Open minds and unconditional love
My posted contemplations are primarily about appreciation, gratitude and perception. While fear is generally an undesirable sensation, I appreciate it as one of the primary forces that affects human behavior universally.
Fear has survival value for individuals, and socially it’s an evolutionary driver. I also appreciate it’s significance as one of the most poignant topics of our national conversation today. That’s why I chose it. Further, it provides an opportunity for me to reflect on it and put it into perspective. To do this, I referenced an excerpt “On evil,” excerpted from Radical Optimism: Rooting Ourselves in Reality by my friend and mentor Dr. Beatrice Bruteau.
We have developed a cult of the descriptive self, our own personal image industry. It is indeed a matter of images—pictures of reality, but not reality itself. The living person cannot be pinned down in any set of descriptions (for instance, black or white American or African, male or female, married with two kids, Protestant, Republican, businessman, golfer, weighs 180 pounds, has an IQ of 120, drives a Mercedes, prefers wine over beer…).
These are all conventional categories that we use as a kind of shorthand for organizing our affairs for getting acquainted, identifying people, and carrying on a conversation. But all these descriptions could be otherwise and that person, the real person living inside, would still be there with the same interior sense of ‘I am, I am here, I am now, I am I.’ It is this interior sense of actually existing in this moment as a sheer ‘I am’ that is the real living person. This person is undefined, indescribable, and transcendent of all categories and descriptions.
Because it is not defined, the real person cannot be thought about. Whenever you think about something, you are attending to an image, a definition, a description. Similarly, your feelings are about and toward a descriptive image because the image and the descriptions are as they are, relative to you.
It is my contention that evil comes about because of what is perceived as a basic metaphysical need in the agent, the need to stay alive, to maintain one’s being. Where moral evil is involved, the agent identifies exhaustively with the image self, the descriptive self, and instinctively recognizes the primordial need to stay in being. It is the self-image which the agent endeavors to maintain in being and enhance in being, because the agent believes that this is all the self-being the agent has, and that if the agent does not tend to its sustenance and welfare, it will suffer diminishment, because nobody else is going to sustain it. It is in order to avoid these life-losses that people do what we call evil.
In the concrete, we find that evil is not usually done just as a response to the possibility of loss. Nearly always the agent of evil is a person who has already actually suffered severe losses on some level of life. (I am not saying that everyone who has suffered loss will engage in evil, but that someone who commits evil will probably be found to be someone who has suffered loss.) Therefore, the agent seeks urgently to protect the self and put down, diminish, dominate, and destroy others. All this is done to keep the self in being, in bigger and better being.
All this comes of not understanding the nature of unconditional, creative love, that it is addressed to the true Self which transcends all the descriptions. Only the self that has realized itself as transcendent of descriptions so it can afford to lose them, is able to love the enemies of those descriptions, or to love one’s enemies in spite of their descriptions.
The image of barbed wire is here represented as a symbol of separation, fear and domination—the components of a paradigm built on male superiority and the perspectives “Survival of the fittest” and “Subdue the Earth.” The paradigm of separation may have gotten us to where we are, but now we’re experiencing the realities—and consequences of interdependence. We live in a world where the thoughts, words and deeds of a single individual are having instant and profound global influence—for better and worse.
The paradigm of love however, represented by the sun in the background of the image, represents the Source emitting unity and unconditional love, illuminating the deeper reality, which is interdependence. Our minds, accustomed to constructing a dualistic reality—up/down, good/evil—tend to see these as being in conflict, each battling for supremacy. But they are two sides of the same coin, part of the unfolding process of human evolution, as trial-and-error demonstrates what works and what doesn’t.
Because love is the antidote to fear, the need is try to see and regard the true Selves or souls of those around us—young or old, known or not known to us—beyond their descriptions and behaviors, especially those who appear to be disenfranchised or suffering from mental illness, abuse or neglect. It can be as simple as a thought, word or deed. It takes very little to pay attention to someone, to provide a genuine sign of caring or support—unconditional love where conditioned love appears to be lacking.
It may be too late for those who have already been marginalized or radicalized, deprived of or blinded to the deeper truth of their being. Hopefully not. But there is hope for the future. Across cultures, parents can prevent destructive indoctrination from happening to their children by making sure they feel safe, loved, nurtured and supported as they seek the realization of their unique and constructive potentials. Importantly, young minds develop resilience and intellectual integrity in a context of free and open inquiry, where they have the opportunity to acquire critical thinking skills and apply them to diverse and opposing points of view.
The challenges of our time are those of identity and definition—understanding who we are as soul-endowed persons and choosing who we want to be as a people. By our individual choices, behaviors and the quality of our interactions we are defining who we are and how we will be perceived.
Are we allowing ourselves to be defined by descriptions, attributes and possessions that require constant feeding and defending? Are we just a higher form of animal life, one that’s absorbed in inordinate consumption and self-indulgence, one that has knee-jerk reactions to social and political change? Or are we members of one, whole and integrating body of intelligent and creative individuals working together to facilitate the realization of everyone’s higher potentials and close the gap between the haves and have nots? Are our hearts and hands open or closed? Many of us want to make a difference in the world. I can think of none better than the exercise of open minds and unconditional love.
I can think of no better effort either. Each of us as individuals does have a decision to make. And it’s evidenced in our everyday small words and interactions when we encounter others. Can we bring the truth of who we are to others and accept and allow their truth to be shared too? Sounds easy but it’s also hard and complex. At times, we have to overcome our own habits, assumptions, and history in order to bring that honesty or accept another’s. Particularly after the last few weeks when there were world events designed to instill fear, this is such a helpful, welcome thought-provoking post!
I can think of none other better effort either. This is a powerful essay particularly in light of a few weeks that have been contained a number of events that are meant to instill fear. I love the questions in your final paragraph. What will we choose? It’s up to each individual to decide. And how that becomes a lived choice is by and through those small moments in our everyday interactions. Are we working with one another expressing the genuine truth of who we are and fully accepting the truth of who they are? So complex and simple all at once. Thank you for this thought-provoking post!