Continuing the list of what we need in terms of awareness to prevail in difficult times:
3 A vision of the future.
When people are asleep, the future is a repetition of the past, because inertia can do little else. Conservation, the party of inertia, represents the impulse in each of us not to wake up –it says “Leave me alone. I like the way I am.” The growth of consciousness never happens until a person overcomes inertia first. All progress occurs first at the level of consciousness and then, as if by magic, a discovery appears in the outer world. A famous example is the discovery of penicillin. In the lab millions of petri dishes had been thrown out because common air-borne Penicillium mold had contaminated the bacteria that a researcher wanted to culture. The mold was a nuisance until Alexander Fleming saw instead that killing bacteria was a positive thing — he was awake to a new possibility. The key was a change of perception.
New discoveries don’t occur because Nature suddenly reveals more of its potential. All of Nature is available all the time. We are the discoverers of hidden dimensions in ourselves, and a tiny flicker of waking up stimulates new revelations. Ultimately, science is a way for mind to speak to itself — it’s an inner exploration that leads to external findings. But at the present moment, with reactionary forces so dominant, there is no viable vision of tomorrow. By definition reactionary forces want to freeze progress, usually by idealizing the past and grossly exaggerating the risk of moving forward.
4. The courage and will to carry out that vision.
The unknown is frightening to contemplate (a fear bolstered by anything that represents losing control over our surroundings — e.g. oil prices, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and a planet made unstable by global warming. But being uncertain is also necessary. Finding a new way means destroying and old way, and nobody can predict what happens when both forces hit each other head on.
It takes courage to discard what we know — the tried and true, the comfortable and reassuring . It takes no courage to enforce “traditional values.” Traditionalism rarely, if ever, advanced the world at large. However, that lesson must be relearned over and over, because fear is ever-present. It must be surmounted every day. Driving fear away doesn’t solve anything; it only sets the stage for what really solves problems: quantum leaps in creativity, new discoveries, liberating insights.
Clearly we are at a point where traditionalism has shown far more negatives than positives. Religious intolerance taints the churches and mosques, homophobia and anti-immigration taint the desire for community. We live at a time when traditional values shouldn’t be allowed to hold consciousness back. After all, it wasn’t long ago that racism was a tradition — the recent Democratic primaries in West Virginia and Kentucky show how enduring that tradition is. Courage is a dynamic quality. It must be seized eery day. Courage is the implementing force of vision, and both begin in consciousness.
5. A viable definition of personal happiness.
In the end, arriving at a new world comes down to what makes us happy. We use oil because driving our own cars and traveling at will makes us happier than being limited to railroads and mass transit. Reformers lament that more people don’t give up their cars and resort to mass transit. When you think about why they don’t, the answer isn’t decades of cheap gas, ingrained American selfishness, or a crass indulgence in personal pleasure over the health of the planet. We don’t change to a new way of life because we are following an old way of happiness. Duty and guilt tell us to save the planet. But another voice speaks louder, and it asks if we would be giving up our happiness. Global warming won’t be solved by lecturing the human race about saving the polar bear.
Here we face the most difficult challenge of all. Our conception of happiness has to move away from materialism. Every wise teacher has declared that external comforts are unreliable and not to be trusted. Christ didn’t say “The Kingdom of God is within a four-bedroom condo.” He said it lies within us. In India, turning inward became a powerful social force because people agreed that the inner path was real and desirable. To back up this conviction, .most ancient people looked around and saw disease, poverty, and violence in all directions. The seductions of money and physical comfort weren’t present. Our situation now teeters on the rink of peril, too. We have reached a crossroads that appears only once or twice a century. Two roads aren’t diverging in a yellow wood, however the divide exists in consciousness. The world’s wisdom traditions inform us which way to go. Only time will tell if waking up was the way we chose. If so, peril will turn into a creative opportunity. The other way surely leads into more inertia, reactionary values, dead habit, and worst of all, deeper and deeper sleep.