I usually attempt to express as few political views as possible, though anyone spending even a little time with me knows I don’t do all that well. I take comfort in Mahatma Gandhi saying, “Those who believe religion and politics aren’t connected don’t understand either.” And then again when he said, “For me, humanitarian service, or rather service of all that lives, is religion. And I draw no distinction between such religion and politics.”
New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote an article based on the Social Progress Index from the Harvard Business School. According to the Index, which measures well-being/quality of life (nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more), the U.S. is only one of three countries (Brazil and Hungary are the other two) that are currently worse off than when the Index was formed in 2011. According to the chair of the advisory panel of the Index we are “going backward.” “We are like a developing nation.”
“The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.”
All this before the pandemic.
“The Social Progress Index finds that Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.”
“Michael Green, the C.E.O. of the group that puts out the Social Progress Index, notes that the coronavirus will affect health, longevity and education, with the impact particularly large in both the United States and Brazil. The equity and inclusiveness measured by the index seem to help protect societies from the virus, he said.”
“Societies that are inclusive, tolerant and better educated are better able to manage the pandemic,” Green said.
This is where the religion/spirituality comes in. Believing oneself to be separate is the cause of the greed, hate, and delusion the Buddha warned against. Or as Jesus put it, “As you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.”
Why is going beyond self-hate essential? Because that’s the only way we can end the reign of terror that is egocentric karmic conditioning. Wanting more and more, failure to appreciate what we have, seeing life as a zero sum game, not noticing that the “something wrong/not enough” conversation in the head never brings us anything we want, indulging petty I/me/my/mine concerns, feeding the anxiety of imagined loss, lack, and deprivation, believing urgency, busyness, and doing more will provide safety and security—all doing nothing but guaranteeing the suffering that keeps ego at the “controls” of an unhappy, unfulfilled life.
Societies that are inclusive and tolerant are better able to manage the pandemic and every other issue in life.
Which brings us to the “really, really spiritual” piece of the program.
Being is “what” we are. It’s not just that Being is the source of all the “good” stuff. Being IS All. Being is Life. Being is what people call God. Without Being nothing is and we aren’t.
This is the bottom-line original of the expression “hidden in plain sight.” We are alive. We exist. We all know people who aren’t alive. They were and now they’re not. We don’t think of them as no longer “doing.” We think of them as no longer being.
When someone dies we’re conditioned to believe what we miss, what we grieve, is the absence of their physicality. But that’s not what we miss. We miss them. We miss their essence, their “who they are-ness.”
When you consider dying is it really your body—with all its obvious flaws and difficulties—that you would wish you still had or is it “aliveness,” your conscious awareness, your existence, your being-ness?
Well, if that’s the case, why don’t we know it? Why isn’t it more obvious? Truth is, we do and it is.
What we’re clearly, deeply trained to focus attention on are the roots of our dissatisfaction. What’s wrong? Why am I unhappy? Where did this unhappiness come from? Is it what I am deep down? Is there something wrong with me? Is it from an old trauma, something my parents did or didn’t do? I need to figure out why this is happening.
Which is so obviously NOT true, as soon as we consider it.
I don’t want to be unhappy. I want to be happy. Giving all my attention to unhappiness, to what’s wrong, doesn’t make me happy. Even if I managed to figure out “why” I’m unhappy, that wouldn’t make me happy. Even if I had an answer to that why question, the answer wouldn’t give me the happiness I want.
Which brings me to the “answer” I do want. If I want to be happy I need to “figure out” happy. What is happiness? Where does it come from? Why is it sometimes available to me and other times not? How can I get more of it?
Now, doesn’t that make sense? If I don’t have money wouldn’t it behoove me to focus on how to have money rather than focusing on not having it? Ah, but that focus on not having is precisely what we’re trained to do, isn’t it?
That’s what we’re trained to do. We’re programmed to focus on what’s missing, what we don’t have, what’s wrong. In other words, we’ve been programmed to give all our attention to the roots of our dissatisfaction. And, yep, that dissatisfaction grows.
We have a big hint in the Being IS All mentioned earlier. We can’t “do” happy and we can’t “get” happy, but we can be happy.
And, here’s how it all goes together: The only way to be happy is to be here, alive, present, at-one-with. We cannot simultaneously be separate and be happy. Egos are not, will not, and cannot be happy. That is simply a fact of Life.
Happiness is our True Nature. Being and happiness are one, the same. When we are Present, alive in Life, we are kind, generous, caring, loving, grateful…. We could say that we are inclusive and tolerant, but it’s so much more than that. Why? Because in a nonseparate reality—which this is—what happens to you happens to me. As is done to the least of my brothers and sisters (not to mention the animals, the plants, the environment, the planet itself) is done to me, is done to you.
Does this mean I need to suffer because you’re suffering or wait to be happy until you’re happy? No. It means I need to get HERE so I can be the happy, kind, generous, caring, loving, grateful expression of Life that cares about people, creatures, the environment, the planet.
That engagement is political and its source is spiritual.
P.S. For those of you who enjoyed the puzzle koan, here’s another:
What are we HERE? Being being being being aware of being being being aware of being being being.