Readers of my blog and book have been clearly inundated by my usage of the term metaphysics. It is the branch of philosophy which endeavors to understand the nature of reality. This seems like a rather esoteric even irrelevant undertaking in the midsts of personal financial devastation, distrust of political leaders and institutions and financial melt-downs of unimaginable proportions.
Many Americans are suffering right now and their suffering is not philosophical–it is clearly material–lack of money, jobs, housing. Even more frightening is uncertainty about the future–the chaotic darkness of the unknown. Life for many Americans seems as confusing, disturbing and distressing as political and financial 'leaders' are revealing their dark and damaged sides on a daily basis.
Why should we concern ourselves about philosophy when there is so much insanity and suffering around us ?
I contend that this is exaclty the time for metaphysics. It is exactly at the moment when we are injured and vulnerable that we are able to re-evaluate the meaning of life. Perhaps we can even choose to understand how the Universe 'slaps us down' and forces us to confront our selves and our own values. We need to develop our own metaphysical platform in order to guide our lives to the best of our abilities and seek the highest level of happiness for ourselves and others.
What this crisis has clearly demonstrated is that we are all truly interconnected–spiritually to be sure, but clearly financially as well. We are confronted with this metaphysical truth in a way that even the most cynical and spiritually dense among us cannot deny–we are our brother's keepers !!
Perhaps we will be forced to recognize the value of returning to 'values'. Metaphysics is all about what is basic about life, our needs, our values and ultimately what is the meaning of life itself.
For many, organized religion offers solace in times of suffering. But how often do we listen when we attend services, then revert to our 'old' addictions the moment we leave? Perhaps we ultimately need to take responsibility for our own metaphysical beliefs and actually 'live them' on a daily bais.
The irony is we all know this already–any writing, commentary or discussion that this or any blog illuminates will seem all too obvious. It is–from the writings of the Bible to those of contemporary philosophers, novelsits and even children's cartoons, the dangers are well known. The true 'bottom-line' of all of this talk is this–are we any happier, more content, more serene than our less material based ancestors ?
Human greed is as old as mankind. When is enough, enough? Apparently never for some individuals. And ironically, in their insatiable drive to find happiness, they find none. Their understanding of happiness is fundamentall, metaphysically distorted. They are addictied to the drive to have 'more' and fail to realize that 'more' is the monster that will never be satisfied. They become victims of their own 'success' and for many their unhappiness drives them to ultimate self-destruction and destruction of others.
Why can't we live the Golden Rule of 'do unto others?' If we take this discussion out of the purely metaphysical/spiritual realm of what is right or wrong—and get totally practical about it—how do we find the serenity we all ultimately seek?
We all know the truth when we experience it. We all live in a material world and cannot reject the benefits to our quality of life–but we must understand that all seductions carry with them the risk of self-destruction. We cannot live without salt or sugar. But obsessive consumption of each leads to heart failure, hypertension or diabetes and we all understand the ultimate outcome of these conditions.
We need to get back to basics–understanding what is ultimately important in life–that we truly are happiest when we are at peace with those around us and with the planet. What truly makes us happy is simnply– to love and be loved. We know love when we experience it. We know the feeling of joy accompanies even the smallest act of kindness to another being.
We are now faced with an opportunity–to step forward to help our fellow human beings who have been damaged, who are suffering.
At times like these we have an opportunity, an opportunity to re-think what we are doing as individuals and as a society. But it is a time for pragmatic metaphysics. Everyone has been damaged by the financial crisis, but there are those among us who have hurt less than others. Will we recognize this opportunity ? It is the time to give to others–in time, in money and in kindness. Recognize that suffering allows us to soften our defenses–it gives us an opportunity to extend compassion and caring to others.
The quality of empathy is powerful and frightening–when we open ourselves to the suffering of others we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But this is actually a gift to us–we are being allowed to connect to another soul on a deeply powerful spiritual level.
We need to be particularly charitable and kind in times like these. The healing that will occur to those who give is greater than to those who will receive. Cynics and skeptics may shake their head. Let's not allow our present suffering to be in vain.
Our suffering is temporary. As the Bible points out, 'this too shall pass'. At some time in the future we will once again be faced with times of material prosperity. We will be threatened, once again, by the seductions that surround us. We will forget that we are all interconnected and allow personal greed to drive us forward.
But let us recognize the power of pragmatic metaphysics and not forget its lessons when our suffering abates.