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When Who We Are Becomes “Who Are We?”

I think somewhere along the lines, in our quest toward self-awareness, in the blurred lines between selfishness and self-preservation, we got it really wrong.

This idea that we are in danger constantly, that everyone and everything is out to get us, has forced us (like most things these days) to take really strong and hard stances that are oftentimes not only inhumane but also unsustainable. We have put integrity down and picked up "personal boundaries". We have put down character-building and picked up quitting. In our quest for inclusivity, we have created polarity. We've become intolerant. We've become self-absorbed. Some of us even walked the path of spirituality and found ourselves at the edge of an ego-inflated cliff where we feel we can jump off and suddenly find that wings appear, rather than fall on top of the unsuspecting people who are below us only physically. We seem to have forgotten that gravity exists; that if nothing else in our world, the laws of nature have not yet bent to our will.

Throughout my life, I have been continuously both shocked and appalled at the stance that so-called "good" people are willing to take to assuage themselves and avoid any sense of responsibility for their role or contribution to their situation and the situation we find ourselves in collectively. I have seen it with peers. I have seen it with elders. I have seen it with leaders and the parents of children I teach. And alas, I have seen it with my children all across the world.

Everywhere I look, someone is avoiding taking a look in the mirror for anything other than checking out their body shape or putting on their layers of make-up or hair product.

For awhile I’ve been thinking, hoping — trying to convince myself that I am not, in fact, witnessing the degeneration of the human species. Meanwhile, the lack of humanity seems to trickle down to another generation every few years and I find myself looking at little children who suffer from anxiety at 8 years old, who offer death as an alternative to daily life at 6, and wondering what happened. Where we went wrong. And in my personal life, experiencing the effects of people who just cannot see anything past themselves. How they destroy anything in their quest to save themselves from a perceived threat that often only exists in their own mind. How incapable they are with handling discomfort, how they struggle to connect to reality, to purpose—or at the very least, to contribute.

The great “I” have arrived. I am here. What else is there?

Look, I get it. I’ve done the meditations and the soul-searching and the seeking. I’ve read the ancient texts and I try to follow the path of the Buddhas in my daily life. I understand the teachings of BEing and the connectedness of all things. I’ve sat in silence long enough to feel the vibrations of this body extend out into the universe without barrier or limit. To feel myself lift off the floor and melt into the sea of atoms that makes it all possible. No, I’ve not done any drugs, though I hear time and again they accelerate you on the path toward love and healing and being one with all things. But it comes mainly from people who then seem unable to come back down to Earth and participate in society, in service.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what Gautama had in mind when he taught about the middle path. In all our intelligence and intellectual gymnastics, we have completely lost sight of what it truly means to connect with others. To coexist on a planet that does, in fact, require our participation. And as a matter of mere convenience, we’ve completely thrown Sila (morality) out with the bathwater. What is morality in a world where everyone’s opinion, no matter how ridiculous, is a matter of national significance? Where is morality in a world where everyone is taught to “mind their business”? How can we attain morality when our focus is on our boundaries and doing "what’s best for ME"? When there is no longer such thing as the right thing to do? When we think that, by extension, our selfishness is somehow for the greater good of everyone else? When we think that we can raise our children in a vacuum, without the help or guidance from trusted elders, neighbours, friends, teachers who have the same interest and values as us? When at some point we’ve decided, it doesn’t actually take a village to raise a child? That we can live in communities of polarity, dichotomy, dissolution, disconnection and still grow a generation of humans who won’t be confused, selfish, or troubled?

Every day I look into the eyes of these children and have to actively combat the sinking feeling that they don’t stand a chance. That no matter how many tools we give them, we are fighting against a beast that is bigger and stronger than all of us. All the while combatting in my personal life experiences of indolence, of lack of fortitude, of abandonment by people who lack integrity, character.

“The camels are coming”, I read in an article — referring also to the degeneration of humans, thus ending with us going back to riding camels. And I think to myself, we should be so lucky that the Earth even gives us a chance to take it back a few notches. Rather than retching up a terrible orchestra of disasters to just wipe us all out in one fell swoop. Sometimes, I think, if I were her—I’d have done it a long time ago.

But alas, we are still here. Watching it all go down in flames. Some of us busy on our quest toward spiritual enlightenment—but veering off every now and then to stand on our pedestal. All the while forgetting to do our part and to live with integrity. Some of us busy on our devices, neglecting the fact that we are all real humans behind the screens, sitting on our sofas and avoiding ourselves. Some of us busy wrestling with our egos, going on and on about our traumas, which we hang on to like a favourite toy. All the while forgetting that the world does not, in fact, revolve around our feelings. And some of us just busy being busy—because heaven forbid we sit with ourselves (or anyone else) in silence for even a split second.

It all begs the question: Where do we go from here?

If left up to us alone, I'm afraid of the answer.

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