Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Resurrection: from Rex Mundi, to Lux Mundi

It's hard to know who Jesus really was.

With the way information was passed in those days - mostly as rumor - we can't know for sure that such a man even existed.  It's not hard to see how we co-opt the life of a great figure like this in support of our own dearly held views.  

Jesus the great pacifist can be used to justify war against "the unbelievers."  Jesus the rebel can be used to exhort submission to religious or temporal authorities.  I, obviously, see Jesus as an anti-wealth liberal, and holistic-thinking-peacenik!  (and master yogin, of course)

But the truth is, all of these interpretations will always say more about US than they say about HIM.

I'd love to explore the mythic Jesus for a moment, on this Easter morning.  The tale of his death and resurrection presents a powerful mythic theme that can inform all of our lives and help us navigate our way in anxious times.  

The death and rebirth myth of Jesus signifies the sacrifice of Rex Mundi - the "King of the World" and the (re)birth of Lux Muni - the "Light of the World".  These themes are presented all throughout his teachings.  Perhaps most clearly is when Satan, the Adversary, brings him to look over all the kingdoms of the land, telling him "all this could be yours." if he only switched his allegiance from the Divine, over to the ol Father of Lies.  He could be King of Everything, and all he'd have to do is give up his innermost Heart.

We may not all agree on whether there be mystic beings of evil out there to tempt us, but in the lives of many holy people, this testing process has occurred - the temptation to just let go of the Path of the Heart, and settle down into a more comfortable life, even perhaps use their considerable gifts and charisma to gain great personal power.

What's wrong with this, though?  Isn't it fine to long for a little comfort, a little safety?  Do we all have to be some kind of renunciate or ascetic to live a life from the Heart?  I don't think that's the message.  I think rather it's about knowing where we have influence, and knowing what our priorities are.

Thing is, we can't control the world.  The point of view of Rex Mundi is that somehow we could become so powerful that we could master all circumstances, never be surprised again, have it all figured out.  From our own side, we'd finally be "good", and on the world's side, we'd finally be "safe".  

But we know that this dream of control is just that - a dream.  Our best laid plans are always subject to surprise, and even if we get everything we want, we still have to die at the end.  Those who have come to have an identity that doesn't rest in their possessions or accomplishments have an easier time when that great transition comes than those who struggle in vain at the dimming of the light of this life.

So I think Jesus was regularly telling us that the worry, the anxiety, the frustration that can plague our lives comes from placing our focus too much on things that we don't really get to be in charge of.  That doesn't mean don't vote!  We're still going to brush our teeth, kiss our children, spay and neuter our (rescued/adopted) pets.  But these are acts that come FROM our hearts.  We're doing them as an expression of the values we hold most dear.  We are radiating these values forth into the world.

When we spread our petitions, call out injustice, water our lawn from the thought that we can somehow control what is happening, it always means we bring a certain degree of tightness and upset to the situation.  Not only are we more uncomfortable, but we make other people uncomfortable too! Misery loves company!  Upset breeds more upset.  This is the life of Rex Mundi - the one who would be King - going through the world manipulating circumstances so that all shall be according to her whim:  All shall love me and despair!

Fortunately, this is not our only option.  Jesus tells us of the life of Lux Mundi in an exhortation to his disciples in the book of Matthew: "“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others"

We can't micro-manage everything and always have it our way. But one thing you always can do is your best. I haven't seen the political prediction expert, astrologer, or meteorologist who can predict ALL the changes - if we're operating out of a need for control, we'll live a life of frustration and anxiety.

On the other hand, we can vow to live from our Heart. We can listen to the longings, values and inspirations from deep within, and we can manifest those in the world for all to see. It is then that Rex Mundi is put to rest, and Lux Mundi is born. It's called the Light of the World because its orientation is fundamentally Radiant. It shines out the values from its heart, rather than seeking value from outside. It brings the value to the situation.

The mystics of the world speak metaphorically that we forget that this radiant nature is available to us, and we then act as if life is for-getting. But when we recognize that life is actually for-giving, this allows us to be forgiving of things not always going our way. Who we are is not dependent on circumstances conforming to our wishes. Who we are can shine even more brightly when our world needs more light.

Just like the mythic Christ allowed the "King of Judea" to die to this life on a cross (symbol of "worldly concerns" in many ancient traditions), only to be born into a body of Light, we too can learn to put to rest the anxiety, frustration, and fatigue of trying to control an infinitely dynamic and changing universe. "Who, by worrying can add a single moment to their life?" Matthew 6:27

We can place our focus where it belongs - on the life of the soul - our "soul" being the deepest values whispering our heart. We can ask, as Christ did "what price can you put on that soul?" Even if we gained the whole world but had to lose our innermost Heart - it would be a bad trade.

On this Easter morn I pray that even while many of our plans are being cancelled, even though we might be facing loss, sickness, or death, there is a deathless presence of compassion that lives in the cave of our hearts. Let us roll the stone away, and let the Light of the World be reborn!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

From COVID Conspiracies to Worldcentric Cultures, and Integral(ish) Exploration

We live in a vastly interconnected world, I don't know if you noticed! It's a whole new world and we don't quite have the capacities to navigate it skillfully!

The conditions that brought forth modern, scientific thinking were a combination of safety and stagnation of the previous developmental wave - Mythic Membership.  The stability brought about through city states, division of labor, and agriculture was balanced by the stagnation of monarchies and religious hegemonies, and this forced human beings to give rise to a literal renaissance and explode into experimentation, democracy, and free markets all over the world!

We're at a similarly uncomfortable point in history now.  The Modernist-Achiever mythos has brought us a lot: advanced medicine, greater equality than we've ever known, and ever expanding convenience.  But the promise of making every man a monarch can never be fulfilled on a planet of finite resources while encouraging a mindset of infinite consumption.  Linear answers have proven unsatisfactory to complex problems, and each recalibration toward "business-as-usual" seems to be a slide toward greater chaos and claustrophobia.

We're ripe for the birth of the emerging wave of Worldcentrism and Pluralism.  Our most advanced sciences are already operating here - even though we're not always applying this knowledge.  The deepest understandings in ecology all note the profoundly intertwined nature of ecosystems, economic theory has had to learn how to deal with a globally interconnected world, psychology is waking up that no mental health or illness happens in a vacuum, and the technology of the internet is as lateral and interconnected as you can get.

But here we are in a world with the technology of post-modern systems thinking, while most of us are using the interpersonal "skills" of cave-people!  Ok, to be fair, we're probably sometimes as highly developed as mythic-membership zealots.  The problem is that we don't know we're looking at life through a lens - we just think our take on the situation must be the right one.

And there's a big problem here - because at our post-modern level technological development - we're INUNDATED with information.  There's so much info that we can't possibly digest and parse it all.  So what do we do?  We do a "gut-check" - we see how it feels intuitively.  The problem is this: our intuitions are mostly just made of our biases.  It's not that we're mostly made of the masterful intuitions of having long cultivated our craft as epidemiologists, or climate scientists, or sociologists,  military strategists, or communications specialists.  Rather, we're mostly made of the short-cut intuitive heuristics that allow us to excel at the Olympic sport of JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS!

The emerging Worldcentric wave of development has a couple of amazing capacities.  #1 it recognizes that we're all in this together.  I always think of Rev. Dr. King's statement that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  Only a worldcentric intuition of our connection can let one grasp the importance of social distancing as a public health measure.  Only this wave of human development even starts to understand that we're all connected.  Anything less and you're likely to believe that these measures are too extreme for your business to survive and are thus probably a communist hoax.

At the same time, there's capacity #2. The Worldcentric wave is so tired of the ableist, privilege-enforcing, achiever hierarchies of modernism that it often grows allergic to hierarchies at all.  When you combine this with information overwhelm of our internet age, it makes sense why we find ourselves in a "post-truth" era.  The traditional structures of "authority" from mainstream science and journalism are under scrutiny, and it's an easy step from discounting those "narratives" to accepting equally specious claims because your confirmation bias likes them better.

And so out there on my bleeding-heart liberal social media feed I see all the cutest peaceniks arguing with deep pain and threats toward each other.   There are apparently two sides: one side who is SO READY to stay locked in their houses until an experimental vaccine can be shot into their children, and the other side who are SO READY to go out at night and tear down cellular towers to piss off the aliens running the government.  [yes, I totally did just ridiculously caricaturize both these fictional "sides", i hope you're not too badly triggered]

The first side keeps telling the second to calm down and read this article from NPR, and the second side can't figure out how to convince them that they're completely brainwashed.

And of course it seems logical that these two camps should fight like mad.  That's what we humans do when confronted with danger - we huddle down into our bunker, we circle the wagons, and we lob whatever weapons we have at anyone who gets close.

We're new at physical distancing for health, but we're PROFESSIONALS at emotional distancing, verbally dehumanizing, and socially ostracizing.

It would be one thing if these tactics improved the situation, but you know what these tactics bring about - only two results: an enhanced sense of self-righteousness, and increased cognitive dissonance.

The truth is that both these camps of peaceniks are working hard to figure out how to bring about the dearly-needed developmental wave of worldcentric systems understanding in our global society.  They're tackling questions that we have only seen before in science fiction like: What will our economies look like if we're not starving people and depriving healthcare as a form of motivation?  How do we continue to grow and expand our human possibilities while divesting from practices that despoil our habitat and harm other species?  How do we benefit from amazing innovations like the "internet of things" that might bring about levels of thriving we've never seen before, while also safeguarding ourselves from things like government (and commercial) surveillance of all our activities?

My friends who are quick to see secret and nefarious plots at every turn are extremely sensitive to the perils that come from a society that is ever more CONNECTED.  Being willing and able to think outside the box is a trait of every whistleblower and bellwether who has ferreted out environmental, political, or economic corruption before the rest of us were able to catch on.

My friends who are ready and willing to listen to the scientists and journalists who they have found to be authoritative are charting a course for us through the sea of mis-information we are drowning in. They are building rafts of verifiable facts, and using those to attempt to find some solid ground that we can all stand on safely together.

Each of these skills will be absolutely CRUCIAL to bring about the type of innovation our world - her people, animals, and ecosystems -needs now more than ever!  If we merely trust the authorities and never ask "who watches the watchmen" we may revert to the type of totalitarian states we're working to grow away from.  But if we don't have some standards about how we can test information, then we are likely to be led around by nefarious influences BECAUSE we are trying to avoid them.

There are serious manipulation plots out there.  Some actors are mastering the path of confusion in the internet age, and using it to overwhelm you with information and drive you to the fear and anger that make your brain its least functional and creative.  They don't even care who you vote for, or the type of hand-washing you practice or technology you use - as long as your choices and words bring division.  Because afraid and divided, we are easier to manipulate.

This is a time when we need to come together mentally, emotionally, socially more than ever - even if at a safe distance physically.  If we use cave-person interpersonal "skills" to try to bring about an advanced technological society that cares for all its members, we'll not only fail, but we will regress.

Instead, I call to you to develop the cognitive and interpersonal skills of this pluralistic age.  Learn to understand that "truths" are contextual - but there are FACTS to be found.  Learn to understand that calling people "stupid" or "crazy" doesn't convince them of your views - they're already thinking the same epithets about you.  Learn to patiently construct reasonable arguments rather than raising your voice or raising the frequency of your rhetorical devices (appeal to authority, appeal to fear, etc.).  Deepen your understanding of the relationship between inductive and deductive reasoning and have exciting conversations about it over a beer or coffee or water.

But even with all this, you'll recognize that your logic only goes so far.  Your patience will wear thin when you still haven't convinced the other person of the rightness (righteousness?) of your side.  And that's because the real skill you need is empathy.  The reason they're unwilling to listen to you is because you've refused to hear them.

You don't have to believe their story.  You hardly have to listen to their story.  But you do have to do an uncomfortable thing.  Instead of dehumanizing them because they believe a different myth than you do, learn to hear what the myth says about their deepest values.  Do you believe the myth that the CDC and pharmaceutical industry would never lie to you?  What needs and longings does this express?  Probably a longing for safety, health, clarity, a world that makes sense, a clear path forward, mutuality, and trust.  Do you believe that corporate elites are using technology to erode your freedoms and your immune system?  What needs and longings does this express?  Probably a need for freedom, health, autonomy, clarity, safety, a clear path forward, mutuality, and trust.

The truth is, concrete facts can be hard to find.  We're all going along with the best we've been able to come up with so far.  it only becomes a problem when we try to use our view as a bludgeon to convince the other of the shamefulness and idiocy of their way of seeing things.  Even if you're right, this way of interacting only hardens us into our thought-bunkers and leaves us more divided and more immune to change.

I believe there IS a more beautiful world coming.  We have to be able to envision it, we have to be able to get suspicious about the perils in it.  But most of all, we have to create it TOGETHER.  The thing about this emergent worldcentric, systems-based, pluralistic meme is that you don't get worldcentric understandings of our interdependence  by yourself.  By nature, we have to do it together.  If our deepening interconnection is going to lift us up rather than drown us, we must learn how to cooperate and put our minds on solutions together.

I'm calling you to engage in an experiment with me.  We're in a novel period of physical isolation - while we're all shook up and trying something new - let's try something really new:  while physically isolating, let's emotionally and intellectually reach out.  Grow the skills that make that possible.  If you feel like a caveman who wants to smash your phone or computer - this is a GOOD FEELING - you're stretching into the edges of your capacity to speak to those outside your tribe.  Learn a new language, become a pluralist, if nothing else, take comfort in that it will help to spread your correct truth.  But maybe, just maybe, learning these new languages might even let you learn something!