Last week our topic was The Force. We embraced our identity as The Force, and released our judgment of darkness. Light emerges from darkness as the sun rises every morning. We can depend on that natural cycle; it doesn’t require our management.
Neither does the world at large. But civilization is the story of conquering nature. The result? A contrived world where humans stand on the brink of near-term extinction. In our arrogance, some of us pledge to change or even save the world. It’s not the world that’s endangered, it’s us.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So far, that’s been our approach to dealing with this global crisis that threatens our very existence. But something vastly different than empty words and broken promises is required of the human race, if we are to survive and evolve into whatever might be possible for us.
What’s required is an entirely different understanding of reality. This transformation has been pursued since humans gained the ability to communicate with words and is often described as waking up from a dream. Let’s update an ancient wisdom to explore what this might look like today.
In The Allegory of the Cave, Plato challenged the accuracy of sensory perception by presenting a scenario where three men, prisoners in a cave since birth, accepted without question that reality was a play of shadows displayed on the wall, thrown by people behind them who were parading in front of a fire.
Let’s call our modern update The Allegory of the Screen. Many of us stare at screens all day every day – computers, phones, and televisions – imagining that what we see there is real. In our delusion, we’ve forgotten that we’re imprisoned inside a screen ourselves.
Our cave is constructed of a body with a mind and emotions. We live inside this human form, convinced that this is who we are. But we dream of more. We dream within this dream, sensing, knowing, feeling that there is something more, something outside this human cave.
A few of us escape. We experience our transcendent identity, that we are more than just a human animal. We come to understand that we are transmitting into this human screen from elsewhere, just like those animations on the screens we watch. They are not inside those screens. We are not inside this screen.
We return to tell our friends. Some of us write books, we speak, we gather anyone who will listen and we teach. Then we forget, at least most of us do, and sink back into life in the cave.
Plato’s cave dwellers struggled to understand reality beyond their cave. He was a philosopher who elevated the intellect over the senses and his recipe for human freedom was to think.
That’s pretty heavy. It must be time for a joke.
A man is walking home one night and turns the corner to discover a neighbor on his hands and knees under the streetlight. “What are you doing?” he asks.
“I lost my car keys.”
The friend joins his neighbor in the search. “Where were you exactly, the last time you can remember you had them?” he asks.
“Over there,” comes the reply, as the man points down the street.
“Really? Well, why are you looking way over here?”
His neighbor motions towards the street lamp. “Well, the light’s better here.”
The point? To find something we’ve lost, we are wise to look where we were when we lost it.
Where were we humans when we lost our connection with the natural world? We were in the natural world! Wouldn’t it make sense to return and look there?
You may be reading on a screen right now, so practicing this will require your imagination.
Imagine leaving your modern cave – the screens you watch and the human screen you’ve imagined yourself living inside - and venturing into a forest. You must have walked in a forest some time in your life. Remember what that was like if you can: the way your feet felt on the earth, brushing against branches as you walked, the scent of plants and soil and trees, the whisper of wind on your skin, the singing of birds and insects, the texture of bark as you stroked the trunk of an ancient tree.
Remember the belonging you may have felt, welcomed into a soundless background conversation, joining an inter-species party teeming with unlimited diversity, love in action in the real world, too complex to ever be captured, observed, or experienced on any screen.
Indigenous people were scorned for worshipping the sun. How primitive! They needed saving, to replace their God with ours, a God who lives, not in the natural world but in the light of our minds.
The final lesson in this series offers an utterly simple recommendation: leave your cave. Return to where you were when you lost what you have searched for all your life. Regain your place in the natural world by being in the natural world.
This will be easier for some of you than others. If you live in a city, you’ll have to find a park. They exist near you. But you can also get a house plant. Or ten. Yes, they take tending. So do your children and your pets. Oh, get a pet. And plan your vacation to experience reality, rather than human contrivances that mimic reality.
For instance, try camping, back packing, hiking, swimming in lakes, fishing streams, sleeping under the stars. And when it gets cold, bundle up!
As you begin to consciously increase contact with the natural world, you will feel again the primal belonging of being truly human. At the same time, you will also feel the illumination of spirit, a reconnection with the real God who lives, not in our minds as a human creation, but in the real world as the real world.
Love, I call it, but you can choose whatever word you prefer. Love, The Force, God, Source Energy … this is who you are, who I am, who we all are, and “all” includes every human and every creature of every kind, even mosquitos and bacteria!
It’s fascinating to ponder the meaning of life, but – in the end – the answer to all the big questions is Love, obviously! Thank you for waking up with me to experience this. If you are, in this moment, if I am, then … that’s that!
Now, let’s explore and enjoy life beyond the screen.