Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Saint or Sinner?

You may or may not agree with him.  He has been vilified in some circles and venerated in others but regardless of what you feel about him, arguably, he is a function of  A New Earth, and emerging consciousness in many  ways.  

We stand at a crossroads in human history.  Never before has the capacity to destroy so much life, so quickly, existed.  A sword might harm one person, a ballista a score, but with today's technology, millions can die in that same instant.  Hundreds of species are endangered because of human's authoritarian approach to planetary life; our water is polluted and the climate is rapidly changing; soon perhaps beyond human remedy.  All is not grim however, for at the same time, there is an emerging consciousness.  More and more people are recognizing their intertwined identity, more and more people are seeing the conditioning that has motivated them, more and more people are waking up to who they really are.  Change is happening rapidly and each day there is evidence (as there has always been) of the both the rigid structures of identity bound relations and of unity informed relating.  In one, the fragments of our identity compete in an unending and ultimately doomed attempt to try to make us whole in the other we simply see the wholeness that comes from being who we are - a manifestion of the whole.

Without judging Edward Snowden (as either a traitor or patriot, attention-seeker or principled whistleblower), he is certainly a man of 2013.  In this time we are witnessing the perhaps unprecendented dissolution of structures in astounding and sometimes very frightening ways. Change is often hard.  Uncertainty is often hard.   For so many years the nation state has been the organizing principle of our tribal identity, but increasingly as communication makes it possible for people to know and understand the lives of others thousands of miles away, land boundaries are becoming less meaningful.  Forces like the internet have the power to undermine the bonds of nation states for better or worse.   Boundaries and allegiances in general are shifting and being redrawn. 

It was always interesting when the news was centralized to watch what reporters would report upon. For instance, when an international plane crashed and the Brits talked about the Brits, the Americans talked about the Americans and so on.  But why should one's allegiance reside with where they were born rather than somewhere else?  In today's age of twitter, facebook,  and hundreds of other social media, meaning is not constructed the same way any longer.  The potential for a different construction of meaning and identity exists.   As the power of tribal identity wanes however, the interesting opportunity is to see if people simply redefine their tribe or if they align with humanity  something different or bigger?   Now, to seemingly elevate realignment of identity and not recognize  the legitimate moral and ethical strivings of  tribes and countries throughout history, or to fail to acknowledge and honor those who have fought and died to protect  ideals, is to demean the work of tireless states people who have tried to make a difference. 

Still,  there are other ways of organizing the world and new modalities of communication coming to be each day.  These,  among many other things,  are accelerating the redrawing of walls and maps and alliances.  New ways of being and seeing are becoming available to more and more people, and lest you think this is limited to  simply some crazy hippy progressive spiritual outliers,  think about multi-national corporations.  To whom are they beholden?  In so many ways they supercede the traditional nation state model.  Their profits in many cases exceed the GDP of many countries. Their interests lie across countries all over the globe.   Currently their power is mostly checked by nation states but a multi-national's leverage only increases  exponentially when the success or failure of an entire nation state seemingly hinges on the success of the multi-national.  (Think too big to fail). 

Similarly take a look at a number of  “recent hot” issues in the news – immigration,  Private Manning,  the world economy,  last year’s middle east spring.    Each of these topics is at some level about redefining existing structures. Each is about the re-negotiating “inside from outside”  or remaking boundaries.  Ultimately that is what is transpiring .    The world's stock markets collapsing showed us how intertwined the economies of the world are, Private Manning if he is to be believed acted to right wrongs in how the US was treating others and is doing it at the cost of his reputation and career. The middle east overthrew numerous dictators as people connected through social media and realized their collective power.  Congress is heatedly embattled in the most ironic of debates considering that nearly everyone in the US came as an immigrant and the few who are not were subjected to insufferable injustice.  Each of these is about identity and boundary. Each of these issues is about who we say is in "our circle"  Each calls attention to the pitfalls and potential in how we have circumscribed in from out, connections among and between and how we relate with each other.  The old ways are giving way to new ways of connecting with each other . 

The world is becoming increasingly porous or more precisely we are noticing the porousness that always existed.   Back in college I read an article by Donna Haraway called A Cyborg Manifesto.  It was a brilliant and eye-opening essay.   One thing I distinctly remember was  the notion of boundaries changing rapidly in modern society.  The notion that what separates tools from humans from animals has become less clear it it ever was.   She spoke of how distinguishing a hammer from a human is relatively easy but where does the human begin and the tool begin when you ‘ve  installed a pacemaker or mechanical heart or bypassed the ear for a computer chip that enables hearing or when medicines change the brain chemistry or when individuals consciously share blood and organs?  Animal organ transplants are not that far off. Where does the human begin there?   How can we then be so different from each other or from animals? 

Even facebook and the increasing degrees of comfort in public sharing through various social media can be seen in the light of transparency and changing structures.   Now, it is true that  people's facebook  pages are still a very controlled "image" that distinct selves present to the world to get feedback and often reinforce the very image of who they believe themselves to be, but on the other hand, on the continuum of tools that point in the direction of recognizing how transparent our personalities are, or tools that allow the recognition of the many and varied  roles we play, facebook and other social media can be incredibly illustrative.  Why do you post?  Who do you expect to see it? Why do you tweet?  What do you choose not to post? What do you choose to post?  Whose posts do you hide? What is the image you present?  Who among your friends agrees with that image?  What of you remains hidden? Why?

Many find the brave new world terrifying, which is why at the same time that many old structures are crumbling before our eyes many cling to old structures  for dear life.  I suspect the fight over marriage equality is an issue like that.  For those who are opposed to marriage equality, I don’t wonder if the issue has less to do with gay people marrying each other and more to do  with a deep, deep fear that there is so little in the world that seems stable and their desire to hold onto something.

We create structures to provide stability, to ground us.  Often we are lulled into believing they are permanent.   No strucuture is permanent.  No form is permanent.   No-thing is permanent.  Many of our old structures are crumbling  and as they do, it causes stress.  Of course when a structure collapses, like when the stock markets around the world  nosedive it can be scary.  That is a part of being human.  Fear is not the problem  its what you do with that fear that can be problematic.  It is also an enormous opportunity to see beyond the veil and understand what really matters and know the power that it is always present that communicates it’s alright, it's ok and which is itself the only constant.  

Call it what you will.  When every-thing crumbles what is left?  When the tethers are gone and the anchors lifted, what does movement look like?  That is the amazing discovery that can be unearthed amidst uncertainty and the unknown.   One potential approach besides fear is to be curious about it like a thrilling movie where you don’t yet know the plot.   Who knows? What comes next?


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