Monday, August 29, 2016

Good vs Evil and the Living-Out of Our Intentions

The world we inhabit is in large measure the externalization of our interior states. 

We project onto the landscape of our lives the cultivated assumptions of our collective experience. The perpetuation of conflict has become an indispensable feature of that experience.

Day and night we are bombarded with stories of conflict. From continent to continent and from the uttermost corners of the globe, the accounts of national and internecine strife are collected and presented to us in a steady and consistent menu designed to create among us, gluttons for blood and gore. In the process our collective insecurities are cultivated in a manner that serves the economic and existential needs of business interests that profit from our appetite for this banquet of horrors.

A critical examination of the practices of the peddlers of information lead some of us to the conclusion that they have no real stake in the resolution of any conflict. The demand for high ratings is the primary driver in their business culture; and this dictates that they breed a callous disregard for the best interests of people. This includes the people who make up their audience, and those who are the subjects of their reporting. There appears to be a silent partnership between Media and those who create the means and the motives for the tragedies they report on.

Through the pageantry of the show our popular media connects with the barking dogs in each of us. They use all the tools at their disposal to create a symbiotic relationship between us and them… much to our collective exasperation. And so we complain, but return for more. We cringe, but can't help the rubber-necking that keeps us distracted against our better judgment. We can't help being strung along in the vain drama that is the news of the day... twenty four hours a day all year long. We are hooked because we see ourselves in the stories. The conflicts presented seem to be, and are our conflicts. The tragedies are our tragedies. We live. And we suffer and die... And then we rise again in a never-ending vicarious drama.

Churches. Mosques. Schools. Government buildings. Train stations. Shopping malls. Movie theaters. Elevators. In urban centers and unknown remote villages... These are the now familiar sites where we witness the brutality expressed by those who choose to feed that evil dog within. It's teeth of steel in compliance with its gruesome volatility discriminates not between the vulnerable flesh of babies, kindergarteners, expectant mothers, the elderly, the newlywed, ... There is no safe haven from its bloody villainy. It prowls as a destructive force of one. It roams in packs with those who share its rabidity.

Our availability to the impulses to become tragic actors in the arena of our conflict driven reality is jarring, but a fact nonetheless. Unleashed...we become the rapist, the child molester, the robber, the terrorist, the murderer. Our communities become haunted by the wearer of the long black coat with the assault rifle hidden beneath, looking to create mayhem. Our nemeses materialize as the wielder of the long knife on the elevator, or on any given street at any given hour. Yielding to an obtuse nihilism we become the oppressor of the disadvantaged, the enslaver of the stranger, the bigot. In the absence of moral restraint we become the invaders of countries, the killers of innocents, the abductors of daughters, perpetrators of genocide. The mean dog within each one of us fights the good dog all day and all night long; it's bark becoming the awful precursor to its terrible, mangling bite.

We know that evil exists because we are aware of its potential in each one of us. That evil thrives unless we make a conscious choice day by day, minute by minute, event by event, not to feed that mean dog within. Many of us may resist the fact that we each harbor the best and the worst of all instincts within us. To those who think this I would say that history is full of examples of “good” people who are guilty of committing some of the worst atrocities.

For good to be triumphant we must each commit to nurturing the good dog within. Essential steps in the nurturing of the good dog in ourselves must take into consideration the factors that give ascendancy to the evil dog. We must identify these factors and deal with them in ways that lead us to replace the destructive tendencies they can breed with more desirable traits.

The most basic of the needs that drive our actions is the need to survive. It is the parent of our responses to the various challenges in the various circumstances of our lives.

The quality of our responses to perceived threats is a direct function of the quality of the values we cultivate habitually. Honesty. Selflessness. Courage. Humility. Indomitable Spirit. These are values that can be inculcated through commitment to the practice of a wholesome discipline. A wholesome discipline is centered around a true commitment to balanced living. It opens our eyes to the essential interconnectedness that is a principal truth of our communal experience. It strengthens body, mind, and spirit in preparation for the many challenges that living presents.

The skillful practitioner of a wholesome discipline learns to focus on what is essential to achieving a balanced life, and acts in the best interest of that balance. Such a disciple knows when and how to act to effect that balance. That person knows that true strength does not exploit the disadvantaged, does not encourage divisiveness... does not put selfishness above the interests of our common humanity.

The thing in us that gives rise to, and determines the quality of our actions is something called intention. It is the big WHY behind every action we execute. To have intention is to be able to determine at the most basic level what we want the desired outcome of an action to be. Intention is the ultimate servant of freedom. In it we recognize our potential to be our best or our worst selves. It is the point of sale of our every social interaction. The good dog in us wants to act in a way that serves the common good. The bad dog’s intention is to serve self regardless of the consequences to others.

Every time we choose to act in the best interest of each other we are feeding that good dog and starving the mean evil dog. The inherent challenge is to become more and more selfless in our behavior. This demands that we stifle our want of immediate self-gratification in the interest of perpetuating the common good.

Acting unselfishly engenders a nobility that, although uncommon, is essential to the building of viable communities. It is what we mean by "being in this world" but not "being of this world". Ultimately it is how we potentiate the possibilities of being Mankind’s "best friend".

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