by David A. Truman
Great and realistic dreams The question, “What can we do to save the world?” is on so many minds. And so many visions are blooming. Everywhere we see so much empathy, such heart, such compassion in response to the world’s woes. How great that is, when this world needs all the help it can get!
The fact that many of the visions express grand, high-minded goals is crucially important. Surely, we must think bigger, think higher, to see through and beyond the difficulties that confront us. Certainly, we need great ideas to inspire us: big visions, great visions capture people’s imagination, and energize us to act, to cooperate, to persist, to transcend our limits.
At the same time, for truly good and positive things to happen, genuine realism is required. Just as nature included Vitamin E in wheat germ as a natural preservative to keep it from turning rancid, realism in our dreams is the spiritual preservative that keeps them strong. If our visions are unrealistic in some respect, we will lose people’s faith-and we can’t afford that. Without faith, people lose optimism, and can easily be daunted by the awesome difficulty of the choices and tasks that confront our world.
Also, we need realism because time is short. With problems so pressing, we need to focus on what will really work. Realism helps us decide what will work.
Getting truly realistic Although we have plenty of negativity and skepticism in this world, true realism is rare, because of the predominance of ego in our ordinary mindset. See if you recognize these symptoms in yourself and those around you:
1. Ego easily gives up in the face of difficulties and setbacks. As long as the ego is in power, it has a negative use for all things-success, failure, everything-without exception. It’s typical of ego that when our unrealistic dreams fail, instead of upleveling our visions to realistic ones, we will simply give up, abandon our optimism, and turn from idealistic visionaries into skeptical, jaded businessmen-or perhaps, as so many of the ‘60s flower children have done, into self-centered survivalists. Rather than trimming our sails and taking another tack, we put down anchor, or worse, we retreat. Instead of learning the liberating lesson of how to improve our approach, we draw the limiting conclusion that we can’t.
2. Ego won’t give up when facing a hopeless situation. Ego doesn’t always recommend giving up. Ego is all for beating one’s head against the wall in futile unrealistic activities, and showing grim determination when efforts are abortive and wasteful, like when a woman vows to stay with an abusive spouse. That kind of “persistence” is something the ego heartily approves. Ego loves anything that is ultimately dispiriting, depressing, disappointing and fruitless. In contrast, Spirit would have us recognize when we are plowing in a rocky ground situation, where the probable gains do not justify the effort required to achieve them. That’s cutting our losses. And it’s more important than ever now, when so much has already been lost.
3. Ego resists learning from history. Ego tells us that everyone’s situation is unique; that no one else can really understand us or legitimately advise us; that each of us has our own “truth;” and if we will live OUR truth, we will be fulfilled and happy. No wonder history always repeats itself! Going slow, or even in circles, suits ego just fine. So does going it alone. Friends, let’s not repeat this mistake! We have a lot to learn about what works and what doesn’t, and we better set some speed records in learning it. Let’s make good use of people with real wisdom and useful experience.
4. Ego tells us our dreams can be realized at a much lesser price than is truly required. Simple and easy solutions fit the ego’s low budget for dream fulfillment. For example, people want to believe that if we just follow Amway, we’ll get rich; or if we just get out of our parents’ house and get married, our marriage will be forty times better than mom and dad’s was (automatically, just because we’re in it, and we know better, etc.).
Similarly, today’s visionaries are busily attaching themselves to beautiful spiritual values, envisioning beautiful Utopian scenarios, and working out the details of manifestation. Ego would have us believe that if we simply conserve power, if we simply grow our own food, etc., we’re going to change the world from awful to perfect-never mind about ego. But you see, it is not true that:
organic gardening can, in and of itself, save the world…
holding hands and singing around the Maypole will create world peace…
practicing Tai Chi will enlighten us…
Who among us is willing to pay the real cost of a right and beautiful world? The real cost is unselfishness; real caring; true cooperation and self-sacrifice-in short, less ego. If we fool ourselves that our ideals, our values, and our visions could work without effective ego-reduction, then ego has the last laugh, because it’s pulling the wool over our eyes.
Many people understand, at least intellectually, that ego is a problem. But even then, ego has us believing that transcending ego is no big deal, and we can transcend ego merely by attending a seminar, taking an initiation, reading a book-or with a wish and a prayer. We’re suckers if we believe ego can be tamed that easily. In that case, we’re still dancing to ego’s tune, however unconsciously. Let’s not let that happen!
Save the world… from ego To be realistic about helping the world, we must realize the extent to which ego creates the woes we wish to fix-and even sabotages all our attempts to fix them. For example: When people try to give financial aid to third world countries, ego interferes at every turn. Greed, bribery, stealing, and corruption block progress at all levels of government, clear down to the local level. Progress is blocked even at the level of the individual recipients of help. Interpersonal bickering and lack of cooperation has undermined water projects, agricultural projects, every kind of charitable benefit project, the world round. How sad.
We’re not supposed to say this, but it’s true: the poor of this world are not the saints we like to think they are. They, too, are infected with ego.
Ego is having its way with the world and its inhabitants at every level of life: personal, national, and global. It’s like a cancer, a pernicious disease that weakens and kills. Until we effectively reduce ego-orientation itself, both individually and collectively, ego will continue to undermine attempts to bring about planetary harmony, or even population stability, here on earth.
My friends and I have looked at this very carefully. We’ve considered every approach we’ve heard of, and every approach we could think of, to improve the world’s prospects and reduce the world’s suffering. We could not escape this conclusion: apart from people just plain being unselfish, every other solution we could think of was unsatisfactory.
This radical conclusion rings quite true, doesn’t it? After all, even if it were possible, who wants a world that works based on selfishness-or despite the ongoing prevalence of selfishness? And the truth of the matter is, as long as selfishness prevails, no solution can or will work as intended. To the extent that egoism predominates in human life, the real source of suffering will be sustained along with it. This is something we all must face.
As long as people continue to live predominantly egoistically, there’s going to be a tendency to twist everything to selfish purposes. For example, where ego prevails, favorable conditions turn bad: comfort lends to laziness, complacency, indifference to the suffering of others; wealth leads to unrestrained greed, exploitation, plunder, ecological destruction, and corruption. And under ego, unfavorable conditions-poverty, discomfort, and survival pressure-get worse. Ego responds to survival fear with resentment, envy, thievery, ecological destruction, and warfare. When the going gets tough, ego feels justified in every kind of inhumanity and breech of morality.
If ego ruins both favorable and unfavorable conditions, where’s the real solution, the viable choice? As long as ego prevails, there is no viable choice. That’s why ego needs to be transcended for anything to work the way it should.
Good ideas and ideal structures have their limits
Most proposals for humanity salvation suggest better ways of doing things, new or improved forms of international cooperation, and the like. Such changes and systems are good-and God knows, they are necessary. But God knows, too, how much the results of everything depend on people, more than systems. As children of God and powerful free will creatures, we should never think a good idea or an improved structure can, in and of itself, save us. How disappointed we would be!
Consider the many cases where people have taken a wonderful system and made it unworkable. Here’s a simple but telling example: the “honor system.” Why don’t we rely on that beautiful principle more often? It’s become unreliable, because ego has become more popular than honor, these days.
Throughout history, egoism has defeated mankind’s best-laid plans, despite their theoretical promise and merit. One by one, so many great social movements, so many hopeful structures have been brought down by selfishness, laziness, and greed.
Communism and socialism are good, idealistic systems, but they failed because, without strong self-interest incentives, ego-identified people don’t want to exert themselves for the common good. Capitalism, too, is now failing, because greed and narrow self-interest have overshadowed the crucial elements of long-term viability: enlightened Self-interest; strong human values; healthy self-sacrifice; and intelligent, far-sighted resource-management. Even democracy is failing, because the people have given too much power to their leaders, and participated too little in steering the ship.
The examples go on and on…. Due to ego, the free love model of the sixties, as hopeful as it seemed, miserably failed. Too much irresponsible sex, not enough heart fulfillment. Likewise, hippy communes faded away because laziness and self-indulgence prevailed over pragmatism, and even over love itself.
Now, even our cyber-relationships are in jeopardy. I heard the other day that internet servers all over the world are staggering under the load of commercial spam that currently accounts for 90% of e-mail messages.
Obviously, all these woes are footprints of ego, evidence of how ego routinely degrades otherwise positive opportunities.
Create great systems and, to realize their positive potential, transcend ego!
By now, this lesson of experience should be obvious: no revision of systemsand practices we institute can, in itself, save a group-or a world-of egotistical people. It’s time to face three obvious facts:
1. Ego easily defeats structure. As long as ego prevails, every new idealistic structure will be undermined (just as every structure in the past has been undermined).
2. The spirit, not the form, creates success. For any good system to work sustainably, the intention must be good and right, and the spirit must be good and right. (And that means, reasonably free of ego.)
3. Ego-reduction is a serious matter. To save this world, egotism itself must be curbed to a much greater degree than people-even new age people, and fundamental religionists-generally realize.
Friends, remember those three things, because all three are essential.
My contribution to the cause If realism is the preservative of our dreams, then the greatest preservative of all is realism about the effect of ego on all plans and arrangements. And, the ultimate expression of realism is to strive to reduce ego in all that we do, all that we hope for. That way, what we do has a chance to succeed, and even our failures can be used rightly.
So, I say to all the visionaries in this world with great ideas and hopeful dreams: I support your cause. As long as I am here, I will work to support your success. Specifically, this is my contribution to your cause-to remind all of this fundamental, inviolable truth:
Egoism must be reduced for planetary salvation to be possible. That’s the crux of the entire matter. The truth is, neither heavenly agents nor legions of earthly helpers can change or eliminate that perfect, eternal requirement. And I add this:
To sufficiently transcend ego, to make the needed difference, we’ve got to be more than humanitarian. It is good to give a penny at the cash register, to contribute to Save the Whales, to pray for victims of famine and war, to meditate for world peace. All these things are good and necessary. But we must know, too, that impersonal forms of giving transcend egoism to only a very small degree. Charity, unfortunately, is like removing twenty percent of a virulent tumor. To make the needed difference, we need to personally incorporate ongoing ego-transcending practices into all parts of our daily life. Then, we’ll be helping save the world, whether our lives look conventionally “humanitarian” or not.
What are the realistic chances of solving the ego problem?
Given that world salvation depends on the release of egotism all around, what are the chances of that happening? Since the choice to identify with ego and egotism is a choice of free will, release of egoism also depends entirely on free will.
Fortunately, free will is subject to influence. But free will is only subject to influence to a degree. That, friends, is the very definition and nature of free will-and we’ve all experienced it. Surely you have had at least one friend who stuck with a very negative course despite the great suffering it caused? No doubt you tried to talk him out of it, but to no avail. Such is human freedom.
In experiences like that, we learn, over and over, how strong free will is. Indeed, there is NO external power-no experience, positive or negative; no fortune or misfortune; no loss or gain, no pleasure or pain; no encouragement or discouragement, no coercion or allowing-that can, in and of itself, direct free will. We should bear that in mind, all of us, no matter how passionately we wish to usher in a new and enlightened order of human existence.
Friends, due to free will, we may not be able to save the entire world. We may not be able to save a large part of this world, even. It all depends on how the “vote” on spirit vs. ego turns out, doesn’t it? Yes-for better or for worse. We should hope for the best, and work for the best, even while humbly realizing that ultimately, success depends on the free will choices of billions of sovereign individuals.
The cloud of survival threat has two linings: one silver, one dark Of course, a good shaking can help people change their minds. We all hope, therefore, that world crisis will shake and wake the humanity, make us see what we’ve done, and inspire us to mend our ways. That’s the silver lining of human suffering, all right.
But honestly, there’s no telling what people will do as the shit hits the fan. No matter what happens, individual free will is always the x-factor. Consequently, we still can’t be sure that global upliftment will result from global crisis.
Realistically, survival threats are unlikely to perfect this world and the people in it. People whose lives are threatened are not in their highest consciousness, their most generous and benevolent mood. So, as a general rule, extreme survival pressures argue against trust, against higher consciousness, and against sharing. In fact, if you look at the most diabolical behaviors of human beings, many of them were responses to real or imagined survival threats. Desperate people do desperate things, right? Man’s tendency to collapse into survival mode brings out the worst in us.
Therefore, if the world’s people become deeply afraid for their survival, they will be highly unlikely to make the transitions the visionaries hope for. Only a precious few may respond to poverty and survival threats in ways that are truly positive and progressive.
The really ideal choices actually depend on a higher level of humanity. They depend on those who, despite (not because of) survival threats, will make their choices based on spiritual rightness.
A life and death vote
Together we stand in a pivotal moment in history-pivotal not for the world, necessarily, because the world may well stay on its present course to destruction, but for all the individuals in the world. Each individual can choose to turn around. Each individual can overthrow the rule of ego within. And if enough individuals do that, there’s hope for the world.
No matter what becomes of this world, you can make choices, personally, that will let you leave here with a clear conscience, that will positively influence those around you toward better choices, and that will stand you in good stead in eternity.
So let us disempower ego in ourselves as fast as we can. How? By absolutely committing to transcending egoism individually, and hopefully, getting expert guidance in that effort, because that helps immensely. And of course, supporting each other in that effort.
Don’t give up Please do not be discouraged by what you have read here.
This realism is truly empowering, because without it, we may give with one hand while ego takes away with the other. And we can’t succeed that way. This understanding brings activism and spirituality together in a great unity. It is true that ego-transcendence is the crux of human evolution-and it’s the only thing that will save the world. What furthers the individual soul furthers the whole world. So, we can send out this message to all:
Stop following the ego and its recommendations! Transcend selfishness! Love!
Be of good cheer, dear friends. Even when prospects seem dim, the Spirit can and always will bond to true ideals and realistic vision. And the Spirit has no need to give up, because it will prevail, and it will fulfill. It’s only a matter of time-and choices over time.
Take heart, and have confidence in the Way of Spirit, for it is the True Way.