Oneness III


Oneness is overwhelmed

All religions have language that relates to morality and godliness. These words have been a mainstay for billions of people since the Egyptian pyramids were built. Slowly, exceptional writings were gathered to capture the wisdom of good works – works that improved a situation for all concerned but also improved reality in general, works that over time would sustain an ameliorative society. Ritual and theological differences aside, these works are the foundation of oneness. Often, however, these works lack the nature of a how-to book; how to get from slot A to Tab A may not be clear.

Throughout history, there are times when society suffers a wrenching change in values. These changes are caused by dramatic transitions in population, invention, and discovery that turn society topsy-turvy. Quick examples are gunpowder, the wheel, the sail, automobiles, airplanes, steam, nationalist conflict, television, financial opportunism, and the Internet. Today, the pressures of change erupt in every quarter from what to eat, to communications, to starving masses, to obsolete national boundaries to oligarchy – both governmental and corporate and exposure to unending wars around the globe.

Unlike the past, however, the eruption is world-wide. No country is exempt from global opportunism, global warming, global population growth and shrinking global resources of which physical space is one. Many countries still live by cultures created many centuries ago. Many countries are artificial – carved by war and politics instead of natural social development. Many still live primitively in deep jungles or on distant islands. All will feel the eruption of the twenty-first century. Our technological capabilities expose us to global awareness that overwhelms our personal, every day values.

Increasingly visible is the global reorganization of super powers and global economic contests – if not wars. The challenge is to find something that will work on any scale. By nature, oneness is personal. Can oneness become global?

Oneness is at the mercy of circumstance. One cannot mandate that selfishness is not permitted; one cannot use force to reduce forceful behavior; one cannot deny greed by redistribution of ill-gotten gains.

Alexander McCall Smith has written a series of books centered on the character Isabel Dalhousie. Dalhousie is a detective prone to philosophical thoughts. In The Careful Use of Compliments[1], there is a passage related to the examination of community oneness:

“Cat went off to prepare Isabel’s lunch, leaving her with The Guardian. She was reading an article on the Middle East and the prospects for peace, which were slim. What acres of newsprint, she thought, what lakes of ink, had been expended on that topic; and always it came back to the same thing, the sense of difference between people, the erection of barriers of religion, clothing, culture. And yet there were differences and it was naïve to imagine that people were all the same – they weren’t. And everybody needed space, physical space, to live their lives amongst those with whom they shared an outlook and values; which led to the depressing conclusion that the recipe for social justice was keeping people separate from one another, each in his own territory, each in the safety of fellows….The problem was that we could no longer have our own cultural spaces; everybody was now too mixed up for that and we had to share.”

Dalhousie makes the case for geographical space, common cultural values and common future and laments that, in the Middle East and across the planet that neighborhoods, geographical and economic groupings of people largely has collapsed as a natural environment. This makes it more difficult for oneness to flourish because of the clash of values and the competition for space and assets.

There are scant few efforts to create “whole town” cultures. Whole towns would be like the old days when a town had everything it needed including retail, medical, recreational and job opportunities. One notable example of trying to build an integrated town culture is the environment at Microsoft Corporation where there are facilities for babysitting, a fitness center, recreation, opportunity to bring the family for a day or two, a 24-hour restaurant and a work schedule that allows for frequent free time on the Microsoft campus. Microsoft has listened to sociologists who suggest Microsoft will experience more creativity, team effort and commitment to Microsoft if a town atmosphere were maintained.

A developer in Florida has designed neighborhoods with all the facilities a town would need and automobiles must be left at an external parking lot. Everything in the town is within walking or bicycle distance.

How do we recreate a town experience based on common geography, culture and viable economy? Any positive social changes made throughout man’s long history were made by only three processes that are effective.

The first is cause and effect. There is a direct correlation between behavior and a directly related outcome. The Microsoft solution is an example of cause and effect. The Ukrainian conflict also is an example of cause and effect. The second is crisis. Survival of the participants at hand can only survive if everyone survives. The Katrina Hurricane threatened tens of thousands of citizens and required a national response. The third is persuasion. Enough influence is applied to alter behavior.

Unfortunately, many issues cover all three, global warming among them. Allowed to continue with uncontrolled fossil fuel consumption, it is a race to see whether fossil fuels are depleted first or Earth becomes uninhabitable. It is likely that the world will approach a crisis that cannot be reversed and damage will be permanent. If the oceans rise nine feet as predicted, Florida will be a much smaller state. Persuasion will never be more tested as a process than when it disrupts global industries and shifts political power between nations.

Cause and effect can be mitigated by regulations and new profit models. When President Eisenhower authorized the Interstate highway system, trains lost their lock on interstate shipping. Trucking and especially big oil evolved quickly. Can regulations be created to move entrepreneurs to non fossil fuel solutions? Many palms in many governments may need to be greased. Many new international obligations must take place.

Crisis is not a deliberate circumstance. It is an act of nature similar to a plague or disruptive weather; it is a byproduct of war; it is an unintended collapse of an economy; a crisis can be personal as well when health and finances suddenly change. A crisis is so invasive that survival becomes the primary motivation and disrupts existing processes.

Persuasion has many forms: cajoling, payoff, rebellion and voting are examples. Each of these processes requires participation of a substantial population to affect culture. Persuasion can be as small as a sentence or two. As today’s American citizens look back in history, it is hard to believe that women could not vote until 1920 – and only then because of a persuasion that began in 1854!

There is one persuasion not mentioned that is important. It is persuasion by example. In the Christian New Testament, there is a popular story told by Jesus about a Samaritan. Samaritans were Jewish in faith but were considered outcasts by the Hebrew nation because Samaritans had mixed blood with Arabs. Nevertheless, a Samaritan comes across a beaten and robbed Jew. Despite the Samaritan’s awareness that the Jew holds him in disdain, he puts the Jew on his donkey, takes him to an inn and pays his expenses. By example, the Samaritan set a standard for oneness. Each reader easily can find moments where they can set an example that increases oneness.

War and forceful incursion do not lead to oneness; they do not consider the greater reality that affects the lives and cultural stability of the enemy. Similarly, corporations can disrupt stable communities by locating large operations without considering the greater situation of the community. Examples are coal mines, Walmart, and other numerous vertical corporations that eliminate community economies, for example Monsanto and hoof-to-store livestock operations.

Typically, oneness is not a goal in decision making today. Profit seems to be the goal in decision making. Profit is not intrinsically bad unless it forgets to reconcile with the greater reality of community.

The question: Relive a moment when you did something that made you feel you had helped someone in a direct way. Relive a moment when you felt you were at great risk along with other people but together the risk was reduced. Relive a moment when you persuaded someone to change their judgment about something. Did these experiences involve an act of compassion? Was oneness accomplished in each situation?

Ancient Mariner

1The Careful Use of Compliments, Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon Books 2007, ISBN 978-0-375-42301-7

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