Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, February 29, 2020 - Equilibrium is Natural

Today is Leap Day. This quadrennial occasion is neither a holiday nor a commemoration. It is a reckoning. Leap Day is referred to as an intercalary day, and restores the balance of a calendar which has slipped off course by approximately one minute per day over the previous four years. We add on a whole day to every fourth year not divisible by 400 to make up for the time we have incrementally lost. Or is it that we are giving ourselves a day in advance? Like buying it on credit?

The calendar is, of course, a human-made construct used to delineate time across our solar year. The sun is always in balance with Itself. It is our structuring and understanding of Its light and the way we attempt to describe it on paper that humans can’t get quite right. Perhaps that’s the intention. Maybe this is a useful allegory of something else.

There is a balance to all things. Even a glass of water levels itself. But that comes easiest to water. We should strive to be more like it. If only our bodies were mostly water… 

Thankfully, they are. So even if the equilibrium of water in the presence of gravity is only a metaphor for you, use it. If the way we think determines our state of mind, then I speak to the waters of my body: Balance thyself! I can choose to visualize a jar of water in the process of being violently shaken. I ask it to stop. The jar stills itself, the water immediately seeks its equilibrium, and settles. That is us. At least by nature. 

Sometimes how we are nurtured can impact our ability to easily find our equilibrium. Other factors can inhibit it as well. We do our best as a community to soothe them all. Sometimes our “best” is not so great, but capacity is determined by many factors. Some of them are not so balanced.

I believe that it is a natural human tendency—a universal desire— to experience freedom, peace, prosperity, health, and happiness. I can scarce imagine a human being who doesn’t feel that way. These are intrinsic desires. That’s good news. Because that is the force which defines our human equilibrium as a society. No one seeks fear, but they do seek joy. 

Our intrinsic universal desires cannot be shut off. They are always in search-and-strategy mode. The methods we choose are informed by our base biological needs like food, water and sex, as well as our higher functions such as pragmatism, logic, compassion and community. In short, our biology is greedy and our spirit is generous. Each uses a different strategy in their attempts to achieve our universal desires. The fine-tuning of our two inner voices determines their success or failure. When smart pragmatism becomes clouded by fear, it clutches so tightly against defeat that it inevitably loses. But, unclouded by fear, pragmatism knows exactly how to thoughtfully and dispassionately proceed. 

Our biology doesn’t understand what our higher intellect knows. Together, they create a tensioned balance that ultimately becomes our definition of what makes a human. Flawed, but hopeful. And while that may be a generous and forgiving way to express our humanity. I also think it’s perfectly true.

So, as we trudge on through what feels like an interminable era of social and political upheaval, divisiveness and squabbling, remember who we really are: Flawed, but hopeful.

We are built to seek peace with one another. We are created with two voices inside us. That is our duality. That is what nudges us forward always. The degree of success at striking a good balance between the two voices is what determines our ability to achieve the freedom, peace, prosperity, health, and happiness we all seek. Both villains and heroes want these. And it is natural for us to be unrelentingly experimental in the ways we try to achieve it. 

We may also choose which side of the coin to address. Don’t speak to people's base, biological side. Speak to their higher intellect. Don’t engage the beast. The seed you water will grow. The wolf you feed is the one that lives. Engage only with the divine in others and you will experience greater peace with that which is out of your control. In short, if you argue with them, it only makes their darker side stronger. Don’t bother. Project love at them in whatever way you can and walk away from conflict.

Be vigilant but at ease. Recognize that progress does not require anywhere near as much force as repression does. The tide streams against them. Your power is worth ten times theirs because equilibrium is natural. Go with it. Embody the opposite of resistance. Be the wind at the back of progress. Ignore the feuding, it’s symptomatic of the fever they have. It will pass. Complaining is the only remedy they can think of. Better to give them a time out.

Quite opposite popular critique, it’s all going quite well, actually. There is a shocking amount of progress that humanity has made in areas of genuine need. But you must stand at an objective distance to notice it. Have a look at the world’s indices on violent crime, hunger, poverty, literacy, children’s labor laws, medical care, civil rights, even physical height have all dramatically improved over the last two hundred plus years and are still improving. Be a wind at the back of that! Make your swords into plowshares and grow something!

The fear we see and the horrible reactions of those who are the most afraid are all being expressed as a result of that vast progress. Their arguments are all about making things the way they used to be instead of the way they might be. It’s much harder for them than us. Pray for them. The tide works against them. Leave them pushing upstream. The waters barely notice them. Raise your oar, and go with the already forward momentum flowing toward our inevitable equilibrium: World Peace.

Yes, I said it. World peace. This is how it happens. And you are free to consider me a nutjob. That is the burden of my optimism and I carry it with honor. But consider it. Freedom, peace, prosperity, health and happiness are what everyone wants, we seem powerless to stop our universal desire for them, and we are relentless experimenters, debaters and collaborators in our desire to get them. So just what do you think is going to happen? There’s only one obvious trajectory here. Eventually, we figure it out.

Eventually, we will get it through our thick skulls that we all get what we want if we all get what we want. Equality, equity and equilibrium are not only natural, they are the only way any of us will truly achieve the freedom, peace, prosperity, health and happiness that we are inherently driven to experience. So the secret to achieving equality in the world is to hold steadfast to the idea that we all deserve to experience these universal desires. Once we stop getting in the way of that, the jarful of water will stop shaking. 

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