For years I have wondered how we can achieve the positive future envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. So many elements of that future have come true — from wireless phones to iPads and even some medical procedures — books and college courses on the “science” of Star Trek abound. But Roddenberry’s societal vision of the future, in which money and its problems have been eliminated, elude us. His vision of peace, prosperity, intelligence, and sanity reigning on an Earth that has recovered its environmental health seems much further away. The idea of humankind rising to a place of honor, wisdom and leadership amongst other beings in the galaxy, and an overriding respect of all life as the “Prime Directive,” seems far away. He painted the picture of that positive future so beautifully, so concretely, you can just taste it. How on earth can we get there?
Could the “Occupy” movement possibly bring us towards a more idyllic, Star-Trek-like future?
I believe it is definitely possible. However, I predict that the Occupy movement will have little to no effect on the status quo without a major paradigm shift, internally, in a critical number of people, away from the addictive egocentricism that characterizes the modern post-industrial collective American psyche. Yet, with the rise of social media, the possibility for such a paradigm shift has never been more real.
For the Occupy movement to truly have an impact, what is needed is a radical redefinition of the concept of “bottom line.” So long as individuals seek happiness and center their lives outside of themselves, OUT THERE in the world, around material wealth, money, and profit, the movement will have no power to reform. Until mass numbers of individuals wake up to the inherent insanity of identification with THINGS, and particularly with the incessant counting of pieces of paper, round shiny bits of metal, sparkly stones, numbers on a screen, or any other objects, as a way of determining identity and value — all the protests in the world will not make a bit of difference. In fact, I predict that we simply will trade one corrupt group for another. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” We are seeing that already in the Arab world, sadly.
Given the power imbalance that already exists today, the current Occupy movement at best may succeed at changing a few laws. They likely will lead to violence, revolution, and even regime change. But without internal, personal revelation on a mass scale, inward, the movement will fail to address the fundamental flaw that undergirds our entire global economic and psychological system: addictive egoic identification to form.
For genuine and lasting reform, we have to recognize the real bottom-line truth: we are all addicted to the erroneous belief that we are the sum of our bank accounts, our cars, our homes, our possessions, our material lives. And that we need “stuff” to be happy. None of that is actually true. We need to admit that so long as we’re driving or flying anywhere, burning fossil fuel, wearing clothing made in sweat shops or sneakers padded with rain forest rubber or synthetic plastic, eating food that’s been shipped from the other side of the world — we are interconnected to Wall Street, and are fueling the problem. We are as addicted to the false belief as the billionaire execs themselves. The only way for reform to make a difference is to take a long hard look in the mirror, look inside, and admit our addiction.
Genuine and lasting reform is not going to happen on Wall Street, in Washington, in state capitols, or even on Main Street–without this healing from our personal addiction. There is only one place, one direction of change that will make a true difference in the world out there: it is what the Native Americans called the 7th direction — within, internally, at home. It is what the Christian mystics call “metanoia” — changing our minds, turning towards the light of God within. It is the true definition of repentance, the true message of the voice on the wind of the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist.
From executives to shareholders to individuals living and now unemployed on Main Street, regardless of class, color, religious affiliation, or creed–reform can occur only when a critical mass of humanity can genuinely free themselves from the illusory Matrix-like rat-race we’ve all agreed to believe exists. Reform can occur when we stop looking to dollar bills to define ourselves and see instead the spark of the divine within ourselves and our neighbors, and see these pieces of paper as simply tools that work when they flow freely where needed, not to be held and hoarded in fear. That will be when the possibility of a Star-Trek-like future can occur. By genuinely turning to the Source of All, the Light that is the spark of creation, passed down from our ancestors that lives and shines within each one us — we invite Grace into our lives. It is that amazing Grace that sets us free — free of all fear. Fear of loss, fear of lack, fear of anything. Only then can the dream, the vision, that all of us dare hope, can be real. A future of genuine and lasting peace, true prosperity, without war or disease.
Just as Steve Jobs demonstrated with his brilliant Apple products, it is absolutely possible for one person, with vision and dedication, to transform the world for the better. I believe that if just 1% of the population can achieve genuine freedom from addictive egoic attachment, can achieve genuine metanoia, union with The Light within, they will affect a cascade paradigm shift in the other 99%.
How to do it?? As with kicking any addiction, the only way to succeed is to admit our addiction to egoic attachment to form, through a 12 Step Program. Call it Egoic Attachments Anonymous, or EAA.
Has there ever been a civilization — a successful civilization — that had no addictive egoic attachment to form? Yes. I can think of two. Both the early Christian Byzantine empire which thrived for nearly 1000 years, and the pre-colonial indigenous cultures of North America, which thrived on the continent for tens of thousands of years, possessed belief systems that 1) did not recognize or significantly downplayed the concept of personal property 2) had well-developed systems that bestowed social value and political power based on humility and selflessness 3) valued freedom and free will as a divine gift and right of all of creation, and 4) recognized the spiritual truth of our interconnectedness to each other, and to a benevolent and loving God who provides all we need.
As it says in the Bible, the way to discern good from evil is by its fruits. These civilizations yielded many fruits. In the case of the indigenous North Americans, they thrived on the continent for hundreds of generations without damaging the environment, without overpopulating, without destroying the natural balance which causes dis-ease, and without prolonged and damaging wars. Sporting a functional system of shared political power across 5 nations, some even inspired the work of founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and others in designing our Bill of Rights and bicameral triune system of government. The many diverse yet interconnected cultures which communicated and traded effectively from one end of the continent to the other, endured continuously longer than that of any European culture, or even the habitation of the British Isles — with very little war, with preservation and sharing of natural resources, with respect of the rights of women and children, and with very little disease.
As for the Byzantine empire, a tiny piece of it still exists to this day, operating on its own clock and calendar, cut off from the world, on a very very remote penninsula, which has belonged to the Theotokos, the Mother of God, since the day she set foot on it, nearly 2000 years ago. Called Mt. Athos, it has been called a veritable “saint factory,” producing modern-day wonderworking saints with all the miraculous healing powers of Christ God Himself. Recently profiled on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Mt. Athos remains a haven for the practice of pure indigenous Christianity, and is revitalizing monastacism and Christianity in other parts of the world, including in the United States. (See link below.)
Today, we are living in a dystopian world, an imaginary place where people lead increasingly dehumanized and often fearful lives. Gene Roddenberry painted a fabulous picture of an opposite possible future — a utopian world, in which the love of power has been replaced by the power of love–love of truth, all life, and good for all. A Course In Miracles says there is only one problem and only one solution in all the world. The problem is the perception of separation from the Divine, from God, within. The solution is to remove the blocks to the awareness of the spark of Divine within ourselves, of God’s eternal presence within us all and in the world. One can only hope that through the gift of social media, a critical mass of people inspired by the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, will turn within to seek the power to free themselves from the mass addiction, the mass delusion, that they in any way derive their identity from things. It will be in this way, that we can call into our lives healing from this addiction, that we can last at last find true freedom, and become the sentient, intelligent, wise race we have the potential to become. And which Roddenberry so clearly envisioned.
The paradigm shift is to move from our “bottom-line” mentality from looking at “things out there” to looking at thing “inside” ourselves. To succeed at true and lasting transformation to a better world, we need to occupy ourselves.
References/Resources for occupying ourselves:
Mt. Athos Special on CBS 60 Minutes, about the living remnant of the Christian Byzantine empire, unattached to material form
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, which explores the egoic attachment to form
A Course In Miracles including Workbook of 365 short daily lessons on removing the blocks to awareness of God’s presence
From I-Ville to You-Ville a great childrens chapter book on keeping the ego small
Follow the Journey...
The Extraordinary Photo Art & Magic of Anthony Kashinn
A Smorgasbord: Saints' Stories, Seasons, Society, Seven Sins, plus Travels mostly to Greece and who knows what next? by Father Bill Olnhausen
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An Oasis for the Sahara of the Soul
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