My name is Steve Greene (that’s pretty simple), but I wasn’t born Steve Greene. I was just born as a human being. I am but an insignificant speck of self-replicating matter, living on an insignificant planet of an insignificant solar system, contained within an insignificant galaxy amongst unfathomable numbers of other solar systems and galaxies of a seemingly infinite universe (now things are a bit more complex).
I used to see myself as separate, my life as my life, different from others, and capable of wisdom and insight not possessed by those others; in other words, my way, more often than not, was the right way, while all those around me were doing it all the wrong way, or at least not in a fashion I thought was prudent, efficient, or logical. More succinctly, I was arrogant, self righteous, and felt a need to gain control over situations in which I found myself. This seems a human tendency.
In all this unenlightened egomania, it was normal to judge everyone else, from how they governed the land where I lived to how they incorrectly held their pen while writing, ate with their mouth open, or left the toilet lid up. I had the best parents, who provided me the best education, which resulted in me attaining the best awareness so that I could make all the best choices for my life, earn stacks of money, and acquire the necessities of life, such as fast fancy cars, multiple motorcycles, gigantic lavish houses, and all the other latest and greatest gizmos and widgets produced by corporate America that I just couldn’t live without, including my human powered tricycle.
I was proceeding along through life just like I was supposed to do, just like I was taught by parents, friends, teachers, and the governments of supreme knowledge and power. Even though I knew the best ways of doing everything, especially when I was a teenager, I yet followed the dictates of a social order in which I found myself a material part, a culture into which I was born, an event over which I also entirely lacked any control.
All of a sudden, on a Sunday afternoon at 3:08 PM (the second hand was not recorded evidently), about 459 days after the precise midpoint of what was called the twentieth century, there I was taking a breath, a messy eight-pound, thirteen-ounce mass of pulsing living matter, with a brain so useless I don’t even have any remembrance of what I am talking about here. It follows then that this accounting is all hearsay, and would not be admissible in an American court of law because I was told all this by others, so, I suppose there are some things in life, or perhaps most things, that I’ll never know for sure, like, “Who am I?”
My upbringing could be described as well-to-do and morally sound. I was never at want for anything, although as a child of course, I may not have always received the latest toy I desired. We lived in a nice house, ate at fine restaurants regularly, and generally contributed towards the quintessential American ideal of the “Father Knows Best” television show of yore – a mom, dad, sister, and brother, all living in pleasant familial bliss during the McCarthy, hippy, civil rights, and Vietnam era of national unrest and fear. Truth, justice, and the American Way were our guideposts, shining a strong light in an otherwise darkened world.
God was protecting the American way, and the Republican Party made sure that the governmental issues of the day remained true to the founding fathers of this young country. Had I been old enough to vote during the 1964 election year when Barry Goldwater ran for president against incumbent Lyndon Johnson, not long after John Kennedy’s assassination, the controversial Arizona candidate would have automatically received my first endorsement. I came to believe that the Democratic Party espoused ideals of subversion, undermining our national rights and freedoms. I was not interested in their views.
Nikita Khrushchev reportedly kept insisting that Russia would bury us, as he waived his clenched fist high in the air, but patriotism was strong, and besides, we were building atomic bombs faster than they were, and could easily decimate all those bad people over there at a moment’s notice, so we were secure. Just to be extra safe however, some people were building bomb shelters under their homes, and we practiced air raid drills at school. One never knew when communist forces would attack or bomb our home towns.
With help from aggressive guardians of freedom like Joseph McCarthy, a US senator from Wisconsin, we kept fear under control, or at least so it seemed for a while, until it became unmistakable to a substantial percentage of the population that Joseph was moving far beyond simply protecting the country. Driven by a deep seated fear of others different from himself, the senator staunchly pursued and created unsubstantiated accusations against many innocent Americans, claiming their national disloyalty, causing thousands to be suspected of being communist or at least communist sympathizers. Government workers, union crusaders, professional educators, and entertainers were frequently targeted for investigation.
Years later, the Nixon administration used similar ideological foundations to bring political pressures to bear against singer John Lennon, a man who sang popular songs uniting thousands for peace, while pointing out the injustices and atrocities of the unpopular Vietnam war. It was a time when masses of people across America and the world had had enough of political and national abuses, people sick of being accused of being unpatriotic for expressing their views, who rose up in demonstrations and through alternative movements like those of the hippy variety. Mister Nixon went on to commit many crimes against his country, was caught, and left his job in disgrace.
These were the turbulent times of my earlier years, and while I had originally believed all that those in power were dispensing truth for the greater good of Earth’s humanity, I came many years later to understand the true impact of it all, how a collective sense of self when used in unrestrained group activities could readily get out of control. Some aspects of the time I simply ignored, as did many who were feeling conflicts internally, knowing in one’s heart what was right, but selectively seeing in order to remain on a personally beneficial course.
It was not the people of Russia for instance who wanted to bury the people of America; it was the government of Russia that wanted to destroy the government of America, just like it was not the people of Japan who wanted to bomb the people of America in 1941, nor was it the people of America who wanted to kill more than a million people of Vietnam during the 1960s. People of Earth are all one, with common needs and desires, and for evidence of this, we need look no further than watching “foreigners” at family gatherings or on vacation in our own countries. We all love, all have fears, hopes and wishes for ourselves, families, and friends. We only learn to fear and distrust common citizens of other countries because our governments convince us that they will take away our unique ways of life.
We are all part of life on the planet, and in reality, are citizens of Earth, not of politically motivated nations that perpetuate differences, nor fragmented religious groups that claim tolerance but are in reality wholly intolerant. How then have we managed to continue centuries of hatred, aggression, and murderous wars that indiscriminately exterminate huge segments of human beings?
Governments have historically become exceptionally adept at subtle manipulative techniques to convince their citizens to go to war in order to further the cause of national power and world influence, while simultaneously serving the needs of those in power and expanding the bank accounts of the corporations supporting them. Religion has been overtly and covertly used by governments for centuries to advance their goals. Most citizens do not speak out because their personal comforts are inextricably tied to the political and religious climates of the time, but those citizens who do become active are often the most patriotic and righteous of the lot, sending important messages to the political and religious elite and the populace that the country has lost its way, and is on course to disaster. These people may be those same children of yesteryear who called for world peace and happiness, a universal desire of the silent majority.
Returning to description of my self and life thus far, I would have been labeled politically conservative for about the first 14,000 days or so of my life, give or take a few minutes. I then slowly eased into a realm of what would be considered politically liberal for a while, maybe another 7,000 days, as my mind moved from social dependence into a state of independent thinking. Things really changed however when the winds whispered in my ear that reality of national control was not in the arena of political parties, of conservative versus liberal, but fell squarely in the lap of powerful corporations, where the money behind all the politicians was vaulted. My political loyalties vanished.
The Democrats were controlled by the same hidden forces as the Republicans, and big corporate America was manipulating public opinion to believe political affiliation actually made a real difference. Keeping America focused on political arguments and heated character assassinations was an effective curtain to conceal reality. Money and power, as usual, were to be found at the core of government for those willing to see. Collective egos, the group selves of the corporate elite, struggle to keep their actions invisible to the citizenry, but after the 2008 presidential election, independent thinkers are beginning to understand the depth of this dynamic. Witness the perpetuation of the military industrial complex in America and war, among many other such seemingly unceasing governmental decisions. Not much changes.
Who among us does not ponder the purpose of life? Clearly, this question, which presupposes that there is a purpose, has been around since the dawn of this reportedly advanced thinking brain of ours, but the answer seems to either remain elusive for most of us, or at least not satisfying for our needs of comfort. There are entire books written about discovering life’s purpose, and entire religions have been established to provide the definitive answer, but are we content with the answers? Perhaps it hinges on one’s definition of life, for if we talk about life in general, the answer heads in a different direction than if we talk about life specifically for you or me – from the view of self.
If we think about life in general, the entire diversity from the most simple celled organism all the way to humans and the stars, then it seems the purpose of life, the end goal or function, is to perpetuate itself, a task at which life has certainly become quite adept at doing. That is indeed a unifying purpose of life. Women seek out men with whom they unite to form new people, populating the Earth rapidly, in fact, overpopulating the planet with regards to the sustainability of the environmental front. There is rarely any thought about whether this home of ours needs more people, therefore we breed and perpetuate in a heedless manner, to the tune of 490,000 new people daily, which is six new human beings every second nonstop. The drive to love and nurture the new little people, as well as admire their miniature cuteness, is perpetual. Humans act on a blind instinct that is somehow part of life itself, just like all the other bioforms on this planet do. Few of us put logic before sexual desire. We just set about populating.
Humans are simply part of a much larger picture, one that is not at all centered around them, despite what they wish to be reality. It is only in the last tenth of one percent of time of the human species that we have come to realize humans are not the center of life, and most certainly not the purpose of life, despite what theology asserts to the contrary. The time just spoken of means that if we take the time of existence for the human species, and divide it into 1,000 equal pieces, 999 of those will be totally anthropocentric in nature, in other words, delusional from a purpose viewpoint, and only 1 of those will be based in the reality of the cosmos in which we live. Life does not exist for us.
Of course, there is an issue with the word purpose. It infers a power that set it in place. This drive to perpetuate the species at any cost, even if it means the ultimate destruction of our life sustaining biosphere and atmosphere, which it certainly does with the passage of time, was not set in place by humans. It just was, from a time prior to our ability to contemplate it. There is little chance of our finite brains unraveling the mystery of life’s origins, but what we do know is that life is as it is, whether we agree or not. It would indeed be an exercise in suffering to resist what already is, so just have fun and breed to your heart’s delight, because this overpopulation thing wasn’t your fault.
Regarding my statement that the human brain will probably not be able to discover the mystery of life’s origins, one might think that science has already answered that one with the Big Bang theory and the resultant creation of carbon, oxygen, and other elements in the stars. I would agree that the creation of life from the elements freely floating around in the cosmos is indeed factually sound, backed by strong evidence and duplicated in laboratories by humans. There are yet two issues not so conclusive. The Big Bang theory is a theory, not a conclusion without alternatives. Even though I am a naturalist, this BBT still sounds as though it is missing something, like perhaps, the answer to where the matter came from that initiated the Big Bang. No matter if we believe in the supernatural or natural, there is, and always will be, this question of where the original instigator originated. There is no way around it. We have finite minds that cannot wrap themselves around the notion of infinite. Regardless of how far back we trace an answer to life, even if we consider that our universe was propagated by another universe, there remains this question of what came prior, just as it remains in the world of mystical spirits, demons, and Gods.
I could liken the Big Bang answer to one more personal and easily understandable. If I ask you how you came to be, where the life in you got started, you might answer, easily enough, that your parents joined sexually, and through scientific reality we now well understand, produced you. Let us equate the seemingly spontaneous appearance of you to the start of the universe in the BBT. All of a sudden, and from nearly nothing, you came into being, as did our universe according to the BBT (I actually prefer the BLT, on toast). You have to expect a little humor from a guy who is chained to a laptop computer 10 hours every day, right? So, out you pop nine months later, as a little creature with a long tube running through you, the ends of which you have no control over, hence, diaper sullying and spontaneous regurgitation of food formerly found in your digestive tract, much to the dismay of ma and pa. Anyway, following the logic of first-cause, where did your parents come from? Oh, I know that too – from their parents. You get the picture. No matter how far back we go, there always remains the prerequisite event that initiated the following events.
However this all began, the universal and unifying purpose is self perpetuation, self meaning species, thus is it any wonder that it proves difficult to shed the excess negative baggage of our individual selves to realize a more positive and productive life?
I have to conclude that since we have brains capable of asking the questions, there must be a purpose of becoming aware of the power of life. Whatever the power of life is, we are integrated firmly within it, as integral as any other part, and with our five senses and our brain, we allow that life to experience itself. Think of life as a massive being and as its hand reaches out to touch something, we are like the sensory nerves that allow it to feel. Life comes to know itself through us. We are the life manifested in thinking creatures. Can you feel life?
Or, like the billions of hitch hiking microorganisms and parasites in our own bodies, perhaps the human species is a parasitic bioform that feeds off everything it finds, until it finally destroys the body that contains it. Now that is clearly a bizarre take on things. With the mindless actions of civilizations set on destroying themselves with nuclear devices, war, and atmospheric annihilation, how can we be any thing but parasitic? Sometimes I think the body will be better off with us gone.
I also believe that another purpose, for some people at least, is to discover what they can about the life of which they are part. Why do I think this? Because many of us are driven to do it naturally. These questions of life seem to be part of the thoughts in our heads, as some kind of a universal curiosity of figuring out why we are here. Most of us lose ourselves in the boring daily grind, rarely giving any serious thought to the matter, especially those of us who accept at face value whatever our guiding light is, whether it be science or religion.
There may be one more reason for our existence, and that is to just have fun during our time here, and not get too lost in scholarly musing of the complexities of it all, for no matter if we spend an entire life in deep study, we will not be any closer to the answers. It is like attempting to make headway on a journey to infinity. Indeed, lifetimes have been spent for thousands of years in profound thinking, and no one yet has come up with the answer of how it all began, if there was a beginning, that is. So, let us just enjoy our time, but in ways that do not bring harm to life, which includes others, as we all are part of the same power. We must act in conscious awareness at all times, in ways that are mindfully beyond the totally selfish needs of self.
The self, or ego, is at the bottom of human negativity. The self is necessary for survival, so it may not be advisable to attempt a move totally beyond it, but what is a positive step is mindfully assessing the self on an ongoing basis to regulate its excesses. The tool I use to do this is mindful awareness, a phrase now popular in the realm of those who wish to evolve into a higher state of spiritual enlightenment – I am speaking of spirit in the sense of an inner essence of who I am, not in a supernatural or mystical manner of any sort. Mindful awareness is very simple to explain. It means that one is aware of what the mind is thinking at every moment of wakeful time, and uses that awareness in the service of achieving a better state of existence, both for the thinker and for those with whom the thinker has interaction. It is a like having an impartial committee overseeing one’s thoughts and actions, and providing feedback with no lapses in time. You are the committee.
Some might, humorously or otherwise, refer to this notion as “mind police” who are always right there with you to let you know when you mess up, perhaps akin to the little angel who sits on one shoulder and the little devil who sits on the other in cartoons, both continually whispering in your ear to do this or do that. It may be similar to one’s conscience, which is supposed to tell us all to always do the right thing for the world, but I believe mindful awareness goes far beyond that concept of righteousness. Following the dictates of the conscience is not something that most of us do all the time, a case of conveniently allowing that little red devil his due when it works best to support our own self centered needs. This dynamic is called hypocrisy or bigotry, which, as we have seen, is rampant amongst our species, on all levels in all walks of life. It is only invisible to the ego. Blind self.
Mindful awareness is light years ahead of that construct. As a person who is mindfully aware of my self, I choose to willingly and happily monitor my thoughts and actions because it leads to a deep feeling of inner satisfaction to act in compassionate and altruistic ways during my days in this form. Mindful awareness is a tool used by people who profoundly want to employ it for their betterment, and although few humans seem to utilize it, or even be aware of it for that matter, the ensuing joys of mastering it are indescribable. Mastery does not indicate perfection, for none of us truly reach that level in our thoughts, rather, mastery means that even when I do slide back into the past, do not share peace, or fail to respect life in some way, I am indeed aware of my shortcoming. Every moment of every day, the sentient awareness within me keeps me on track for achieving the goals I call: Respect Life – Share Peace – Live Now.
With rare exception, human beings are found to regularly be expressing their self righteous beliefs. I see this all around me daily, and you see it all around you daily. It is one of those inborn traits of the human mind, as evidenced by its prolific existence. Who among us does not complain about something frequently throughout the day? Complaining, which is essentially a state of inner suffering, is such a normal species-wide occurrence that nearly everyone is blind to it. We just accept it as as an absolute reality to which we give no conscious thought. Everyone has an opinion, and is quite up to the self perceived need to defend that opinion to everyone else. My way, or else.
When a person genuinely becomes mindfully aware, out of a powerful belief that longs for lasting self improvement, that blindness of self convenience evaporates forever. For one on a dedicated path of inner awareness, reaching a place of mindfulness, where the negative aspects of complaining are predictably eradicated, is the goal that will supersede all others. And that means all, not just those that happen to support the ego at the time. This is not easy to accomplish, requiring a constant monitoring until it becomes second nature. The expert at anything was once a beginner. Like learning any new skill, practice is necessary to understand and functionally utilize the concept.
What being mindfully aware allows us to do is become what I term proactive in our daily happenings. We no longer go out into the world around us and let it dictate our emotional state. We are actively and automatically monitoring our ego-driven self, and keeping it in check when it would have normally reacted negatively in an unaware mindset. At first, this is difficult, because the self keeps insisting and shouting that we are right and we must, as a matter of pride, have the last word and assert our dominance over every situation. I will tell you that this transition from reactive to proactive takes a lot of dedicated work on our part. We must quiet the self righteous self, see our place in the bigger picture of life, and proceed through all situations in a humble manner that bestows peace upon all who interact with us.
If we truly want peace, we must first be peaceful, full of peace so that it eventually flows naturally without thinking. With each now moment we can be this peaceful person of mindful awareness if we make each moment count and be the best we can be during it. This is VERY important, because the present moment is all we ever have in our life. We do not have the past, nor do we have the future. Only our thoughts keep us chained to the past or living in dread of the future. Everything happens right now.
Mindful awareness is a key tool for moving beyond self, into a world full of love. We can use this tool to undo much of what we were taught along the journey of our life. In our journey, the culture in which we were raised trained us to see individual differences in all the people we meet. Immediately when we first interact with someone new our thoughts begin to judge the other in an attempt to determine how the person is compared to me. Is he smarter, better looking, stronger, richer, poorer, happier? Can this person be helpful to me, or is he not worthy of my time? We categorize everyone we meet, and then treat them according to our learned methods of dealing with those people.
Essentially, others are viewed as separate from us. How great would it be to look for the similarities instead of the differences? The essence of each of us is the same. We are part of the same life power that led to us being here on this planet, and at some level within our thoughts, we have similar fears, motives, and desires. We use mindful awareness to move into this favorable new paradigm shift of human interaction, and in so doing, realize the age old appeals to categorize and judge according to racial, sexual, religious, nationalistic, and social class stigmas may be vanquished in the name of selfless peace.
Mindful awareness leads to a new inner consciousness, one that understands life on Earth and throughout the universe as a single organism, and allows us to clearly see that an organism at war with itself is destined to fail. Our hidden personal fears of the “other” keep us from exploring the oneness of life. The other person might hurt me. The other person might take what I want or need, leaving me with less for the future. The other person might say something that hurts my feelings, making me think less of myself. Becoming aware of what the mind is thinking each present moment allows us to expose our deeply troublesome prejudices and bigotry, providing the opportunity to offer respect, unity, and peace to all those we meet, instead of suspicion, division, and discordance. It’s just a choice between fear and love, the choice between remaining in a prison and walking into total freedom.
The core of being mindfully aware operates on the principle of thinking about what we are thinking about. This is the awareness, called by some metacognition. As humans, we are nearly always in a state of thinking, even when sleeping in the form of dreams, so we are experts at thinking thoughts. Becoming aware of our thoughts is the step that few of us truly master, or if we do become aware of them, we fail to act compassionately, altruistically, and lovingly. We return to the old ways of suspicion and fear. Mindful awareness is being aware of what we are thinking, and using that awareness to respect life.