What a question to ask, the answer to which is the goal of most people. How do we separate what is important in life from the other stuff? How do we go about our daily life and not remain oblivious to what is going on around us? Paying attention to the lives of others. Achieving a stream of consciousness that will hold us up in times of adversity supporting our resolve for a better life.
Spirituality is the single most important component of the answer. Our society has a quiet rebellion at the word religion which conjures up images of child and native abuse, control, extreme riches while the poor remain hungry all around, wars and extreme prejudices fought in its name. We are unable to separate religion in many of its current forms from the purity of the original teachings.
There are also a number of questions arising as the the accuracy of the holly works since these were translated and transcribed by humans who are prone to so many errors. Assurances of the purity of the works as protected by the Manifestations of God or God himself are of no avail. No one really believes that is a possibility. Studies of the Bible particularly have highlighted the number of errors that have crept into the works that we are reading today. The first Bible was published 1000 years after the crucifixion of Christ.
The subject of spirituality itself is fraught with issues. Is it possible to have spirituality without religion? Is not the basis of spirituality the same as that of religion that we take for granted now as good vs bad rules. Thou shalt not kill was introduced by religion and has become assimilated in society. Could that rule have evolved naturally or would we continue to believe that killing is a natural process of mankind. The wild west of the 19th Century in the U.S. would support the issue that killing was considered a normal part of life for many years, in spite of religion or spirituality.
Defining the latter is effusive at best and left to the individual. Spirituality appears to live in people’s lives according to their set of principles and guidelines. I would surmise though, that all aspects of it engender some sort of feelings of good will to all men. The prospect of doing good as opposed to evil, to advance society to the next level of accomplishment. Defining good and evil, accomplishments and the like opens its own set of issues and definitions that become very personal very quickly in any discussion. To make matters worse, there are few answers.
I would add two additional principles to spirituality. The Baha’i Faith goes to great lengths espousing the benefits of detachment and moderation. I have mentioned these in the past. I am coming to the conclusion that these three could easily form the bastion of human consciousness. All are difficult to achieve, nearing on the impossible. Mainly because we tend to attempt to define things in black and white. Where it only so. All definitions defie tight descriptions of any kind. Matters are made worse by advancing age as we see ambiguity all around us.
Detachment is the process of detaching yourself from material goods. I say this as I sit in a house full of beautiful art collected over the years. I always considered detachment also meant not having material goods, shying away from purchasing them. As time has gone by, I have come to the conclusion that far not acquiring material goods, the art of detachment includes the process of acquiring stuff but recognising the transient nature f what we acquire. The accumulation of wealth for the sake of it has never seemed like a good idea, or even a recommended path to happiness. On the other hand, you have a Warren Buffet who makes a fortune and gives most of away to benefit mankind. That is certainly a level of detachment. For the record, he gave away $35 billion of his $40 billion fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Detachment is hard to achieve since it is hard to define accurately, and again means different things to different people. At its most fundamental, I believe it includes the appreciation of one’s belongings without being unduly attached to them. Would I miss my art if it were stolen? Or burned in a fire? Undoubtedly. Life goes on at that point. We can always start purchasing again. Maybe go in a new direction. The silver lining that allows us to chart new ways as a direct result of the loss we have suffered.
Moderation is equally complicated. At first glance, it would appear that moderation encourages us to tow the middle line. How boring that would be. No excesses. On the other hand, would moderation allow the occasional excess as long as it is tempered afterwards? I am sure it does. We would not know what moderation was if we are always being moderate. That brings us to the mind bender of moderation within moderation.
Can the boundaries of moderation be moved? The answer is an obvious yes. A person participating in Xtreme sports will have different upper and lower boundaries associated with their level of activities. Their state of moderation, or what they would consider to be moderate would a totally different of values than mine. Same would apply to such mundae tasks as driving a car where we set different standards for ourselves.
We drove from Germany to Iran in 1962. My father had purchased a brand new Opel Caravan. The laws regarding importing foreign new vehicles into Iran had relaxed and my father decided to take advantage of the situation. He went to the Automobile Association in Germany to get a map and an idea of what route to take. It was an interesting drive of which I remember parts. He was told there two routes, easy and hard. Easy meant two weeks, hard was ten days over the grueling mountains of Yugoslavia and Turkey. We had lived in Ethiopia for ten years negotiating its mountainous terrain, mountains appeared to not be a problem for my father.
My father’s idea of a trip was to get from point A to point B with the minimum number of interventions. Bathroom breaks were non-existent. Leaving at 7:00AM meant just that. Be in there or incur his wrath. We made the trip to Iran in seven days much tot he shock of the Automobile Association Iran when we reported in. My dad’s idea of moderation while driving while slightly askew with the rest of the people in the car.
We are all very fast fast drivers in my family. Moderation means driving over the speed limit, not at the limit.
Moderation also applies to other aspects of life. Baha’is are told to take every opportunity to teach the Faith. Mention the name of our Manifestation of God, Baha’u'llah. Extol his teachings and so on. Even that has to be done in moderation. I have a cousin who is very active in the faith, in my opinion past the point of moderation by a large margin regardless of what upper and lower boundaries are set. She is in France right now, gone to spend time with her daughter. Her daughter works which means my cousin will have some free time on her hands. She will be organising some sort of Baha’i do there During her vacation.
I pointed out to her that this would no longer be a vacation. She should take some time out from teaching the Faith and become a tourist. I am not good at that, she says. Of course not. That requires practice. You need to try it sometime. Go to the Museums, not the Louvre necessarily, but the Musee D’Orsay is fabulous and worth the visit. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Being a tourist requires you to practice being one to enjoy the process. In the meantime, go have a cup of coffee and talk to people. Incredible what you will learn from them. Recharge your batteries. It will make you a more effective teacher when you return. Moderation applies to everything we do.
If you are bored by how moderate you have become, move the boundaries. Being moderate does not mean boring.
Spirituality, detachment, moderation form the three pillars on which most lives can be lived fruitfully.
None can be achieved however, without first becoming conscious of what you are doing and how you are living you life. Stream of consciousness is vital. We are seeing this term appear more and more in all sorts of literature. Become aware. Consciousness allows you to heal yourself from some conditions. There are those who argue that I could heal my liver if only I was more conscious of its activities. Rewrite the genes that control it. It is possible. It has been proven with the new theories of Neuro Plasticity in which have rewired their brains to get rid of certain debilitating conditions including depression.
Another life long goal to be achieved. All of these are done simultaneously. It is not like you do one, than proceed to another. Every pillar is a support helping the others make sense out of everything.
Consciousness allows to become aware that the problem or issue you are labouring over is important or not. Helps balance things out. Can you live like that every day of your life. I doubt it.
I am beginning to dissect and analyse what people say. This is fun and very educational. I have another post coming out on it. For now, I will mention one of them. Live every day like it is your last. Or take everything one day at a time. Both impossible to do. You have no idea when your last day is. And anyways, you will be dead on your last day. Not sure you want to live that way.
Given the prognosis that I have two months to live has creates a volcano of thoughts and feelings. None of which helps decide how to live every day like it is my last. Don’t have the energy for it. What if I want to sit and do nothing tomorrow? Is that a bad thing? Have I betrayed my last day objective? Would I not want to do something different? Not necessarily anything dramatic. Have dinner with my wife. Just the two of us. Hardly a last day activity people envision when they make the comment. You can have dinner anytime. Go do something else. But what?
The answer to your question, Iggy, is as old as the mountains we tread on. Achieving the balance that is required to live a full life, aware of the repercussions of one’s actions. I can tell you from my own experience over this journey, that the road to that awareness is long, will take unexpected twists and turns for which you are never totally prepared. It is worth taking the time every day to meditate. Probably toward the end of the day, on what actions you have taken, how this has affected you and your loved ones. How things can be fixed. The quicker you apply the fix the better. What the next steps are.
Baha’is have to say their prayers every day. A prayer consists of three equal parts. The first is reading the prayer, aloud or to yourself, the second is to meditate on what you have read, and the this is to take some action as a result of the prayer. Reading the prayer is the easy part. The rest require a stream of consciousness.
I hope this helps you in some way, Iggy. This has been a very difficult write. I would to hear not only your comments, but those of others. Please do not be shy, every comment carries a gem in it whether you think so or not. A lot of you write me eMails instead of commenting. I wish I could post those as comments. They are full of insight that you may not think are valuable, or downplay as simplistic. This blog has proven that there is no such thing. I have written posts that I have looked at later and thought I treated the subject too lightly, yet the comments make a liar out of me. Or the posts leave enough room for others to say something.
This is an important post tome. Please comment. Every word has value.