When a soldier fights, what are they fighting for? There is what they have in their minds and there is what the leaders who pay their wages, supply their guns and give the orders, have in their minds. Which set of ideas is actually going to determine the effect the events taking place will have in the world?
(Well, it didn’t take long for me to drift away from trying to post on Saturdays.) Anyway, I recently had cause to be researching the topic of “stewardship”. I think most people are familiar with the concept of stewardship, but maybe not. So to begin with, here is an excerpt from the Merriam-Webster Online definition:
“2 : the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”
That pretty much sums it up.
The first I can remember hearing anything about stewardship was when I was young and attending a Methodist church in the small Midwest town I grew up in. Stewardship was an important topic in that church. Probably the most well known Bible story relating to stewardship is the story of Joseph in Egypt. How Joseph, acting as a good servant, espousing good stewardship, was a blessing to the Egyptian people. You can read more about the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis beginning at chapter 37. The topic of stewardship was one that came up every now and then in the topics being presented.
That association of stewardship and religion led me to look to see what some other religions had to say on the topic. There is a lot that is written and discussed online around this topic related to various religions. However, there did clearly appear to be a consensus to be found among many of the world’s religions. Most of the information I have listed below are excerpts taken from the website “Religion Answers” although I often found similar quotes within other sources:
Within the Islamic faith we find: “The three most important principles of the Prophet’s philosophy of nature are based on the Quranic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa (stewardship) and amana (trust).”
The Hindu teaching has this to say: “Stewardship is Right Conduct, what the Hindu calls dharma. Stewardship extends to water, to land, to animals, to food, to resources. Nature is Prakriti, Mother Earth is one of the Gods. Earth must be treated with respect.”
Buddhism: “Stewardship is management of the Earth and its resources in accord with the dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha. This includes respect for all forms of life. Stewardship scopes to include environmental ethics, obligation to future generations, risk, and development of technology.”
Sikhism: “The holy scriptures in Sikhism say God is the creator of all that exists., Man has a duty to care for the creation, The world reflects what is inside man – pollution, global warming, ecology disasters – all these reflect what is inside every man, woman and child.”
In the Old Testament:(This does not come from “Religion Answers.) I have to say this is one area of discussion that got a little blurry. It seems to be accepted that God gave man dominion over the Earth. The blurriness seems to be in how that may be interpreted from one place to another. Does “dominion” mean do what you will? That the Earth and it’s resources are here for our plunder? Or does it mean that the Earth belongs to humankind for our caretaking? For our stewardship in keeping with love for God and for one another? Big difference. I think (and hope) most conscientious, spiritually minded persons from both Judaism and Christianity regard it in the latter context.
From the New Testament: Titus 1:7 ESV : “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,”
These are just a few examples. From what I’ve found Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Native American teachings, African native spiritual practices and Paganism all hold the value of respectfully and responsibly, if not lovingly, caring for the Earth and it’s resources. I have not researched every religion, however, from the pattern which clearly shows within the ones I’ve listed, good stewardship, especially of the Earth and it’s resources, has been a shared and cherished value within the religious traditions of most, if not all, people from all around the world for a long, long time.
Imagine, human beings from most, if not all, cultures and locations on the Earth, who have sought wisdom within our spiritual reality, have for centuries, if not millenia, held values consistent with one another about how we should revere and care for, how we should engage in good stewardship of, the Earth and it’s resources. Talk about common ground! What has happened to divert so much of humanity from this very common understanding of our role as stewards upon the Earth?
If humankind, around the world, were to in deed practice conscientious, responsible, loving stewardship of the Earth and it’s resources, keeping in mind that humankind itself may be thought of as another resource upon the Earth, imagine how wonderful this planet and the cultures we build upon it might be?
Fake news. It’s a term which we’ve encountered a lot the past couple years. However, as history attests, it’s not a new phenomenon. Fake news, or the reporting of fabrications as if they were real, is older than the invention of the printing press. It’s not that there aren’t reporters and media genuinely dedicated to bringing honest news of the world to the general population. It’s just that it seems a media with widespread customers who rely upon that media to know what’s going on in the world is apparently too readily manipulable a commodity for unscrupulous politicians and profiteers not to take advantage of.
Most of the time, in centuries past or the past several decades, it seems “fake news” is most often used to incite fear and conflict. Or to cover up the misdeeds of those powerful enough to manipulate the media to do so. A recent movie, “The Post”, memorializes the spirit of some who were willing to be politically incorrect, and more, in order to bring the truth to the public. Does that spirit still exist?
Just in my lifetime the shadow of unexplained realities around some horrendous events calls to question whether genuine, hardcore, investigative journalism, at least in the “mainstream media”, has become unfashionable, threatened, if not facing extinction. The Kennedy assassinations, Oklahoma City, 9/11. These are a few instances in which the media is used to repetitiously reassert highly suspect official stories. Those who do dare point out the inconsistencies are often dismissed with the label “conspiracy theorist”. What makes the difference between a “conspiracy theorist” and an award winning investigative journalist? Is it too often merely the willingness, or reluctance, of those who control “mainstream media” to report certain realities? We need a media which consistently places truth above politics.
For the next few weeks, months, years (?), I am going publish short commentaries on what’s happening in the world rather than longer essays. My goal is to publish one a week, on Saturday mornings. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, “liked” and/or commented on articles on my blog!
A lot of (most?) people in the U.S. have played “Monopoly” at some time. The board game that’s designed to produce a winner and losers in an imaginary battle to acquire wealth. There is maneuvering for advantage, developing properties, lucky and unlucky roles of the dice. In the end someone bankrupts everyone else and owns it all. Then everyone can put the game away and head to the kitchen for snacks. That’s the part that’s missing in real life.
As in the game, in real life most (all?) people contribute in some way to building up and maintaining our communities. Most contribute throughout most of their lifetime. Building, serving, performing tasks meant to help keep the community vibrant. Unfortunately, these days it is happening within a system that is increasingly resembling the board game: designed to produce a relatively few big winners and lots of losers. Because we live in a finite system, there cannot be unbelievably extravagant winners without a whole lot of losers.
In the U.S. it hasn’t always been this way. Regulations against monopolies, a progressive tax system, wages and benefits people could thrive on, social safety nets and other safeguards kept the playing field more balanced; viable for the majority of, if not all, people. Then, those with more wealth began to find ways to manipulate the system. The regulations and safeguards which previously existed to protect the well-being of the whole have been, and are being, dismantled. This is leading to increasing economic imbalance with all the attendant debilitating effects on the general population that one can expect, even predict. We’re now seeing individuals with more wealth than millions of others. Others who have also been contributing.
The system needs repair. We need to restore lost safeguards. We need greater community mindedness. We need greater recognition of our inherent interdependence.
Update, 6/15/18: The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I thought this was a good idea at the time, however, life has intervened and this plan for my blog did not materialize. I’m not quite sure what I’m doing in terms of blogging these days. I am certainly in a period of transition in my life. To everyone who has read my blog at some time, maybe “liked” it or commented; thank you! I hope to be more actively involved at some time in the future…
Disclaimer: this is going to be a long and (somewhat) harsh post about certain realities of life most of us are trying to evade by all means possible.
I am not writing this post out of empathy. I am not writing this post because I read some articles and now I am trying to pass along the knowledge.
I am writing this article because I understand.
I understand the difference between the burning pain of suffering deeply and the general apathy and hopelessness of depression. The emptiness. The lack of interest, joy, passion. I understand the despair, the loneliness, the reluctance to discuss about it all, the very fatiguing job of hiding it all behind a smile, or an “I’m fine” delivered in the worst way possible.
We read or hear every now and then about someone “going down a rabbit hole”. That is no doubt an allusion to Alice in Wonderland (Or Alice Through the Looking Glass) and a young girl’s journey into a fantastic, somewhat disorienting world. These days “going down a rabbit hole” is most often used to describe someone who is delving into information having to do with conspiracies, manipulations of the public consciousness. Often these people may also be described as being “on the fringe”, nut jobs or nut cases, conspiracy theorists, or even lunatics. However, is this really the case? Are the people who delve into such information, trying to discern what is or isn’t real, actually going down a rabbit hole? Or, are they trying to climb out of one?
It certainly seems many people live in one of two ways: Either blindly, unquestioningly accepting the information they are handed by “the authorities” and adjusting their lives accordingly. Or, some do feel, suspect, things really aren’t what they have been told they are, but the prospect of trying to peer into the darkness is too frightening. These folks then continually seek other people and institutions which will reinforce the status quo and, at least temporarily, soothe the uneasiness which lies below the surface of their lives.
Then there are the people who don’t, can’t, fit into either of these groups. People whose consciousness, whose intuitions about our world are persistently and relentlessly sending them alerts: something doesn’t feel right, something doesn’t make sense when analyzed using all the available evidence. These people often feel like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. So these people read, watch documentaries, talk with others. Not just the books, videos and others that will reinforce the information that is already being mass-produced and presented repeatedly on all the mainstream media. These people welcome all the information they can get their hands on. Including the material being presented on the six o’clock news and the front page. These folks welcome the alternative perspectives, the “outside the box” reasoning, and all the facts, all the evidence, they can find. No matter where it may come from and, more importantly, no matter where it may lead.
It is important to note the critical distinction between “welcoming” of information and “accepting” information. One, the welcoming, is the act of opening one’s senses, one’s mind, to input. Accepting information is the act of internalizing, assimilating, the information as true and accurate. When we do this we are doing more than simply restructuring our mental, abstract concepts about whatever the information pertains to. We are actually directing our brain to arrange our neural connections in such a way that the information becomes “hardwired*” into our neural processing patterns. This is an organic process which requires time, energy and effort on the part of our body, our brain. Our brain is building an organic network of thought, reasoning patterns which become part and parcel of our conscious processes. These concepts, true or false, become the matrix, the foundational fabric of our thinking processes.
In between the “welcoming” and the “accepting” what should exist is a critical, analytical process of vetting the information. What too often happens is that merely the fact that somebody in a position of culturally recognized “authority” spoke or wrote the words passes as vetting information. Is it that millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are too complacent, to think, to research for themselves? Or is there more to it than that? People around the world are often required to expend such a large amount of their time and energy in just striving to keep themselves sheltered and fed that, maybe, there just isn’t enough energy to go around? To look at this phenomenon from the perspective of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we can’t do too much on the higher levels of our lives when we’re unsatisfied with and/or expending all our efforts on the lower levels of the Hierarchy. However, no matter what the reason(s) may be, if we aren’t critically analyzing the important happenings in our world, some of our oversights are going to affect us more than others!
*Back to the “hardwiring” our brain is busily involved with. This “hardwiring” is not immutable. Just as these neural circuits were formed via our acceptance of, our assimilation of, information into our belief system; our working concept of reality can be reformed/reshaped in the same manner. But it takes time. Our brain’s neural network is not just a series of “off/on” switches. It is a living organ and change requires time and energy. When we construct complex concepts in our minds we are employing an army of neurons. Some of them are carrying data more central to the concept, some are carrying data more peripheral. Some are doing the work of associating one concept with another. Our brain doesn’t operate like a military drill field where one central command can result in hundreds or thousands of soldiers making an instantaneous change of direction. Our brain, our thought/neural constructs, change via many recursive visits to the subject. Slowly, gradually, change begins to become pervasive throughout our neural network. Sometimes it may take years, decades, for an intention for change to have thoroughly replaced the pre-existing concept(s). To try to change too much, too quickly, can be a traumatic event for the organic neurology involved. It can result in mental illness, and I am told, even death.
That’s why we don’t want to beat ourselves up when we find ourselves falling down on resolutions we make. Our neurology just doesn’t respond in an instantaneous, pervasive manner. It is also why we do not want to “program” ourselves or allow ourselves to be programmed with faulty, inaccurate, untrue information. It is not in the best interests of our species to have to engage in major conceptual changes. It takes a lot of time and energy away from being able to cope with the “here and now”. It is profoundly better to have good information to begin with and to be able to build increasingly complex, increasingly sound conceptual networks over time.
Human kind is probably the only species on Earth in which adults of the species will knowingly lie to their young. Of course, sometimes the adults who are transmitting false, inaccurate information to their young aren’t doing it intentionally. They are doing it because they themselves have accepted false, inaccurate information. Information which was handed to them by an “authority” sometime, someplace during their lives. This false, inaccurate information might be thought of as parasites which have been introduced to the family, dressed up, and have taken up residence, attempting to influence successive generations. Kind of like a horror movie.
When we’re under the influence of false, inaccurate information one can think of it as living at the bottom of a rabbit hole: in the dark.
For decades the American public has been living under the influence of lies. Lies coming from the White House, the Pentagon, and Congress. Lies being regurgitated by much of the media. The lies have gotten so deep, going back decades; so much has been built on top of those lies, those in power must cringe at the thought of the public ever widely knowing the truth. As George H.W. Bush said to Sarah McLendon, a Texas journalist: “Sarah, if the American people ever find out what we have done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us.” That was in 1992. The corruption, lies and abuses, the darkness being cast over our understanding of our world, have only gotten deeper since then. The Kennedy assassinations, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Oklahoma City bombing, MK Ultra, 9/11, these heinous actions, actions which the American people have been lied to regularly and repeatedly about, are only the tip of the iceberg. Financial abuses, wars, economic disparity, the list of ways the American public has suffered as a result of the lies is long and grievous. Because I live in the U.S., events in the U.S. are what I am most aware of. However, corruption and abuse of the public by those in high office is by no means limited to the U.S.
So, in reality, those seeking the truth about these things aren’t frivolously going down the proverbial rabbit hole, they’re determinedly trying to climb out of one.
Culture. We all need one to live. However, if and when that culture becomes too rigid, too intolerant, it stops being the supportive, nurturing, positive context we all need for whole, healthy lives. We human beings are complex in our make-up, in how it is that we experience our world, our environment, and in how we, as individuals, want to respond and behave within it. Each of us, while we do all share an essential common core of basic needs: water, food, air, shelter, love…, as complex beings are also very different in many ways.
We all experience and relate to our world in a somewhat different manner. Some people are more oriented toward an auditory experience of the world. Some the visual, or the tactile. And there are many other aspects of our lives which we all approach in different measure, with varying degrees of passion. We all have available to us the realities of logic, mathematics, healing/medicine, art, architecture, music, taste/food, physical capabilities; balance, strength, motion, sensuality. There are so very many aspects of our lives and our world which we all can and do find ourselves drawn to, interested in, to varying degrees. And they are all equally valid*. What we find ourselves naturally drawn to is the path we need, as an individual living organism with both physical and spiritual components. The path which will lead us to realizing our individual developmental journey in this life. It is, in fact our developmental imperative. And, again, they are all equally valid*.
This reality, of individual developmental imperatives, while so common sensical and simple at it’s base, has profound implications for us within our cultures and interpersonal relationships. Currently, in many cultures, there is an expectation, sometimes a quite rigid expectation, that within the culture we should all follow a highly regimented common path. This can, and often does, apply within our interpersonal relationships and especially marriages. It can, and often does demand, that one party accept a subservient relationship to the other. Often, but by no means always, the subservient role is expected of the female. It is hard, real hard, (all but impossible?) to get in touch with and express one’s individual developmental imperative in such a situation. Someone may want to attempt the argument that then the subservient person is experiencing that difficulty then that is their developmental imperative at that moment (to learn it is impossible to experience self-actualization while being rigidly held to someone else’s expectations and rules?). What do you think?
Within healthy interpersonal relationships we often take on obligations. Couples take on the obligation of maintaining a household, raising children, working together toward common goals. Honoring one’s own developmental imperative does not mean being defiantly independent and resisting all cooperative efforts and arrangements in our lives. It does mean being in touch with and honest with ourselves. Honoring what we know to be our essential orientations and needs. When partners recognize this reality within their own and their partner’s life, and when the individual orientations and needs are not incompatible with the needs that exist within the partnership, then all’s well. As a matter of fact, it’s better than well, it’s excellent.
The only way it gets any better is when partners within a relationship not only recognize and honor one another’s individual developmental imperatives, but take an active interest in seeing one another succeed in expressing them.
Today in the world at large we see individual developmental imperatives being honored, or neglected, to varying degrees. Some cultures all but totally reject it. When a brutally enforced totalitarian expectation of conformity is present, individual developmental imperative hides in fear. Or there may be martyrs in it’s name. The individual developmental imperative seems to most often demand our attention by being gently insistent. However, if continually repressed there can be pressure that builds up behind it. It can cry out within our being for recognition and expression.
The same is true within families, or interpersonal relationships and marriages. It can require determination and personal effort in developing knowledge and reason for individual developmental imperative to find fertile ground. Personal insecurities can get in the way of one’s own ability to express one’s developmental imperative and it can cause us to try to repress it in others. Within close relationships knowledge of one another combined with trust and reliability are important.
We don’t come into this world “blank slates”. We arrive with a developmental imperative already well underway. Our spirit, our mind, our nervous system are already geared for the path that will serve us the best. And, if we are happy and accomplished at a skill which brings enlightenment, joy, and increased turn-on to life and well-being to others…then it is a win-win-win situation.
Again, there is work involved, and discipline. Work and discipline are not bad things when applied to the expression of that which we deeply love and seek to honor with our being. In that context work and discipline feel right and we recognize the value they can add to our achieving that which we desire.
*So why the asterisk, the caveat? Because there is something we need to acknowledge and honor in order to preserve our individual ability to access, explore and fulfill our lives. It is really very simple: we need to acknowledge and honor the basic needs and lives of everyone else as if they were our own. Which means if we perceive our developmental imperative as requiring us to harm others, to inflict physical, psychological and/or spiritual harm: mutilation, deprivation, destruction, upon others, then we need to rethink how we are interpreting our perceptions. It is likely that if we find ourself having such thoughts that they are an expression of anxiety and fear. Emotions often stemming from, at sometime in our past, our having been harmed, significantly physically, psychologically and/or emotionally mistreated. And/or quite possibly that we are suffering from a neurological impairment resulting from an insult to our brain. Possibly from a physical or chemical insult, or resulting from experiencing significant prolonged stress. What is needed is an experience of pervasive healing: and that experience will not manifest by harming others.