"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
-- Henry David Thoreau
When you look through the window of your soul, what do you see? When you glance into a mirror, who is it that looks back at you? When you entertain self-definitions, are any of them magical revelations?
It seems to me that these questions are as important as just about any others that we could ask. For example: if someone answered question number two with a quick, "You're wasting my time!" (Or anything along those lines...) I would hazard a guess that that person probably doesn't give a second thought to the number of children who died of hunger, malnutrition, or violence today. You see, every aspect of who we are is deeply rooted -- embedded -- in our habitual thoughts which in turn manifest their "reality" all the way down and through our DNA. So if our thoughts are negative, self-centered, or focused on "ugly", every aspect of our lives will be manipulated into "creating the reality" of those thoughts.
Self-hatred requires an "other" to hate; people lacking in self-esteem, a sense of self-worth, in empathy, and in compassion need to feel superior to others in someway (which gives rise to every "ism" in the book). People lost in a sense of unworthiness (remembering every time they have been made to feel ugly and repulsive to those who are supposed to love them), oftentimes follow patterns of abuse and victimization as if to prove the validity of every judgment ever sent their way. Finally, this "anti-dynamic" plays out in every aspect of our culture, religions, economics, and politics... greed, violence, sexism, exploitation, injustice, and racism are all rooted in the sub-conscious conviction of not only being "unworthy", but of the impossibility of ever being "good enough".
Here, though, is the real page-turner: it simply does not have to continue that way! Today, tomorrow, or any day of your choosing you can take up the mantra of the Song of Songs -- that lusty-mystic rag: go ahead, right now, say it, "I Am Beautiful!" And then continue on with: "I am worth the very best! I am worth Love!" And begin to live in such a way as to give evidence of this, your new, essential truth. But don't stop there! Abraham Heschel wrote, "You must build your life as a work of art": so become a builder! Let your daily practice become a "conspiracy" of beauty, kindness, empathy, and compassion: become the person you wish everyone else would be! Excel in wonder. Liberate your pleasure and your ability to delight others and to be delightful! A new you is automatic with a change of mind!
Adoration of Mystery: The Essence of Civilization!
Building upon the necessity of "changing one's mind", there is a series of three simple test questions to confirm one's direction in the great -- or spiritual -- scheme of things, and they are: 1) Is your basic inclination currently towards service and inter-personal, global, and spiritual Oneness? 2) Is your basic inclination currently that of a movement against Oneness? And 3) Is your basic inclination currently that of a movement away from Oneness? There is something very useful in these three questions for they together serve to part the veil of our various conflicts: psychological, spiritual, and social to reveal the secrets we withhold even from ourselves.
Within the category of "towards" are all those practices that enhance a sense of communion, safety, welcoming hospitality, reverence, kindness, justice, solidarity, and beauty: all strategies for harmony, health, and home: for everyone and everything. Within this category are all of the "little" daily works such as being likeable, being harmless so as to not threaten or frighten another, being merciful and forgiving, being responsible and diligent, and being mindful of everyone's struggle with life. Each of these works are essential strategies for nurturing deep connections with others and they each make others want to connect with you in a "field" of mutual-aid and protection.
Within the category of "against" are all those habits, attitudes, and behaviors that foster the desire to dominate others -- or to be dominated by others. (There can be safety, security, companionship, beauty, justice, etc. in the dominator model as in the Oneness model -- the catch is that they can be taken away by someone with a greater power, as they can be withheld as motivation or punishment, or they can be offered as reward for serving the dominator). The "against" person is aware of his strengths -- and does not dare to be without them (mutually vulnerable) or to place them in service to others in a mutual liberation. "Against" is oriented to domination and seeks strategies that create a sense of security through strength and power. "Consideration" and "dependence" are deemed signs of weakness and are only employed as strategies when they serve the longer-term goal of eventual domination. "Against" is tough and forceful: skill and success are the primary social values. All of the behaviors of the "towards" people are perceived as threats to established social order. (The characteristics / skills of the dominator model are not, in and of themselves, necessarily "a bad thing": the question of power is always: does it serve to liberate or to control or dominate?).
The third category, "away", is centered on a deep sense of fear and a hesitancy or inability to trust: to care too much about anyone or anything is to put at risk the fragile equilibrium of "self". "Away" is opposed to both "towards" and "against": both Oneness and domination threaten the desired (needed) isolation or independence. The "towards" orientation needs deep connections with others in a mutuality; the "against" orientation needs the freedom and perception of safety or stability in domination (or in being dominated); and the "away" orientation seeks to avoid both meaningful ties and meaning in ties. The "away" orientation requires that their security in no way hinge upon the attitudes, behaviors, or policies of others, and vice-versa. A spirit of independence and self-reliance are the primary cultivated attitudes, spirituality, and politics of the "away" person.
If it is true, though, that "adoration of Mystery is the essence of civilization", then discernment of, and then a re-focusing of, our individual and our collective orientation towards the practical effect of adoration: Oneness, is essential if we are to sincerely change and grow. This discernment goes right along with "the real page-turner" of the Song of Songs: "I am beautiful"... expanding into "We are beautiful"... and then, by elevating our basic orientation into the life-service of Oneness, "We can change and create Paradise upon this precious blue Planet".
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.