I recently watched the movie Deliverance again, and it makes me wonder if humankind will ever outgrow its animal instincts and unenlightened way of living. But does enlightenment mean to outgrow nature, or is it rather the more violent and destructive—the mindless—aspects of (human) nature? What role does humankind play in the evolution of life? Is there really even an evolution, a progression, a growth out of one thing and into another? There is a part of me that feels that humans are different than the rest of nature, but how, really? Can what we see as peace and violence/destruction co-exist? Are they necessarily opposed to each other? Are we meant to evolve out of the base level of “survival of the fittest?” I think that I agree with the idea that what sets humans apart from a great deal of nature is the capacity for compassion. I see a great struggle between the basic animal instincts and this potential for compassion and enlightenment.
Is this path of enlightenment what has caused us to lose our sight of where we fit into this world, what has put us in conflict with it, causes us to not understand? Or is it a misunderstanding of enlightenment? I think it is the latter. A good question, though, is: where do we fit in? Do we fit in? And yet, I think we separate ourselves too much from nature, and destroy, or ignore and patronize so much from which we can learn a great deal about ourselves. Perhaps such are the pitfalls and growing pains of evolution.
I do think, though, that the great Greek philosophers were right when they saw “the state”, or “society”, as the way of human evolution and enlightenment. We have yet, though, to balance society with the nature it seems to have been so far designed to shut out and evolve past. I do think that society is what will allow humans to evolve and grow and achieve our potential, partially because it is a situation in which we can, and must, give up our ego-based arrogance. But, as is clearly evidenced all around us, this is not what has happened so far. The ego and human arrogance is alive and kicking in Western societies. (It probably is in others as well, but I can only speak with any authority about what I have experienced.)
The trick, I think, is not to get ahead of ourselves. If Western ideology has done anything, it has gotten ahead of itself. Its misunderstanding of nature and the self are two such illustrations. This also fits in with my ideas of “children” and “adults”, and how I see us rushing into adulthood when we are not ready, and why we therefore end up children in adult clothing, which just perpetuates a whole bunch of complications and confusions and problems.
And it is also why I have seen so much so-called “progress” as no such thing. And so perhaps we must “regress” in certain respects, to get “back” to where some indigenous peoples of the Americas and some Asian cultures were. There is so much wisdom destroyed and disrespected and ignored. Western progress is not progress—it is a masquerade ball. Impatience, arrogance, ignorance—just like teenagers.
Western so-called “progress” is not human evolution, but has rather put the brakes on human evolution, or at least thrown a huge detour in the road. To where do we look to find our way back? The Hindus and Buddhists, and even “Jesus Christ”, have all told us: the self. The path of enlightenment is through the illusion of the self. That is the door; the door back; the door forward. You are your answer key. All the answers are in your assumptions and illusions. We all have the answers. We are perhaps asking the wrong questions. Or, said another way, we are asking the right questions wrongly. Rather than asking “What is the meaning of life,” we should be asking: what do we mean by “meaning?” What is “life?” Who am I. Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I do what I do?
To honestly seek the answers to these questions will change your entire understanding of everything.
From my personal notes, 8/26/00