But don’t overlook the real Mother Lode
There is great excitement in exploring, be it travel, business, study. It’s a natural urge that most of us experience, we want to get out, see the world. Exploring is a necessary step toward a larger view of life and it’s staggering potential. When you return to home base after gathering all this fascinating stuff, (it may have taken you several years), please turn to exploring your inner space, the Mother Lode you were born with. If you disregard this rich vein of creativity and passion, you may become wealthy but hate your day to day employment.
Over my many years I’ve heard friends and acquaintances bemoan the fact they have arrived at midlife, are financially secure but disappointed, feel they are drifting and their life has lost personal meaning. Perhaps if, in their teens, they had spent more time exploring their inner yearnings, digging deeper into ( half forgotten) early bursts of excitement revealed in, art, science, music, they would have discovered that vein of gold within their own DNA that would give inspiration and sustain them throughout life.
The other spectre looming over every teen is: “MONEY.” Will I get a job?” “Which career pays the most?” “How much debt will I have?”
These are the wrong questions to ask. Our materialistic society imposes this on every youth emerging into the adult world. This society asks you to ignore this pulsing vein of creativity, imagination and inherent skill – that speaks to your core being. Teachers, family, business leaders call you to, ‘come down to earth,’ apply yourself to advanced learning, accounting, management, science and get a secure job. Now you will be able to pick the ripe fruit of our society; a car, a house, children, happy retirement.
My point is, I wish there was a more balanced view of what constitutes a fulfilling life for emerging youth.
Creativity and imagination are not the exclusive property of art, music and literature. There are many careers in business, parenting and academia, that cry out for innovation and fresh thinking on a wide range of challenges.
My counsel to youth is – yes go exploring in the ‘outside’ world, but always check to look ‘inside’, be alert and sensitive to the things that stir your blood, and tells you this is the Mother Lode that will carry you forward with passion all through your life.
MAN’S STRUGGLE TO BUILD & SUSTAIN FOUNDATIONAL VALUES
It has been recorded that primitive tribes, when a great leader or warrior died, would eat and drink from the body in an attempt to gain some of the hero’s values; bravery, wisdom, conviction. Our present day christian service of communion echoes this practice – symbolically trying to capture some of Christ’s spirit.
For centuries mankind has struggled to build a path of values through the surrounding jungle of hatred, selfishness,and greed. It almost seems that man is, by nature more attracted to the dark side. Is it the drama and excitement that is fertile soil for all our corrupt and vicious tendencies? The movement to give the ordinary man or woman an equal voice in society has been fought
for hundreds of years. Traditional religion has wandered through this jungle using benedictions from the pulpit and has failed. Now is the time for rational secular values be adopted internationally and many of man’s centuries old conflicts would become manageable. These newly focused secular values build a pathway that stops the glorification of violence and war and creates peace and an environment for business, trade and domestic life.
The Democratic path man has been working to build is a tedious slog , often two steps forward, then two back. In addition to the paths foundational materials: Honesty, Equality, Compassion, we have found additional tools to help – science, research, and communication – but there is no quick way to build an evolving democratic path. Mankind is still going through, ’THE TEENS’.
One of the difficulties with building democratic values is we encounter deep seated barriers rooted in culture, and religion. For instance, women’s reproductive rights, (a fundamental right in most modern societies), clashes with many religious beliefs. Another example again regarding women’s rights – is equal pay for equal work. The culture of capitalism has resisted this for many years as they have with government provided health care, pensions, and social assistance funding.
The common man and the common good have made headway in the last hundred years but Equality is the hardest concept to build into this path of values. Corporations, with the acquiescence of Government, wants to control every aspect of society. They believe they are the engine of progress, (money is everything) and they have entitlement.
Until the human species realizes that growth and material wealth is not the end game, completing this path of values will continue to be a battle of attrition.
I HAVE LEAD A LIFE OF SUBMISSION
Born facing many physical problems my life long struggle has been to grow, learn and be fulfilled in some way. Whether it was doctors, nurses, parents, teachers, bosses – again and again I had to submit. As a child I could not run away screaming in a purple faced tantrum; as a teen I could not flout my parents and drive my car to a drunken all night party. In sports I couldn’t bash my way into the ‘A’ team. In the workplace I was not able to bully my way to the top. In my life I have had to face acceptance of submission on the outward level but on the inner level, I fought fiercely for an individual voice. Yes we must have leaders and protocols but we all must also be given a chance to speak.
I realise that some, upon reading this first paragraph, would say – this is simply sour grapes, (poor guy – he wasn’t able to do normal things and he’s frustrated.) What I learned from my life experience has a much broader message for individuals and for society at large: submission means temporarily giving up a bit of ego but at the same time, with humility, study and imagination a person can grow to a full and intelligent maturity. And in the larger context, especially in the struggle to defend and improve democracy, we submit to group discipline that not only allows for expression of opinions but seeks out creative suggestions. Yes whatever the body; town council or National Parliament, democracy is slow moving, at times frustrating and often involves involves submission (without grievance) to the group. Fairness, patience and empathy is the humanist way to deal with conflict.
Then we have a large body of individuals who hate any hint of submission or any modification of their opinion. Usually they are healthy, young people who have great energy and enjoy fighting rules, or as a youth has lacked confidence and self-esteem. They often find themselves on the other side of conformity, (the outsider the maverick). Even into old age, for them, the very thought of ‘negotiating’ is toxic. A large number of this group are simply naysayers. They will resist whatever the majority agrees to. This pool of non-conformists also harbours the gems of society. The outstanding creative individuals who invent and explore and push back the horizons of knowledge. Unfortunately, this example of exceptional talent is rare.
Parents, from many religious beliefs and cultures have used the word ‘sharing’ as one of the most important words in the development of character at an early age. Of course sharing means one has to give up something. It is a child’s first encounter with submission. How a child relates to the idea of sharing has a lot to do with his/her growth in later life: ‘Sara, please share your dolls with Judy’. Not only does this event and it’s response affect a child’s social life but also their ability to interact and achieve success in school, business and community. In every social setting, be it a local book club, professional sport team, or a team of scientists – to submit one’s ego for the group success is an awesome and inspiring experience and should be nurtured in our future pathway.
Since prehistoric times man has waged a desperate struggle with these two innate forces the outcome of which will probably decide our human destiny.
The battle to harness human selfishness has spawned recurring wars for thousands of years.
This repetitive cycle of warfare is astonishing and confirms the dysfunctional nature of mankind.
Why are our intelligent, sometimes brilliant leaders not able to break out of this addictive pattern of destructiveness?
Perhaps there is some wisdom, when searching for a path through this psychological maze to look back at our very own indigenous people. Because of the hostile environment they lived in, they were forced to make sharing fundamental to their existence. A hunter would bring back food: deer, fish, geese, rabbit – and the whole village would eat.
For centuries the indigenous tribes of Canada have survived and often thrived with a collaborative approach to sustain their way of life. The wilderness; storms, floods, wild animals made life precarious but they had learned that selfishness would tear their society apart. The only way to achieve achieve some kind balance was to control selfishness and greed. Of course it was not perfect, no system is but in our time of crisis we should take note of these primitive peoples profound message: Sharing and community over Hubris and greed.
For years we have know that humans have two dominant sides to their nature, the dark side and the bright side. Both are necessary to function in our world.
In simplistic terms the bright side embodies sharing, nurturing, harmony, artistry. The dark side embodies; conflict, passion, destruction, creativity. The challenge facing us all is, how can we rank these dynamic forces in a way that promotes creativity and passion yet honors sharing and empathy. This is the ground where the ultimate conflict will take place. Shall we continue with this addiction to violence, arrogance and greed that is a toxin in our blood?
Or shall we devise a plan to control this love of warfare with a humanitarian belief based on sharing, justice, creativity, and respect.
The concept of sharing as a cornerstone of community met its greatest challenge with the arrival of cultivation. Being able to grow food and live in one location, meant the start of permanent dwellings, villages and towns were built, and humans found leisure time and with it came creative thought. Craftsmanship flourished and with it came trade and a society that developed a class system.The desperate need to hunt, to follow the migrating herds, to live in tents was gone.
There was and always will be a class system. In primitive times there was a ranking of talents and skills. The best tracker, the best shot, the best at making clothes and tools, the best with curing illness. This ranking was arrived at by natural selection under the intense pressure of survival. But underlying this system was the unspoken but vital concept of interdependence.
The class system in many wealthy countries, with the rise of capitalism, have minimised the Importance of caring and sharing. As so often happens in in history, the upper ten percent become enthralled with wealth and the belief that they are entitled to it. They ignore profound and enduring message of interdependence. There is an uprising of citizens and blood is shed.
The challenge intelligent people in Democracies are facing today is one that no society has been unable to solve in thousands of years. Will mankind ever be able to break the recurring cycle: Rise, Wealth, Arrogance, Brutalism, Fall.
One would have thought religions could have countered this incredible matrix of war, violence and corruption. The major religions have messages that could have formed a bulwark against man’s darker side but they have failed miserably. Brotherhood, justice, inclusiveness, empathy?
Perhaps because they too were seduced by the dark words greed and selfishness.The belief that only you have the sacred testament? You demonise ‘the other ’and immediately you violate the validity of your ‘ higher ground”. Religions have not focused on the inherent danger of the philosophy underpinning business and wealth accumulation. Do you see religious leaders in the street leading demonstrations for workers rights, homelessness,women’s rights. They do good works quietly in the background afraid of annoying their wealthy patrons.
The solution for mankind’s centuries search for a balanced, wholesome and creative society takes us back to primitive times and one word: interdependence. This word embodies all of man’s brighter side that the great religions talked endlessly and prayed about,( fairness, sharing, compassion, health, education.) but they failed to take it to the streets. They failed where a rationale, civil society can deliver it. We must now make this word central to our existence as a species: INTERDEPENDENCE.
For centuries there has been a conundrum for mankind – whether to revere the standards of the past, or to turn away and embrace the new. These two views are in constant and shifting conflict in society. My view is, despite our unsavoury past we must respect and preserve some values that endure.
The birth of new ideas, at every level of human endeavour is vital to the vigor and growth of our civilization. It is equally true that many laws, standards and ways of doing things have been filtered through generations of practice and observance, and have great validity. Our approach historically, to choosing a pathway between these viewpoints seems to be arrived at randomly – depending on many variables: Government, economics, cultural shifts and world events. The recent history of western democracies, (accelerated by an almost hypnotic technology) points to a unstoppable embrace of ‘the new’, regardless of where it leads.
This seemingly mindless worship of ‘the new,’ now pervades society on every level. A desperate need to look young: pills to stop ageing, lose weight, to stop pain and simply feel good has lead to excessive spending, from new gadgets to new fantasys. The dream marketplace loves this addiction – it feeds the insatiable appetite for the twenty four hour connected world, and the system that built it.
As an active visual artist I ride two horses; on the one hand I believe in the thrust and importance of the new, and yet have great respect for past masters, whose shoulders we stand on. Today’s contemporary art world seems to ignore the past and with youthful giddiness, discards much that has gone on before.
This adulation for the new invades the thinking at every level,even with the elderly. Traditionally, as one grew old you were sometimes consulted for your opinion. Now young and old turn to Google where they get the latest ‘data’ or, the ‘hottest’ (thing )? Parents and grandparents are now using teen slang in a well meaning attempt to reach out to their kids. The unspoken question remains: should we take a closer look at what is happening. Why do we worship the the new? When a four year old can demand which brand of clothes (Gap) to buy, or where the family will vacation, it makes one wonder – who is pulling the strings, and are they really invisible?
Of course we can’t go back to building cathedrals with flying buttresses in the age of space travel but we can strive for a sense of balance that still leaves some connection to our past. At this stage in the evolution of man’s thinking we have evolved a long way from the primitive mind which was lizard like, (existence and reproduction), through the mammalian stage, ( nurturing, planning) to today’s modern man/woman ( a thin veneer that often slips back to Lizard) this veneer of rational thought, allows mankind to sidestep many complex issues but seemingly not confront the ones that really matter. This thousand year old cycle of warfare and greed has failed to deal with crucial issues; hatred of ‘the other’?, the environmental crisis?, the tyranny of materialism?
I am the first to agree that capitalism and the rise of international commerce has brought us ( western democracies) to the height of wealth and scientific advancement. My question is: is this all there is? Is this the measure of mankind? If you take a longer view, you must come to believe that in our present political culture we have moved Humanism to the back of the bus. What if we built a society not measured simply by the GDP but by a new enlightenment that elevates quality of life for the many, over luxury for the few. What if we developed a society with emphasis on higher learning, creativity, co-operation, and critical thinking? Where studying music would be as acceptable as studying mathematics? Of course we still need commerce but must it be worshipped? Must commerce remain the golden chalice on the altar of humanity?
There comes a time in life when we must set aside the distractions we love; entertainment, food, drink, sociability, travel and consider the serious challenge of living in a Democracy. The pressures of the modern world demand, if we want to maintain our values and our culture, that we face this solemn duty, which by its very nature is relentless.
For the last sixty years people of western countries have lived the life of a postgraduate; travel, adventure, exploration, and money. Always very content with what was happening back ‘home’. We have returned ‘home’ to a very different and dangerous world. Now we must pick up our books – go back to study, research and participate in the relentless work of maintaining our Democracy. We must face the daunting task of creating a new vision of Democracy, whose foundation is built on humanitarian values.
There is a tendency to turn away from this kind of task. It is difficult, at times frustrating, with no reward. Being a foot soldier for democracy is often that way – but there are moments of joy. Maybe you have voted to block a discriminatory resolution at the town council. The greatest joy comes when you create something; voting for a program that helps people in their daily lives, illness, homelessness, discrimination, education that teaches the skill of critical thinking.
The reason for my fascination with the word relentless is because I have lived with it since birth. Clubfeet, Spina Bifida, heart disease, kidney disease. There has been no escape. My problem is ‘built in’ – and in a strange way relates to the relentless and never ending struggle to maintain and grow our Democracy.
Maintain and grow, has been my personal motto. Now in my eighty sixth year I maintain my health (with my families help), and grow (my art). Creativity happens everywhere, not just in the art world. It happens in the kitchen, the shop, the office, and dwells in the uniqueness of every human being.
You don’t have to be a fiery activist to be a foot soldier in the Humanitarian movement. Do not become discouraged by by the relentless struggle to build a new Democracy. And when you tire of the struggle – go out and take it to the street. Give a friend a ride to work, bake a pie for your neighbour, hug someone.