Saturday, June 14, 2008

You Don’t Know How It Feels

Tom Petty plaintively sings a lyric to a tune in his album, Wild Flowers, with the words "you don't know how it feels to be me." That phrase is so applicable to our world today. We are all individuals and, although we can empathize with each other in regard to a particular experience, we can never truly know the other's deepest feelings.

Unfortunately, some people take this essence of individualism and pervert it. The proponents of this perversion maintain a claim that our basic animalistic nature dictates our behavior; that this justifies the contortion of this essence of individualism to a rule that says our individualism dictates competition. Such an approach is suicidal for our species and, if we continue to follow it, we are lost. Our culture exalted the value of "rugged individualism" in the past during a day and time of what appeared to be a world full of inexhaustive natural resources.

Sadly, the realization is just dawning for some that the emphasis can no longer be on "me" instead of "us." Greed can no longer be justified with the Ann Rand slogan of "the only pure virtue." The tendency to turn to promotion of self interest first has always been wrong. From Buddha through Christ to Mohammed, the word that it is wrong has gone forth and fallen on deaf ears.

Soon now, the continued emphasis on self by an individual will mean that the individual is not only stupid, but will also signal the elimination of that individual's place in the gene pool. Years ago, Clyde Kluckhohn on page 41 of his book Mirror For Man noted the fatal flaw in the prevailing justification of greed or rugged individualism with these words:

Many people in our society feel that the best way to get people to work harder is to increase their profits or their wages. They feel that it is just "human nature" to want to increase one's material possessions. This sort of dogma might well go unchallenged if we had no knowledge of other cultures. In certain societies, however, it has been found that the profit motive is not an effective incentive. After contact with whites the Trobriand Islanders in Melanesia could have become fabulously rich from pearl diving. They would, however, work only long enough to satisfy their immediate wants.

And so, I urge that you consider the words from the disciple Thomas, particularly verse 113 of the "Scholars' Translation" of the Gospel of Thomas by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer, wherein Thomas reports the words of Jesus that "the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth,
and people don't see it."

In that same vein, we should never forget the closing words of President Kennedy's inaugural address where he stressed "let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

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