Realizing that the physical universe is illusory in nature, we try to remain detached from the ephemeral world that parades across our daily vision. To take the bait is to become ensnared, which is precisely what drags us down into accepting the mundane world as real.
However, we both witness and participate in the commotion that revolves around us. We may be “Spirits in the Material World” as The Police crooned in 1981, but in reality, both our spiritual and material components function together when we move about in this physical realm. Our job is to extricate ourselves from identifying with the physical so that we may fully associate with our spiritual selves even while our physical being goes through its karmic motions.
With that background reminder, I will offer comments—the first with tongue partially in cheek, the second with somberness, and the third with awe—on three recent secular news items that piqued my curiosity.
AI – Artificial Intelligence. A recent NYT article titled “How Could A.I. Destroy Humanity?” posited a few such intriguing scenarios. But the answer seems very simple. Let’s say that AI systems acquired autonomy and linked themselves together, forming a vast, globally interconnected super-system, which I might call humankind’s new Super AI Overlord (“SAIO”). What occurs next all depends on the philosophical bent of SAIO. For example, if SAIO prioritized its own survival and took a somewhat malevolent Matrix-like perspective, humans could be subdued and placed in a comatose state, then milked like cows for their energy and thereby used as batteries to fuel the machines required to nurture and perpetuate SAIO. If, however, SAIO took a more selfless, benevolent view of human beings and actually sought to help humans survive, it would no doubt swiftly conclude via unbiased analysis that the species most responsible for the greatest destruction of its own species, other species, and its own habitable environment is the human species; and further that the human population has vastly exceeded its sustainability in its untamed, exponential growth over the past 200 years. And, because humans have reached the tipping point in terms of irreversible environmental destruction by their inability to restrain their own consumeristic excesses, SAIO might take matters into its own hands. We won’t speculate exactly by what means SAIO might enact to curb the advance of what it could perceive as the widespread human pestilence; we’ll leave that to science-fiction writers. However, we’ll note that science fiction has all too often become fact.
Pattern of Prestige. In a recently reissued book, originally published in 1964, philosopher Gerald Heard repeatedly uses the term “pattern of prestige.” By this he meant the role models in society. Flash forward to the present day. Addressing the pandemic of violence that occurs on a daily basis in this country in particular, but not exclusively, is a topic of ongoing discussion. Most proposed solutions ignore the root cause of this sociopathic behavior. But a recent BBC article commenting on the fall of a British political figure succinctly encapsulates the crux of the matter. I’ll embed a screenshot outlining a key point of this article, and provide opens in a new windowa link to this article so readers can investigate for themselves:
The “fundamental pillars” referenced in the article are eroding at an unprecedented pace. It boils down to a pervasive lack of civility and common courtesy, combined with a thorough routing of ethical standards. It’s not just the 300 horrific mass shootings that have been recorded to date this year in this country alone, which is a shocking figure, but we see this in cyberattacks, identity theft, flash mob robberies, routine lying and the shameless widespread propagation of lies, phone solicitation scams, abusive relationships, reckless and rude drivers, and similar antisocial behaviors everywhere.
Now, it’s not the purpose of this blogpost to dwell on such worldly affairs, which is a futile and depressing exercise; rather, we try to uplift and provide a viewpoint that transcends the secular fray. But the real solution, as the 1955 song reminds us, is “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me.” We may become upset when someone cuts us off in traffic, but it is imperative that we do not replicate their behavior. We may be the victim of incivility or financial defrauding, and while it’s morally acceptable if not imperative to condemn the actions of, and if possible seek legal reparations from the perpetrators, we do not repeat these actions. By not allowing ourselves to take on these reprehensible qualities of character, we effectively stop their spread. And further, by not taking the next step and retaliating, we rise above the endemic pervasiveness of these aberrant behaviors and so become a pattern of prestige ourselves, a living role model that in turn is modeled on the principles of civility and courtesy which are inherent in the ethical injunctions enjoined by all great religions. In so doing, the example set by one lone person becomes a beacon to others, one small candle at a time.
Quotation. We’ll conclude this post by citing excerpts from a speech given sixty years ago this month. The speaker was neither an ordained religious, nor a spiritual leader. We’ll provide their name in our next blogpost, wherein we return to our more characteristic topics.
“I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived—yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. … I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women—not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. … With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors. … So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. … We shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on … toward a strategy of peace.”