The meaning of life, said the one who was winning, is to die with the most toys.
He smiled when he said that, but the gleam in his eye was ambition and desire. He was my brother, but I could see that if it were a race, I’d be left in the dust. I trusted him, I did not fear him, but that glint of desire was worrisome, alien to the person I thought I knew.
Now I see he was not joking. He was asking me, is this true? He was asking, are we here all alone? Because if we are, then this is a plan, and it can work even if you aren’t the top winner–coming in second or third or even a millionth place might work out? Not pure ambition in his eyes, it was fear, it was awareness of threatening forces on the landscape that could rob the underprepared of everything they held dear.
He wasn’t the only one asking.*
“In 1981 the American Business Roundtable could still claim that ‘corporations have a responsibility first of all to make available to the public quality goods and services at fair price…. The long-term viability of a corporation depends upon its responsibility to the society of which it is a part.’ How quaint! By 1997 the same organization proclaimed that the principle objective of a business enterprise is to generate economic returns to its owners.” — Simon Blackburn in Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love, excerpted from a review of the literature on narcissism, “Selfie,” by Joan Acocella in The New Yorker, May 12, 2014.
This open-ended conversation continued when I’d suggest that his plan did not take into account what Jesus would do. In American politics we witnessed the nation asking the same question, how to be on the side that’s winning. My brother is still conscientiously asking, because I see he is still a winner and has accomplished a great deal to synthesize the amoralistic but pragmatic with the spiritual.
My much later reply was also in fear and also had embedded a deeper question: Is this a competition we’re in? Because if we are, you my elder have always had a leading edge … yet I never knew you were checking your rearview mirror to find out where I was and how I was keeping up.
For that is the fallacy in the hope of acquisition as a prevention against insecurity. How great a wall, how much gold, how many guns would it take to secure your position, if your sister is faltering, and you know she has something you might need? Or if it’s not your dear, somewhat awkward sister but a mass of hungry hordes.
In these times, many people are echoing both positions, we see, the Midas and the Jesus ways. Many see in the swings of the political pendulum a tendency toward the mean, or at least they harbor the hope that Hegel was right, and ultimately the wild aberrations will find resolution. That’s a plan, right?
A plan not to have a plan but to let nature have its course, is more like it.
But there is a Greater Plan. Like any good plan, it works if you work it. There is a way to escape the scramble like crabs in a bucket of competing agendas. This passage here below comes from a program that can stabilize you and direct you to find real security in an increasingly unstable world. This one part I copy here gives just a taste of its authenticity, though it comes after many Steps the step-by-step program called the Steps to Knowledge. It is meant more as a meditation than a quick read; I have taken years to consider what it is saying.
“Perhaps you have wondered why the world feels different or seems different. In your own way, perhaps you have experienced this. Things are certainly changing in some obvious ways, but the feeling of being in the world is changing as well. Have you ever wondered why this might be the case? It is easier to attach causes to social and economic factors, but these alone cannot account for the great change that is occurring in the world and for the new experiences that people are having.
Indeed, for many people, though there is greater affluence in many parts of the world, there is a greater discomfort as well. People often attribute that to psychological causes or the result of emotional dysfunction, past traumas or things like this. Any of those may indeed be the cause in many situations, but the mental environment of the world is changing.
Let yourself have the experience of this today and see what it means for you… take time today to ask yourself this question, ‘Is the mental environment of the world changing?’ Let yourself have your own experience. Ask the question, but do not give the answer. Let the answer naturally come from within you. Feel what it means. Even when you are out in nature, away from human establishments, if you have this opportunity today, ask yourself this question. It is the beginning of a new understanding.”– Marshall Vian Summers. Steps To Knowledge Continuation Training
*He did share his appreciation for Bob Dylan with me, to our mutual enjoyment.