In reading through Seth Godin's book The Icarus Deception I came across this line:
The difficult part of seeing is setting aside what you are sure you already know.
That's a deeply profound and spiritual thought that stands on its own and is worthy of deep meditation. That being said, I want to expropriate it for my own purposes and say that the difficult part of evolving is setting aside what you're sure is permanent, unchanging reality.
As I've implied before, now that I am looking back along the arc of human history with an evolutionary worldview things look very different to me. In fact, many things make more sense.
Add to that my current fascination with the interconnectedness of all things, which is something that has really come to light for me since coming to China. If you track with my often rambling Facebook updates you'll know that this experience has been very profound for me. The act of coming to a place where I didn't know the culture or the language has given me a deep sense of being "the other" - something I have referred to as a sacred privilege.Now I want to combine those two thoughts and take them further.
Lets go back in history to the Law. I want to suggest that the introduction of the Law ushered in a new era, identified by a couple of important principles:
- An eye for an eye, and
- Love your neighbour (and at least be civil to the strangers in your mix).
Because the bible doesn't spend a lot of time on the eons of human history prior to Israel, it can sometime be difficult to imagine that "an eye for an eye" was an improvement over the way things were. But it was.
Before the Law vengeance was swift, and it was not always commensurate. Poke my eye out and I'd likely kill you in retaliation. With the Law, vengeance was limited to some act of equal violence. This was new.
I summarize the situation like this:
First, we had to learn to see the Other.
Fast forward one thousand to two thousand years when Jesus arrived on the scene and raised the game again.
- An eye for an eye became turn the other cheek, and
- Love your neighbour became love your enemies. (In other words, love everyone.)
We could go on about how much of Jesus' ministry supported these two points, but let's sum it up like this:
Then, we had to learn to love the Other.
In no way do I mean to suggest that we have accomplished that little task. Two thousand years later we're still struggling with the assignment. As individuals and as a species we have our good days and bad days of course, but it's not easy.
Despite that ongoing struggle I want to push the envelope further and suggest that we are at the leading edge of what comes next for creation.
But how can that be? We're still having a tough time with loving our neighbours, never mind our enemies. Don't we need to pass the final exam at one level before we move on to the next?
I don't think so.
It seems to me that the Divine is always pulling us into the future from just inside of what's next.
Think about the state of Judaism when Jesus entered the story. Was The Law ticking along smoothly, perfectly executed by every adherent, every day? Not by my reading of the Bible. If anything it was starting to fracture, with different camps arguing over meaning and priorities. But there were apparently some who were ready to at least listen to the notion of loving their enemies, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus attracted followers.
So don't let the fact that the world seems like a bit of a mess and we don't appear to be very good at loving enemies discourage you. As in Jesus' time, there are some who are ready to hear about what comes next.
And this is where it really gets interesting.
At this stage I hope you can see how we can overlay what I've said in previous posts about the evolution of human consciousness. After all, we're talking here about the same thing. There is no sacred/secular dichotomy, no distinction between the evolution of faith and the evolution of consciousness. There is only Divine reality.
Remember this pattern?
Create a problem
Create a problem
Now think of it this way:
Extreme violence among "our people"
The Law, love your neighbour, an eye for an eye
Too insular (and still too violent) for a growing world
Jesus, love your enemies, turn the other cheek
Too self-absorbed (and yes, still too violent) for an intimately interconnected world
Let me very briefly make some suggestions for how we fill in the line above.
Exhibit A: Empathy as an emergent human quality. Sympathy was feeling sorry for someone else's plight. Empathy is feeling it as if it is our plight.
Exhibit B: Breakthroughs in neuroscience that, among other things, support Exhibit A. Mirror neurons, neuroplasticity, etc.
We are not just connected.
Now, we have to learn that there is no Other. There is just us.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." What if poking your eye out leaves me blinded?
The Dalai Lama has said, "If you want to make others happy, practice compassion. If you want to make yourself happy, practice compassion." What if that's true?
Jesus has told us to "turn the other cheek." What if he said that because in his enlightened state he knew that striking out in anger at someone else is actually striking at ourselves? He also said, "whatever you do to the least of these you do to me." What if that's true? What if whatever I do for or to someone else, I do for or to Jesus? And for or to you? And for or to my Chinese neighbour? And for or to every other soul on this planet?
Finally, Jesus also said, "Do to others what you would have them do to you." It seems every major religion has it's own version of The Golden Rule. What if that isn't just a nice coincidence or just a decent way to behave? What if it's because doing unto others is doing to ourselves?
I'm obviously painting with some very broad strokes here and just roughly outlining my current thoughts. I'd like to know what you think about all this.