The Love of Life Indivisible — Acrylic ink on ceramic tile by F.L.
The last post in this series closed with the question of who could possibly care about the entire human species and its mysterious insertion in the cosmic flow of life if the culturally and psychologically isolated individual cannot properly see herself and her fundamental source. This difficult but seminal question arose from a brief examination of the connection between the wholesale disruption of the global environmental (and the added threat of nuclear holocaust), and the irrational psychological isolation and cultural fragmentation that after thousands and thousands of years is still defining our sense of being and determining our behavior.
Humanity originated from life —and life remains our only common ground— but at an early point in our evolutionary process, we started to attribute our existence less to life and more to the peculiar mental ground provided by the accumulation of particular cultural and psychological knowledge. The peculiar human capacity to create and use mental representation (the ability to learn, think, and imagine) made possible our survival in a very challenging environment. However, when this same capacity turned back onto itself, the increasingly self-conscious human organism started to distance itself from its natural source and to increasingly fix its attention no longer just on the satisfaction of physical needs, but on the fulfillment of growing demands exacted by tribal and religious allegiance, personal identity, and the social and post-mortem status of this identity. This shift from impersonal consciousness to tribal/personal consciousness, eventually made the species as a whole incapable of the integration that would have been the rational crowning of a period of successful, but splintered mental and social development. In other words, humanity unwittingly trapped itself in a general mental system characterized (and obscured) by its manifestation in seemingly different cultural and psychological entities obsessed with their separate identity and their exclusive and contradictory claim to security, certainty, and power. Needless to say, once under the control of this self-projective mindset our species became incapable of the caring, integrative intelligence that could have come from widespread acknowledgement of our common source in the mystery of life.
The realization that the unfolding movement of life is essentially unknowable (not reducible, ever, to symbolic representation), and that we are fundamentally inseparable from it makes evident that what keeps different cultural groups and individuals apart and at odds with each other and life is, the knowledge that each entity accumulates and projects in order to give particular meaning to its physical and mental presence, and to distinguish itself from others who identify themselves with a different version of the same type of knowledge.
To come back to our original question about the locus of global caring, let us allow our minds the sensitivity necessary, not just to intellectually know, but to actually feel the division, disorder, and suffering of humanity. To stay quietly with that feeling without yielding to predetermined reactions is to come directly in contact with one’s own confused, anxious, and antagonistic embodiment of this general silo mentality and its dangerous dysfunction.
To see that each one of us is equally responsible for the irrational thought and behavior of a species brutally at odds with itself, and in nearly suicidal disharmony with its primordial source in life, is to realize as well that the change that this insight demands lies outside the realm of thought and desire. No one can wish and think his or her way out of this total impasse, cultural and psychological insularity has wired our brains, and we cannot simply turn off the mechanical inclination to defend this mental insularity as if our very organismic lives depended on it. Our conceit of separate, unique, and autonomous personal existence is the quintessential problem of human existence, therefore its solution demands the disappearance of that part of the cultural and personal baggage through which we are known and know ourselves. In other words, a mind that remains trapped in the limited and conflicted realm of the tribal and personal is largely unaware aware of the human plight, and therefore incapable of the profound and loving encounter in the truth of our common being that would lead naturally to the correct, collaborative action that our dire circumstances demand.
No matter what it may dream-up, attempt and attain, the silo mind —the mind conditioned and encapsulated by the record of particular experience and learning— cannot become better. To migrate from one form of secular or religious myopia to another is equally futile. We have been forever exchanging and attempting to improve our separate identities, and that is precisely what has brought us, unaware, to the global existential crisis we face today.
The question of whether human consciousness can go beyond its chronic fragmentation, violence, and sorrow cannot be answered by finding the right ideology, authority, and method, because all those things are an integral part of the mental illness that has befallen the species as a whole: the obsessive desire to find physical security and mental certainty in exclusive cultural and psychological enclaves from which others are barred.
We abhor coming to terms with the impotence of our habitual thought patterns and the insufficiency or counter-productive quality of even our most noble reactions, but it is only in seeing ourselves for what we actually are that makes apparent the absolute necessity of a mind free of cultural and personal ideology, authority, and method.
A mind that is no longer bound and determined by the stale imperatives of memory and desire is indistinguishable from the all-embracing movement of life.