When we look at the meaning communicated through our global culture we see a lot of confusion, ignorance, and much in the way of self-made destruction. Using our behaviors as the measure to gauge or understanding of ourselves, it is clear that we either don’t have a firm grasp of the recipe for satisfaction or we don’t care enough to turn our understanding into corresponding behaviors. Depending on where we focus, it is hot spots of either, or and both. We collectively act in ways that destroy the very harmonies on which we depend on both individual and broader social scales. To allow the simmering cauldron of destructive steering mechanisms to contribute to what we experience as life is to participate in and perpetuate our own demolition.
There is no suggestion here that the issues we face to effectively address this are simple to understand. Neither is it being suggested that a clear map is equivalent to going on the journey a clear map outlines. While it is arguably true that a portion of our woes are beyond our capacity to address, it is also true that the portion that is certainly within our capacity to address is often left untouched in a frenzy of misdirection and ignorance. Our behavioral disharmony with what nourishes us includes relationships both within and between species. It extends to behaviors that limit or destroy the environmental conditions that are necessary to sustainably support biological life to the fullest. Because we lack a clear vision of truth about ourselves and/or the values that translate vision into action, we behave in ways that directly and indirectly undermine the realization of our full potential.
In economics there is a term called “The tragedy of the commons”. It is used to describe the condition when shared resources are depleted by individuals acting in self-interest that ultimately destroys the common resource the community depends on. Aesop’s Fable “Killing the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs” is another illustration of the tragedy of the commons. Sometimes our poverty inducing feeding frenzy is fueled by ignorance, myopia, or willful acts, but the result is invariably an increase of poverty. Often that poverty comes suddenly and ferociously. With myopia the fuel that generated the poverty we also use our shallow vision to assess the tragic outcome and confuse the symptoms with the cause until the cycle repeats again. This is the reason our history is a collection of nations that collapse over time and we reemerge not because we have changed anything, but because we have tragically diminished our population enough to mask the problem once again. This same tragic theme is repeated on individual scales.
The point here is that real wealth is predicated on two key elements: First; cooperative relationships, not predatory and parasitic ones, build wealth. To cultivate a world that grows satisfaction we need to have a stake in each other’s success and wellbeing. Second; enough is enough. Too much or too little of anything is still out of balance. To fool ourselves into thinking that more or less is better is a lie. Extreme denial of self and self-aggrandizement are just two forms of the same out of balance condition.
Without a serious probing of the truth about our real nature we cannot navigate toward our fullest potential. In the absence of truth – we sleepwalk from the womb to the tomb – ill equipped to make effective intentional choices that can affect positive and lasting changes. Without truth we’re locked in an impoverished state of being. In poverty, we are vulnerable to reducing our experience of life to one that is punctuated with excess followed by agony – diminished or absent of meaning – a passive reflection of the nature of our conflicted environment – we become sticks floating on the currents of ignorance, passively reflecting the cultural heat and cold of our ignorance until we are whittled back to dust. Without a serious exploration of truth we cannot establish the foundation for real choice. Without truth we are locked in a destructive script from which we cannot emerge -spectators in, rather than thoughtful and capable authors of, our experience. Without truth we are destined to be slaves to, rather than shapers of, our experience.
Understanding the truth about ourselves is the first step toward moving from chaos to harmony; from a state where dissatisfaction is present to a more satisfied state of being. Developing the discipline to take minute by minute day by day steps toward the direction that understanding reveals characterizes every step thereafter. This is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one because the most secure and impenetrable prisons are not built with metal and stone, they are built with ignorance and lies and powered by misdirected effort.