“The desire to control is the one thing we cannot control.” (Dale Wright)
We can’t drop our faith in reason’s capabilities despite the abundant, readily observable failures.
On an individual level, you have certainly had the experience of plans falling through. Everyone has experienced things not working out the way they were supposed to, either in the span of a day or a lifetime. You might have spent time thinking of what you will say to someone when you see them, only to find that when you actually see them, the meeting doesn’t happen anything like you imagined. Or you might have thrown your hands upin despair when your vacation was suddenly uprooted by what we call ‘unforseen events’ (another name for life).
On the collective level, the limitations of reason are becoming ever more apparent. Our economic system is based around supposedly rational principles, yet we cannot find a way to collectively solve the challenges that this system brings about that are undermining the favorable conditions that support life on this planet.
Looking at our culture from the outside, it may seem that we have lost our capacity for faith. When it comes to supernatural realities, this may be true. But when it comes to human reason, we have the same blind, unquestioned faith that our ancestors had in the deities controlling the seasons.
All faith is actually insane, according to Einstein’s definition, since it expects different results from the same actions. We select the results that fit with our expectations and ignore or marginalize those that don’t.
When our ancestors sacrificed a goat to satisfy the spirits of fertility, and then the harvest didn’t materialize, instead of questioning the underlying assumptions of the system, they often kept repeating the same actions – sometimes with even greater fervor. If one goat didn’t do it, then maybe the spirits wanted two or three.
Similarly, we don’t wish to come face to face with the disasters that the rational mind has created. We explain away the unintended consequences and collateral damage that our actions cause. This world of unprecedented abundance hasn’t eliminated poverty, malnutrition, and starvation. Even though we can summon the collective will and treasury for unlimited warfare and hatred, we cannot even find a way to devote a fraction of that expenditure toward preserving the planet that sustains us all.
Does that sound very reasonable?
Instead of questioning the guiding principles that have led our planet to the breaking point, we seem poised to double down on reason. Like a gambler who can’t bring himself to accept that the house always wins, we keep placing our faith in the very aspect of the mind that’s creating the problems we’re trying to solve.
We think, if we could just tweak the knobs, if we could just study and observe things more, if we could find better people to administer the system, we’d solve the problems.
This approach reinforces what’s generating the problems in the first place: the idea that we can figure things out on our own.
What is the solution?
Well, a good start would to stop thinking in terms of problems and solutions! To stop thinking in black and white categories, creating new programs, and believing that things are getting better.
The truth is that we have effed ourselves over and that we can’t un-eff ourselves through more effort.
This is the point that all religions are calling us to: surrender. You don’t have to think of surrendering as giving yourself over to some force, to some power, to some Big Papa in the sky.
Surrender means dropping the misguided faith you have placed in yourself and your own abilities.
Surrender means going beneath the surface of the mind, into the deeper, intuitive part of you that knows when you’re doing something stupid. That part of you lets you know when there’s a problem. When you learn to listen to it long enough, you also realize that it will show you the solution.
We all have this interior compass that can guide us to flourish. Every time we stray from expressing what we truly could be, we know right away, in the form of doubts, regrets, anxiety.
This is a process that cannot be willed, forced, or even really explained. It is something that each individual must experience for him or herself. It is actually something that everyone probably has experienced already. When we uproot our lives to be with the person we love, when we know we need to leave our work to pursue something more, when we just know what a friend needs to hear – all of these are examples of the deeper wisdom that we cannot access if we remain solely on the level of thinking mind.
When this shift in attitude happens in enough individuals, the collective mind will invariably shift as well. It starts out with little admissions- like seeing that my rational mind did not and could not have created what turned out to be the best things in my life. Seeing this, I become more open to putting my own plans aside and simply opening to where life wants to take me.
It is difficult to arrive at this point of surrender without suffering.
If someone is addicted to gambling, the situation may eventually need to get to the point where house and family are mortgaged before help is sought. Similarly, our species may have to bring the whole house of cards down on this planet before we can bring ourselves to admit that we really have a problem.
I can only hope (irrationally) that by that point, there will be people left to pick up the pieces of our misguided attempt to wrangle and strong-arm nature to conform to our shallow, anthropocentric ends.