The Way to enlightenment of course – if such exists in a spiritual manner. We can all aspire to be wise, or wiser, or just to do less daft things, depending on where we are starting from – even Donald Trump seemed reflective after his long discussion with President Obama. But is that just an aspiration to be a wiser, better human being, like being a better runner or achieving one of other twenty-odd New Year’s Resolutions i used to make, or is it something more? Do those aspirations reflect a persistant call from our spiritual self to find ourselves, to develop our spirituality or are they just a reflection of poor self-esteem – an ingrained feeling that we should be better, should do better – something our family instilled in us and our education and society reinforced.
Do we have a spiritual self?
In the world we live in today – much better and all as it is from yesterdays world – truth, if it ever did exist – appears to have become an irrelevent sideshow. Already senior Republicans are referring to much of Donald Trumps rabble rousing declarations as being merely ‘good electioneering’. In our part of the world where we are fortunate enough to elect our political leaders, we usually choose them on either ‘tradition’ – such as a family history of voting for a particular party, or on their promises – their election manifesto. The problem with the former is that politics stagnates, no change is possible except within the political party and if that doesn’t change, doesn’t modernise, then the country, or state, which it governs is in for a troubled time. The problem with the latter is that the best way to make your Manifesto most attractive is to tell a whole heap of lies – if the public are guillable enough to believe them and vote for you – then mission accomplished.
Or desperate enough – desperate enough to believe that a billionaire will save the millions of struggling middle-class and working-class Americans, or that he will even try, or that he ever even intended trying.
The American dream, the pursuit of happiness, has brought more misery and unhappiness to people than any nightmare could – worse still of course – to be an American and not achieve the dream is to be a failure, in your family’s eyes, in society’s eyes and, perhaps worst of all, in your own eyes.
Eastern philosophy tells us that happiness can’t be obtained, can’t be pursued and caught, like the 49 bus, can’t be found outside ourselves. Happiness is within us and that is where Eastern philosophy tells us to look for it – but trying telling that to the pursuers of the American dream, to the 59 million plus who voted for Donald Trump – they want happiness and they want it delivered to their homes by FedEx, by next Friday at the latest.
Of course, America has sold the idea of the American dream to most of the world, the footsoldiers of the American Dream, SuperMac’s, CocaCola, two cars and a detached home in the suburbs, and perfect teeth, don’t forget the perfect teeth. We are persuaded that happiness can be bought and if we don’t have it today then its probably because we can’t afford it yet.
Perhaps the first step in enlightenment is that happiness can only be found within us, that it can’t be bought, borrowed or stolen, that it depends solely on ourselves, that other people can’t ‘make’ us happy or unhappy.
Perhaps some day an American President will tear up the declaration and rewrite it in a way that will help millions of people realise their happiness.
This much i do know, spirituality and truth are entwined – if truth doesn’t exist, isn’t important, isn’t essential, then its likely that spirituality doesn’t exist either. Truth has taken a battering in the USA recently – perhaps events over the next few months and years will help clarify whether it exists or whether it is a figment of someones imagination, like spirituality and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps ‘truth’ is just a nice idea. Certainly it is a concept which had also been battered in Ireland since our Independance – politicians and public servents have always been more skilled in the ‘pragmatic’ rather than in ‘truth’.
And so our journey, our path along the Way, if such a Way exists, is more marked by U-turns and cul de sacs, then by progress.
As has my own – quiet times over the last number of years resulted in much solitude and thought, many attempts at meditation, many daliances with philosophical and religious ideas – but progress, i’m not so sure. Busy times have returned, i’m working in close proximity with a number of people, something i hadn’t done for years. I had forgotten the silly, petty behaviour many people indulge in and have had to learn, or relearn, a lot of social behaviour quickly. Sometimes i feel that i am wasting precious days of my life, othertimes i realise that this is a great learning experience, that i am making more progress on my Way coping with everyday, real life, than i was in my almost solitude.
Perhaps its not a cul de sac.
Let us leave the last word to Samuel Beckett – a famous Irish writer.
‘Fail again, Fail better’
Seek the truth, find happiness – look inside for all you need my friends.