, what’s my point? Good question. I think it might help us as a species to learn to spend our precious energy looking for loving solutions rather than throwing around the blame and outrage that say (so very inaccurately) ‘I am better than you are.’ If only because we are depleting our own health, through the vagal nerve, when we do so. And then, guess what? We will probably prove ourselves right in the matter of our health and that of our loved ones … in which we, at the level of the heart, would much prefer to be wrong.
You’re not better. I’m not better. I acknowledge that I am writing to myself as much as to anyone here.
And, as the spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, put it so beautifully, ‘we are all just walking each other home.’