Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Stiff Prick of a Troll

Fundamentalism is the stiff prick of a troll. It always seeks to be stroked or swallowed, and it hoards blood that would otherwise be nourishing the monster's small but occasionally useful brain.

Guys like Jefferson and Adams saw this clearly enough, so they did what they could in the culture that they were given—they wrote a manual for a government in which church and state were institutionally separated.

We have to go farther, in the direction that Emerson and Thoreau were pointing some 70 years after the formation of our nation. We may need to do a Lorena Bobbitt intervention on our troll. For it is not enough, it seems, to separate church from state; we need to separate from them both.

Perhaps we need a new Walden, a movement of sorts, led by each individual who opens the way to it, that I call "neo-transcendentalism." I'm working on a book about that now; but its formative spirit may lie in some ideas I expressed in a book I wrote last year. Here's an excerpt, which is offered as a starting point. The place where it leads is as yet unknown, because you're the one who will take us there. True unity arises not from blindly following behind a president or a priest into the nuclear smoke of death; but from the leadership of your true self and its guiding voice.

In case you’re already wondering, this is not to be another “society is the culprit” literary rant. We’ve all heard enough of that stuff, and it doesn’t seem to resolve many problems, does it? Instead, it saddles us with one enormous, overarching problem that seems to defy any attempt at resolution, because it is so damned big.

So for us to simply declare, “It’s all Society’s fault” (or God’s, Satan’s, or Human Nature’s fault) leads us nowhere but into a bog of despair, sloth, and the mindless self-indulgence that infects us whenever we quit on our true selves. Sure, we will have to clearly perceive the significant contribution that our societal institutions have made to the current global mess: this is the critical difference in speaking of responsibility but not fault. To acknowledge responsibility is to awaken our sense of humility: this is the way of Healing. But fault sticks to us like motor oil on a white dress. Thus, Freedom is simply the ability to transcend fault through the feeling-perception of our responsibility—to Nature and our selves.

In this moment of history, it would seem as if the human race, having been given the gift of an unutterably beautiful planet to dwell upon, has made an unspeakably brutal and horrible world of it. Therefore, our focus in this book will be on what all that means to you—how you can understand, adapt, and live beyond the errors that have been programmed into us by our culture and its authorities. To say, then, that society must bear some responsibility for the suffering we all feel in this time and culture, is simply to say that we need to make some corrections within ourselves, as individuals. For how can society be improved, except through the change that each of us creates within ourselves?

So we have to begin, it seems, by understanding clearly the extent of the damage that has been done—socially but also psychologically and spiritually, within us. We will have to understand the stakes of this dark yet glimmering moment in human history: the breadth of the continuing destruction of our planet’s physical resources and our own inner resources; and then form our goals from that foundation of insight. It is possible that the best that can be done by this generation of adults is to slow the march of destruction and hatred; to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of the ideological machine that is grinding our planet and our human race into the Abyss. It will be for our children to take this suspension of ego, this quiet moment in the storm, this clearing amid the darkness that we have created for them, and carry it forward to a safer place. But the denial that is born of Despair is not an option now: your life, your children’s lives, and the life of the Earth, hang in the balance.

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