Sunday, July 14, 2013

Remaining Clear and True to the Pulse of Life, Part II

Welcome to Part II of a three-part meditation on Mark Nepo's July 2d entry, "Wrong View," from The Book of Awakening. Our mental well-being depends, Nepo says, on " clear and true we remain to the pulse of life...". In Part I, we concluded that the Pulse of Life may be described as the quest to commune in Oneness. Here in Part II, we'll explore how to remain clear and true to the quest for Oneness in our current age. Part III? That will be some ideas about moving toward a future age of increased Oneness. 

Remaining Clear and True to the Pulse of Life

The Western World stands on what some believe is the brink of a fate similar to that of the Roman Empire: collapse. The European Union is showing weakness. The income gap is huge and only growing bigger. People do not trust elected leaders. The leisure class demands more for less with a sense of entitlement, and the working class is increasingly and humiliatingly unable to get by. In addition to gaps in the health of Nations and gaps in the wealth of individuals, a generation gap as wide as the one in the 1960's divides Americans on a whole range of social and fiscal issues. For the first time in the history of this Nation, middle class parents worry that their children will not inherit a better life.

I have children. For me, this topic is real, personal, and real personal!

Under these circumstances, it is useful and good to think about the health of individuals and Nations going forward. Not just physical health, but mental and spiritual health, as well. Can we put health in a broader context?  If we go deep enough, is there something at the core of humanity that ties us all together? Does Nepo's "pulse of life" meet that contextual need?

Our goal is to develop an understanding of how we as individuals and groups remain clear and true to Nepo's pulse of life, i.e., the quest for oneness.  We must understand what is meant by the pulse of life before we can discuss how to remain true and clear to all which that phrase implies. Let's see what insights emerge when we examine Oneness in these seemingly unrelated topics: technology, innovation, morality, religion, genetically modified organisms, sustainable food, mental health, warfare, national security, and the elements of national power.

Grab your Bud Lights, sports fans, because "Here we go!"

Technology & Innovation

Is technological innovation inevitable? Absolutely. We humans are tool-makers, and we could not stop if we wanted to. Furthermore, this is a very good thing for humanity--to a point. And the point is that moment when our brains can no longer keep up with the pace of change and innovation. How many people never learned how to set the clock on their VCR? Isn't it ironic that this is a moot point, since the more advanced DVRs automated the challenge away. How many people are even aware of half of the functions on their digital watches? How many people have given up on simple automotive maintenance tasks? The gap--or digital divide--between the technologically savvy and the Luddites who cannot or will not keep up is big and growing. Do you think it will ever shrink? Of course not. You know intuitively and rationally that the digital divide will continue to grow. Which side of the gap are you on? Which side do you want your children to be on? The pace of change is increasing. What happens to those who are left behind?

Technology will continue to advance at increasingly rapid pace. Until now, the diffusion of innovation has occurred through a spectrum of innovators, early adopters, mainstream consumers, and laggards (see Fig 1.). This spectrum has been defined largely by choice, not ability. In other words, laggards did not adopt the innovation because they did not want to, not because they were not able to. However, as the control of wealth and influence concentrates in fewer people, the ability of average people to keep up with technology will be adversely affected. The inability of many people to enjoy the best technology creates a perception of imbalance. 

Fig. 1: the diffusion of innovation and market share

Technological innovation can either be a tool to bring us together, reduce barriers, and promote harmony and oneness, or a weapon with which to divide us.

Morality & Religion

Of what practical use are ethics? From whence do ethics spring? Is it possible for people in a society to have shared morality and ethics without a common God and a common religion? What is the connection between religion, politics, and law? Consider this premise: Individuals do not need ethics, but groups do. People are born without religion, culture,or politics, but they have an inherent sense of right and wrong. Groups of people invent religion, culture, policies, and laws to codify "the way we do things around here," i.e., what behavior is and is not accepted. 

The social fabric holds together so long as information is shared, rules are clear, justice is swift and fair, and liberties are not unduly infringed upon.

Genetically modified organisms & Sustainable food

We are repulsed by animal farms where chickens and cows are treated, not like sentient beings, but like inanimate potatoes and corn: grown, harvested, and processed for human consumption. Yet we are also repulsed by muscle cells grown in a test tube which have the texture, flavor, and nutrition of animal flesh.

We are repulsed by Monsanto's efforts to make a better tomato by inserting a gene that repels pests. This genetically modified organism is no longer the same species as the garden-grown one we remember.

Can we reamin clear and true to the pulse of life in something so basic as the food we eat?

Mental, Physical, & Emotional Well-Being

What does it mean when we see increased rates of depression and suicide in society? In the first 155 days of 2012, the US Military suffered more deaths due to suicide (154) than combat (124). Look at divorce rates. Look at drug use and abuse. Look at sexual harassment and sexual assault crimes on the rise within the military. Look at the adrenaline junkies coming home from war and racing high-powered motorcycles in an unsafe manner to get a rush--and the sad result of increased injuries and fatalities. Is it possible that the stress of life as we have defined it is too much for the human psyche? Looking just within the military, could it be that 12 years of war have taken more of a human toll than we could have anticipated? How do we stop suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and risky behavior and restore balance in the military?

Warfare, National security, & the Elements of National Power

Is technology all about power? Is power all about technology? Could a smaller, weaker nation control the United States through superior technology? The Nation of Israel is surrounded by larger neighbors, many of whom pose an existential threat. Peace is maintained through superior technology and powerful allies. This simple reality carries the implication that changes in technology will dictate changes in alliances. The geo-political world will likely break down into smaller tribes or divide into two very large and diametrically opposed coalitions.

The DRONES are taking over. Consider horse cavalry replaced by tanks, and bombs replaced by nukes. There is no putting the drone genie back in the technology bottle. The question then is not whether drones are moral, but whether drones can be used in a moral manner and precluded from being used in an immoral manner. To my way of thinking, pressing a technological advantage in conflict is moral if the conflict itself is moral.

Remain Clear and True to the Quest for Oneness in our Current Age

I know that in my own case, I have cultivated a skill for planning. I also have developed a skill for archiving. I have the future and the past covered. But where I am weakest is in living the present! The vectors of technology, innovation, morality, religion, genetically modified organisms, sustainable food, mental health, warfare, national security, and the elements of national power are just some of many vectors with long tails and far-flung trajectories. One can study the past of any one of those topics and use that knowledge to project into the future. But is Nepo's "pulse of life" a frantic race to an inevitable death? Will Oneness come about because of technological advances in every aspect of our lives, or in spite of them? I believe the answer lies in being fully present in each and every moment: neither under- nor over-reacting; neither dwelling in the past or projecting to the future; but sentient, awake, mindful, and grateful.

At first blush, mindfulness classes for the military may sound as incongruous as ballet classes for the football team. Dig a little deeper into Nepo, though, and the conclusion is inescapable. The quest to commune in Oneness is a deeply held human need. Our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being depends on the sort of connectedness, peace, and balance that comes from, and is evidenced by, mindfulness.

EnJoy: Feel free to comment and share.

Part I:

Part III will be some thoughts on how to make the world a better place by applying these thoughts toward a future age of increased Oneness.  

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