Making a Difference
A philanthropist asked: "With so many worthy nonprofit organizations and such need, what would you do? Where would you invest ten thousand or ten million dollars, and why?"
The answer, I maintain, depends on depth; treating symptoms or root causes. A person bleeding after an accident needs immediate attention. Stop the bleeding. Preventing the injury is more complex, more challenging. We need to do both.
Culture is the cause. Self-inflicted suffering and violence is the bleeding. Yes, self-inflected. In a recent interview the Dali Lama observed that we create most of our problems. Physicist David Bohm, protégé of Einstein, put it this way:
We are faced with a breakdown of general social order and human values that threatens stability throughout the world. Existing knowledge cannot meet this challenge. Something much deeper is needed, a completely new approach. I am suggesting that the very means by which we try to solve our problems is the problem. The source of our problems is within the structure of thought itself.
Collectively what Bohm calls thought expresses as Culture. Culture is our semantic-reality, the conditioned memories triggered by words, mental, emotional and physical images and our identification with these images. The culturally induced inner image we believe we are and the outer image we call culture emanate from the same root. Both are images. Both are, at close examination, the same. This insight is both obvious and profound. The difference between our personal image of self and the outer image we call culture is defined only by which end of the telescope we are viewing, near or far, inner or outer. The root of our personal and global conflict emanates from this image.
The fundamental challenge to wholeness, wellbeing and sustainability is not our innate capacity. Of that nature has invested deeply and wisely. The environment, and for human beings that means culture, sculpts development; which and to what extent each of our limitless innate capacities are recognized, nurtured and developed. This in turn shapes perception and behavior which, projected outward, creates culture. Personal identity and culture represent a reciprocal dynamic, something Joseph Chilton Pearce describes as a ‘strange loop.’ Culture, as a collected field of projected images, having gathered strength for thousands years, imprints human development transparently, as water is to a fish.
To break this pattern in which we have been caught for tens of thousands of years, the self-inflicted comparison, jealousy, greed, fear, arrogance and violence implicit in our cultural identity must end, naturally, having been displaced by a new identity. We must be ‘born again.’
Not in the image or form of another cultural belief, rather as the result of a deep and inclusive identification with what we actually are; Evolution’s End, the tip or apex of nature’s billions of years of investment in creation, and from that new identity – we must act. That is the challenge, making a difference. Any other response is no change at all, treating more symptoms of the same unexamined same root, more first aid applied, endlessly.
Obviously meeting the challenge is easier said than done. How does one explain to a fish what water is? Obviously kids are not the problem. Adults and the culture sustained by adults define the destiny of the next generation. Here is where the change must begin, with individual adults; parents, midwives, child care providers, the people who shape the early and most vulnerable, formative stages of human development.
The ‘experiences’ we create for each child, with the earliest moments, days, months, years being the most formative, reincarnates or breaks culture’s spell, mechanically repeating the imprint, conformity and obedience or freeing creative intelligence to meet today’s challenges with a new and deeply appropriately response. Each moment each adult chooses and each choice is the model the watching child will become.
And we do have choices? A drug free, ecstatic home birth or a technologically-induced hospital procedure? Breastfeeding on demand for 2.5 years or longer as recommended by the World Health Organization or plastic bottle formula? Carrying one’s baby next to the body or in a plastic basket with titanium wheels? Natural, organic whole foods or cage-bred chicken nuggets? Storytelling, reading and experiencing nature or corporate television? Unschooling or compulsory obedience and conformity training? Authentic original play, the kind that leads to Einstein’s genius or win-lose comparison where self-image and worth is measured by culture’s score? Contributing one’s creative energy and attention in community enriching and sustaining adventures or non-human corporate greed? All these choices cease to be choices when we identify with, appreciate, respect and care for what we actually are and honor our responsibility as Evolution’s End to protect the sanctity of our innate nature which is nature.
But doing so is so demanding. Why? Because each cultural assumption questioned represents a threat to culture’s dominance, expressing again and again its disapproval, rejection and punishments which our identification with culture enables and encourages, yet another strange loop.
Identity is the battleground. Our identity with culture, our allegiance and our self-image and worth emanating from that identification, generates irreconcilable inner conflicts. Those identified with culture reflexively, often blindly, do culture’s bidding because their identity hangs in the balance. Are we listening for and following our authentic inner voice or seeking external approval? We can’t do both at the same time. We must choose, moment by moment, and the choices we make forge our children’s destiny today.
Deep, visceral, primal bonding is the key. Abiding love for our children, and the children of everyone’s children, is the only power strong enough to break the spell. From this abiding affection we will do things we won’t do for ourselves.
Recognizing this, one of culture’s primary defensive devices is to break this bond at birth and at every opportunity during the most vulnerable developmental stages. At nearly every turn culture offers choices. Look how often the so called smart phone breaks adult-child entrainment and subtle-bonded communication. Multiply these brakes; hour after hour, day after day, in every city around the world.
Add the numbing pounding of commercial television and screen based technologies. Add the break that early and extended child care and preschool represent. Compound the interest with twelve or more years of boring conformity training called schooling. Is there any question why we make the choices we make? Alternatives for most don’t even exist. Check mate. Culture wins.
Breaking this pattern begins and ends with the formation of our core identity which is the primary function of bonding and what is called attachment. The nature and quality of the bond, the essence and moment by moment experience we call relationship, forges our primary identity. Is it grounded in our miraculous authentic nature, co-creating with creation or is our core identity compulsively addicted to mechanical cultural counterfeits? Indeed, we have and do make choices.
What would I do? I would invest in reaching, inspiring, nurturing and supporting as many parents as possible, along with the people who care for children, in questioning the assumptions culture is, to see and appreciate that one’s identification with these assumptions is vehicle whereby culture thrives at the expense of our individual and collective growth and development, feeding most intensely on the growth, freedom and creative intelligence of our children.
More to come…