Monday, November 5, 2018

A Cornucopia: Abundance & Forgetfulness

Abundance, Boboli Gardens, Florence
     I have realized that to be truly generous you must feel that you have abundance - and that does not mean financial wealth. No, this is an  inner sense of abundance; of sufficiency. It’s the feeling that who you are and what you have is Good. I  feel a certain sadness when I encounter wealthy people whose inner world is poverty-stricken.  

     We are 'strivers' and explorers, continually searching the world of self-care to make ourselves feel better. We say it is to find balance, or reduce stress, or improve memory, but underneath it all, for so many, is the insufficiency.
    But the whole strategy of American business is to ensure that no one ever feels they have enough. The hidden manifesto of advertising? Create Constant New Needs and make them Irresistible! 
Acquiring, repairing and maintaining ourselves and our things becomes  a pre-occupation, a cluttering, so there is no inner availability, no spaciousness, no capacity for generosity. And what is generosity? Writing a check or being willing to share what you have - compassion, time, skills?         

     And what of those who have the same cravings, the same desires and needs, but not the means to satisfy them? And what if they feel their government is helping everyone but them, and not addressing their worst fears? What if they feel they are becoming outnumbered?

     Needy folks who are completely dissatisfied ultimately want a Strong Man to Make it Better. They no longer believe their government works for them, and they may be willing to lose some of the openness and freedoms the society has afforded, like an uncensored free press. 
This dissatisfaction is a strong component in the rise of fascism - which is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany, as we all know. 

     But Americans tend to have no sense of any history but their own, and we have a genius, as  post-industrial humans, for not learning from the past. Memory, collectively and individually, and the desire and ability to probe and understand history and our own past, is such an important factor in democracies. Germany’s children must study the horrors of the holocaust so it won’t be repeated, and individually there is an inner freedom and relief when we face and acknowledge our demons. We hear this over and over, and we know it on some level, even if it is forgotten during our 24 hour news cycles.                                                                                        
Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali   1954
     Each generation, each election cycle, we try, unsuccessfully, to re-invent ourselves, without any agreement on what a new America would look like. It’s a dialectic without conclusion - thesis, antithesis, and no true synthesis - which would be a sustainable, mutually shared vision.  And for this improbable vision to be successful, we would have to ensure that what we have inflicted on our own people, and on other nations, must never be repeated. 
The violent displacement of Native Americans

It is so easy to lose sight of what is most dear to us, what truly
matters and move us. But the memory and continual awareness of what is most meaningful is what sustains us.

“Forgetfulness leads to exile, while remembrance is the secret of redemption.”     
                                      Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov






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