Home » Opportunity in Extremity
If human beings have demonstrated anything in their somewhat less-than-glorious history on this planet, it is a reluctance to alter their thinking and behavior as long as they are essentially comfortable. It often requires a state of depression or even desperation brought on by the loss of health, of a loved one or a job before a person will consider abandoning self-determined goals and habitual ways of doing things in favor of something new. The total failure of a personal agenda can, if there is a willingness to acknowledge it and assume responsibility, bring about a breakthrough of understanding, a positive change in life direction. In other words, to borrow an expression from conventional religion, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”
This is why I’ve never been terribly concerned to “comfort the afflicted” in the sense of providing assurance that things are just fine the way they are and former ways can be returned to with impunity. Things are not just fine insofar as the afflicted person is concerned, and continuing in former ways only ensures further downward movement to the grave. It is sad but true that, given the aversion to change, a period of emotional and physical suffering may be necessary before there is an admission that “I can’t go on this way” and that personal plans and purposes must be subordinated to something higher—call it God, the Creative Process or the Universal Whole.
However, this change is frequently interpreted as a religious conversion experience resulting in a “born again” Christian or its equivalent in other religions. While this may be a step away from blatant forms of self-centered and materialistic living, belief in God in this context shortly becomes a convenient way of rationalizing and excusing continuance in the former self-centered and isolated state. The individual may be programmed with the notion that he or she is a “sinner,” that it is, in fact, natural to sin, but that this is OK as long as there is periodic confession and the reception of forgiveness.
Fundamentally in such case there has been no change. Identity remains at the level of the self-serving ambitions and desires that created the crisis in the first place, only now a whole vocabulary and socially acceptable belief system is available to explain and justify the false state and, in effect, conceal what is really happening, even from the person in whom it is happening. It may be said that the God of religion is really no God at all, just a concept invented by human beings to sustain the illusory state of self-centeredness.
There is, in other words, a need to keep moving. If, after the rebirth brought on by a shattering experience, a person gets stuck at the level of religion or in any system of concepts—political, scientific or metaphysical—then further “extreme” experiences may be necessary to jolt the person out of separate, conditioned identity into a realization of unconditional oneness with Universal Being.
Unfortunately, only the ultimate experience of death is able to shatter the veil of separation for most human beings. But this veil can dissolve while a person is still alive, and this is the opportunity God seeks: to unite with human beings and to be represented by them at this level of creation. God’s opportunity then becomes our opportunity, and in the resulting union, the word “God,” which has served to maintain the state of separation, can take on an entirely new meaning.
It would be nice, I suppose, if the maturing process didn’t require any pain as a stimulus (and in rare cases it doesn’t), but given the general state of immaturity on Earth, the rigidities in individual and collective consciousness, this may be the only way life has of getting our attention. It may take experiences of enormous destruction and loss of life to impress upon the body of humanity the need for massive and drastic change.
The threat of nuclear annihilation, regional wars, earthquakes, floods, climate change, diminishing oxygen due to deforestation, holes in the ozone layer, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, Islamic terrorism and the continuing potential for a world debt crisis … all of these are useful signals that something is way out of whack on Earth, that humanity is no longer in step with the process established to operate the planet.
This extreme state on Earth recently prompted scientists in charge of the Doomsday Clock to move it up. Quoting from a news release by CNN: “The world is closer to doomsday. That’s the message from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which moved its iconic Doomsday Clock up two minutes. The clock now stands at three minutes to midnight, the “latest” it’s been since 1984, when the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union was a major issue. “Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth,” said Kenneth Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a news release.
Observing this, there may be some whose minds crack under the strain. Wonderful! They may crack open enough to admit a new way of seeing things, preparing the way for change. Change, not in the world out there, but in oneself. Since the state of the world merely mirrors the internal states of human beings, unless changes are made in individual consciousness, God has no opportunity and nothing is achieved.
Only a few have seen this. For the vast majority, humanity’s worsening extremity means efforts must be redoubled to solve problems, to come up with alternative food and energy sources, pollution control devices, strategic defense systems, drug prevention and rehabilitation programs, currency exchange interventions, mind development and creative visualization techniques, all of this for the purpose of holding together the fundamentally flawed state a little longer.
Finally a few people, often after years of frustrating effort, are conceding that no matter how hard human beings try to bail water out of the sinking ship with their buckets of “new” ideas and techniques, the vessel is doomed. Doomed, unless there emerges a sufficient number for whom man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity, for whom the world crisis becomes my crisis, and who awaken to personal responsibility for a change in consciousness.
The fundamental crisis on Earth is an identity crisis, and man’s extremity will only become God’s opportunity when human beings finally begin to identify with the Creator rather than the creation. Science is not the answer. Nor is technology, education, legislation or the God of religion. There is no answer to the escalating state of turbulence on Earth but to come out of it and participate in the process of discovering what it means to say, “I am the answer.” Where are those who will prove this out in their day-to-day living?
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