Reply to “America, the Community”

[Due to formatting limitations in the comments section, I have chosen to reply on the main forum.]

Hi Stan:

Thanks for reminding us of the bigger picture. I’ll have fewer bald patches from frustrated hair-pulling that way.

A few passages from The Urantia Book (TUB) lit up my synapses as I read along. But in the ecumenical spirit you showed by quoting Wallace Stevens, let me first add this related thought from the great German idealist, Immanuel Kant:

“Enlightenment is the emergence of Man’s self-incurred immaturity.”

You wrote:

For two days following nine-eleven terrorism had already been defeated in a spiritual sense, by the unity of the world community, and needed only forward-looking leaders who could help people sustain that unity and expand on it, calling not only for the capture of the perpetrators but also for a truly reflective investigation into what had led people to want to do such a thing. Without this curiosity, we began just another endless conflict. . . This need for reflection before action, especially when gripped by fear, is something self-righteousness will only blind us to.

There’s a lot to unpackage here. Explicitly: fear, world community, forward looking leaders, curiosity, reflection. And implicitly, the roles that intelligent patriotism and emotional maturity should play in the response to events like 9/11.

Adjusting the lenses in my UB kaleidoscope accordingly (i.e., making those kaleidoscopic adjustments in the comprehension of meanings and values), I find the following passages instructive:

1. Unreasoned fear is a master intellectual fraud practiced upon the evolving mortal soul.

2. Political wisdom. Emotional maturity is essential to self-control. Only emotional maturity will insure the substitution of international techniques of civilized adjudication for the barbarous arbitrament of war. Wise statesmen will sometime work for the welfare of humanity even while they strive to promote the interest of their national or racial groups. Selfish political sagacity is ultimately suicidal — destructive of all those enduring qualities which insure planetary group survival.

3. The ideal state functions under the impulse of three mighty and coordinated drives: Love loyalty derived from the realization of human brotherhood. Intelligent patriotism based on wise ideals. Cosmic insight interpreted in terms of planetary facts, needs, and goals.

4. A moral society should aim to preserve the self-respect of its citizenry and afford every normal individual adequate opportunity for self-realization.

Since the last shall be first, I’ll start there.

(4) Self-realization is, naturally, a product of reflection and curiosity. Imagine a society where reflective meditation was actively encouraged, if not mandated outright. (“Woman, get thee to a nunnery!” would have a radically different meaning.) Europe seems to have a head start on us, where shorter work weeks and much longer vacations are de rigeur. Locally, initiatives like employer tax incentives and community zoning variances could help establish appropriate mediation and reflection centers. (Inspired by this passage, I started a non-profit 503c corporation some years back to network otherwise vacant vacation homes, time share condos and the like, for the purpose of “serving the servers”— providing the necessary space to recharge one’s physical, emotional and mental batteries.)

(3) While the whole tone of your piece underscores the need for the realization of human brotherhood and the role that cosmic insight plays in the context of planetary facts, needs, and goals, I would add a word about “intelligent patriotism.” Intelligent patriotism naturally stands in contrast to the kind of knuckle dragging nationalism reflected in the “My country right or wrong” slogan that leads to an end-justifies-the-means, “Kill’em all and let God sort’em out’ ethic— the implicit and explicit mantram of so much right wing media. One can lay claim to loving and being loyal to one’s country, but until we shift our individual and collective identities to the brotherhood of all humankind, war and lesser conflicts will continue as population pressures and resource demands escalate.

(2) If one needed to provide an example of the exact opposite of how an ideal state functions, one need only note the track record of the Bush Administration. Led by an incurious, emotionally arrested adolescent who has never had to account for his actions, it has brought monumental suffering to untold millions of innocent people. It’s neocon driven, “unipolar” foreign policy, and its “might makes right” national security strategy is exemplified by its self-proclaimed right to wage preventive war on anybody it wants— the very definition of war crimes that emerged from the Nuremberg Tribunals.

(1) Like the modifier “intelligent” used with patriotism, the modifier of “unreasoned” with respect to fear is a typical use of nuance by TUB‘s authors. Evolutionarily speaking, fear is a survival function of our repto-mammal limbic system, a highly efficient threat assessment computer that emerged from millions years of adaptation to various environmental challenges. (This legacy of animal fear is what TUB refers to as “the mark of the beast,” so powerful that it isn’t completely expunged until considerable adjustments are made in the afterlife.) Politically speaking, it is the target of so much right wing Republican propaganda that it has succeeded it painting the Democrats as weak on national security. This, in turn, has prevented them from bringing the Iraq war/occupation to a close by the simple device of refusing to provide further funding for this highly immoral and destructive enterprise.

The good (and bad) news is that the economy has finally reached the breaking point where further expenditures cannot be sustained. Foreign countries (like Kuwait), which have provided the money (at interest) no longer seem willing to do so for sheer economic, if not political, reasons.

I would close with this very timely passage from TUB, which can be excused for being a bit self-referential, given the problem it addresses. It also serves as a useful theme for what I see as the purpose and potential of

Hunger and love drove men together; vanity and ghost fear held them together. But these emotions alone, without the influence of peace-promoting revelations, are unable to endure the strain of the suspicions and irritations of human interassociations. Without help from superhuman sources the strain of society breaks down upon reaching certain limits, and these very influences of social mobilization— hunger, love, vanity, and fear— conspire to plunge mankind into war and bloodshed.

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