And by seed, I mean tiny.
In the Means, Is the Making of the Ends
Memorial weekend. Hour of worship on Sunday passes without a word. The convener does not convene. A friend shares her thoughts about the seeds of peace and the seeds of war are within, and we need to ensure we plant and nourish seeds of peace, in the wider world and within our own local community, the relationships we have between one another.
I add one of my threads of thought which was a small realisation that the work that a student puts in on any specific day (learning a bit of maths) is completely continuous with the future reality they will live. We tend to think of consequences, something happening later as a separate thing: if you study, get your qualifications, you will get a job. They are ‘logical’ consequences. Whereas, it is the moment of mathematising, practicing a bit of maths, which is essential foundation for whatever job they do, say in engineering. And this goes for maths, as for all things, social dynamics, and spiritual practices — all conducted moment to moment in our daily lives. To which, the friend retorted with a concise statement: “in the means, is the making of the ends”. Nice.
However, the meeting was dour. People not contributing, not shining their light. I asked if everyone was ok, and there were grumbles that everything was fine. Obviously it wasn’t. After the meeting, I asked the friend who had piped up, who was not aware of anything, and then my contact person who then revealed various things which had happened in the last few days. A kind of back-biting which involved me, and also a confrontation of misery with light. I am not going into the details of it. Suffice to say, no matter what level of politic, international or around a kitchen table, the dynamics are the same. And it comes down to ABC state: are we operating self-discipline to overcome the negative aspects which might arise within us (AB), or are we letting those aspects out and then backing them up with our conscious state (C)? And the mis-state, of accidentally allowing negative seeds to develop as shoots in our social world, but when addressed, they are gardened, or they are brought up and presented tor others to help us in our inner turmoil, both of which are B state?
The recourse to an external authority (with teachers it is the use of sanctions) is based on an institutional relationship and empowerment of individuals. In my community, I am in the dependent state that I am not a member and decisions are made by a collective body of members. It is the nature of community, that collective decisions are made, which is rather different than having a teacher in a class appointed by state. There is ‘dissipated control’ in the members. However, I am not a member. So, abuses are easily manifested, just as with teachers or any individual or group of individuals who have governing control over others.
Religious Community Harbours Appeal to Spirit
The second national lockdown began last week, and preceding it I volunteered that this time we are entering winter, not spring as the first had been. The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and I suggested that this is the time where we need to fortify and intensify our spiritual efforts, or as Quakers like to call it, light within. This is my intention. I have not brought it up formally, but I think it needs to be said, and put forwards as a possible thing for people to practice. A week into lockdown and I hear of careless and mindless judgement, and worse, the collective reinforcement which only goes to make things worse.
The good thing about a religious, or a spiritual, community, is that they attempt to attribute authority to an ideal form. Whether it is buddhism with their mindfulness training precepts, christian or islam or judaism with their sacred texts, commandments or rules (which is why we call religion ‘religion’, rules which bind), or pagan sacred animism (the sacred in all things), there is something which is appealed to beyond profane and pragmatic matter. Yes, religion as institutions have a lot to answer for historically, but that is a socio-political dynamic which is problematic for all hierarchies. The difference between political and religious is the notion of a spiritual force or forces at work, personified in some way or other, an abstract symbol which is beyond the reasonable ‘flag’ or ‘constitution’ of a nation or mission statement of a company, or any figurehead. There is a spiritual dimension, even if this dimension dissolves into the unknowing of ‘God’ or the unknowing of ‘nothing’ or the unknowable ‘life-force’ of all living things. And it is this force which is appealed to, and exercised, rather than any institutionally derived procedure (like teachers with their discipline policy), or even religious procedure (excommunication, mediation, etc).
So, to which end of the ABC spectrum of social organisation does this appeal to spirit reside?
A Typological Quandary
I’d like to think it might be brought about through C state, but I must admit on reflection I think it is best placed as a pull in A state. To place it as an external force to ‘correct’ the wrong intention of an individual leads to the abuses of institutional force, the negative or dark form of the christian tradition, the threat of punishment in the fires of eternal damnation.
The positive appeal, the gardening of the soul which is espoused by the more gentle religious strains, such as Quakers or great vehicle of Buddhism, perhaps Sufism or Tao or white-witch shamanism, is a way to invite the positive state within the individual being.
What then do we do with people who insist on backing the dark side, attaching themselves to ‘dislikes’ and ‘animosity’ or misery?
This is not to be confused with averting one’s attention from misery, suffering and so on. But to bring light into such spaces. To recognise the sacrifice of people giving their lives for their loved ones in a war, their families, their way of life, or even their God. Or to relate to those who have suffered in childhood, who carry with them forever the imprint of the wrongs done to them. Patience, temperance, acceptance. And yet, doing so in a way which is not hopeless, or desperate. To retain one’s light, the courage of facing manifest darkness, without wishing to change or transform it. As we know, the transformation of such things must be done from within. All we can do is sit with such sufferance, do what we can. It does not do to join another who is drowning if one does not have the skill of swimming. Neither should we walk away, but instead attempt to find someone who can help; or let go of those concurrent practices which are concurrently resulting in the other drowning. The first demands conscious attention and trust in others, the second involves relinquishing (or transforming) behaviours which are harmful. This latter is the hardest to point at, to address, to listen to, to action because it is the very darkness we see others suffer from.
Such interactions with the pain of living, the sufferance which we bear are truly a wonderful aspect of what it is to be human, our nature of compassion. However, what do we do when people attach themselves to behaviour or intent that is harmful? This is our problem, as humans, and it is problem we have not managed to resolve in our social institutions over the millennia.
Ok, So… What Can We Do About It..?
I have always had the opinion that this problem (of people attaching themselves to ill-will) is not something we are going to resolve in the individual. We are small-minded, this is our nature. And to generate a culture which eradicates this small-mindedness won’t happen for thousands of years. However, what we can do is rid ourselves of social institutions which aggrandise, celebrate such behaviours which are natural to us. Minimise social impact, celebrate it within ‘safe’ spaces. This was the original inspiration of the Olympics: to compete safely, rather than fatally. We appear to be caught up in politico-economic structures which have fatal consequences, to the point we are not only killing or exploiting our fellow human beings, but also causing irretrievable (in terms of human lifetimes) environmental harm. Like adolescents destroying the house they have grown up in, partly from the excesses of partying and partly rebellion to all the injustices suffered in it.
There are interpersonal techniques aplenty to resolve differences. Most of them are complicated, involving third parties and organisations (ie C state interventions). I devote my life to change of our social structures, using self-organised practices (capable of enabling AB states). Social fractal, if you will, where our moment in reading (Reflexive Reading), our means of sharing (Sqale), how we do business (Action Cycles) or learn in schools (ABC State) and so on are self-similar. They operate at the individual-to-individual level, and are different to the many social structures we have evolved ‘by accident’ or at higher levels of social organisation (kingdoms, empires, national governments, private companies). These ‘meta-methods’ operate within our individual psychology as they interface other internal psychologies without mediation of third parties or organisational empowered individuals. For example, ABC State, namely the space by which AB states may emerge contingent of consensual engagement.
But where does this put us with ‘spiritual’ practices? What do we do with people who are espousing ‘spiritual’ practice and yet exhibit intentional harmful action, or harbour negative judgement or ill-will towards another? I personally think that Descartes and Fox described it, and I suspect there are corollaries in other religions. The key psychic mechanism which enables a human being to orientate themselves appropriately. (I will write about it properly when I give myself the time.) I don’t think it means everyone is going to be ‘fine’, because of inherited problems both internally from childhood and presently impressed upon us socially. But it can help people at least understand how, and thus when they exhibit harmful actions and their attention drawn to it, they have recourse to a level of understanding they have met with consciously. That is, they are given the opportunity to not align their conscious state to it, to let go of it. That is, they apologise and inhibit that action immediately. If they repeat it, then they admit this problem to the community — not to retain it, but with collective acceptance comes the collective responsibility of others to address it, counter it, and with help, enable the individual to transform it themselves, empowered by their support.
Please Go To Your Room and Think About It
In smaller terms, closer to home, as a child may hear from a parent, “Please go to your room and think about it.” Please self-isolate. And actually, lock-down is a great time for this.
I have done this with my life. Having failed to engage adults, and I mean my own parents and siblings, and friends I grew up with, I proceeded on a path of greater self-isolation. It might be called refuge, but not in Buddha or Sangha or any other form of religious body. Merely isolation from human social engagement. The roots of the problem are deep within individuals, but simultaneously manifest in massive social organisations which gives so much momentum to our destructive practices. As I have said, my attempt is not to join those doing a valiant attempt at countering such machinery higher levels of organisational complexity; rather, I have retained my focus on the minimal structural local, individual-to-individual, engagements.
The individual should get the idea of self-isolation, as I did. And remain in isolation working either on the roots within themselves (discerning seeds of peace from war), or the structures between us which cause the problems that we end up exhibiting (the mechanisms which feed seeds of war). After all, if we all have enough to eat, fair share of resources, I suspect the level of war we will inflict upon one another will be on the virtual battlefield, in sports and games, in the agony of scripted melodramas, and the real passions we will suffer from for millennia to come, love and its loss, may manifest fatality only between individuals, not replicating at collectively fatal level. Our tragedies remain personal, nor burned in to our social structures. This includes religious structures; these need to be ‘disaggregated’ just as monopolies should be.
This is doable. In our lifetime. The tools are in our hands. We simply need to have the courage to use them, and allow ourselves to be changed. To allow a new generation of human beings who are not warped by money or institutional violence and all the other things which seal adults in the interminable duality of “it’s the way things are” and “change others (or control others through organisations)”.
As the good friend said, “cultivate the seeds of peace”, with one another, and alone.