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Archive for October, 2022

THE GRAND ILLUSION, PART III

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. –Saul Bellow

Good day Gentle Reader.   Today I will conclude our brief exploration of ‘The Grand Illusion’ by briefly exploring the second premise: the pursuit of individual egoism (think: being self-centered) leads to harmony and peace and growth in everyone’s welfare.

Consider that being an egoist refers not only to my behavior but to my character.  Being an egoist means that ‘I’ want everything for myself, that possessing not sharing, gives me pleasure; thus I must become greedy because if my aim is having, I am more the more I have

My hunger to have is insatiable – thus I can never be satisfied; there is no end to my desires.  I am envious of those who have more than I do and I am afraid of those who have less.  On the other hand, I strive to repress these feelings in order to represent myself to myself and to others as the rational, sincere and kind person that I pretend to be (and that others who are like me are also pretending to be). 

Consider, Gentle Reader that this passing for having inevitably leads to class warfare.  The pretense of the communists, for example, is that their system will end class struggle by abolishing classes continues to be fiction; their system, like ours,  is based upon the principle of unlimited consumption as the goal of living.  As long as everyone wants to have more, there must be formations of classes, there must be class war and, thus, there will be international war.  Greed and Peace preclude each other. 

Up until the mid-1700s economic behavior remained ‘human’ behavior and, hence, was subject to the values of humanistic ethics.  Beginning in the late 1700s capitalism underwent a radical change – a fundamental change, a transformational change; economic behavior became separate from ethics and human values.  Economic behavior became rooted in the mechanical metaphor – the machine metaphor. 

This economic machine was supposed to be an entity independent of human needs.  The human metaphor suffered as the machine/mechanical metaphor expanded and grew and became our dominant Cultural Metaphor. 

The development of this metaphor and of this economic system was no longer motivated by the question: What is good for us human beings?  The motivating question became (and still is): What is good for the growth of the system?  We humans were told – continue to be told – that what is good for the system is good for us human beings. 

This illusion was enhanced by another illusion: the qualities that this system required – egotism, selfishness/hedonism and greed – were innate in us human beings; they are part of our very nature.  Thus, both the system and our ‘nature’ fostered them.  Thus, they are virtues not vices AND they are necessary for our very survival. 

Today, people continue to be attracted to the mechanical metaphor and since the 1940s to the banking metaphor and to the technological metaphor and thus to the grand illusion.  These inhuman, life-less, metaphors continue to support the grand illusion and they also continue to be the pathway to our own destruction. 

Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth. –Ludwig Borne

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THE GRAND ILLUSION, PART II

Illusion is the first of all pleasures. –Voltaire

Good day, Gentle Reader.  I concluded PART I with a question: ‘Why did the Grand Promise fail and become the Grand Illusion?’  Today we will briefly explore the ‘Why.’ 

The failure is rooted in our Cultural System.  There are two major tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain our Culture: (1) the aim of life is happiness (think: maximum pleasure); happiness is defined as any desire, want, subjective need a person may feel (the technical term is radical hedonism); (2) that egotism (think: self-centeredness) and greed are the pathways to harmony and peace and contentment.  For thousands of years none of the great Masters that such desire constituted an ethical norm.  These Masters were concerned with our optimal well-being (think: our Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual well-being).  For these Masters an essential element in their thinking was a clear distinction between those desires (wishes, wants, subjective needs) that are subjectively felt and whose satisfaction leads to momentary pleasure and those high priority needs that are rooted in human nature and thus whose realization is conducive and supports healthy human development and produces Eudaimonia (‘well-being’).

If we are paying attention – if we are awake and aware – we will notice that observable data continues to reveal that our kind of pursuit of happiness does not produce well-being.  As a society we are an unhappy people: lonely, anxious, depressed, destructive, dependent on and addicted to distraction and lovers of violence.  We actually ‘kill the time’ we are so anxious to save.  Even though the great wisdom traditions tell us, over and over and over Be Not Afraid! we continue to be fear-full. 

We have been immersed for hundreds of years in the greatest social experiment ever made – to answer the question whether pleasure can be a satisfactory solution to the challenge of human existence.  The grand experiment continues to affirm a negative response and yet because of our addiction to pleasure we are not willing to seek another solution. 

In PART III we will briefly explore the second premise (see it above). 

Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion. –Arthur Koestler

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THE GRAND ILLUSION, PART I

People should not consider so much what they are to do, as what they are. –Meister Eckhart

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  If you have been following my posts for some time (a few of you have been reading them since day one in February, 2012 and I thank you for doing so), you might remember that I write for and to myself (I learned this discipline from reading and savoring Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’); I write in order to help me ‘consider.’  This morning, Gentle Reader, I invite you to ‘Consider’ that we are living into and out of a ‘Grand Illusion.’  Our ‘Grand Illusion’ is rooted in a ‘Grand Promise.’  This ‘Grand Promise’ has failed for it was (and is) rooted in an illusion.

So, Gentle Reader, if you are still reading and considering you might be inquiring as to what I am referring to.  Well, consider this: The Illusion is rooted in the Grand Promise of Unlimited Progress.  This includes (but is not limited to) the promise of the domination of nature, of material abundance, of the greatest happiness for the greatest number and, of course, unimpeded personal freedom. 

The ‘Grand Promise’ itself is rooted in our Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Age promised – and at times continues to promise – unlimited production and, hence, unlimited consumption.  A by-product of this illusion is another illusion (we don’t openly affirm this one, however): the Illusion that ‘We Are Gods!’  We create a ‘new world’ using the natural world as one of our building blocks for our new creation.

As a by-product of the Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Age that followed humans emerged a new sense of freedom: humans became, they believed, masters of their own lives, masters of their own fate, and truly ‘free’ to do as they wished.  Now this was only true for the upper class and for some in the middle class AND the ‘Grand Promise’ engendered ‘faith’ in the others that eventually they, too, could, and would, become ‘masters of their own fate.’ 

The ‘Grand Achievement’ of wealth and comfort for all was intended to result in unlimited happiness for all.  A new trinity was created: the trinity of unlimited production, absolute personal freedom and unlimited personal happiness and this trinity formed the foundation of a new religion, the Religion of Progress.  A new Earthly City of Progress replaced the City of God.  This new religion provided its believers with hope, energy, and vitality while feeding the believers ‘Grand Illusion.’ 

The grandeur of the Grand Illusion, the Grand Promise, needs to be understood in order to comprehend the trauma that comes with the realization its failure continues to engender today.  The industrial-technological-informational ages continue to fail us, continue to fail the Grand Promise.  Ironically we are aware of this failure and at the same time deny it.  Consider the following:

  • We seek unrestricted satisfaction of our desires and yet we know that unrestricted satisfaction is not conducive to our well-being.
  • We are becoming more and more ‘tribal’ and yet we know that Democracy must be rooted in ‘compromise’ if it is going to survive.
  • We seek to be independent masters of our lives and we embrace and have integrated two Cultural Metaphors that negate our being ‘independent’ – the mechanical metaphor which transforms us into ‘cogs’ in the great machine and the banking metaphor which transforms us into commodities, assets and resources to be used and used up.
  • Economic progress continues to widen the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘not-haves.’ 
  • Technology continues to offer us the illusion that we will have more ‘time for self’ and yet has increased our addiction to technology so that our relationships with others and with ourselves continues to deteriorate.

Our two powerful Cultural Metaphors guarantee that we will continue to become less and less human and they will continue to support the failure of the Grand Promise.  So, Gentle Reader, you might be asking: ‘Why did the Grand Promise fail and become the Grand Illusion?’  [Then again, you might have stopped reading a few paragraphs above.]  Next time we will briefly explore the ‘Why.’ 

Few are guilty.  All are responsible. –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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‘I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise, at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must (create, attempt, live life fully, wake-up, serve, etc.).  Accept it just as it sounds, without inquiring into it.  Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an _______.  Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside.’

‘I do only want to advise you to keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development, you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.’ 

‘…in the deepest and most important things, we are utterly alone and for one person to be able to advise or even help another, a lot must happen, a lot must go well, a whole constellation of things must come right in order once to succeed.’

‘…the natural growth of your inner life will lead you slowly and with time to other insights.  Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything.  Everything is gestation and then bringing forth.  To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity…’

‘There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing.  (Living) means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer.  It does come.  But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them so unconcernedly still and wide.  I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!’

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THREE BRIEF JOURNAL ENTRIES

Good morning Gentle Reader.  Recently I have been spending time reading through some of my journals.  I have decided to share three entries with you.  I entered in my journal in August, 2009.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that humans have a tendency to go to their opposites; light, then, would have a tendency to move to darkness – to paraphrase the poet Yeats, the center of light cannot hold and things fall apart.  One way I move from light to darkness (and hence have things fall apart for me) is to choose to become less aware, less awake and put myself to sleep (the sleep of the unaware).  For the most part, I am actually aware of making the choices that I KNOW will put me to sleep.  I used to struggle with trying to understand ‘why’ I choose to go to sleep.  I found this to be a trap.  My reality is that I do so choose to go to sleep and my question is: ‘At this time, in this moment, am I willing to choose to stay awake?’  AND, if I choose to go to sleep to then accept that I am choosing to do so because I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!  I know there is more that can be said about this. . .

As a culture we are out of balance.  When we moved to embrace the mechanical metaphor at the time of the industrial revolution we moved more and more to valuing the ‘outer’ in our lives and hence the ‘inner’ has been, and continues to be, diminished in value.  Even our churches and our educational institutions have made this move for they are run more like businesses than ever before and have become more and more concerned with ‘doing’ and ‘being effective’ and less and less concerned about ‘being’ and ‘being faithful.’

I believe that we are embracing an illusion in our workplaces: the illusion is that we espouse that we value the ‘humanness’ of the employees.  We use language that supports their being ‘human’ and yet there are powerful metaphors afoot that de-humanize the employees for we label them as ‘cogs’ in the machine or, to use our current banking metaphor employees are ‘assets,’ or ‘resources’ or ‘commodities’.  We also act as if employees are ‘cyborgs.’  That is they are ‘living-machines’ – if you cut them they bleed and yet they have the ‘heart of a machine’ and if they wear out we simply discard them.  ‘Assets,’ and ‘Resources,’ and ‘Commodities’ we ‘use up’ and worn out ‘cogs’ and ‘cyborgs’ we discard.  There continues to be a huge gap between what we espouse and what we live out when it comes to employees and their being fully human beings.

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