Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Power of One, The Power of Oneness

The Power of One, The Power of Oneness

by Winslow Myers

“The Power of One,” a rousing novel about a young man who uses his boxing skills to triumph over the brutality of apartheid, is too suggestive a title to be confined to a single story published thirty years ago. And of course it has not been so confined: the U.S. army has used the phrase “An Army of One” as part of a potent recruiting campaign, and many other groups have made use of the phrase to tell the stories of individuals who made a difference.

In today’s viral media the phrase takes on a more sinister connotation: one act of violence can undermine peace talks in the Middle East that could affect the well being of millions. One assassin murders Yitzhak Rabin and slows the progress of such talks for decades. One suicide bomber can ruin the lives of hundreds of innocent people, not just those he kills or hurts but all the families connected to the victims. One Pakistani scientist sells nuclear equipment on the black market and speeds the proliferation of planet-destroying weapons. One shadowy billionaire finances think-tank propaganda that causes working people to vote against their own interests. One Limbaugh or Gingrich can polarize the political culture of a whole nation with sneering and fear mongering. And one minister in a tiny church in Florida who threatened to burn the Qu’ran can inflame Muslim paranoia worldwide.

Likewise our individual power to do good: Manhattan’s Mayor Bloomberg unequivocally asserting the constitutional right to religious freedom; Greg Mortenson building schools for Afghan girls that do more to end terror than billions of defense dollars; Henry Kissinger transcending decades of pitiless realpolitik and campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons; Bill McKibben fighting tenaciously to wake us up about the urgency of global climate change.

These high-profile examples of the good and less than good are symbolic of the power all of us have to affect our surroundings and the quality of our relationships at work, at home, and in between. They confirm the deep connection between us all, irrespective of whether we are polarized and alienated or inclusive and reconciled. They confirm the true context of the power of the individual, which is that we are one on this planet, interrelated and interdependent, and we possess the native capacity to be loving and truthful in our influence, a capacity that can overcome our mass tendency to accept myths and simplified enemy-images.

Never before has the planet been in a place where civilizations numbering in the billions can either clash or draw closer by means of individual actions. These great cultures cannot divorce each other. Never before in history has our species been in a place where each of us must cooperate in private acts of restraint and change if we are to avoid elsewhere what occurred in Pakistan during the worst of the flooding, when temperatures rose to 129 degrees. The intensity of that flooding itself, along with the punishing heat, were almost certainly caused by human activity feeding into global climate instability.

Suddenly the old radicalism of loving—or at least cooperating with—supposed adversaries has become oddly mainstream and practical—a new kind of realism that contrasts with the airy idealism of thinking that we can solve all our problems with violence, either the state violence of the politically powerful or the terrorism of those who feel powerless.

The power of one multiplies seamlessly into the greater power of the many. What might be the nature of the vibrations, to which each of us adds our tiny contribution, that move like waves through the great webs of worldwide communication? Will it be that pervasive standby, “us versus them,” so easy for demagogues and media moguls (or ministers of tiny churches) to manipulate? Or will it be “we’re in this together; how can we make it all work for the greater good of the whole?” Both through the power of one and the power of oneness, we affect reality. How shall we use this power? There is no way not to make a difference. What kind of difference do we want to make?

Winslow Myers serves on the Board of Beyond War, a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation, and is the author of “Living Beyond War.”

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"Until we transcend our egos and discover our oneness as humans, we will continue to compare and compete, to make one another suffer, to fight and kill. Our species will survive only if we begin to recognize that we are all one flesh and one family.

--Albert Nolan, author of "Jesus Today"

99% of us can "transcend our egos and discover our oneness as humans" and the 1% that does not will enslave and murder the rest of us. Politics deals with that reality. Denying that reality places people at grave risk and, ironically, translates in the real world into mass killing and mayhem.

Myers tried to make a compelling case, yet the examples he chose to make use of (in my mind) seemed to undermine it. I'd like to say I was inspired by this article, but I was not. It threw too much into a sort of insipid porridge...however I do agree, in principle, with the ideal he was trying to impart.

My guess is that he buys too much of "the official narrative" on too many current events. That explains the odd choice of examples selected to theoretically make his case. Weird...

Good observation. For whatever value there may be in the piece as a spiritual tract, the spiritual ideas are well contained within the context of what you are calling "the official narrative" - what I would call the shared delusions of gentrified American capitalist society and the dominant WASP cultural constructs. There is something ironic about that - reaching for higher spiritual principles and then putting them into the service of reinforcing a very narrow, worldly and transient political and cultural narrative - one that happens to support the destruction of the planet and all things living on it.

If the principle the author is trying to impart is that "we are all one," that does not tell us what we could do - given that we are all one. Does this preclude self-defense? What if we take the "we are all one" point of view and the person who is trying to murder or rape us, or a friend or loved one does not?

With most of the people in the world under horrific assault, and given that I feel a oneness with them, I opt to form societies for mutual defense and support and to defend and save my brothers and sisters from the "we are not all one" predators trying to destroy us and all that we hold dear.

This is the contradiction in the "change yourself and your personal life and that will change the world" ideas, offered up as a counter argument to organizing for mass political resistance and to fearless and probing social criticism. What if the "personal choice" that some of us want to make is to forget about ourselves and the way we feel or what we believe, and to organize and put the well-being of the group first? Is that not a valid personal choice? What if the "higher spiritual values" we hold mean protecting and defending our brothers and sisters from the ongoing assault they are under?

What if some of us - personally and individually - choose to reject individualism and not worry about our personal values, beliefs and choices, and instead place ourselves into the service of others, and to fight to protect the innocent and the down-trodden from those harming them?

TWO: You took the concept and ran with it! Wow! I think you identify the central crux that is such a pain in the ass to "political types" who reflexively reject any spiritual notion altogether. May I suggest that the "either-or" approach factors into the problem. Here's what I mean. I believe each of us is responsible for doing things in support of our own ultimate (spiritual) evolution. The problem with this idea is that the right wing/Libertarian/Calvinist/Republican/Capitalists have championed this ethos to THE EXCLUSION of everything else, every intended counter-balancing ideal or premise.

What's resulted is such a ME-oriented society, one that makes YOY its implicit construct as well as narrative.

This idea of the separate self/ego needing to compete with all others to get the most stuff or otherwise reach the top of the human junk heap is resonant with the astrological archetype of war. In its most raw and brutal context, this archetype supports all violent expressions. It's rooted in the idea of competition.

It's not an accident that a society that fosters extreme individualism would also make war its centerpiece and most celebrated (as well as subsidized) activity. (Thereby wasting the lion's share of said society's assets.)

Darwin's theories were recently exposed to suggest the need for cooperation, (just as Adam Smith's concept of "the invisible hand" was promoted by the elite controllers to bypass his larger analysis, thereby suiting their narrow profit-driven agendas).

I meet this issue all the time. When I speak about politics with my "spiritual friends," they tell me I am being negative in pointing out THE TRUTH! So many have been conditioned to a "Prosac form of philosophy." They believe that if they speak of ugly things, it will draw those things into their lives. Instead of taking in the massive injustices in our land, they'd rather protect their own personal claim to safety by not allowing their minds to travel to the unfortunate places where "reality dwells."

I met one woman who asked me not to speak about the Iraq war in her home! She said, "It's just some karma playing out." I never perceived her again in the same way. I met another person in California who said of 911, that "it is not my grief. One day I'll have my own." And that's when it hit me how much earthbound materialism has turned the very matters that involve us all in this complex mesh of joint destiny into an equivalent real estate transaction. As if the personal essence stops where the wall ego devises gets situated.

I grew up on the Old Masters and their teachings were always based on selflessness. I like to think in terms of enlightened self-interest. In other words, in anything I elect to do, will everyone benefit? Is the trade on time/energy fair? I try never to operate in a way that takes advantage of others, and in business dealings I am not considered "smart" because I usually look for absolute fairness, not a personal profit. I don't like to lose... but I'm fine with breaking even.

If our society taught sharing as opposed to self-centered advantage, maybe the pursuit of spirituality could work harmoniously with active political consciousness and engagement.

These were not designed to be separate camps... what we are, at essence, informs whatever we do. My ideal is a world where social justice, equality, decency, fairness, and ecological conservation (and of course, no war) become the norms.

Since everything begins with belief, and ideas work like seeds... I've devoted my life to education and writing. Others may prefer a more direct activism. There is room for all sorts of expressions in altering the Gestalt of our collective reality.

Thank you for your always deeply thoughtful posts.

Remarkable. I think you may be the one and the only person I have read online who can talk spirituality without that being a covert attack on the political Left; who talks of individual conscience without that being a denial of the need for self-sacrifice and commitment to the group; who can talk about "being the change you wish to see" without that being self-centered and disengaged; who can talk about metaphysics without that being a denial or avoidance of objective material reality.

You will no doubt often find me on the "wrong side" when spirituality comes up for discussion here. That is because people are too often using spirituality as an excuse to submit to and comply with the prevailing cultural flow and power structures (while having the fig leaf of "my personal beliefs" and "my personal decisions" to hide that fact), are using spirituality as an excuse to promote libertarianism with an organic label slapped on it, are using spirituality as a way to ridicule and dismiss and attack the political Left, are using spirituality as a pretext for holding arrogant and condescending positions and attitudes relative to the everyday people.

Thank you, Two Americas. I've received Kudos from some great minds, persons I hold enormous respect for; but I have also had a few try to drag me, and my reputation, through a sewer on these threads. They do NOT understand where I'm coming from, and they project their own limited constructs onto me...

You know the song, "Oh, Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."

I feel like you've given me a gift... that of understanding. I know that as a human being I do not always reach my own mark; but I also know that I live by integrity and never stop trying. The need to share understanding is as real in me as the need to "take a leak." Many misunderstand.

In any case, I will be back... it's time for my bike ride. Truly, that lift off among the trees, respiring with the great green ones, provides me with a peace that sustains my soul. These truly are times that test our souls... so it is great to have made a new friend, a kindred spirit, in the forum.

I hope whatever peace I cultivate in the great woods boomerangs back your way.

I may log on again later. My new book is coming along quite well, and it tends to sweep me up in its own momentum. I hear it calling.

You write, "I think you may be the one and the only person I have read online who can talk spirituality without that being a covert attack on the political Left;"

There are a lot of us who have struggled to bring the two together for years. Check out the website Reality Sandwich. A RS - CD integration would be nice.

Thanks, Kitaj.

I know what you mean about "spiritual" people not wanting to deal with the grim reality around us. I had the same problem in 2002-2003 when I was at a Ken Wilber website pleading with people to realize how disasterous a war in Iraq would be and to please do everything to get the word out to people to protest the war

All in all, we are in a tough situation and i find myself increasingly at a loss for words as to what to do.

Beyond what you have said, he also fails to note that human beings have so lost touch with higher spiritual evolution that as a species we are flat out insane ( he probably doesnt know this).
There is a spiritual revolution going on despite what looks like a grim future - see the website Reality Sandwich - but I doubt it can change the world...unless enough people get turned on to entheogens/psychedelics and directly experience that "Oneness" in no uncertain terms. These plant teachers are potent ego-dissolvers, and when humanity loses its relationship with them, we lose natural harmony and spiritual direction.

As Sting sang, "There is no political solution" and he is right because our problem goes far deeper than the political-economic.

This is utter rubbish, the worst kind of thought that pervades our self-absorbed society. All the enlightened Prius drivers drinking their kombucha eat this new age slop right up.

This is exactly the sort of thinking that deadens political thought and destroys such concepts as solidarity and collevtive action.

The ruling class doesn't fear any ideology, any alternative lifestyle choices, any theories. Elite clubs of intellectual snobs refining radical theories pose no threat to them, either.

Speaking truth to power? You might as well throw marshmallows at a charging rhino. We need to speak truth about power to the powerless.

It is broad participation by the people in politics that the ruling class most fears and works hardest to prevent.

The essence of this article about "the self" is the kiss of death for any serious political movement that claims to be in any sort of opposition to the ruling class.

"The people in power will not disappear voluntarily; giving flowers to the cops just isn’t going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window."

-William S. Burroughs

Seconded. And did the author really invoke *Kissinger* as an example? Unbelievable.

It destroys concepts like solidarity and collective action - indeed. It's basically every-man-for-himself libertarianism dressed up as spirituality, and there is no place for this crap in the realm of economic and political justice.

mcoyote and meganmonkey:

Actually, the thinking of this author is based on the absolute cutting edge of scientific knowledge. Those who reject religion as a superstition or belief system should, if they wish to be consistent, be open to concepts such as the one the author is trying to explain to you.

I provide for you a link explaining a concept called "Quantum Non-Locality". This is what much of New Age and "Oneness" thinking is based on.

I print for you here the conclusion:

The Implications of Quantum Nonlocality

At the quantum level, instantaneous actions occur at a distance. Two particles that are part of a single system continue to act in concert with one another no matter how far apart they appear to be separated by spacetime.

Nonlocality or nonseparability is asking us to revise completely our ideas about objects, to remove a pervasive projection we have upon nature. We can no longer consider objects as independently existing entities that can be localized in well-defined regions of spacetime. They are interconnected in ways not even conceivable using ideas from classical physics, which is largely a refinement and extrapolation from our normal macroscopic sense of functioning. (Mansfield, 1995, p.122).

Nature has shown us that our concept of reality, consisting of units that can be considered as separate from each other, is fundamentally wrong. For this reason, Bell's theorem may be the most profound discovery of science. (Kafatos and Kafatou, 1991, 64-65).

Quantum nonlocality proves that "particles that were once together in an interaction remain in some sense parts of a single system which responds together to further interactions" (Gribbin, 1984). Since the entire universe originated in a flash of light known as the Big Bang, the existence of quantum nonlocality points toward a profound cosmological holism and suggests that...

If everything that ever interacted in the Big Bang maintains its connection with everything it interacted with, then every particle in every star and galaxy that we can see "knows" about the existence of every other particle. (Gribbin, 1984).

This issue was thoroughly explored in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Pray to your quantum physics or pray to Jesus - that is fine - but it is being presented here as an alternative to political action. Would it ever be presented as an alternative to carpentry or preparing food? No, because the article has a covert political agenda and does not have a covert wood working or cooking agenda.

To be consistent, I am rejecting belief systems masquerading as science and as politics, myself.

I must tell you that the "you just don't get it" line of argument is extremely annoying, and is the argument used by every peddler of every faith-based idea throughout history. The "you aren't being open to these ideas" argument is insulting and false and misrepresents what the others are saying. (I am paraphrasing your remarks, obviously.)

"Concepts such as the one the author is trying to explain to you?" You must be joking. How arrogant and insulting on your part.

- Pray to your quantum physics or pray to Jesus - that is fine

** Did I ask you to pray to anybody or anything? How do you interpret a lay interpretation of nonlocality, which is what I provided, as a request for worship??? I was simply explaining part of the scientific basis behind New Age or Oneness thinking. (Please note that my reply was NOT to YOU but to mcoyote who used to the term "rubbish" and meganmonkey who seconded that opinion.)

- the article has a covert political agenda and does not have a covert wood working or cooking agenda.

** Oy. This is simply a warm and slightly too fuzzy article that predictably missed its mark (even on a so-called progressive web site).

- I must tell you that the "you just don't get it" line of argument is extremely annoying, and is the argument used by every peddler of every faith-based idea throughout history.

** Again, my reply was to mcoyote who wrote and meganmonkey who agreed with the following statement:

"...This is utter rubbish, the worst kind of thought that pervades our self-absorbed society. All the enlightened Prius drivers drinking their kombucha eat this new age slop right up."...

I think it's clear from that sentence that neither understood the scientific basis that many new agers base their thinking on. If you understood Nonlocality prior to my provided explanation than "You do get it" and shouldn't take offense.

- "Concepts such as the one the author is trying to explain to you?" You must be joking. How arrogant and insulting on your part.

** And how rude and deceptive it is to position yourself in the middle of a discussion not involving you and claim that my remarks were aimed at you. Please read again the first three words of my post you may have missed:

"mcoyote and meganmonkey:"

New Age oneness thinking is not based on any science.

No matter whom your post was directed at, I am free to comment on it, no?

Disagreeing with you is not in and of itself "rude and deceptive" and I am not positioning myself in the middle. I agree with the two posters to whom you directed your remarks. May I do that?

Nothing in this remark - "This is utter rubbish, the worst kind of thought that pervades our self-absorbed society. All the enlightened Prius drivers drinking their kombucha eat this new age slop right up" - suggests that the person does not understand "the scientific basis that many new agers base their thinking on."

Would you have us believe that quantum physics is what is leading people to New Age beliefs? Would you have us believe that any who disagree with the interjection of New Age beliefs into politics merely fail to understand "the scientific basis that many new agers base their thinking on?

I thought that it was self-evident that I was "thirding" the opinion expressed by mcoyote. I am.

I was not at my computer yesterday. This is my final comment on this subject.

1) New Age oneness thinking is not based on any science.

I have not met a new ager who did not state proudly that science and spirituality are merging. That's practically the first thing they tell you. They may not understand the science very well but they're aware that there's a very strong scientific parallel to their beliefs.

2) No matter whom your post was directed at, I am free to comment on it, no?

My objection was not your commenting my post. My objection was pretending that my reply to two other people, based on their specific comments, was aimed at you.

3) Nothing in this remark - "This is utter rubbish, the worst kind of thought that pervades our self-absorbed society. All the enlightened Prius drivers drinking their kombucha eat this new age slop right up" - suggests that the person does not understand "the scientific basis that many new agers base their thinking on."

Anyone who uses the terms "Rubbish", "worst kind of thought", "new age slop" is either angry, nasty or ignorant. These harsh words should only be used to describe people who advocate violence, racism, warmongering etc. To use these words to describe the belief system of someone writing an article advocating PEACE is way over the top.

4) Would you have us believe that any who disagree with the interjection of New Age beliefs into politics merely fail to understand "the scientific basis that many new agers base their thinking on?

This is a ridiculous statement. I never said any such thing. The challenge I posed was to those who reject religions entirely based on FAITH to explain why they're also opposed to belief systems with underlying scientific support.

Lastly, I could care less what motivation brings people to informed progressive politics.

CYGNUS: Interesting post. Actually, I'd like to thank you. I'm currently rewriting a script I fashioned almost 20 years ago and its premise begins with twins separated at birth. The plot demonstrates the synchronicity in the events of their lives even though neither knows about the other (in the story they were adopted). That "relatedness thing" is therefore demonstrated, and it does not require cognition nor consent.

Everything IS related. I see merit in the illustration you offered, as well as in the perspective shared by Two Americas.

Sounds like a very good premise for a book. I wish you the best of success.

My favorite book on the subject, nonfiction, is: Synchronicity: Science, Myth and the Trickster.

It was perhaps one of 15 or so books that had the greatest impact on me.

Another irony - the oneness theme is dead certain to cause divisiveness, as it is here. What sort of oneness rejects those who won't get on the program? How is that any different than any other "not oneness?" What sort of "we are all connected" belief dismisses and rejects the ideas of those who supposedly are not "open" to it? How does that differ from any fundamentalist religion?

TWO: I am not advocating either position or taking a side here... heck, the study of heaven's circle and its implication for our world is the ultimate prism through which to seek relatedness specifically through different (12/quintessential archetypes) expressions (each one's inherently distinct motivation).

You know, language itself causes separation. We have been taught "the separation of disciplines" which inclines many to encounter difficulties finding comparisons between apples and oranges.

Cygnus is speaking of quantum physics and what it relates about the essence of matter; and you are speaking about consciousness and what it obligates its owners to enact.

You could be agreeing with eachother, merely using different frames (Hello, Mr. Lakoff) to make your respective points. You're both keen thinkers who bring much to this forum. Heck, a little debate is like fencing... it forces each of you (all of us) to hone your game (or line of reasoning).

An avalanche begins with one snowflake.

So does a little puddle of water on the pavement.

I dont necessarily disagree with you here. I read Burroughs quite a lot years ago. But as someone who devoted over 30 years to studying transpersonal psychology, esoteric spirituality and psychedelics/entheogens, i can tell you it is an experientially and experimentally verified FACT that human beings can evolve in Intelligence light-years beyond our present level, and yes indeed, science is beginning to shed light on what the esoteric adepts have known for millenia.

The problem with the Left is (and I'm putting it in all-caps): NOT UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXOTERIC RELIGION AND ESOTERIC SPIRITUALITY. This single problem has caused so much misunderstanding. Yes, true, the esoteric traditions have been strip-mined by the new age movement that has turned fragements of these traditions into marketable commodities for 3rd rate minds, but that does not invalidate the truth about our spiritual potential and the effects of losing touch with true spirituality.

marshmallow mishmash...

we are in a battle that will decide whether or not this planet remains a viable habitat for humans, or any other living things...

a battle, not a debate...

we must retake the land before it is too late...

Glboal Start Date: September 22, 2012...


What about the concept of the excluded middle between A and not A?

Also consider the philosopher Lewis’s work on probability: In David Lewis by Daniel Nolan Lewis says: “ One notion of probability is credence. Credence is a subjective notion. The credence a person has in a proposition is the degree of partial belief’ the person has in that proposition. Some things we are certain about or close to certain about. Our credence in claims like those is 100% or close to it. ........ We can represent people’s degree of confidence in various propositions by assigning strengths of credence between 0 and 1. “

This of course follows mathematical probability theory.

The probability someone will shit in the piano is.....?

Glendon Wayne

Read all the posts, ya'll had a nice conversation going on here.

Americans believe in number one, not oneness. Even Myers simplistic understanding of the idea of oneness is refreshing.

Apparently no one [npi] here read the book (which I found quite muddy) to which Myers refers or watched the film "adaptation" (far more coherent). I shouldn't think, reading his screed, that Myers did either, since the burden of the film is *unified political action*. The only real "spirituality" is that many of the African people who surround him see the White, but African-born and Zulu-speaking, central character as the avatar of the mythical Rainmaker who ends droughts and strife.

The film is a real sleeper, and not just because Morgan Freeman plays the major supporting role and Gielgud one of the more important minor ones.

The message threaded through the film, and made explicit in the words overlaying the closing scene, is that the most profound political change is possible when like-minded people, even when chance-met, choose to *act together* in solidarity and *persist* in spite of everything.

(The cinematography and background of call-and-response choral singing would make the film worth seeing even if the story itself weren't any good)

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