Society and ourselves
Monday, October 1, 2018
3:55 a.m. I wish the weather would settle down, so maybe my lungs would too. overnight, I guess my dreams were haunted by the Netflix film I saw last night, “The Resistance Banker.” [A film based on the true story of Dutch bankers financing the resistance to the German occupation of their country from 1940 to early 1945.] True heroes, in an impossible situation. I doubt I could do anything of equivalent courage, so I hope I am not tested. I’ll have to settle for getting out of this life not totally dishonorable. It would be easy to be over-matched, no matter how stubborn I think myself.
So now it is 4 a.m. and I have taken a day off, so I suppose I may be allowed my morning’s entertainment, or work, or whatever. I think we’ve been through the questions queued up – at least, I don’t see anything printed up as I look through my papers on my desktop. So, you gentlemen have anything in particular on your minds, this morning?
Au contraire – or perhaps we should say, in addition – you have things on your mind, and it is appropriate to address them, as appropriate as to deal with anyone else’s.
Okay, let’s do that. I take it we are getting the benefit of your semi-outside view of my mind to pose the questions as well as respond to them.
Well, let’s take “The Resistance Banker” for one, and your conversation with ___.
I am always reluctant to discuss in public things that involve another person. As I have said many times, I am pretty indiscreet about much of my own life, but pretty discreet when it involves others, and it needn’t be something very personal for me to leave the curtain down for them where I would draw it, for me alone.
A reasonable standard, and one that everyone would apply differently. It may easily be drawn too tightly.
Let’s put it this way: If you hadn’t mentioned his name, I would have no problem addressing the subject.
The easy answer to that is to suppress his name, which you can do – so where is the problem?
None, I guess. All right, then –.
You, and he, and others, wonder if there is any way out for your society. You see it shredding, politically and socially, certainly in terms of legality and public morality, and you wonder if the lost ground can be regained.
No, he wonders; I very much fear that it cannot. I can’t imagine any sequence of events that returns us to where we were legally, so –. Hmm. I begin to see the problem. But, let me continue setting out what I was going to say. I started to say, how can we go back to what we were before the coup d’état of November 22, 1963 – the successful public murder, followed by cover-up after cover-up, and the successive degradation of our public life until elections are an obvious sham, etc., etc. But just as I’m writing that up, I realize what I have realized in a different context: After any cataclysm such as war, people want to, often try to, often expect to be able to, return to the way things were before. But since it is “the way things were before” that ushered in the cataclysm, if one were able to return to those conditions, it would be the worst catastrophe of all, rendering the subsequent suffering meaningless. The Civil War wasn’t necessarily justified by ending Negro slavery. That might theoretically have been done in other ways. But at least there was the one fundamental and astounding change, to set against that massive effusion of blood. And the same kind of balance might be drawn after all the tortures that distorted the 20th century: “At least, x resulted.”
So you are that much farther along even before we say a word.
Oh, like the temporary joint mind had nothing to do with my drawing the connection!
We have often agreed with you that there is no ownership of ideas.
Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, would it?
Regardless, it is a true insight, and let’s build on it. Consequences always render it impossible to return to the status quo ante. Whether you would wish to return to the earlier state of things or not, you can’t. every new situation is partly the result of past situations.
Partly? I would have thought, entirely.
You’d be surprised.
Surprise us, then.
You know that we regard every new civilization as a unique workshop. Its conditions provide a unique environment within which people – souls – conduct their lives. The same personal problem (“problem” in the algebraic, or puzzle, sense of the word), addressed in a different social environment, has different potentials for manifestation.
I think you just said, if I’m working on a problem of insecurity, or some form of woundedness, or, say, some form of living in entitlement, or living as an expression of over-spilling generosity – whatever – it will play out differently in a medieval setting or a Victorian setting or today, and of course differently in different classes or geographies or races or gender, etc., etc.
That’s correct. So in effect you – we – are always working out of two sets of consequences, not always obviously. In fact, rarely obviously. If one looks at social consequences, one may overlook (or, more likely, be entirely unaware of) personal consequences of prior soul-development. And, though perhaps more rarely, vice versa: One may be concentrating on polishing the soul, and in one’s awareness of one’s long journey be less aware of the shaping force of the society in which one lives one’s life.
And if we are concentrating on one line of development, the other may seem inconsequential – or, say, arbitrary?
Well, maybe. But we meant, more, –. No, we need to remind you, what seems external to you is, and is not, external in the sense of it existing beyond you and without reference to you.
It is external to you, in that you are not the entire world, nor does the universe revolve around you. It is not external to you, in that your own experience of “external” life can only relate to who and what you are. By definition. Both halves are true, and which one seems true is a matter of emphasis and circumstance.
Therefore, your surroundings always bring out things in you that might not have been brought out in different surroundings or might have expressed differently. You do not live unaffected by your surroundings. But neither may they be said to be arbitrary in the sense that people mean when they believe in chance.
Very efficient of the universe. It puts on a play of such variety and richness that everybody may extract the elements they need without disrupting the ongoing improv.
Minus the sarcasm (as you like to say), yes.
I wasn’t exactly being sarcastic; sardonic, maybe.
At any rate, you find yourselves living in a society whose ugliness is so arrant as to be inescapable. Is that a better thing, a worse thing, than a society of equal ugliness whose nature is not apparent?
If that is more than a rhetorical question, I guess I’d have to say, it depends on whether it leads us to greater effective awareness, followed by reform.
In that, your reaction is too reflexive, too shallow. Breathe, and reply again.
Yes, I see. Tacking on the word “reform” assumes that the reason for increased awareness is social rather than individual. It may be, it may not.
A new state of society always provides new opportunities and closes off others. Just as yours is not the life that would have been possible in pre-Civil War America (North, West, or South), so your life today and tomorrow cannot be the life you would have led in 1960. Society moves on, conditions move on, and you never live in yesterday’s weather. (Nor tomorrow’s.)
Okay, I see where this is going. If I trust my life, that extends to trusting the universe my life is lived in.
Is there any realistic choice?
None that I can see. And I do trust my life, even amid my trepidations about specific aspects of it.
So there you are. You and ____ needn’t worry – though there is no reason not to ponder – about where society goes from here. It is always the best of times and the worst of times. No one will find themselves unable to live their life fully. The Dutch bankers in the film did not consciously intend to have to live through five years of German occupation, but, they did, and those years revealed to them who and what they were. Only, this statement may be easily misunderstood. We mean, the circumstances of their lives presented certain opportunities. Different circumstances would have provided different opportunities.
You’re always on Plan B, as you have said.
And therefore, so are you, and nobody the worse for it.
Okay, well, it has been an hour, and my handwriting is deteriorating from its already low standard; two signs that we’re done for the day.
Then we say to you as you often say to us and to others: Be well.
Thanks. Till next time.