Event Horizon

September 8, 2012

We live in an amazing country.  The innovation, the creativity, the freedom, and the tradition built on decades and centuries of blood, sweat, and tears of the Americans that came before us; the beautiful hills, plains, coastlines, lakes, skies and forests; the industry, business, schools, churches, museums, libraries and laboratories; the culture, the music, the family, the friends…home.

America is truly a wonderful country.  But I fear it is a country on the brink of potential self-annihilation.

As I’ve watched the political climate of our country grown increasingly polarized, it’s difficult not to see it as a prelude to something terrible.  Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals, Progressives and Regressives, our political culture has splintered away from two parties that would at one time, (despite certain differences) cooperate to serve the greater good to being diametrically opposed cultural factions that seem hell bent on destroying each other.  This is not a good thing, not at all.

While we’re all familiar with Darwin’s notion of survival of the fittest, another, more enlightened perspective on growth and change suggests that cooperation rather than competition is the real agent of positive transformation.   For an example in your own life, consider your body.  All the cells in your body must work in harmony with each other with a shared goal.  They all perform unique functions, but in doing so, they serve the greater good of the body.  If one group of cells decides to go rogue and live only for themselves it’s not called treason, it’s called cancer and it will kill the body in an attempt to gain ultimate control.

Likewise, our country cannot function in a healthy manner as long as we are tearing ourselves apart with an ideological war for superiority.  We’ve all heard the motto, United we stand, divided we fall.  This is no metaphor, this is reality.  If we continue to dig in our heels and refuse to compromise, the end result will most likely be catastrophic.  Even now, the rhetoric between parties is growing increasingly more rancid and caustic.  Name calling, aggression, hostile propaganda, hate speech and lies have become acceptable tools of the trade when it comes to the vilification of the other side.  Are these the tools of a civilized society?  We all intuitively know they are not, regardless of our political and ideological leanings.  We must find another way.

Modern neuroscience has recently revealed that we as human beings have a ‘Negativity Bias.’  This means that we are automatically drawn to the negative or bad side of situations, circumstances, and events.  This is due to the fact that in humanity’s more primitive state, we had to be constantly on the lookout for danger or anything that might be life threatening.  This survival mechanism was hard wired into our brains and it no doubt served our ancestors well, however (and unfortunately), in our modern world, we feed into this bias toward the negative with increasing frequency even when our lives aren’t being threatened.  The bias toward the negative plays directly into our political climate and leads us down the road of the worst case scenario.  This in turn causes fear, and in that fear we lash out with a primitive response against our perceived enemy.

As you can probably see by now, this process is cyclical.  It’s a feedback loop that is on endless replay.  But with each loop the hostility, anger, fear, and reactivity increases.  It’s frightfully similar to the well known Start Trek cadet test known as the Kobayashi Maru.  For the non Trekers out there, the Kobayashi Maru is a no win scenario…

I titled this post Event Horizon because that is the term given to the leading edge of a Black Hole.  It’s the point of no return.  Once anything crosses the event horizon, it will get sucked into the gravity well of the black hole, no ifs, ands or buts.  We as a nation similarly stand on such a precipice.  It will only take a nudge to send us careening into the abyss.  One over reactive event by either party and the result will call for immediate retaliation.  In a heartbeat we could in a death spiral from which our culture  as we know it might not survive.

Now I’m not trying to be a pessimistic gloom and doomer, but I want to urge you to recognize that we are indeed in a very dangerous place.  You’re free to disagree and tell me I’m paranoid and grossly over reacting.  But to make another Sci-Fi reference, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”  By nature I’m a very positive person and as such hold to a positive and bright vision of the future that we all have the potential to move into.  However, we can’t do so unless we, not just the politicians learn to dial ourselves down.  There is a solution to the Kobayashi Maru, but just like in Star Trek, the answer is to break out of the system entirely and reprogram the test.  We must choose not to play the game and rise to a higher level of consciousness.  We must learn to be more careful with our thoughts, our speech, our actions and our FaceBook posts.  Yes, we enjoy our wonderful freedom of speech in this country, but that speech doesn’t ever come without consequences.  That’s known as Karma.  Every thought, word, and deed generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind.  So as we’re vehemently supporting our party or our beliefs by liking or reposting internet memes, it’s helpful to be aware that it isn’t necessary to cut someone’s head off in order to look taller.  Actions always have consequences and when you’re wading through a lake of gasoline, it’s wise not to light matches.

We all have our beliefs about how the country should be run, which laws should be passed, how the Constitution should be interpreted, or what our founding fathers had in mind for our country.  But do those beliefs need to be plastered like billboards on our home pages?  While it might be our intention to show support to a particular ideal or help educate our less well informed friends, I’m willing to bet that those posts are less convincing than you might imagine.  As a matter of fact, research shows that for any given subject, most people’s minds are already made up and any attempt to change their opinion or get someone to come over to your side usually causes them to become even more entrenched in their opinion despite your reasoning.  Now if you want to show your support for a cause or an ideal, I get that, I do.  However, when it’s a comment or meme laced with negativity or hostility toward the other side, does that really help the situation?  It might make you feel better by venting your frustration over the issue, but in the greater scheme of things are you making the situation better or worse?  Would it not perhaps be more enlightened to share something positive?

Our world, our culture is full of cynics.  With the advent of the internet it has never been easier to be a keyboard heckler or troll and tear people down just for the fun of it.  It wasn’t that long ago that I learned the history of the word cynic.  It comes from the ancient Greek word kunikos, which means “doglike.”  The cynics were a Greek sect that behaved like dogs by barking and urinating in public.  They sought virtue by faultfinding and endlessly pointing out the flaws in others.  Most of us find this notion reprehensible in our society, but how many of us behave in just that way to incite a reaction or to fire someone up on a volatile topic?  Perhaps a better code would be to follow the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba who said,

“Before you speak, think -Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone?”

For those of you who have had the privilege of attending Mark Russo’s Fudo Shin workshop, I remind you of the meditation in which we visualize suiting up in diamond armor and wielding a diamond sword to cut down ignorance and defend those who are lost in their own illusions.  That is what we are all called to be, especially in times such as these.  We must be the Light Bringers, the compassionate ones who will not get caught up in the melodrama of this stage of our country’s evolution.  We have the potential to help guide ourselves and others through these turbulent times to the safe harbor of our next stage of growth and evolution.

Yes, I said evolution.  Not simply in from a biological perspective, but from a global one.  You see evolution is our future.  Everything in nature is growing, changing, and moving forward.  We evolve personally, biologically, psychologically, spiritually, and culturally.  That change is inevitable.  And while I don’t wish to take a political side in this essay, I will tell you that I consider myself to be an Evolutionary.   I wish to be a positive force of change in this world.  I want to help this world, this culture to get where it needs to go so we are all happier, healthier, more fulfilled, and more enlightened than ever before.  In my understanding, this is where we’re all going anyway, however haltingly.  Holding back the change and growth of a culture, a nation is like preventing a 10 year old from turning 11, or like holding a beach ball under water…it can never succeed.

We do indeed stand at a crossroads in our evolution and we have more power than ever before to make a positive change in this world.  We can’t expect someone else to do it for us.  It must start with us.  By making conscious choices, choices that benefit not just ourselves, but choices that benefit everyone we are connected to, we can change our course before it’s too late, and in doing so, step back from the event horizon and into a future of unlimited possibilities.