What makes a country great?

IMG_1010While “Make America Great Again” is a political slogan in the U.S. right now, the fact is, every country wants to be great.  Every country, every person, wants to be prosperous, safe, healthy.  Who wouldn’t?  So how can it be done?

In the U.S. the de facto message being sent out by those currently in charge of our country’s government and industries is that having a very wealthy upper class is what makes America great.  That and having lots of exorbitantly priced weapons to attempt to instill fear in everyone else in the world.  In the U.S. we have heard and still hear that are enemies hate us because of our freedom.  Honestly, I can’t think of anything more ridiculous.  It is a fact that has been learned from the study of behavior that primarily we try to kill what we fear, not what we hate.  Instilling fear in one’s neighbors is not a good foreign policy.

But back to the original question, what makes a country great?  Is it having a wealthy upper class whose wealth is comparable to the wealth of other countries’ upper classes?  Does it all work like a game of Monopoly?  The country with the richest upper class wins?  (Wins what?)

Almost every country in the world (every country?), has within it the edifices, or the ruins, of the temples and mansions/palaces built in the past by a very wealthy ruling class.  If having some very, very wealthy people in it (with everyone else serving those few) is what makes a country great, then there have been, a lot of really great cultures in the world.  Which leaves us with the question:  If these cultures were so great, why did they all disappear?  Were they too good to be true?  I highly doubt that.

A widely ignored piece of truth in the world is that each country, like every person, has a spirit.  A healthy spirit goes a long, long way to maintaining a healthy body.  An unhealthy spirit portends the decline of the body it inhabits.  The health of the spirit of a country is determined by the health of entirety of the population who live within that country.  The entirety of the population making up the ambient spiritual/energy system.  There is a great spirit present when a group of happy, healthy people are singing “America the Beautiful”.  It doesn’t quite ring the same when those people are hungry, depressed, fearful, sick, homeless.  Honestly, does that reality surprise anyone?  The same holds true for any country’s anthem.

What makes a country great?  The simple answer is that it is those actions and conditions that contribute to making the spirit of a country healthy.  What fills a country with citizens who care about their communities, their country?  What makes them want to work, to want to invest their energies into the country?  The answer is, again, essentially a simple one:  when they feel cared about and invested in by the culture, the country they live within.  Like so many other aspects of human relationships, it’s a two-way street.

When the inhabitants, the citizens of a country feel ignored, abandoned, or even betrayed by the government, the industries (the dominant cultural powers) of the country they live within, how much love do you think they’re feeling for that government, those industries?  In most cases it was the indispensable contributions, the blood, sweat and tears of those very citizens, their parents and their grandparents without which the government and those industries would not, could not, exist.  They invested their minds, bodies and spirits, their lives, into building something they hoped, they expected, would be there to help sustain their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Their hope was that the institutions; the government they paid taxes to and quite possibly fought for and the industries they contributed to building, would contribute to improving their lives and their descendants’ lives.  That reality exists deep and pervasively within the spirit of America.

The fact is, there is no industry, no wealth that exists in America today that doesn’t have it’s foundation in the work and industriousness of previous generations.  The farmers, scientists, cooks, factory workers, shoemakers, janitors, clothing manufacturers, doctors, waitresses, musicians, nurses, teachers, store clerks, street cleaners, artists, loyal dissidents, police officers, construction workers, miners, dish washers, fire fighters, soldiers, railroad workers and those who have built the roads.  It has taken every contribution by every person who has contributed for any greatness that exists in America, or any other country, to come into being.  If the top of a pyramid decides it no longer requires the health, the good regard, of the base of the pyramid, what is going to happen?

Indeed, the wealth that was built by many has been captured by a few.  It may have been done legally.  After all, legality is subject to those who control the making of the laws.  It may have happened because too many common people weren’t paying attention.  It may be that very many of the common people lust for the opportunity to do likewise.  All those things may be true.  However, is that what is going to make America, or any country, great?  Of course the answer is “no”.

A key component to making America, or any country, great is to recognize and care for the spiritual reality that underlies the ongoing reality of the people.

 

A view on our past, present…and future(?).

Oliver and the fishIf you were young and watching television in the U.S. in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, “westerns” were a staple of Saturday morning programming.  The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, and more.  In these shows it was not unusual to see a moral, rather than a legal problem, being resolved.  Sometimes the problem at hand involved extortion.  Somebody, through force or underhanded legal maneuvering,  got “the upper hand” on somebody else and was threatening their home, livelihood, and/or possibly their life itself.  Whatever the situation there was a clear right and wrong about what was going on.  Viewers knew it instinctively, viscerally.  Legality may or may not have entered the scenario and may not always have been on the side of “right”.

The children who watched these dramas were the generation that recognized the wrong in the Vietnam war and took to the streets.  After the war ended a new generation came on the scene, new TV shows, new movies showed up.  The messages were not at all the same.  But somehow, I would say proving it’s innate place in our lives, the desire for morality in our world has been increasingly showing itself.  Right now, even though rarely reported in the U.S., the “Yellow Vest” movement is sweeping a lot of the world.

Back to extortion.  Merriam-Webster online defines “extort” as:  “… to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power…”  As this definition clearly implies, the power, the process, used in extortion may or may not be “legal”.  And that whether the process in place is “legal” or not does not define whether or not extortion is taking place.

A lot of us have experienced extortion at some time in our lives.  Whether it was a sibling somehow extorting our dessert, a bully on the playground demanding lunch money, being robbed (yes, robbery is extortion), or possibly having “protection” money extorted, a lot of us have experienced extortion.  Incidentally, blackmail is just another form of extortion.

Most of the time I think we see extortion in terms of someone threatening to do something harmful to someone else unless that person gives them money not to.  Sometimes it’s phrased as a service, such as “I will protect your business and you give me money each week.”  The unspoken reality is that the “protection” the victim is buying is, in fact, from the seller.  It is the seller of the “protection” themself that will smash or burn the business if they aren’t paid.  That is what makes the difference between a “protection” racket and the tax money we pay to have police services in a community.

However, what about the cases in which someone is going to withhold something essential to another person’s life unless that person pays them an extremely large, inordinate, sum of money?  Is that extortion?  

One form of extortion I can remember from the old westerns was the case where someone dammed up a river or stream which ran through their property and withheld essential water from ranchers or farmers downstream.  Unless, of course, they “paid up”.  As I recall there wasn’t necessarily a law allowing or disallowing the action, it’s just that it was clearly wrong.  It involved bullying and cruelty and the audience instinctively and viscerally knew that.

Let’s say we’re on a road trip and we’re going through a desert and we need gasoline.  There is a gas station but the price of the gasoline is X times what the gas stations outside the desert are charging.   If it’s one and a half or even twice what the stations outside the desert charge, we may just pay it and feel glad the station was there.  One thing is that the delivery of the product to the station in the desert was possibly more expensive than to the other stations.  But what if it’s 300, 500, or 1,000 times as much as anywhere else?  What if we have to sign over our house to pay for the gasoline?  Isn’t that extortion?

There are at least two methods which jump to my mind that can be used to determine the price of any product.  The first I’ll call the barter or trade value system.  If there is a value system which has become internalized through repetition through the centuries, this is it.  A product or object had the value of it’s natural material worth combined with whatever time and craftsmanship went into turning the raw material into the finished product.  A piece of wood carved into a bear was worth more than just a piece of wood.  In the market place others could see the product, had some idea of the time and craftsmanship, and knew the reality of what went into whatever they had for trade.  Maybe a jar of pickles would bring a carved bear home.  Fair trade was honored and recognized around the world.

Of course scarcity of a product could also dramatically affect it’s value.  Along with the reality of how essential the produce is to sustaining life.  A quart of water from a rare well in the desert could undoubtedly fetch much more than the same quart of water at a lakeside in most places.  People understood this and generally accepted it.  Some undoubtedly tried to exploit this reality and attempted to manufacture a shortage, produce scarcity.  Such is the case with diamonds today.  People might fall for it initially, but over time the truth would become known and, historically anyway, the perpetrator could well face some harsh consequences.

Poisoning a well might be one method of making water from another well more valuable.  In the “old west” of the United States I think doing so may have resulted in the offender being hung if and when the truth became known.  Producing scarcity, poisoning a well in order to increase the market value of the water from another well, is one more form of extortion.

The other method of determining the value of a product is simply one in which a product’s value is whatever a seller can get a buyer to pay for it.  This means the more scarce, and/or essential, or simply desirable a product is the more valuable it is.  This reality exists even when there is a level playing field and “fair trade” is going on.  But today the reality is that fair trade has been replaced with marketplace manipulation.  Scarcity can be manufactured, and too often is.  Need can be manufactured.  A common example of this is providing salty snacks at a bar to sell more beer.   However, an even more common example, one that affects our lives and our planet much more seriously, is the auto manufacturers creating a need for oil products by only manufacturing vehicles which require them.  An accompanying aspect of a culture in which a higher complexity of technology and skills are required to produce the products needed to negotiate the cultural reality is that the opportunities for extortionate business practices are more plentiful.  Finally, desire for a product can be manipulated via marketing.

In summary, manipulating scarcity, inflating prices and thereby, in fact, utilizing extortion have increasingly become business strategies.

Today, someone who is producing a product and simply and fairly selling it in the marketplace may easily be bankrupted by organized industries that manipulate the scarcity of and artificially inflate the prices of their products.  And just as with the water from the well in the desert, if someone needs a certain product, such as extensive medicine and/or medical care, in order to save their life or the life of a loved one, too often they’re facing an extortionate reality which, on it’s own, too often threatens to destroy the very life the consumer is seeking to save.  While the scarcity of wells in the desert is not manipulated by human beings, and, interestingly it is my understanding that often (but not always) such wells were kept freely available to all, that is not the case with many products today.

Our current reality is that far too often, products are controlled to produce scarcity and dire need has become a lever for extortionists to exploit.    

But the discriminatory imbalance has roots far deeper than these aforementioned practices.  Technology and an increased understanding of how human beings function offer means of manipulating the general public that were unavailable, if not entirely unheard of, a century ago.  Today many methods of undermining the physical and intellectual functioning of a large population are both understood and at work in the U.S. and elsewhere.  This means that any chance at “fairness” in the marketplace and life a person might have is often under attack before that person is even born.

Too often we see people, young and old, who are demoralized, filled with hopelessness.  Increasingly widespread, this debilitating state of mind is often resulting from the following realities:

  • Malnutrition and chronic illness:   These go hand in hand.  When food high in fat, sugar/high fructose corn syrup and carbohydrates are readily available while it becomes harder to access natural, vitamin rich nutritious foods, both malnutrition and chronic illness are promoted.  There is a correlated diminishing of physical and mental functioning.  In this condition, hopelessness and demoralization have fertile ground.
  • A limited educational reality:  Simply attending a school in no way guarantees the availability of a quality education that prepares one to face the reality of the world around them.  The manipulation of information in textbooks (as well as media at large) often disseminates misinformation, self-defeating thought constructs and loyalties.  People are often taught to embrace a value system which ignores basic realities about human existence and leads to, again, self-defeating behaviors.
  • Poisoning:  The ongoing exposure to toxins in the air, water, food and medicines which impair either or both physical and mental health and functioning.  Small doses of bio-accumulating poisons any of which alone can be said to be insignificant and not a problem, when occurring repetitively become a significant impairment to the consumer ever having the opportunity of being a whole, healthy person.
  • Chronic stress:   Chronic trauma/stress (as well as severe enough acute trauma/stress) causes our brain to shut down.  Roughly from the frontal regions, back and down, over time leaving us reacting from the “reptilian” area of the brain:  fight or flight.  It’s hard to process complex, abstract concepts, take advantage of opportunities that require complex behaviors, when we’re stuck in survival mode.  Of course, being in a war zone inflicts both acute and, over time, chronic stress.  Most people are aware that military personnel who have been in a war zone often experience stress/trauma related problems when they return home.  However, it by no means requires being a war zone to experience sufficient stress/fear to have the same effects upon a person.  What is there to fear when we’re not in an active, military, war zone?  Mugging, rape, hunger, eviction, losing a job, not making enough money, disease, homelessness, shootings all these fears are seriously affecting many people; children, women and men, everyday in the U.S. and around the world.  The question is not why don’t these folks pick themselves up by their bootstraps.  The reality is more precisely that these folks are too shell-shocked (to use a WWII term) to even recognize that they have “bootstraps”.

All of these four items increase the probability of the need for medical care and therefore render the individual more susceptible to extortionate practices in the medical marketplace.  By design or default we have succeeded in producing a cultural environment which too often impairs both the physical and psychological ability of individuals to recognize, develop and/or access opportunity.  In fact, our culture is presently producing a caste system of “haves” and “have-nots”.  A system in which being born into one or the other caste carries with it advantages or obstacles which, by design or default, work to maintain the status quo.

Those who were fortunate enough to be relatively whole human beings when they became young adults, who were able to recognize and utilize opportunities that existed to them at that time, who went on to have jobs that pay a living wage (or that when combined for a couple pay a living wage) often still find themselves trapped by debt.  Living in a world in which costs rise much faster than wages.  Many are working to pay the bills on a month to month basis.  Again, we find people experiencing the effects of the relentless erosion of stress upon their being.

So here we are.

It can be hard, maybe impossible, for those who were born after 1980 to fully grasp the concept that life wasn’t always like this in the U.S.  There used to be more jobs that paid a living wage.  The ruthless, extortionate thinking that pervades the housing, health insurance and medical related industries wasn’t always there.  Really.  There used to be a very prevalent realization that WE are in this together.  How many people who were born in the early 1950’s really kind of thought that “U.S.” meant “us”.  Maybe the attitude of solidarity was to some greater or lesser extent an artifact of the mindset which supported the Allied effort during WWII?  I tend to think so.

It’s not that the culture in the U.S. was perfect at that time.  There were problems, some serious ones:  racism, economic disparity.  But the attitude was different, it was “yes we can”.  The primary focus was on solving the problems to have a whole, prosperous nation.  There was a widely held, underlying assumption that everyone should have a truly honest opportunity to obtain a living wage, live “the good life”.

Then something happened.

Looking back, I think it was when the momentum toward greater peace and pervasive prosperity, more focus on building and less on destruction, became the target of assassination along with John F. Kennedy.  A cabal seeking inordinate power and wealth carried out a coup d’etat right here in the U.S. of A.  It was so unthinkable that, well, few people seemed to think it.  The “lone gunman” explanation was much more palatable.

Simultaneously, the evening news, again right here in the U.S., began, or increased, it’s role of indoctrinating a nation with the propaganda designed to promote the agenda of the new ruling cabal.  I think the felt realization of the profound loss that had taken place is the reason why so many around the world wept when J.F.K. was shot down.  And a fervent hope that the dream might not die with the man is why his picture continued to hang in so many homes around the world.  It is also why the effort to uncover the truth of that day persists even now.

But while John Kennedy died, the dream did not.  The dream wasn’t born with J.F.K. and it didn’t die with him.  He was a torchbearer of the flame for a brief while.  And he wasn’t the only one.  Martin Luther King, Jr. also carried the flame and also was shot down.  And there have been and are, other torch bearers.  The dream goes on.  The dream has existed for centuries, millenia.  Quite possibly it has been around longer than life on this planet.

What is the dream?  A culture which nurtures and brings out the best in those blessed to be a part of it.  A culture in which the abilities of thought and invention are given to realizing goals and dreams birthed in and organized by love and caring.  A culture which embraces inclusivity and recognizes the inter-relatedness of all.  A culture no longer occupied with manufacturing scarcity and which no longer engages in war and destruction organized around exclusivity, greed, hate, and fear.

I know there are those who consider this dream foolish, unrealistic.  Just as there were those who thought the dreams that man might one day build machines to fly through the air and dive to the depths of the oceans were foolish and unrealistic.

Think of it: even the ideas that the Earth is round, or that the Earth revolves around the sun were at one time considered foolish and unrealistic.

When we realize the strength that comes with our unity, when we finally make the decision to genuinely care for ourselves, we can achieve beauty and wonders for ourselves, our loved ones, our human family that exceed all but our most far-reaching imagination.

And maybe even exceeding that.

 

 

 

Our Developing World

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(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

There are three descriptive terms, or “mottoes” one of which can usually be assigned to describe the nature of various peoples’ mindset.  They are:

“It’s all about me!”

“You and me against the world.”

“One for all and all for one.”

We all know people who fit into one of the first two mindsets.  Increasingly we can find people in the world who are coming from the third mindset.  Anyone who has raised children can see that these mottoes also generally describe stages of child development.  In keeping with the axiom “As above, so below.  As below, so above.”,  we can also apply these developmental stages to cultures/societies.

These three stages of development reflect the degree to which an individual has opened themselves to embracing the world around them.   While it is easy to think or say that embracing more is better, and I believe being able to embrace more truly is better, we all can only open at our own pace.  We’re complex.  There are other issues involved, safety being one that jumps to mind.

People operating from all three stages are in the world at any given time.  There is no credit or guilt inherent with a person’s occupying any of the stages.  However, there are consequences, ripples in the water, from all our thoughts and actions and the degree of exclusivity or inclusivity of our mindset is no different.

What are some further characteristics of those who are coming from one of these three mindsets?

  1. “It’s all about me.”:  Very young children often live in this mindset.  Most adults mature beyond it, however, not all.  What prevents or hinders a person’s development resulting in them being stuck in this level of development?  I’m not sure I can answer that question.  I’m sure there are lots of theories as to why that may happen.  And I’m confident there is truth to be found in some or all of the theories.  I would like to add that I think we cannot rule out past-life experiences as possibly playing a part in why some may be stuck.  People coming from this mindset might seek to create a cult of personality around themselves.
  2. “You and me against the world.”:  This is the level of development that much of the world is currently operating from.  Corporations, nationalism, racism, many religions, exclusive clubs, secret societies, come from this mindset.  Sports teams adopt this mindset for the period of time they are involved in a sporting event, but that does not necessarily mean the individual players generally live from this mindset.  Political parties generally come from this mindset.
  3. “One for all and all for one.”:  It is harder to come up with related characteristics with this category, is that because there are fewer people coming from it?  I don’t know.  Offhand some might say communists or socialist come from this mindset.  From how we’ve seen nominally communist or socialist societies play out in the world, those titles do not necessarily indicate genuine “One for all, all for one.” thinking.  Often factions within the countries take over with more of a “You and me against the world.” mentality.  And even if we think in terms of one for all and all for one, this doesn’t mean we want to give up owning our own home, car, business or giving up the idea of any private property.  No, interestingly, it is hard to find any groups or organizations which jump to mind as representing the “One for all and all for one.” mindset.  Is this because exclusivity is so common with groups and organizations?  I think there are some parameters of how we regulate our behavior in regard to acquisition which would naturally come into place in a genuine “One for all and all for one.” society.  And we need to keep in mind “One for all and all for one.”  has to do with the work as well as the rewards.  While not being able to name a group or organization which represents this mindset, I know this mindset exists in the world.  And I think we need a lot more of it for the world to ever leave war behind and achieve genuine harmony.

Ultimately it all comes down to individuals.   And individuals all develop in their own time.

Mastery vs Domination

To be or not to be...We’ve all been exposed to the films, books, and for some possibly the first-hand experience, in which a slave refers to their owner as “Master”.  How did that terminology, in that context, ever come about?  If looking at definitions in various dictionaries online, it seems to make a great deal of difference whether we’re using the word as a noun, adjective or verb.

As a noun, “Master” seems to most commonly mean someone, or something, in charge.  Again there is the illustration of a slave owner, or the head of a household.  Or it could mean a part, or aspect, of a mechanical or electrical system which is somehow central, upon which the functioning of the other parts or aspects of the system depend.  Such as a “master” switch.

In these usages, as a noun, it seems there is consistently the principle of dependence involved. The Master is something or someone needed so everything or everybody else can function.  However, is the reality between a mechanical and an organic system really that similar?  Does the same level of dependency between a master and a slave component within a mechanical or electronic system really ever exist between human beings?  Has it ever?

Within a machine or device, if the “master” component is not functioning properly, the other components of the machine or device which are “slave” to that component are useless, in every sense of the word.  They have no capacity for independent action.  Their entire reason for existing is negated.

Is that ever the case when it’s human beings involved rather than mechanical components?  I suppose one might argue that relative to a certain specific situation, say a factory which produces a sophisticated electronic product, all the production workers in the factory are dependent upon the person who designed the product in the first place.  It definitely may be said (changing usage of the word “master” momentarily to a verb) that the designer has mastered some skill or area of knowledge and is therefore (changing to an adjective) a “master” of some skill.  But if that factory closes down, are the production workers going to be totally rendered useless?  Totally impotent and meaningless from that point forward as machine components would be?  Are human beings ever so totally, immutably, dependent upon a role as a component in a system that, should that role cease to exist, their entire meaning, their ability to function in any respect, is lost?  While some people may have felt that way at some time or another, ultimately, the answer is a resounding “NO”.  Human beings and mechanical components are not inherently the same in this regard.

But a particular human being may be so conditioned, so deceived by the circumstances of their life, of their environment, that they believe this level of dependency to be the truth of their life.  And while a profound physiologic disability of some kind may indeed render an individual totally dependent upon another for their physical survival, in general, for the vast majority of human beings, this is not at all inherently the case.  If a person does hold a belief in such a level of dependency upon another, it is the result of that person having somehow been presented with and having accepted an illusion, a lie, as the reality of their life.

For unlike mechanical components, human beings are inherently capable of independently adjusting, adapting, to new, different, circumstances.  It takes work, it can be difficult (or not) depending upon many internal and external variables, but the ability to attain this level of mastery over one’s own life is totally within the scope of human existence.  In fact, I would say that ultimately this level of mastery over our own life is an inherent aspect of our destiny as sentient beings.

Further, I would say that nobody can ever truly, completely gain mastery over the life of another.  For one thing, we have too much to do with the inherent task we face of mastering our own life.  Any time we spend trying to become master over the life of another is time spent in futility.  Or worse, possibly time spent counter-productively within our own developmental imperative?

So, while we may be able, at some time or another, for a finite amount of time, be able to dominate certain aspects of the lives of one or more people; we cannot ever truly become the master over the life of another human being.  Further, to attempt to dominate over the lives of others, for anything other than a benevolent purpose relative to a task with specific time and place parameters, such as a surgeon dominating the activities taking place within an operating room, is to enter into a relationship with that person or persons which will ultimately result in ill-fitting contortions of life for all concerned.

Yet all this is not to say that we cannot, through truly understanding ourselves, gain understanding, insight, into the lives of others.  We can, and by doing so we can and do become more valuable as a friend, a partner, a parent.  We are more able to relate to others and to interact with others, with those we love, in activities which are mutually enjoyable and to mutual developmental benefit.

Ultimately, we are social beings.  Independent social beings, each with our own free will and our own developmental imperative.  However, we all need life-sustaining, meaningful interactions with one another.  In fact, we need to learn to live and work cooperatively, to support and be an asset to one another.  Is that a paradox?  Not at all, what it is, is, simply, the inherent, wonderful, nature of our lives.

When we truly realize this truth about the inherent nature of our lives, when we leave behind the ego trips, the grandiose, narcissistic and/or megalomaniacal schemes to dominate the lives of others, then we can truly engage in discovering, and mastering, the unlimited wonders, the amazing potential available to us, which are inherent within each and every one of us! 

The Common Ground of Stewardship

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(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

(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?

 

Respecting our individual developmental imperatives.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Why do I use Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs so often in my articles? Because it informs us of a universal key to a successful life as an individual and as a culture.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Humanity’s Plight

The Blue Marble, NASA
NASA photo “Blue Marble”

Somewhere in the past I read in a text, which I can’t remember the title of, that due to the difficult, treacherous circumstances of life on Earth, all spirits that take it upon themselves to be born here are considered heros. There are so very many dangers, pitfalls, that exist for humans. Diseases, dangerous substances, accidents, but possibly the most difficult challenges we all face are the ones related to our own senses and how we handle, how we react, to the stimulation we receive from them.

“Where the senses go the mind follows.” (author unknown) is a quote which pretty much sums up the challenge. This is such an incredibly rich planet in terms of sensory, sensual, experiences. Visual, auditory, tactile and energetic; stimulation reaching one or all of the seven chakras within us.

When the stimulation we are receiving leads us to begin considering actions which in some way compromise some aspect of our lives, our personal coherence, integrity; when we are considering actions which stand to affect the nature of our relationship with the rest of the physical, mental, spiritual world we live in (turning harmony into dissonance)- that is when we are truly facing the nature of challenge this planet, and the life on it, is famous or infamous for presenting us with.

In a way, life here on this small outpost on the fringes of the Milky Way galaxy, seems a testing ground. Can we, as spiritual/physical beings, face the sometimes (often?) seemingly contradictory “pulls” and demands upon us relating to security, integrity, pleasure, livelihood, in ways which are harmonious and viable within the whole of our spiritual/physical existence? Keeping in mind also that we live within a unified field and in order to be truly healthy, happy and viable we necessarily must be primarily in harmony with the forces within it. It’s not and never has been “all about me”. And yet it is.

If it were an impossible task we probably wouldn’t be here.