Thursday, May 7, 2015

A middle way?

I am uncomfortable with arid secularism and life as production and consumption, but while the intensity and longing for the infinite which characterises the best of fundamentalism is attractive, its brittle and genrally ruthless exclusion of otherness and "deviance" is a price I am unwilling to pay. I long for a synthesis somwhere in the middle - a secularized tolerant spirituality, which acknowleges the divine hand in the affairs of men and women, and a spiritualised and arrational secularism which does not commodify Life and its bountiful gifts. Perhaps one of the closest aproximations I've encountered of this synthesis has been the More To Life programme.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I think this is true

My current theological understandings:

a) G-d cannot be bargained with or manipulated in any way
b) G-d cares nothing for the survival of the individual/personal body-mind
c) The personal body-mind and its story does not continue in any way after death, just as it has no ultimate existence after birth
d) b and c are not bad news because what we are ultimately is not the personal body-mind
e) Ultimate freedom - as in liberation from all that binds - is never of the person but FROM the notion of being a person
f) holding onto resentment increases suffering
g) forgiveness reduces suffering
h) exercise is generally good for "you"
i) contentment breeds more contentment
j) gratitude is easier to be with than feeling hard done by
k) it helps to be true to what you are wanting now in any given moment
l) the seeing is the doing
m) the linked notions of human agency and culpability are useful fictions, but upon investigation are revealed as false
n) pain and pleasue become each other in endless succession. Abiding joy and peace lie beyond.

(With thanks to Mooji, Nisargadhatta Maharaj, Krishnamurti, Byron Katie and all beacons of non-dualism)

Groupism vs 'racism'

Our languaging - both externally and internally - makes all the difference in the world. As I suggested in the 1997 book I edited "Cutting Through the Mountain" the misuse, abuse, and overuse of the word 'racism' has become uncreasingly unhelpful because
a) it paradoxically reinforces the highly dubious notion of race
b) it does not accurately describe the many varieties of prejudice which may be along faith, cultural,ethnic, class, age, gender, ability or sexual orientation lines, but is often used as a stand in for some of these.

I suggested then, and I suggest again now, that the word 'groupism' explains more of the dynamic where people have a strong need to group other people into a collective (of which the grouper may themselves be a part) and then ascribe all 'members' of this supposed 'collective' with a series of either positive or negative attributes...a process which anhilates the uniqueness and unrepeatability of each individual.
We can recognise this need without seing it as intrinsically good or bad, everything depends on the heart's intention and the context...but not to recognise it, to pretend it can be banished is not to acknowledge what William Faulkner called "the human heart in conflict with itself." When we own this tendency inside ourslves we make a little space to also own that, beyond the very 'real" cultural/national/ethnic/class/gender/faith conditioning and historical experiences which imprint us with a set of habitual predispositions and responses, is something in us and others which is untouched by this cultural conditioning and is reachable across any apparent divide, if Grace grants us the time and space and support to make real contact with ourselves and the "other"

Monday, May 4, 2015

Everything is connected

There seems to have been a spate of horrific domestic violence murders across Australia recently (or is it just that there is more reportage of them?) Many well intentioned organisations exist to raise awareness about this blight, but I have my doubts as to whether single issue campaigns which address the symptom rather than the patient as a whole are all that effective. I'd welcome your responses to the following:

In a culture which brutalizes both boys and girls in all kinds of subtle and overt ways as they are growing up, which socializes them into conformity and a pack mentality through uniforms and sport and carrot and stick 'discipline', a culture which sanctions the everyday barbarisms of factory farming and horse racing, a culture in which the use of alcohol to numb out is ubiquitous, and no advert of people enjoying themslves is without the obligatory glass of wine, a culture where we teach children not to lie but the bombard them every waking minute with misleading and manipulative advertising, a culture of tokenism, empty slogans, commodified relatiionships and pseudo online communities which cannot meet people's deepest aspirations for community, connection and authenticity how can we expect lost souls not to develop a range of maladaptive coping behaviours which harm themselves and harm others? (pause for breath....)

I am not proposing a retreat to religious fundamentalism, because fundamentalist societies put people in a one-size-fits-all box and ruthlessly punish 'deviance', but nor am I ignoring the fact that the kind of sterile secularism of predominantly post-Christian and post-Industrial consumer oriented societies (such as Australia) does not provide pathways to bliss or communities of acknowledgement where people feel seen, held, acknowledged and valued.

Domestic violence is a kind of addiction, and the cure for any addiction is joy...not fun, or pleasure, but the kind of joy that comes from a profound and rooted sense of gratitude and well-being. I think any single issue campaign which does not search out the roots of the malady will not make much headway, at best preaching to the converted and not reaching the places where attitudes are really formed...boys on a bus joking about homos, what children witness as routine behind closed doors, the way an uncle speaks to his wife at a family gathering etc. It seems to me facilitating pathways to joy and authentic inter-personal connections will effortlessly reduce all kinds of addiction....but this trend is in direct conflict with our daily encounters with call centers, compliance regulations, newspeak, "news" we don't need to know, and the mantra of dismissal: "have a good day".

While the impulse to attack a problem is very strong, if we take a step back how successful have single isue campaigns been,when the conttext itself is not challenged? What impact has white-ribbon made, for example? And how can we measure this impact? People, expressing their need to suppress their own sense of powerlessness in the face of horrific domestic violence murders, say things like 'well,we have to do something.' But is ill considered, blind-to-its-own-underbelly action really helpful? it may make us feel more empowered for a while, but better to attend to the foundations first before building the castle in the air.