"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - J. Krishnamurti
While psychologists try to pull different levers to help maladjusted children become "healthy" individuals and function "properly" in our social order, there is a hidden, compelling problem that very few are willing to face. Sociologists, psychotherapists and many other educated professionals whose fancy titles end in "ist" try in vain to understand the reason for our various, social problems. Some point to the breakdown of the family unit and the need for parents to work more in order to provide the necessities of life. Others blame the parents for spoiling their children with an array of toys and gadgets and for not teaching them the value of money. Still, some warn that our world has veered off course from the secure and authoritative path of religion. The list of potential reasons is virtually endless.
What if our very eyes, through which we see the world, are the root of the problem? What if we suffer from myopic vision that corrupts everything in sight? What if good is secretly bad and bad is trying to tell us something about ourselves that isn't good? In other words, are we rewarding those studious and obedient children for maintaining the status quo and doing the bidding of an inherited pattern that goes unquestioned? Are those of us, eager to obey and please our parents and the social order, in fact yielding to something destructive? And are we punishing those "lazy slackers" who unknowingly raise their voices in rebellion as a warning sign against a convoluted system? For many, entertaining that thought is akin to confronting their own death and that is out of the question.
When children begin to open their adult eyes, what do they see? A world very much devoid of innocent play, exploration and self-discovery. It is a world with rigid, complex structures, morals, concepts, rules, laws and gods where everything is monitored, tagged, numbered and valued. It is a world where nothing is sacred and everything can be exploited, bought and sold, even children. It is a world full of contradictions, war, corruption, poverty and death, all caused by people who are very much like themselves and their own parents. In short, children open their eyes to a horrific paradigm but they do not know how to articulate that horror. It is embedded in everything they see. They are effectively drafted into an insane asylum of sorts where all the doors are locked and the only keeper of the keys is a deranged nurse. The only choices are to fight for their sanity by trying to break down the doors or to adopt the deranged vision of the gatekeeper. Those who choose the former are put in mental straitjackets, become the criminals and outcasts of society or are often relegated to menial, low-paying or back-breaking jobs. Those who choose the latter become the wealthy respected leaders of our communities and governments. They become the unsuspecting enforcers and propagators of a vampiric system that siphons off our individual, creative energy and uses it to grow itself. Like a virus that feeds on healthy cells and eventually kills its host (and itself), the system eventually disengages the individual from his or her humanity. In short, the current paradigm does not allow young people to reinterpret the values and morals they inherit in a way that gives meaning to their lives.
The vast majority of people work only because they have to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads. They don’t do it because they enjoy it. This is the reality behind our current social order and children intuit the implications of this at a very young age. That leaves very little room for any humanity in the human being. Our energies are largely taken up with maintaining a mechanical routine, devoid of any creativity. Even the rich are often consumed by the fear of losing their wealth that they give their humanity very little space. As a result, most of us live not from our own centers but from a point outside of ourselves. We cater to the wants and demands of society through our parents, our government, our employers, our doctors, our gods, etc. Living out of one’s own center is not an egotistical self-centered place, an actual construct of the system. Rather, it is a rejuvenating, vital point and a natural spring of creativity. It is that point from which heroes and great visions are born and therein lies the power to change the world. I suppose many at the time would have thought that Jesus and Gautama the Buddha were lazy for not tending to their families or helping their fathers with the family business or becoming politicians to serve their communities. But their stories have changed the world because there was something vibrant and powerful within their humanity that sought expression. And that thing was not sanctioned by society or governments or parents. In fact, the social order of the time in the story of Jesus, sought to kill him for causing a stir.
Much of our social failure in the United States is partially due to the neurotic ideology that we’ve had for so many centuries. The god we have been worshipping is a Jew from the Middle East, a place where some of his American followers cannot point to on a map. But they believe in his message that prompts us to give our things away, help the poor and follow him to the heavens above. We claim to live by his ideals on Sundays and then try to rake in as much for ourselves as possible on the remaining days of the week. The irony is that the vast majority who rails against socialism and communism, Jesus' unspoken ideologies, happens to be self-proclaimed Christians. Something is amiss here. We have a collective split personality. We espouse democracy, freedom, compassion and other wonderful qualities that we claim to possess on the world stage but then we put our seal of approval, through our government's actions, on some very dark activities like torture, “regime change”, murder, thievery and other things that are anything but compassionate and liberating.
In the Middle Ages, only the priest class of the Catholic Church knew how to read. Peasants were illiterate and depended on the Church to interpret literal works for them, especially the Bible. The Church held up a tired, wounded and poor Jesus to be the role model for the people while many of the priests, dressed in their elegant, silken robes, roamed the beautiful cathedrals and parishes. Someday, the peasants were told, you will eat at large banquets in Heaven. For it is better to be rich in spirit, despite your desolate poverty now, than to have all the wealth in the world but be shut out of Heaven. You’ll get your reward later, after you're dead!
Nothing has changed today. We continue to voraciously consume ideologies that remain unquestioned. And that puts us at risk of living unexamined, robotic lives. When we are gripped and held by their gravity without our knowledge, we become unwitting actors in a dangerous and fear-filled drama. If we do question them, we embark on a solitary journey that unfolds in ways that are anything but ordinary or predictable. Either way, we are always living dangerously. Ultimately however, the dangers lie in our perception. Paradigms and patterns of themselves are innocuous. Our failure to understand them is the fundamental issue.