Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meaningful Songs, 3

Seems like ‘meaningful’ songs are on my mind. A few days ago, it was Peggy Lee’s version of, “Is That All There Is?” today it’s Alfie – “What’s it all about, Alfie?” These songs come bubbling up for me, not out of irony, but from a vague sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with what passes for life, purpose and intelligence in the so-called American,‘main stream.’ In fact things have come to such a pass for me, that I find myself agreeing with Sarah Palin, may the great main stream rest her soul, when she referred to it as ‘lame street.’

Nothing in particular triggered my vague sense of dissatisfaction and frustration, it’s become a more or less constant oppressive presence in my psyche, like the gray skies that hide the sun in northern winters. Yet, as I write this, a ray of sun-like optimism illuminates the gloom - the realization that this need not be; that really, the glass is half full, not half empty! And even more and brighter than that, the right answer might be that we have the wrong size glass!!
It’s not enough to be better and better at what already exists, at what we used to be good at. Now something else is required, some innovation, which our collective nostalgia, fear and clinging to past glories obscures. An innovation not just in technology, which we’re still quite good at but will be inadequate, but an innovation in the fundamental way we think and understand ourselves and the universe. We need the larger size glass that can come only from shifting our fundamental conceptual frameworks.

We need to shift from either/or thinking to both/and thinking; from: you’re either for me or against me, to: both you and me, we’re all in this together. Only that kind of thinking will get us where we need to go: to a world that works for everyone and everything. Only that kind of thinking will enable us to put down the half full/half empty glasses we’ve been using and find a right sized glass. Either/or thinking: either spirit or science, has brought us here, to the limits of our effectiveness and the revenge of the planet. Shifting to both/and thinking: both spirit and science may increase our effectiveness and sooth Gaia.

Both/and thinking may be understood as the ‘elegant proof’ that mathematicians prize, or to paraphrase, the ‘elegant solution’ we need. Elegant solutions use few theorems and laws, are short and easy to understand, and have few flaws. They are the shortest path between two points, connecting those points (not destroying one of them, or voting one of them out) so the best of both are available.

An elegant solution is non-adversarial, non-competitive and win/win, not, win/lose. In fact American culture’s deep investment in good guy vs bad guy, either/or, win/lose thinking, instead of win/win’s compassion, cooperation and mutual respect are a big part of it’s seeming inability to rally during the current crisis/opportunity.

But ‘seeming inability’ are the key words here. We have not lost the ability to cooperate, feel compassion and work together, we’ve simply misplaced it. It’s right where it’s always been, waiting in our hearts and minds for us to choose it. Let’s consider the kind of thinking we’re holding to that is self-serving, self-willed and self-justified and be wise enough and humble enough to let it go as uninspired, inelegant thinking.

Let’s first accept our individual responsibility for the kind of thinking we’ve been doing that contributes to the vague sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with what passes for life, purpose and intelligence in the so-called American, ‘main stream,’ and then, choosing the compassion and inclusiveness of the both/and thinking that allows us access to both spirit and science, work together.

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