A new lifeway of enlightened coexistence is spreading among people of every culture and every generation. We are no longer confined to borders nor defined by the past -- we occupy a shared present in constant flux that is constantly being recreated in a global vision of possibilities. Old discords are passing away as each generation moves closer to a future in which people live in harmonious balance with one another and the environment. Civilization's priorities are changing before our eyes, as the shift of priorities moves from me to we.
One of the most exciting parts of this shift is the search for a collective ethics that will lead us to the most inspired and inspiring actions. Not surprisingly, perhaps, many of us look to earlier ages for examples of a worldview expressing the wisdom of living in harmony with one another, with nature and with spirit.
Below are five examples of the kind of worldview that articulates the shared compassion and wisdom by which we acknowledge and celebrate our interdependence. Please use the Comments section below to add the values and ethics that most inspire your vision of the future.
We enter this world with memories of those principles which should govern personal and social conduct--principles that call us to seek the good and the beautiful, to respect all life, to create the opportunities for all to fulfill their full potential, to live compassionately and joyfully. Yet our memories of these principles grow dim over time as we are exposed to all the suffering in the world--and dimmer still as we seek to establish a secure and stable life while surrounded by so many others competing for a similar goal.
All people deserve the same rights, all cultures are created equal. We benefit from the efforts of our ancestors--our descendants must benefit from our efforts. We benefit from what our environment produces--our environment must benefit from what we produce. We share a common origin with all life, we share a common destiny with all nature. Principles must reflect the underlying harmony of the world, ideals must be put into action. Actively invite the unconscious source of your idealism to make use of you to bring its principles to life--in this way, you recapture the vision with which you came into the world and rededicate yourself to its fulfillment.
Profit brings gain for one at the expense of many, whereas altruism brings gain for many at the expense of one--therefore, the logic of altruism is superior to the logic of profit. Self-interest cannot injure the whole without injuring oneself, whereas self-sacrifice cannot benefit the whole without benefiting oneself--therefore, the logic of self-sacrifice is superior to the logic of self-interest.
For these reasons, personal success is secondary to bringing benefit to others and personal longings are secondary to the legitimate need of others.
Buoying the Heart
The untroubled spirit is untroubled even when things are difficult, while the troubled spirit is troubled even when things are going well.
Brightness is the quality of contentment and joy that the untroubled spirit radiates, while lightness is the quality of ease and buoyancy of the untroubled presence. By diligently cultivating an untroubled peace of mind through mediation, prayer and mindfulness, we shed every last vestige of worry, distrust, and discontent.
When people no longer seek guidance from those with all the trappings of power and authority, they create projects that are supported by their peers because they provide a meaningful outlet for people's pent-up energies. Because such projects are conceived from the ground up, they are the collective work of the community, made up of all the lives and talents and efforts and contributions of its members. When greatness is defined by mutual regard and mutual benefit, the totality of individual expressions is bound together by a common purpose and shared lives. In an atmosphere of equality and creativity, people collaborate in altruistic projects voluntarily because it brings them joy to contribute to the whole of which they are a part.
Contentment is a state of diversifying benefit that strives to overflow its vessel in order to enrich other vessels. The heart seeks to be filled with a vision of a great endeavor, the collective purpose of which explains past events and actions, increases tolerance and understanding among contemporaries, and prepares meaningful responses to future events. People can sacrifice personal fulfillment indefinitely only if they feel themselves contributing to the fulfillment of something greater than themselves. For this reason, meaningless work in exchange for personal material security cannot hold people enthralled for long--nor can threats of losing such meaningless security force compliance in the long run. What is called for is a positive vision of unity that inspires people to set aside past conflicts, accept and respect one another's potential, and work together toward a goal that ennobles the lives of all.
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William Douglas Horden is co-author of The Toltec I Ching: 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World. This new version of the ancient Taoist oracle adopts Native American symbology in order to articulate the ethics of the emerging world culture.
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