The Call For Innovation
The last 30 years of my life, beginning with the end of my high school years, has been a time of exploration. I had ended high school upon some sour notes. I had barely finished with passing grades. For a time, I wasn’t certain I was going to finish. High school course work in Southern California were geared around being able to succeed while spending most of one’s time at the beach, partying with friends, consuming a variety of “foreign substances”—just having lots of fun. I didn’t do any of those things. I would spend double time studying for extra simple classes, not having much of the fun other students were having acting like Californians. Still, the uncertainty of finishing my classes hung over my head like a guillotine blade those last six months. After I graduated, I had to find some way of learning better. I didn’t know what I would do for work if college wasn’t in my future. I really didn’t know what my options were. Perhaps I should have spoken to someone or ask the parents of what I should do. They would have suggested that I start working at a local store, but that even seemed like a monumental task, both getting the job and then performing well at it.
I did substantially improve my reading abilities after this a couple of years. This allowed me to learn some new things about the world that previously were shrouded in mystery. There would be two societies I would learn about that would help shape my thinking about myself and the world: I was able to learn about the Ancient Greek Civilization, after taking a college history class. We’d learn about Ancient Greece: peoples called Minoan and Mycenaean who resided on the island of Crete almost 5000 BCE, around the time writing was being discovered in the West. Then we’d learned about later times in Athens, when philosophers named Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle lived. It was around that era that people in society began questioning phenomena in the world and what things meant. It was no longer enough for them to say that the gods created everything. One of our assignments for the class was to read the book called The Last Days of Socrates and write a small paper on it. This is a small book that comprises four of Plato’s dialogues—Euthyphro, the Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. Not more than a few months earlier, attempting to read such a book would have made me dizzy and nauseous. By the time I was required to read this book, I would be able to effortlessly read the four chapters with reasonable understanding. My thorough enjoyment of this book influenced me to read other works by Plato and other Greek classics on my own. The writings of Plato years later helped me to think of everything in terms of a process. I would hear or read things, but what did things mean? Sometimes I would annoy people if they told me something, but then I would turn the topic around to the speaker and ask him or her questions. After some further years, I would learn to question my own words I would be using to explain something. Was I making sense to myself? This would lead me to focusing on specific words better. I would be able to remember things better. It turned out to be a useful method of communicating. .
Western philosophy is a good instrument for examining phenomena within the physical world. The inner world required something completely different: the skill of mentally peering into my own mind and feeling comfortable with what was there. I grew up a devout Catholic, deeply wanting to have a personal relationship with God. It was towards my later 20s that the philosophies of India slowly crept into my life. (I had written about meditation at length in an earlier post). Though I believe meditation to be an extremely important spiritual practice, it is only a part of what the East has to offer. Along with that are the philosophies that go back thousands of years, well into what is called the Vedic period of Indian history. In general, Eastern Philosophy claims that these lives we find ourselves attached to—our homes, our jobs, our families, and even the very bodies that we identify ourselves to be—are primarily illusions. Everything is compared to a dream, created by God. On one level the things in our lives (the same things just mentioned) are very important. In the ultimate sense, though, things are just things. They have no real value and everything we can see and touch will at one point cease to exist at all. As an example, we can imagine winning millions of dollars in the Lottery. The winner would instantly become happy, but does the millions of pieces of paper themselves provide the happiness? No, it is the value that the money provides that provides the happiness. The teachings of the East are that all things in life are only temporal and provide no real happiness. In the ultimate sense, we are spiritual beings. Our true source of happiness originates from something that is beyond the physical plane. That is why people are able to meditate, sit for hours and feel perfectly at peace. In my own life, I have demonstrated that I don’t need to have most of the things that many people have—careers, homes, families—and I can still find happiness. I still want to have a career and I would like to have a partner in my life, but I know if these things don’t happen I will remain ok.
I have written in my essay called Meditation that the Indian saint, Paramahansa Yogananda, whisked into my life towards my later 20s. I feel as though it is almost a miracle he came into my life at that time, because his philosophies acted as a shield against many of the heartaches I would have experienced when I was in the prime of my life. I could be extremely bitter at this point—if I would have survived these many years witnessing failure after failure. I sometimes feel as though my life was stolen from me. From the earliest age, I entertained dreams of traveling the world, be an artist, take advanced classes, read hundreds of books, and do anything else creative. I never dreamt about being rich or having a lot of things, though. It was always about doing instead of having. Also from an early age, I deeply wanted to believe in a God or some spiritual realm to our existence. There are things that have happened in my life that could only be explained by the existence of spirit. I had grown up a Catholic, which I have stated elsewhere. I always had the innate feeling that God existed. To me, however, the Biblical stories or the Church teachings never adequately explained how God is related to us and how we humans should be living. During my high school years, I was heavily involved with the church, being involved with a youth group, praying regularly, joining the youth group choir, and living as best that I could. Despite all of this, God seemed so very far removed from my life, and my disabilities continued to hand me insurmountable difficulties. With the aid of both Eastern and Western Philosophies, I was given an entirely new perspective of how the universe works, and how God fits into everything.
These lives we are given are gifts. We are all treated to the experience of this wonderful world we mysteriously became conscious of one day within our personal histories. It is true that some people enter the world and suddenly find unfavorable situations—poverty, gangs, national turmoil, and a dysfunctional family. But for many, the world is a place waiting to be explored by its inhabitants. In order for people to become creative, they need to know who they are, know their capabilities, and know how to make the most of their abilities. We all now live in a technically advanced society because of the many visionaries that have lived before us. They had decided long ago that humanity no longer wanted to live in caves. The current economic slowdown is a call for more persons to take the initiative and create something new, a new kind of automobile, a better economic system for everyone, a new kind of computer, a better way of doing things. We definitely need new leadership throughout government. The possibilities are endless, though not all creativity needs to be on such a grand scale. Rational thought, as taught by the Ancient Greeks, and deep contemplation, as originated by the people in India, are the tools that will enable humanity to prosper.