The Greater Good Versus Individualism

“The collective disease of humanity is that people are so engrossed in what happens, so hypnotized by the world of fluctuating forms, so absorbed in the content of their lives, they have forgotten the essence, that which is beyond content, beyond form.”

— Eckhart Tolle

It is as if we are all hypnotized into playing the video games of life in which we cannot retreat. And in this 24/7 culture it’s no wonder we have difficulty dialing it down and tuning it all out. The pandemic did wonders for many wanting to get off the train, but needing a hard push to make it happen.

I believe and have personally experienced the importance of being alone with just my own body and thoughts. This did not just happen because of a pandemic. I have appreciated my solitude since I can remember and have become a consummate observer of things because of it.

Content and What Constitutes Moving Forward?

Obtaining possessions, degrees, accolades, etc. provides a way to move forward but are we really moving? Eckhart Tolle mentions that absorption of content overwhelms the essence of what is beyond those belongings. We deny daily what really matters beyond the materials we acquire. This may not be our intent, but there is a slow and unconscious descent into that black hole of “swirling stuff”.

Reflection becomes our savior, but standing still in silence and observation is not a productive use of time within our “on the move” societal mentality.

Let us consider how many 40 and 50 year olds field the question, “What am I doing and/or why am I no longer satisfied with the content of my life? It has happened to me with each passing decade. A forced reset, so to speak. And it does not necessarily come alongside a major life event. My intuition reveals these philosophical questions in various ways.

The “Why are we here” question puts people off because most don’t feel those inquiries are relevant to their comfortable routine filled lives. They are just trying to survive so why should they care? I get it. Been there and still am there at times.

What We Do Not Know, We Fear

Fear and the unknown are lurking large beyond the contents of our lives. Our possessions give us comfort and a temporary shield from an ever changing environment of which we seem to have little control.

Reflecting on our fears is too uncomfortable.

Because of my own experiences overcoming certain fears, I am keenly aware of the anxiety emanating out of many people with whom I come in contact. Their behaviors tell all. How they treat others and themselves gives me insight into their unease.

The global pace of the 21st century is terrifying to many. Especially for people of my mother’s age. Eighty and over in 2023 is probably like being an adult when the industrial age began over 200 years ago. The small town and farming way of life forever altered.

Furthermore, the technological whirlwind of the last twenty years has set many older adults back into a stone age like existence if they did not get on board. This kind of transitioning requires rewiring our brains and re-evaluating our reality.

My Mother and the Content of Her Life

My mother was born at the end of the great depression. The content of her inner being and embedded in her DNA was fear of survival. Those fears do no dissipate, only burrow deeper into one’s soul.

Before she died late last year at the age of 83, she lived in quiet fear of many things. Each phone call was about whether we were okay with all that is going in the country from weather related events to mass shootings near us.

She would say at the end of each short conversation, “I think of you all everyday.” Loosely translated means, “I worry needlessly because that is the purpose and content of my life at this stage.” And unless I would emphatically expand upon the conversation, she would rarely talk about herself much less delving below the surface.

Aging in our culture means losing the ability to control the immediate environment. Eventually becoming reliant on others for some of the most basic needs. And if relying on others is not your style, this will be a daunting and anxiety producing prospect. Trust becomes a 24 hour issue resulting in a constant fear those needs may not come to be. A perpetual state of angst knowing there is little you can do but ruminate.

As futile as worry is, it becomes a steady companion. Makes feeling or seeing the essence beyond the daily content of our lives impossible.

When my daughter was deep in her addiction, I spent my time steeped in worry. Since her recovery, she is the one who continues teaching me to live in the moment. To experience the essence of her, me, and nature. Being present with what is good and exercising gratitude each passing day is how she recovered from her substance use.

Living in the Essence of Humanity

I espouse the idea that the essence of humanity is acting in ways that benefit the greater good. Behaving and living with a sense of empathy and compassion toward the earth and human race. It can become the core of our being.

It seems that for those few who wish to impart their dominance over the rest of us, these behaviors are non-existent. There has always and will always be greedy, power hungry, maniacs and narcissists that do not give a damn about humanity in general. Somewhere along the line they lost their way. Mommy or daddy issues, bullied as a child, wronged by someone they trusted, there are a multitude of reasons. They fear themselves and what lies beyond a limited vision of their place in the universe.

These individuals do not know what Being is and I doubt silence and/or reflective observation are a part of their routine.

There are many who do not live in fear. We conduct our lives with compassion for others and the earth we inhabit. We feel the essence of our existence most days. I take comfort in that thought. But it is important to not bury our heads in the sand to those who are unable to act in the best interest of others or themselves. “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” Sun Tzu

I work reflectively and actively toward being aware of self, others and nature without folding into the fray of the “video game of life”. Difficult but not impossible. Each day, appreciating the essence of whatever comes beyond the fluctuating forms.

Image: “Reflect in Place“, acrylic on canvas

This piece, as many of my works, went through a variety of transitions. The essence of my work, in general, is that it reflects life. The neverending daily changes that I meet with an open mind because that is my choice. This piece was a reaction to each color, texture, shape I placed on the surface. One action led to another action to another action. Aa chaotic process, maybe. But it is how I allow for the releasing of my inner soulfulness without too much editing along the way. My art has saved my life in more ways than one. The process of creating has become my essence.

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