The Platitudes—the ego’s own Sermon on the Mount

sermon

Every movement has its jargon. Every great cause has its rallying cries. One way to tell when a new idea has gone past its prime is when its guiding principles have degenerated into platitudes. Some of the West’s best ideas have come from eastern philosophy. But, as these great ideas have become popularized, they have morphed into something other than the reality they point to. Sound bites do not rely on subtle distinction; they depend instead on simplicity, whether the idea is simple or not. Such sound bites include “There is no such thing as evil”; “It’s all good”; “Everything happens for a reason.” And, while these concepts are true, they are not shallow. Taken out of context, they can be misleading. This is where the West finds itself now—it needs to find wisdom in a new context.

The personification of evil IS the evil in the world. “Mistake” (or missing the mark) has been replaced with “sin,” which means we’re all inherently flawed and thus incapable of doing “good.” None of this negates, however, the word “excellence,” or its spiritual equivalents, such as compassion, humility, or human decency. While there may not be such a thing as “evil,” there certainly are a lot of things that are simply screwed up—mistakes, horrendous mistakes—which should not be swept aside under the pretense that “it’s all good” or “everything happens for a reason.” These sayings are merely cop-outs that help us avoid having to DO something.

Resignation, by Natasha Shulte

Resignation, by Natasha Shulte

I’m in favor of the word “mistake” over the word “sin,” because mistakes can be corrected whereas sins must be paid for. One acknowledges human proneness to error, while the other condemns us before we even make it out of the gate. But, we must not for a moment in all of our thoughts of “Oneness” put aside our responsibility to rise up out of the whirlpool of moral entropy and to do what’s right.

There is a “right” vs. a “wrong.” We are faced with it every second of our lives. It is, in fact, why we are here—to learn the difference. Just as there is a right and a wrong way to bake a cake, there are right and wrong ways to govern a society, right and wrong ways to administer justice, right and wrong ways teach children, right and wrong ways to meditate and to pray. The history of the world is full of choices, some good and some bad.

hermitSo, while it is absurd to personify evil and pit it against the good, it is equally as absurd to say that there are no problems to solve. (We can at least be smart enough to come in out of the rain.) The ego revels in the idea that somehow the rules don’t apply to it, that it is indeed “special.” It thinks that to be humble is to be subservient. It ignores the fact that acting in accordance with Divine Will is a source of great power, not slavery.

The ego questions the very existence of “divine will,” bolstering its arguments with cartoon-like images of white male kings—despots—sitting in absolute authority over humanity, judging it relentlessly and ruthlessly, never giving us a break. We blame the most mechanical and predictable natural phenomena on this paper god, such as the weather and the cycle of mortality, using them as an excuse to do whatever the hell we want, as though rebellion against nature gives us…dignity.

But, all it does is to allow the ego to strut across the stage a few moments longer, eliciting applause and then basking in its fifteen minutes of fame, bemoaning all the while the tragedy of the final curtain. And, in the wake of the ego’s self-indulgence is washed up all the suffering of the world.

So, don’t let the notions of Oneness, it’s all good, and everything happens for a reason cause you to abdicate your spiritual responsibility to pursue excellence. If you believe in these sayings, use them to strengthen your notions of justice and equality before the law. Use them to obliterate notions of racial superiority and ethnic dominance, perverse nationalism, and sectarian arrogance. Use them to underscore the principles of all people are created equal and that the laws of the land apply to everyone and not just the poor. Use them to enforce the reality that this planet is an ecosystem and not an open-pit mine, or the atmosphere a sewer. Use them to shine light on the oneness of human society, how every person has the right to live and, at the same time, to act responsibly for the good of the whole.

sacred-heart-tattoo-on-man-chestAbove all, use your ideas of oneness and goodness to open your heart, knowing that as you do, a great ache will rip your chest open and cause rivers of tears, both of sorrow and of joy, to flow from your eyes. This is the cost of “Oneness.” It’s not all bliss, unless, of course, bliss for you is wholeness, the all and everything from the heights to the depths. That kind of bliss carves you out and scrapes you clean of egotism. It doesn’t set you on a pillow and strew flowers at your feet, as much as the ego would like it to.

He who dies with the most JOYS (not toys) wins. If you believe that your lot in life is pre-ordained, that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, then take pride in your work, regardless of what you do. Find joy in the simple things as well as the grand occasions. Be grateful in spite of what’s going on, not just when things are going your way. Adopt the Buddhist principle of “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.” Live life fully and not merely by preference. Refuse to bow down to the ego’s demands. Don’t base your worth on your appearance or by the amount of money in your bank account. Make service your reason for being. Forget about YOU! Learn the (he)art of caring. You will find that caring leads to courage, and courage leads to action. If there’s anything at all that the world needs now, it is action. As Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Don’t do nothing!

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One Response to The Platitudes—the ego’s own Sermon on the Mount

  1. Exactly what I needed to hear. What many of us need to hear.

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