Greedy, Needy and Grace

If there is a cultural war that calls forth our best intentions to resolve, it is a war between the prevailing culture of greed that creates homelessness and other forms of neediness and suffering and an ideal greedless culture that would provide adequately for everyone and alleviate suffering. Folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary sang about this cultural war in a song whose lyrics include these lines:

Futility and senseless war, pit the rich against the poor,
While cause is buried long before the fight
For what was wrong, for what was right,
It’s just the strong, who ever says what’s right.

In part because as a young man during the Viet Nam war era I allowed Peter, Paul and Mary’s songs to speak to my heart, I am today an admittedly unrepentant idealist. I became stained with idealism, dyed in the wool as a person in quest of the ideal.  I believe it’s possible for us to resolve this cultural war in favor of the ideal culture.  I also believe that pitting the rich against the poor is a necessary byproduct or effect produced by the “cause” that “is buried long before the fight.”  We need to unbury this “cause” in order to dispel its power to perpetuate the prevailing culture or “status quo” by which neediness and suffering in all their forms are made to seem inevitable. Neediness and suffering are not inevitable.  They are produced by a cause we can dispel.  Once we dispel the cause, the effects or byproducts of the cause will end.

Sound too simple? Surely it does, because we tend to judge it through the filter of the buried “cause” that distorts all things simple to try to keep us from seeing simplicity.  The buried cause insists that life must be more complicated than that and refuses to allow us to accept the simple truth about how readily homelessness and other forms of neediness can be overcome and suffering not only mitigated but gradually ended.  In support of my idealism, I summarize here the means of ending neediness and suffering.  Believe it or not, as you choose.  But, please listen to your heart’s desire as you read.  What does your heart truly desire deep beneath all arguments to contradict the simplicity I present?  Might your mind be arguing against what your heart desires?  Might your heart be wiser than your mind and know what to desire and relentlessly work towards even in the face of arguments to the contrary?  Might grace be at work deep in your heart inviting you to listen and consider what might be true in the face of beliefs you’ve long held dear but which are not necessarily true?

What “cause is buried long before the fight?” I propose that buried beneath our awareness is a cause that promotes futility and senseless war and pits the rich against the poor.  We live in an era when few of us who are exposed to the media can fail to see the senselessness of wars swirling around us and the hostility that many wealthy people feel towards poor people.  The wealthier feel threatened by those who have less wealth.  Many of us in the USA are somewhere on the continuum of relatively “wealthier” and strive to hold our position on that upward ladder of mobility towards success as measured by financial milestones.  The powerful few (among whom we may aspire to someday belong and whose accomplishments we may admire) feel the need to amass even more power to protect themselves from the many who seem powerless and yet somehow make the powerful feel threatened enough to spend their resources setting up defenses to protect their positions amid prevailing economic inequities.  The “haves” fear that the “have-nots” will take from them what they value.  So, they prepare to defend what they have and their “right” to have it.  Why?  What “causes” that to happen?  Why we might ourselves identify with such defensive preparations?  Why might our desire to identify with the wealthy cause us to engage in futility?

Are we ready, willing and able to unbury the “cause” and look directly at it? If we are, we can dispel it as nonsense and move past it into a new era based on a new culture of equitable sharing of resources and opportunities.  The buried “cause” is nonsense, but believing in it assigns power to it.  Our minds have the capacity to give power even to nonsense.  History is filled with examples of such assignments of power to nonsense.  Of course, at the time, humanity did not recognize the nonsense as nonsense and believed it to be truth.  Believing a falsehood or misperception to be true gives it power over our lives.  We live by what we believe, not by objective truth. If our beliefs do not square with truth, then truth does not influence us.  Instead, what we mistakenly believe influences us, even causes us to act consistently with our false beliefs.  Changing our minds to believe differently frees us of the influence of false ideas that previously controlled our actions.  The most empowering decision we can make is to change our minds to let go of a false belief in order to accept a truth in its place. It is wise to seriously consider making such choices.

I write to offer my readers such an opportunity to exercise their will power (or power of choice) in favor of truth in place of false beliefs. The “cause . . . buried long before the fight” that “pits the rich against the poor” and generates “futility and senseless war” is a false belief in who we are.  Fear has persuaded us to believe in a false identity in place of our true identity.  We have buried our fears that cause us to adhere to this false identity so that these buried fears can now cause us to fight with each other and prepare elaborate defenses to protect us from each other instead of trust each other to share this world as a culture of universal peace and good will.  So long as we allow these fears to remain buried they will continuously thwart all efforts to install peace in place of violence as a permanent condition.  We must unbury these fears in order to move beyond the cycles of futility humanity has endured for many generations. Centuries of futility arise from habits of denying the fears that feed the cycles of violence and futility of our efforts to remove violence as a social norm.

Do you want to remove violence as a social norm? Are you sick and tired of violence yet – sick and tired enough to participate in moving into a culture in which violence is not “normal?”  Your heart is likely to desire to move beyond violence if you have loved ones you feel are vulnerable to violence and realize that you cannot protect them from violence on your own.  The “rich” suffer from the illusion that they have sufficient resources to protect their children and other loved ones from violence.  They believe in investing in elegant and elaborate isolation, gated communities and other forms of barriers in an effort to block violence from reaching them.  They believe in raising up military machinery and institutions (and train other people’s children to staff them) that they hope will be sufficient to block access to the territory they/we occupy and prevent needy people from encroaching upon their/our abundance.  They/we are mistaken.  Their/our efforts are futile.  The war will reach them/us beyond every barrier they/we erect.

No matter how much of their/our resources they/we invest in postponing the inevitable, the inevitable will happen.  War is cycling out of control into yet another outbreak of worldwide violence at home and abroad.  Unless we act with determination to establish the true alternative, the two will soon merge and become indistinguishable.  The rich are too few and poor too many to deny the poor access to the wealth and opportunities that the few have for many generations sought to reserve to their/ourselves. With whom will you choose to identify – the rich or the poor?  Is it wise to identify with the rich pitted against the poor?  Or would it be wiser to identify as a participant in reconciling the rich and the poor into one sharing culture in solidarity with all humankind?

Fear is causing us to go to war against ourselves within the human race, to see in the “other” who appears on our doorstep as a stranger the image of an “enemy” to our prosperity, happiness and security. I propose that this is an unnecessary and inaccurate belief as far from truth as the belief that the world is flat once was discovered to be.  While humans believed that the world was flat, they lived as if it were flat.  They feared the “edge” of the earth and shied away from it.  Today most humans know that the world is not flat.  Today we also need to learn to know that the stranger is not a threat to our well-being and that the well-rounded culture of shared resources and opportunities is not an unrealistic ideal but rather the most promising way to bring an end to futility and senseless war and set in motion conditions in which there are no more distinctions between the rich and poor.  The stranger is not the edge of our comfort zones from which to shy away but rather the life-enriching opportunity to embrace life more fully and enjoy all that our self-protective habits have caused us to lose.  Our fears cause us to be violent towards ourselves and lose out on the benefits of a far more expansive and fear-free life than our fears can ever provide.

Buried fears are the buried cause of our futile efforts to resolve conflicts and build long-lasting peace. We will never establish a worldwide culture within which the human race can be at peace with itself/ourself until we bring our fears to light, look at them to see their false foundation and let them go.  They are nonsense.  But they are a nonsense in which we have so long unwittingly believed and for so many generations taught our children to believe that they have taken on the illusion of unquestionable truth.  We have sanctified and made holy false beliefs about who we are and who other people are.  We have failed to learn the lessons of history and remain doomed to repeat them in endless cycles of violence and futility until we unearth the fears that perpetuate such cycles and dispel them as the nonsense they are.

Our egos are the tombs within which we bury our fears generation after generation and perpetuate their causation of futility and senseless violence. We believe ourselves to be our egos.  That’s not true. We are not creatures destined to cower in the dark behind our ego’s defensive walls afraid to welcome strangers or to reach out in good will towards those who arrive on our doorsteps.  We are creatures of light with a far more promising destiny.  We need only dismantle our egos’ defensive structures to realize the truth of our far grander power and capacity to resolve all forms of conflict, share the world and its resources and opportunities and by this process truly protect our loved ones and provide security for all people’s loved ones.  We need not pit the loved ones of some against the loved ones of “others” when we realize that we are all our sisters and brothers.

The ideal I lay out here is an idea by which we need no longer delegate to our children the future prospect of being at war with other people’s children. If we desire in the depths of our hearts not to bury our children and the children of our friends and neighbors and perpetuate our universal grief, we must learn to unbury the fears that cause us to blindly act in futility when we could otherwise act with immense utility.  Blind actions are unwise.  Taking the blinders of buried fears from our minds’ vision will go a long way towards empowering us to work together as collaborators in developing and sustaining the idealistic culture of shared peace, power and purpose about which I dare to boldly write as an advocate.

Am I a visionary and yet also a realistic idealist?  Yes, because the fears that once blinded me no longer blind me.  They need not blind anyone who chooses to unbury them, look directly at them and set them aside as nonsense.  The world is not flat.  Strangers need not be flatly denied access to shared resources and opportunities.  Together, we (“us” and those formerly viewed as “strangers” or “not us”) can build together that which will not be built until we all build it together as members of one community committed relentlessly, resolutely and resiliently to the welfare of all.  It is in such solidarity with all members of the human race that we will find not only the hope of ending war forever but also the seemingly miraculous means for doing so.

© Art Nicol 2015

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