The Optimists Club
There must have been a day, somewhere in the fourteenth century, when the King of England was actually in touch with everything that concerned his country.
There must be a date somewhere in history, when it actually became too complex for a leader to keep all the moving parts in check.
Since then, the flood of information has only increased and increased to a point where it’s not possible for one person to hold everything, and make the decisions whilst being in full control of all the facts..
There’s a rather course joke that goes.. We had Kingdoms where the rulers were our Kings, then we had Empires where the rules were Emperors, now we just have Countries…
There are so many examples of the mismanagement of lives, by rulers with big ideas.
The most obvious for me is Chairman Mao, during the “Great Leap Forward” where an astonishing policy was dreamt up to stop the birds from eating the rice crops.
Mao declared that on one day, the whole of China was to kill the birds.
People were told to beat drums, pots and pans, all day until the birds dropped dead of exhaustion! That year hundreds of millions of birds died, the insect population thrived with no natural predator, and the rice crop was wiped out. Millions of people died of starvation.
I’m not a great believer in History per se, preferring to look forward rather than back.
I understand that things can be cyclical, and by knowing what has been, that we can forecast what might come. Forewarned is forearmed.
I also believe that forecasting the big events is virtually impossible. Who can put their hands up and say they were able to forecast the fall of the USSR?
We live in a world of free-will, and every one of us marches to our own drum from time to time.
We also see that the tiniest crack in the damn can bring the whole edifice down.
I have just completed Yuval Noah Harari’s astonishing book “Sapiens”
Few books have impressed me as much as this incredible work. The sheer size and sweep of the project is mind-blowing. To be able to hold the vastness of humanity in one’s head, and then offer perspective is a feat of genius.
This is the first time that I have ever felt that I truly understand humanity and what makes it tick.
He moves from the discovery of fire, to the advent of farming. He charts the power of money and the huge influence that science has exerted on the last two hundred years.
We rover through most of the major religions and empires, and finally pass through Buddhism.
It’s interesting to see Harari’s wearied eye, as he sorts through human traits..
“Given the proven human propensity for misusing power, it seems naïve to believe that the more clout people have, the happier they will be.”
It’s a common theme that carries from section to section.
Why is it that it’s so difficult for us to behave well to each other?
We are told that it’s deeply intrenched into our reptilian brains, to fear “The other”
Politicians have always known that if they can separate peoples, then they can control them.
It’s playing to our worst fears, and using them against us.
We are prone to “circle the wagons” and exclude anybody who is not like us” as soon as the going gets tough. It’s a deep tribal instinct.
That in itself is a false construct.
We see that family was the building block of society, but that the industrial revolution profited from breaking the family bonds, and rebuilding them in different ways.
“Country” is something that we rally behind, but in reality, even in your own village, there are people who one has nothing in common with.
We can be deeply suspicious of people from the North, when we live in the South, and vice-versa, but then suddenly be galvanised as British as soon as there’s a threat to our country.
Harari’s exposition of Science is truly eye-opening, and how it interweaves with politics.
Politics funds Science, which in turn returns new powers to politics.
He talks of the “The Brave New World Theory” of Biochemistry –
One side of his argument has us as Sentient Beings searching for pleasure and meaning
the other side, just looking for another chemical hit to make ourselves feel good.. at any cost.
“we can stop wasting out time on politics and social reforms, putsches and ideologies, and focus instead on the only thing that can make us truly happy: manipulating our biochemistry!”
Later, when he examines Buddhism, we see other motivations.
But from the Buddhist perspective — “Live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been (or might be..) and that True happiness is also independent of our inner feelings — Stop the pursuit of external achievements, but also the pursuit of inner feelings”
“Happiness consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile”
Every major thoughtform has had a view on how we might best progress as a race.
Be it Christianity, Nazism or Consumerism, there’s an underlying suggestion (or exceptionally overt suggestion) of how we SHOULD lead our lives.
Time, time and again, we have flirted with these ways of being, these schools of thought, and have watched them peak and fail. Inevitably, a huge number of people become convinced that this is the way, the truth and the light. Shortly after the feelings trough, as something new comes along.
We are faddists, we follow like sheep. It’s rare that we ever come up with original thought.
The few who do, normally have a huge impact, as it seems the others are too lazy to bother doing their own thinking!
There is one thing that struck me as I read this engrossing book.
He uses an image of personality type.
He suggests it’s like an “air-conditioning unit.”
Some people have a setting of “seven” and will sometimes reach 9 and sometimes be down at 5.
There are others who are normally at “five” and who will never get above 7, but may go down to 3 also.
Throughout time we have had Optimists and Pessimists.
I put myself firmly in the “Can Do!” camp.
As a Petanque player (the French game, also known as Boules) I’m often teamed up with partners who act as my “break” — I understand that I judge the situation with a positive potential outcome, but very often that needs to be tempered by some grounding too!
I say “if we hit this one, that’ll leave us with four points!” my colleague will say “if you hit our boule by mistake, that’ll give the opponents three points!”
If one thing is true about life, it’s that we will always have Optimists, Pessimists and the Middle of the Road club! It’s the Yin and Yang theory of everything.
There will always be kind people helping, there will always be bad people taking advantage.
Greed seems to be the order of the day currently, but in recent memory we lived in a very fugal way.
The world has been exceptionally violent, but recently has had massive bouts of peace.
(It’s interesting that a small war, can occupy the whole world’s attention, when wars used to be between the whole world itself!)
Large corporations are encouraged to rape the land, and pocket the cash, whilst organisations like the United Nations supports and feeds many millions!
We tend to look at life through a very short lens; of course our lens is measured by our life.
We are only here for three-score years and ten, or four-score years, it’s difficult to see or feel the depth of history. (Which is why I’m indebted to Yuval Noah Harari..)
However, I do have one criticism to level at Mr Harari’s work.
Perhaps not a criticism, but rather an addendum.
I have written many times, of the work, of Dr Pang Ming, he of The Medicineless hospital outside Beijing.
His first work was to show people how to heal themselves using Qigong.
It’s a slow process, but fortunately a scholar like Dr Pang was there to observe and analyse.
He developed his understandings and his therapy around the power of our minds, rightly understanding that if we can bring our minds into the healing process that it becomes much more powerful, permanent and quick
It always brings to mind the stories of American Indians seeing a “sign” and knowing that it was time for them to move to the next “happy hunting ground” — they would say their goodbyes, and then go out into the wilderness, and lie down and die, just as it’s said Elephants chose to do.
We hear stories of “witches” putting curses on people, and those people dying — just because of the power of the “Witch’s” word.
Dr Pang realised that if we can change the voices in our heads, that we can then turn the power of our minds to HEAL ourselves, rather than kill ourselves.
With this type of experimental thought, came a deep dive into Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. (and, I have no doubt lots of other thought schools)
I believe that ultimately Dr Pang has found his own personal path to Enlightenment.
His work now has, and really has only ever had one purpose, and that is to help people to experience their Trueselves.
His chosen tool was initially Qigong, but branched into other paths such as Meditation, Contemplation and Philosophy. It’s not important how you get there, only that you try.
Whatever tool you choose to use, I always come back to Socrates “a life unexamined is a life unlived”
What is Trueself?
I think you have to find out for yourself.
I have seen glimpses of what I think may be Trueself moments. It’s now my life’s focus too.
I have “retired” from active teacher training to dedicate myself to this. (I still run classes, because they are my joy, I still write nonsense because I find it fun, and it keeps the grey matter ticking over. I’m still writing and filming little teaching courses, because it causes no stress!)
My Teacher, Teacher Lu explains the following with a diagram — he draws two circles beside each other. One is full of squiggles and dots and lines, the other serene and empty. He then takes a different colour pen, and puts a dot in the middle of the “busy” circle.
“This dot is YOU he says, and the lines and squiggles are the chaos you face every day!”
He points out that you can’t actually see all of the dots and squiggles because everything is so chaotic.
“In order to gain perspective, you have to find a way to put yourself in the other circle” and he duly puts a lone dot in the serene circle..
This is what meditation helps us to do. It brings us to a quiet mind-state.
I think we need to go beyond Mediation. (.. where most practitioners stop) and find Contemplation.
We spend time as Consciousness, we find a way to take ourselves beyond the duality of daily life, and step back into the singularity of Universal Consciousness.
This is where I’m headed, and what I’m teaching these days.
This is the only evolution of Sapiens that can possibly take us above the daily selfishness and greed that we seem to be hard-wired for.
I have long mentioned about becoming an “Intronaut” and eventually changing the path of our Species.
Just as we moved from Neandertal to Homo Sapiens, now it’s time to move to “Homo Spiritualis” — as I have named our new evolution.
This as I see it is the ONLY way that Hominids can survive the coming years.
More of the same, will only see us destroy ourselves.
A new way of being is required.
To my mind, Dr Pang is pointing the way, and I’m following the bread-crumb trails..