Over the past few days, I've had the privilege of being a sounding board for two friends, each of them considering ways that they'd like to make a real qualitative difference in the world. One of them is hoping to develop and test a model for societal level change in a small, war-ravaged developing country. The other is developing a model for a training program that aims at helping leaders lead from a much more spiritual, purpose-led place, with the hope that this program might eventually spread internationally. I am grateful to be able to listen to them as they explore the intersections between their passions, priorities, and the needs of the world as they see them.
Listening to the two of them prompts me to think of many things... the matter of how people discover their vocations; the ways in which we are prompted to make a difference in the world; the motives which drive us; and the challenge of finding a sustainable if simple livelihood in meaningful and service oriented work.
For my own part, I have seen how challenging it is to untangle my ego from my desires to influence the world in a positive manner, though each day I do try to keep an eye on my shadow, and stay out of God's way to the best of my abilities. I feel committed to this practice because I see how we tend to work, unwittingly, at cross purposes with our intentions. Consider, for example, how the intention of so many modern conveniences is to save us time so that we can spend more time at leisure activities. Does anyone see any evidence that the use of technology has brought us more time, or leisure, let alone happiness? Most people would say that we're working harder and longer hours than ever. Or the defense industry... some people rationalize that the purpose of the arms industry is to make us safer (whoever "us" is!); but the reality is that we've rarely been more insecure, despite the trillions we spend on "defense." Do you get my drift? Who profits from these myths?
So often, in an effort to solve problems we use the very same kind of logic/thinking that created them in the first place... leading to even more complex issues. And for the most part, this logic/way of thinking is largely ego driven, even very subtly. By this I mean that we are constantly using our individual and collective resources to compete with others, to establish and maintain our reputations, to defend ourselves against attacks, to accrue more material security, to pursue status and celebrity... or am I deluded? As a result, we continue to reproduce a sort of insanity... in our consumerism, in our obsession with national security, in keeping outsiders at a distance.
I must say, as I reflect on these matters, I cannot help but think we are desperate for a widespread spiritual awakening... not in the sense that we need to all suddenly "get religion," but rather, we need to wake up from the insanity that is currently driving the way the world works (and some of that insanity is religious in nature, is it not?).