We are makers of meaning. Without meaning, life is shallow and hollow. Without it, we become heartless and soulless automata. Eventually, we literally dry up, wilt and die like an uncared for plant. Immediately here, we have the makings of a good metaphor – living a good life is, in a certain sense, gardening for the soul. This is a metaphor suggested by Carl Ransom Rogers in his Person-Centred Therapy (PCT).
In a major sense, too, our opening metaphor here, namely gardening for the soul, suggests a firm connection with nature. And, further, this is one of modern and post-modern humanity’s greatest faults. Not alone do we lack a real connection or relationship with the earth and its goods, but we destroy them with impunity. Even worse, the acquisitive and capitalist cultures we are born into allow us to be virtually indifferent to the earth and its bounty. Sadly, we meet many people who are unaware of the destruction we are doing to the bountiful planet on which we live.
Maybe at this juncture in the history of humankind, when we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis we have ever witnessed, we are ready for a wake-up call. Perhaps, greed and rapacity have shown us their worst results – corruption, bankruptcy, selfishness, and a sheer lack of appreciation for things of the spirit or the soul, for values other than those linked to financial profit at all costs.
But, any of us who are idealists, who believe that something else is needed over and above rapacious capitalism for the redemption of humankind, are often left totally disillusioned. In this side of the developed world – Europe – it would seem to this economically ignorant commentator that the powers that be, namely Germany and France don’t really want to help the rest of Europe in solidarity. Rather, they prefer to self-righteously preach about unfettered over-spending by smaller countries and lack of regulation, and not a word about their own unfettered over-lending. There is not much solidarity in squeezing the last penny from some of the poorest nations who in turn are squeezing their own poorest citizens.
This is no political qua political post, dear reader. It is, perhaps, political qua spiritual, as all spiritual stances have political and financial consequences. Humankind has lost its way as all spiritual values are being lessened and eroded in the name of the mighty euro or indeed the mighty dollar or whatever the ascendant currency might be. What, then, are these values, the decrease of which, I lament here? Let me try to list them in no specific order:
- Connection with the earth. Call her Mother Earth or Gaia – see James Lovelock’s notion of Earth as one great organism. Notice the connection of all simple religions and spiritualities with the Earth as Mother or provider. In this regard reading the spirituality of the American Native Indians is very enriching. (Note to self: I must read more here.)
- Fostering creativity in all its incarnations: drawing, painting, writing, sculpting, composing music, singing, dancing, acting and so on and so forth. What do they tell us about humanity?
- The moral call – the call to fight for justice on our own doorstep as well as further afield.
- Asking questions like: Where does this moral call come from? Why behave in a just way? Where or who is the source of this moral call? Is there a source of Good, i.e., God? The present writer believes this is a very important question to discuss, though he is agnostic about the answer. He certainly has very few answers. But in the tradition of Socrates all questions, especially the hard ones must be put.
- What is friendship? What is love? Or again, in reference to the current financial crisis: What is SOLIDARITY? What is the common goal of humanity? In how far am I my brother’s keeper?
- What lessons have we learnt from the current worldwide DEPRESSION?
- What, essentially, have the traditions of the great world religions to teach us about our values as humans?
If we as humans are the makers of meaning, and the makers of values, then we had best be up and at it, and not leave the way clear for the empty philosophies of bureaucrats and capitalists, who, in the words of the great Irish litterateur Oscar Wilde, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”