Making sense of a crazy world
Do you ever wake up in the morning and think you’ve arrived in a world gone completely mad? A place where the ridiculous is very real, and the idiotic is the norm? What is a “sane” person to make of some of the developments taking place in our modern world?
China recently held the first “Miss Plastic Surgery” competition. This was strictly for women who have had their faces and bodies surgically enhanced; “natural” women are not allowed to participate. “The pursuit of beauty is eternal” said one of the participants. Newly prosperous China apparently spends US$ 2.5 billion (nearly Shs 200 billion) annually on cosmetic surgery.
A mobile telephone for dogs will soon be available. Yes, you need to read that sentence again. The phone (shaped, naturally, like a bone) is attached to the dog’s collar and can be activated by the dog’s owner when calling. Worried owners can now phone Rex from work and coo sweet nothings at him and, hopefully, receive a reassuring yelp in return. The market for pet telephony is believed by analysts to be a multi-billion-dollar one.
American Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly told a Harvard audience recently: “Sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged”
In Kenya we specialise in our own forms of madness these days, usually enacted by enraged members of the male sex. We read recently, for example, of the man who killed his stepson because he failed to call him “Daddy”. Or of the man who burned his daughter for poor performance in her K.C.P.E examinations.
What’s going on here, people? We humans, alone amongst living creatures, have been granted a higher consciousness. We are able to live on a higher plane, tell right from wrong, understand concepts like truth, discern the real from the unreal, feel compassion for those around us. Or are we?
What is it we are doing with this higher consciousness? Focusing it on the trite, the sensual and the trivial? Is this where centuries of evolution have brought us – to a place where we cannot feel anything beyond anger and sexuality, see anything beyond personal gain, and contemplate anything beyond consumptive madness?
Those who think about these things tell us that there are three basic levels of existence: the level of the body; the level of the emotions; and the level of the intellect. The first level is where we spend most of our time in this modern world. We worry incessantly about our looks and our sexual “vibe”, and dwell continually on the taste of foods. We refuse to be bound by nature and therefore are willing to spend fortunes on clothes, shoes, cosmetics and, lately, surgery to enhance our looks. As we age, each day brings a new beauty crisis – a grey hair, a wrinkle, a droop – and so we worry more and spend more. A few clever people have worked out the power of this vanity and have spun multi-billion-dollar empires out of it: in designer clothing, in cosmetics, in handbags and cars, in phones and furnishings. They have turned the preparation of food into an art-form that keeps us craving new tastes. The many dumb people keep reading the magazines and keep buying the products, even as their bodies inexorably crumble back into the dust from which they emerged.
The second level is that of emotions. This is where we exist for our feelings: affection, anger, jealousy, and all the rest. All these emotions are wrapped up in the ego – the voice that convinces us of our “individuality”, of our need for “self-fulfilment”. The voice that, if we allow it to, becomes a roar and starts shouting: “Me, me, me” and “mine, mine, mine”. When it is out of control, it will even cause us to harm our own children, so great is the self-centredness.
What of the third level, you ask? The intellect – surely that is where salvation lies? Mind over matter, and all that? The mind is where pure, refined thoughts exist and evolve? Try this little test: try to close your eyes and become aware of your thoughts. As thoughts arrive, many at a time, try not to get carried away by any one of them, but just observe and record them. You will soon lose your position as the observer on high ground and become lost in the content of the thoughts. When you become aware of this, haul yourself back and continue observing. A few minutes of this should convince you of one thing: that the overwhelming majority of your thoughts are just plain junk. This is the kind of rubbish most of us think most of the time: what that person meant by that remark; how good that sausage tasted; is there enough money in the bank account; is anyone watching me doing this; what do people think of me; are others leaving me behind in the career race; do men notice my breasts enough; do women feel my charisma…and it goes on, interminably.
This is the mind in which we place so much hope? Clearly it is just an instrument, and if our values are banal, the use we put the instrument to will be equally basic. It is only when we learn to focus the mind that we can put it to good use; otherwise it is just a rubbish-tip, a repository for all the pollution in our consciousness. And even supposedly refined minds can do us no good: when learned judges recommend orgies, and learned doctors mint money out of their patients’ silly vanities, we can see that powerful minds alone will not take us anywhere.
The truly wise who have passed through this earth have always told us one thing, clearly and consistently: that there is a Higher Self operating above the level of the body, the emotions and the intellect. This Higher Self is present in all of us, indeed is our very essence. Our task in life is to uncover it and to live in it. It is in the Higher Self that our true values reside; that our capacity for love is found; where our ability to connect with the unity of life lies.
Can we doubt the existence of the Higher Self? We catch fleeting glimpses of it every day. The Higher Self is revealed in the joy we feel when we do something unexpectedly kind for someone else. It is manifested when we gather in our multitudes and witness a moving piece of music or art. It is demonstrated when, as St. Francis of Assisi (one of the truly wise) observed, we learn to forgive and realise that this is “the greatest joy of existence”.
Our salvation lies in moving to where the Higher Self resides – simultaneously inside us and above us. It is our link to divinity, to the source of life. All of us have the power to do little things every single day – acts of kindness, of tolerance, of forgiveness, of acceptance – that will take us a little closer. The alternative is to keep living in the mad, mad, mad, mad world we have built around us.