Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Webs

Imagine a web as big as the universe.  The spider may or may not still lurk at its edges, but we can surely sense the web itself.  We experience tiny moments of empathy that fleetingly reveal the connections.  We know that fluctuations in our American economy affect all other parts of the world: but we also are coming to see that the psychic condition of fellow humans affects us as well.  We’re connected, physically, psychically, spiritually. 

Thus everything we do has impact on the entire web.  The choices we make warp and shape the universal matrix.  The beliefs we maintain color it, the hope we hold determines its nature, the extent of our compassion unveils its light.

If we choose to ignore the web, pursuing an individual glory in isolation, believing that by ourselves we can succeed and feeling disconnected from those who fail; if we see life as competition, with winners and losers, then we create the world as we currently know it, and continue to deal with the heartbreak of foreclosures, wars, and oppression.

If, however, we open up our perspective to get a grip on the universal web, we learn to apply a whole new standard of measurement.  Suddenly we are no longer in exile, battling out our solitary way.  A new reality opens up, one in which the blessed creature known as humankind interfaces with eternity every day.  Such intimate relationship with creation sparks personal creativity:  and in nurturing, exploring, exploiting, and sharing creativity, we can realize our Joy.

Halloween’s a contradictory sort of tradition:  the combination of fun and sweet candy with ghouls, darkness, and death makes little sense.  We string up spider webs to augment the atmosphere of fear and entrapment.  It’s an entirely different thing to see webs as opportunities, as havens of connectedness and comfort.  Still, the metaphor’s potent:  in modern times, we have shunned the life-giving interconnectedness of our web, and viewed our fellow humans as problems or threats but seldom as the other end of our very own thread of web.  The first new perception on the road to finding your Joy is this: that the web of existence includes us all in equal measure, and we – all humans and perhaps all sentient beings – are in every way utterly dependent on one another.

Spreading the (blogging) wealth

I admitted yesterday that this blog tends to the ponderous if not the downright lugubrious.  It’s my nature to immediately seek the deep meaning, and it’s my conviction that the human race has a challenging mandate to evolve, and I do tend to drive that point with a heavy hand. 

All this means I have but a few readers.  Folks generally don’t traffic in this kind of seriousness.  I bear responsibility, though, and seek to be more practical, specific, maybe even fun in upcoming posts.  But whether or not I can achieve this, I would like to join up with more readers and commenters who also feel the call of a new life and transformed perspective as we progress into a murky future.  Heck, I wouldn’t mind harangues from people who think I’m an idiot.  It just would be nice to know someone’s out there picking up a vibe or two.

To this end, I’ve signed up at Chuck Westbrook’s blog, to participate in his marvelous campaign to boost blogs with tiny audiences.  Organizing a few hundred of us crazed scribes, Chuck is focusing us on a series of under-appreciated bloggers, giving them each in turn a week or two of sizeable readership.  It’s a fabulous, truly helpful, and generous idea.  Thank you, Chuck!

And tomorrow, I promise, a close encounter with JOY.

Serious business

‘Round these parts, Christian churches of every stripe still sport roadside signs with changeable lettering, offering challenges to passers-by that are often corny but now and then actually inspiring.  The one I spied yesterday gave me a handle on thinking about doing business in these questionable times.

“The serious business of heaven,” it said, “is joy.”

This remarkable statement points to several things.  For one thing, grounded as we are in material greed, we seldom think of serious business and joy as having any relation at all.  These human experiences exist poles apart in our accustomed perspective.  For another, the statement suggests that heaven is involved in a continuing purpose, and not simply out there gloating.  And most importantly, the idea opens up to us the possibility that, like heaven, we can make joy our own serious business.

Possibly, this is the change we are beginning to realize.  Maybe the economic deflation can help us to reorient our purposes.  What if, as you go through your work day, you take the creation and realization of joy as your sole inspiration?  What if we learn to measure success by the quality of our emotions?  What if the richest person is the one who spreads the most joy?

Of course, changing to a new standard is a complex thing.  We’ve been so oppressed by the almighty dollar that most of us seldom experience natural joy.  We may be hard pressed to define it.  We may mistakenly think that material abundance equals joy, because we’ve never ventured beyond our lust and cravings.  To move to a standard of joy is to undertake a vision quest, to commit to nothing less than perfection.

So the question becomes, how can I find my joy?  Where do I look, and how do I recognize it?  How do I pay the bills if my focus is on joy and not on money?  These are certainly practical considerations, and I intend to study them here over the next few weeks.  My writings are often heavily philosophical, and it’s likely that readers seek more specificity.  I know I do.  The bigger picture always comes clear to me far before the details emerge; but plans mean nothing unless they’re implemented.  So I invite you to tag along with me as we ferret out the means by which we can re-invent the meaning of commerce in our turbulent world.

Prime motives

I enjoyed Hugh MacLeod’s interview with Mark Earls a week or so ago, in which they discussed “Purpose-Idea.”

Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the “What For?” of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not “mission, vision, values” territory – it’s about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it’s personal … P-I makes things personal – makes you put your balls on the line.” 

The drive towards authenticity necessitated by our recent financial debacle is founded in the concept of meaningful Purpose-Idea. As Earls suggests, many are uncomfortable with close encounters of the soulful kind; pride and dominion have warped our human-ness, and many think themselves above the messiness of emotion or passion. Yet e-motion refers to the force that gets us moving, and having mired our productivity in artificiality and emptiness, we no longer have the option to ignore prime motives.

Whether boss or worker, President or homemaker, now is the time to establish your ground in a Purpose-Idea that has infinite meaning for you. Do not settle for material rewards, financial gain, elevated personal status. Be sure you set the bar high enough that no unexpected circumstance can deter or discourage you. Locate the vision that will remain ultimately motivating, and reorient your affairs to address that vision exclusively.

It’s time for Americans to leave behind the fads and cheap thrills of adolescence and progress to the responsibilities of adulthood. Only then can we anticipate the joy and fulfillment that come with deep meaning.

Depression

In my business networking group, several members have been proclaiming that they refuse to participate in the economic troubles.  While such a bold statement may be a bit foolhardy (much of the worst of it has not hit us – yet – in the South, but it’s likely to before a year is out), you have to admire their conviction, and the passion behind the statement is to be taken very seriously.

Economic depression results from psychic depression.  And depression is the very soul of evil, the very opposite of life.  Somehow, we have turned from affirmation to denial, we have sunk perilously close to the quicksand of depression, we have forgotten how to trust.  The hard part is, even though we have lost our faith because those we trusted have proven to be untrustworthy, we are challenged to regain it.  We must be trustworthy ourselves, and we must also trust; it is the only way to emerge from this trouble.

Some of you may know what personal depression is, and if so, you understand this.  You understand the extreme danger in letting depression have its way.  You know that while the world may try its hardest to shake your convictions, you must persevere in the belief that your dreams can be realized.  The alternative is simply not an option.

Let’s spend the weekend immersed in our dreams, specifying and tailoring them to the finest detail, savoring the promise of faith and disallowing the evil of depression.

Iconoclasm

Perhaps the key to our present economic dilemma is the good old “Think Globally, Act Locally.”  The phrase has been around for a while, but we’ve yet to really learn its meaning.

Seth Godin, in his infinite practicality, wrote yesterday, If you act small and think big, you are too small to fail. You won’t need a bailout because your business makes sense each and every day. You won’t need a bailout because your flat organization (no matter how large it is) knows about problems long before they’re too big to deal with.”

Trouble is, the idea of wealth as material gain will not be satisfied with acting locally. World dominion is the only dream of big business. The moguls seek horizontal growth, as far as it can possibly reach, and see little value in vertical digging in. More customers is the obsession of big business; deepening the relationship with current customers rarely if ever happens.

How much we are like children! Though we may suspect that world dominion is not only unsustainable but even undesirable, it’s contrary to human nature to turn away from big sparkly things. Give a child a toy that makes noises and lights up and he will learn to scorn the simple sticks and boxes that were his previous delights. But we’ve also learned that playing with everyday objects is far more nourishing to intelligence, creativity, and soul in general than the plastic do-it-for-you toys.

The issues of our time require evolutionary change. We are being called upon to improve the state of humanity on Earth. We are growing up into a time when childishness and selfishness will no longer suffice. It’s time to put away our toys, to devise truly sacred dreams, not merely ambitious ones. It’s time to leave behind the icons of material wealth and create gods that more honestly reflect the human spirit.

Water and wealth

The news today says 75% of Americans are depressed, stressed, and angry.  Money bubbles are bursting everywhere and we’re panicking like the sheep we are.  We feel victimized, and are hot to pinpoint the culprit, the thief who caused this horrific injustice. 

Yet modern psychology knows that we are never victims without consenting to it.  We are always in control of our reactions, and while we can’t change others, we can always modify our responses.  Rather than copping the attitude of victims at this point, we could study the situation for ways we’ve perpetuated the crisis and ways we can live and work with greater awareness in the future.

Consider water.  I was reading an article yesterday about the dire lack of potable water in many of the poorest areas of our globe, and it occurred to me that we can profitably compare water and money.

Though most of us pay for the water we use, it’s one of those things that is “too cheap to matter, though not too cheap to meter.”  We take clean and plentiful water for granted.  In Southeast Asia and Africa, though, millions die annually from drinking and bathing in toxic water because the infrastructure to provide decent sanitation is nonexistent.  And theorists claim that the day will come when there is not enough water for our exploded population, when the distribution of water will wield much greater power than that of gasoline today.

So it makes sense to respect water, and to conserve it at every opportunity.  It also makes sense to value the world’s water supply in even greater measure than we value money.  If we persist with this thought only a little further, we begin to see that respect and conservation of natural resources is the true source of lasting wealth.  Wealth, like clean water, should be equally available to all.  But not wealth that’s grounded in money; I’m talking about a new definition of wealth.  We need to leave the wealth of materialism behind and mature into a species that understands wealth as profound appreciation for creation and the natural gifts of the Earth.

Economic fallout

“The great financial upheaval we’re experiencing is no momentary bout of bad luck, it’s the direct consequence of looking at the world as an economic engine that runs on money rather than a living organism nourished by natural and human resources. By learning that lesson, we’ll know everything we need to create a sound global economy that sustains everyone. The great financial upheaval we’re experiencing is no momentary bout of bad luck, it’s the direct consequence of looking at the world as an economic engine that runs on money rather than a living organism nourished by natural and human resources. By learning that lesson, we’ll know everything we need to create a sound global economy that sustains everyone. ”

Pretty amazing quote from Ode magazine last week. A great deal of the recent financial panic has been about fear, not grounded in fact. The thought of losing money is unbearable. What identity do I have without my possessions, without my bank account? If they take my money, they take my life.

Such is the result of centuries of willing subjection to the economic engine; of adoration for material luxury and distain for austerity. The norm is for us to give priority to financial welfare, to hedge all bets with money, to seek sufficient funds so that we’re protected from – well, anything. Enough money makes anything possible, right?

The transformation that’s called for by secular and sacred authorities at this time starts by obliterating this exclusive alignment with materialism. Then it continues with an understanding of this globe as a “living organism nourished by human and natural resources.” And then it trickles into the individual consciousness, where the idea of self grows from a relationship with soul rather than a bank account.

Roots of poverty

I would like to write about the disgraces of poverty as it exists in hard core reality and thereby help jump start action to aid the indigent.  I have experienced dire lack of funds myself.  I have worked with children who have no toys at home, who come to school in the morning hungry and depressed.  I have seen the inner city poverty we tolerate around this country.  But poverty, at least the economic kind, really is a relative stranger to most Americans.  We may be poor, some may even be hungry, but there are enough open doors here to ensure that all of us can avoid poverty if we so desire.  Notable success and riches may not be so available, but basic decent living is.

So what weighs on my mind this Blog Action Day is the cause of poverty more than its manifestation.  We Americans are comfortably shielded from its worst effects, but we participate daily in its causes. 

Poverty, different from being poor, is absence of opportunity, hope, or ambition.  The destitute are those who have no options, whose lives are wasted in the endless hunt for something to eat, for shelter and clothing.  Poverty is where humanity sinks back down into the animal kingdom.

And poverty is the state of mind that accepts “the poor ye have always with you,” that considers the destitute part of natural life, that glories in its own power and patronizes those less fortunate with token gifts.  Poverty is the world view that pits one human against another, that attributes to luck or savvy the success of the ‘haves’ and feels only superficial responsibility for the rotten estate of the ‘have-nots.’  Poverty is winner-and-loser thinking, an us-and-them attitude.

This poverty of the spirit is the true enemy.  We are slowly waking up to the bodhisattva perception that none of us is saved unless and until we are all saved.  Kiva and the other organizations with new ideas about sharing our resources with those less fortunate are operating according to this understanding.  They are helping third world countries progress, but far more importantly, they are nurturing human evolution into a species that values the spirit, that is universally rich in compassion, that respects the poor but refuses to tolerate poverty.

Hunger

The media is making much of the several cases of suicide or murder-suicide that have popped up around the US in the wake of the mortgage bust.  Though hardly in alarming numbers, there are instances of Americans so devastated by the loss of their homes or jobs that death has seemed the only alternative.

The reaction is certainly over the top when we consider the abysmal poverty endured all their lives by so many fellow humans.  So many millions who will never have their own home, who never even have enough to eat. 

There was one time in my life when I had to pinch pennies in order to afford another meal.  I swore never to go there again.  There were opportunities enough, so that I could keep to my vow ever since.  For so many of my brothers and sisters on this earth plane, such opportunities are nowhere to be found.  They experience the humiliation, ultimate emptiness and desperation of hunger every day.

It’s hard to understand why we don’t eliminate hunger when the world’s resources are still sufficient to feed us all.  Any explanations are impossibly complex.  But there are mechanisms for caring and sharing, organizations we can support who work tirelessly at destroying the hunger monster. 

It’s my suspicion that hunger exists because of unenlightened leadership.  If the leaders are helpless, it falls to individuals to follow their hearts.