*Part II: The Force of Idealism
*Part III: Healthy Mindedness and Emotions
The Art Of Wisdom Is The Art Of Knowing What To Overlook -William James
Wisdom might be one of the ideals that we aspire to, we sometimes recognize, and rarely attain. The thoughts I share are really an attempt to point in the direction of a deeper…or more elevated…collective knowing. I will follow the lead of William James and others once again.
William James believed that it is in what we choose to attend to that determines the course of our experiences.
I would like to explore the process of “attending to” and show how necessary it is to see the problems that are part of the societies we are in and to see beyond them. In therapy, it is to gain meta-awareness, the ability to see a dysfunctional pattern while it is happening, so as to gain awareness of other possible choices.
Deep Calling Deep
Pain calls attention to itself. When we have been hit in the shin or have a pounding headache or have something “bothering us” we are less able to directly and openly experience the particular time and place we are in. We may be preoccupied, unable to concentrate or distracted. It represents a sub-text to the direct connection we have with the environment we are in. Our broad awareness is reduced, our senses are activated toward our pain, our ability to observe is limited; our experience of the moment is centered on that which is painful. We all recognize the acute version of being in pain.
We also have duller and more chronic versions of “pain”. When we look into ourselves, we often find emotional pain that exists in subconscious layers, not far out of our daily awareness. Almost everyone has fear, insecurity, self-doubt, a sense of inadequacy, frustration, anger, guilt, shame, and anxiety… a few layers deep.
A third source of pain is in the world itself. The news we see and hear every day is massively painful, both in the awareness of the experience of others (our natural empathy for them) and the fear and frustration that it elicits in our helplessness to solve the problems we see. This seems to be an increasing preoccupation and maybe relevant to the topic of how it is we should attend to it.
So it seems that in order to attend to the broader view of what is possible, we need to know what to do with the painful truths in life. Denial and escape are well practiced reactions; forms of coping. But is there a way that we can attend to the harsh realities, while simultaneously keeping our heads up, with our eyes on the fullness of living, the promises of hope?
It seems to me that it is in the contextualization of these two aspects of life…the harsh and painful…and the joyful … that we find the answer.
Balancing The Collective Mind
We need to see that our ideals are concepts that are not, and cannot be fully realized collectively, at least anytime soon. The justice we have is a relative measure of what is the ideal. Our harsh realities come from the ways in which we have yet to learn to live according to what is ideal…with love, and justice, and a full awareness of the wholeness of our connectedness. Rather than measuring ourselves as failing to live up to our higher ideals, we can see the degree to which we are bringing our ideals into life.
If we attend to the love or the peace that exists in the world, we will create more of it. If we are pre-occupied with the hate, and the killing and the fear that it generates, we will create more of it…especially if we become hateful or violent as a way of combating it.
When we normalize the human condition as being in a process that is developing toward higher levels of consciousness, we are able to contextualize the degree to which our patterns of behavior and our social systems have not yet emerged to the point where they perpetuate the positive upward cycle that is possible. Like a depressed person caught in the cloud of despair, we have yet to discover the means and mechanisms that liberate our collective selves from the self defeating patterns.My next essay will apply the ideas above directly to social realities that are common to the human experience of our times. ~Doug