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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 1/8/20

Functioning Well in a Dysfunctional Society

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Happy New year greeting card for 2020
Happy New year greeting card for 2020
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My wish for the coming year is to function well in a seemingly dysfunctional society, cleaved into so many ideologies it's hard to find a home. E.g., generational cohorts, genders, conservative or progressive politics, science or religion, nationalism vs globalism, supply or demand side economic policy, fake vs real news, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The answer seems to be to ignore the content and understand the process. The process is a social dialectic. (In Hegel's words.) The "push, pull, come to synthesis" process has been repeating itself throughout history. Why stop now? Because it causes me discomfort? Well, that won't sell.

I find relief in understanding that we are born into a stage of societal evolution. With some introspection, able to understand our place in it, and then left to figure out how to thrive. Some of us do well. Others, not so good. But it's our choice: We can acknowledge our current ideological convulsions as a stage in a steady state of societal evolution and live our lives in acceptance. (Keep in mind acceptance is not necessarily agreement) Or we can resist with all our psychic energy until we collapse with an emotional hernia.

Whatever you decide, society won't care. But on a personal level, in those moments when you say to yourself, "how did we get here," you'll have your answer. It started 13.7 billion years ago with a big bang, continues today and no one knows where it will go.

My New Year's wish for us then, is that we don't lose any more friends over disagreements on issues of content. We're not our ideologies. We're just the carriers. And like any other infection, we can regain our health with the right treatments.

First, we need to acknowledge that most of us are possessed by an ideology or two"or three. And ironically, those ideologies don't need to agree on their basic principles. You know what I mean; pro-life and pro-capital punishment. It's as if certain neurons in our brains are not on talking terms.

Well, here's a thought from the living Buddhist saint, Thich Nhat Hahn, that might help:

"Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form."

This reminds me of how fascinated I am by how close Eastern philosophy came to our current understanding of the cognitive sciences 3000 years ago. You see, your world, everything you experience, everyone you know, every sight, sound, smell or feel, is happening in your head. All of it moderated by your perceptual filters, i.e., the idiosyncrasies of your central nervous system.

You and your observations are one. You cannot be separated from them and maintain their integrity. In simpler terms, I cannot observe your observations, nor you mine. So, there is no way to defend a position like, "I see things as they really are." But wouldn't it be grand if we could all acknowledge that our view is just our view, and learn from each other?

To summarize, my resolution is simple: Say, "I don't know," and listen more.

Robert De Filippis

 

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Author, columnist, and blogger with a long career in business management, management consulting and executive coaching. I've authored and published seven books: "You, Your Self and the 21st Century,"The Flowers Are Talking to Me," and "Faith (more...)
 

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