First Things First Series
As an artist, I have always been re-inventing myself. As an educator, entrepreneur, and activist, I could say the same, but it is definitely important to expand on this idea.
What are our real priorities as individuals and as part of collective groups?
The more I contemplate this question, the more that I realize the fundamental common sense need to focus on priorities. This really inspired me to begin writing a blog series because there are so many problems that must be addressed.
It must start on a massive scale inspired by the ancient Greek forums of public discussions. They should take place from local to global communities, as well as live online and in person.
So, let’s talk to each other more and start with first things first.
Morality and Compassion: The NEW ‘Positive Thinking’
First Things First Series- 1
© 2013 by Dan Nowman Niswander
For decades now, words like positive and optimism as well as catch phrases like ‘the power of positive thinking’ and ‘realistic optimist’ have been part of the vernacular of movers and shakers, entrepreneurs, new agers and gurus of all kinds. In simpler terms, it is sometimes considered socially unacceptable to have a negative attitude regardless of the circumstances and while I understand the sentiment behind having a ‘positive’ attitude, I think a more in depth discussion is necessary.
Human culture has always included a mixture of behaviors such as empathy, compassion, apathy, complacency, ignorance, and criminality, for instance. It isn’t wise to ignore anything even the negative, but as the old standard song says, I definitely ‘think’ it is always best to ‘accentuate the positive.’
So, why do I ‘think’ that this is important?
Even though I have always tried to focus on good things and stay away from terms such as pessimism, in recent years, I have personally discovered what could be called a genuine ‘realistic optimism’ about life, so-to-speak. This is due in part to my own deeper awakening as well as seeing the evidence of millions of people waking up to the imperfections of human systems yet finding hope in profound individual and global transformations.
Part of the manifestation of individual awakening is the fundamental wake up call that life on this planet is essential to our survival especially as the reality of the meaning of global warming and climate change becomes more apparent to more people. I know that seems obvious, but when I say life on this planet that is exactly what I mean. All living things share this Earth experience just like all human beings share this Earth experience. It really is that simple and it makes sense to match our actions with these basic fundamental thoughts every moment of each and every day.
‘Doing the right thing’ is an expression that we often hear in discussions about morality whether it is from a parent to a child, in an ethics class at school, in a government legislative chamber, courtroom, or business meeting room. Morality is often the focus of such discussion.
Compassion is a word that is often used in the context of helping people in need, or an animal and even in preserving the whole natural environment.
When I think about compassion and morality, the first thing that comes to mind is how one behaves and understands what these words actually mean. It begins with a mindset. Things aren’t always what they appear to be and good intentions aren’t necessarily indicative of understanding what morality and compassion actually are in practice. Even with just a brief common sense analysis, it is quite clear that there is a great deal of human behavior that seems void of these characteristics, contradicts itself, or could even in some cases be described as insanity.
It really does start with ‘how’ we think……
Sometimes even a brief look at history can offer some relevant insights into this subject. During the Industrial Era, essentially the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century, the global economy boomed. There was a mindset of abundance unlike anything humankind had ever experienced before largely due to the amazing new technologies that allowed humankind to be more productive than ever. However, over time as fewer people accumulated more wealth and incomes dropped for the vast majority of people, a sense of entitlement appeared and then the mindset of scarcity developed in the human psyche.
As one example, oil became a resource from our environment that could be extracted and due to the technological advances, the monetary profits gained from this resource created huge demands for products and services from automobiles to plastics. Even though there is much denial (with much misinformation paid for by some corporatists), long term environmental negative effects of pollution which never existed before on our planet are already evident: oil spills, radiation from nuclear accidents, hydraulic fracturing… to just name a few.
This concept of productivity and personal success had become an oxymoron. In one respect we as a society are in the midst of more abundance yet at the same time supposedly there isn’t enough to go around. Leaders from government to private industry really did nothing to avert any severe crisis, and the country and world slipped into what has of course been called The Great Depression of the 1930’s. What may have started as a so-called productive and ‘positive’ model over the course of a half -century turned into a massive greedy machine.
In the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was created as part of the solution with new programs such as Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Public Works. With the New Deal programs as well as tax increases, decreases, and again increases on the wealthiest Americans eventually the corporate sector likewise began creating more jobs and opportunities for more people. Of course many countries were also thrust into a huge world war for the second time in the century including the United States. Throughout history, most if not all wars are inevitably or eventually fought over control and access to resources. War is obviously always an economic and morality issue.
As time passed and the Industrial Era moved into the Digital Era and as we moved from the 20th into the 21st Century, we had seen the massive growth of the global economy, the widening gap of income and wealth and the evisceration of many small local businesses as well as the middle class in the United States and in other countries. Every country is somehow affected by an economic crisis that has been called The Recession of 2008.
It is insane to make domination of power and control over resources and people such a priority especially as it becomes more and more obvious to the masses how unsustainable this behavior actually is.
While it is not possible to identify all of the specifics in one article or even one book and there are many details that can be analyzed just from economics and history alone, one thing seems true to me…. The subject of morality always seems to come up in conflicts between people and compassion looks to be a big part of solutions.
I know that this article seems to be covering a lot of ground in a short piece and may even to many of you seem like common sense, but I find that sometimes common sense seems in short supply. Many in our society are so pre-occupied with their busy lives or distracted by the mediocrities that our consumer driven society constantly bombards us with.
It really does require that we pay attention to the bigger picture. I think that the focus should be on the ‘actual ‘ morality of any issue.
Is the focus of our behavior on genuine acts of compassion?
When that is the case then I think that we can come to true critical thinking based conclusions about what we as individuals must do as well as come together collectively to actually solve and not just talk about solving problems.
Compassion in action should be the focus of every moment of our waking hours. We are here in this human experience on this planet Earth together and this is true regardless of what we believe ideologically, philosophically, religiously, or through any belief system. At the end of the day, we are having a human experience and need to understand that all of our fellow humans are likewise having a human experience. There is a lot more that we have in common than different.
Making the world a better place does start with an open mind.
What is a moral issue? How about starting by seeing ourselves as equally important as everyone else and all life on this planet? How about recognizing that we are all here together and need each other in one way or another regardless of the appearances of social or economic status, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion or no religion, etc.
Practically everyone agrees that the world is facing a lot of deep- seated problems that need to be solved. Some feel that the future is bleak because the planet is an insane place. Some recognize that the world is in chaos, yet have a upbeat sense of optimism. There isn’t a day that goes by that millions of people worldwide aren’t focused on wanting to do something to make our world a better place somehow, BUT millions more need to wake up and get more educated and understand that education also includes that we understand ‘how’ we think.
Morality and compassion are part of a mindset. Thoughts create the basis of what we act upon. It is my understanding that when we make it a priority to focus on true fundamental moral principle, we recognize that we must care for ourselves, each other, and for the environment where we live…and there is no turning back once we realize this. When we do this consciously we are ‘thinking’ positively. As a matter of fact, I think the awareness goes far beyond any concept of positive or negative and even optimistic or pessimistic. It‘s plain and simple common sense!
When compassion becomes our focus, we can see clearly to act appropriately in any situation. When we understand this simple concept and are cognizant of practicing this every day, we have laid the foundation and groundwork to even bigger accomplishments.
THINK AND ACT COMPASSIONATELY!
Niswander performing “Compassion” from the album ‘Revolution of the Heart’