Bring Meaning to Work and Purpose to Spirituality
Wish everyone a very happy New Year!
To be happy is to be alive; to be alive is to be part of reality; to be part of reality is to be more conscious; to be more conscious is to be more creative.
To Be Happy
Above all, we human beings want to be happy. I don’t believe in a higher goal than that. The only question is how? I grew up in China during the era of the Cultural Revolution. The individual freedom was so utterly diminished that boredom, no less than poverty, was the greatest enemy of happiness in life. Later on, after I escaped Communism and started a career in Corporate America, I experienced the same feeling as each individual managers try to control their own turf. If one is to make a living, he or she will have to find a way to be alive even while subjected to some degree of ‘suppression’. An ‘easy’ way out would be to suspend one’s freedom and make a career out of such suppressive conditions so that one could afford to retire and be ‘happy’. I reject this option for three reasons: first, it seems such a wasteful way of spending the most productive years of one’s life; second, the final ‘happiness’ comes at too high a cost of doing damage for the most or at least significant part of one’s life; finally, how could we be sure of the ‘happiness’ after retirement, even if we are free of financial worries?
To Be Alive
So the least risky option becomes how could one live a full and satisfactory life, not merely survive, under suppressions of one form or another? It wasn’t until well into my thirties that it dawned on me that’s the historical route taken by saints and geniuses as well as mad men! Jesus Christ didn’t carry the cross just for his followers but his own soul and happiness as well. Behind all suppression and injustices of the world lies the darkness and fear of ignorance for mankind. What does it mean to be alive, really?
To Be Real
What is real? Are bread and water real? Certainly, one would die without it. Are rivers and mountains real? Who would not moved by the majesty of the Grand Canyon? Are animals and plants real? All life, including humans, feed off them. Are our feelings and senses real? They hurt almost as much as or more than delight, unfortunately. Are our thoughts and aspirations real? What else distinguishes humans from other mammals on Earth? However, to understand reality is not to make an exhaustive catalogue of all the phenomena perceptible by our senses and intelligence. More importantly, we must be able to derive some regular patterns or recurrences or ‘laws’ from mere phenomena. Or our entire civilization crumbles under the weight of ignorance. Reality then is constructed by and for man. The reality we live in depends entirely on the scope and quality of our consciousness.
To Be Conscious
The best way to appreciate consciousness is to observe a child or, to a much less degree, your cat or dog. The speed of expansion of an infant or toddler’s cognitive as well as emotional abilities is amazing. Until one day (somewhere between 6 and 8 in my experience), your child asks you where do people go after they die? That was the definitive moment of consciousness: we humans become self-aware of our finite existence on planet Earth. I would argue that’s a very different phenomenon than the ability to use tools or even invent calculus. We become capable of contemplating our own demise and purpose. It triggers a very different response deep inside the human psyche, a creative and spiritual response.
To Be Creative
From Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, what drive people to be creative? What is creativity anyway? Beyond the riches and glories that some famous people seem to possess, there is a deeper and more authentic reason that fuels creative impulses in the famous and ordinary folks alike. It is the existential enlightenment and psychological satisfaction such as a blind man experiences when his eyesight is restored and able to see his surroundings for the first time! We humans inhabit on a small planet in a vast universe impossible for us to grasp, intellectually, emotionally as well as physically. Ontologically speaking, we live in the perpetual darkness of ignorance. Yet generations upon generations, we have been able to expand and improve on what we can see, both outside and inside of ourselves. Every time we exercise our creative power in producing something new, be they new ideas or products, we feel the sensation of being part of something much larger than ourselves, something beyond what we know and are. I am not sure that we could define spirituality in a more authentic and potent way. A true creative act is always the fusion of a bold new vision and deeply felt emotions (psychic energy) directed towards the resolution of a set of concrete and challenging problems. In our time of a globalized economy and ubiquitous technologies, there is not a single country or organization or individual alive on the planet today that doesn’t face multiple sets of such problems, often intertwined and co-dependent in ways too complex for most of us to comprehend, let alone solve. In traditional religious texts, there are often scenes of exiled people searching for their homeland under quite desperate conditions. Well, that story has become reality for many of us no matter where you live, work or worship. To be spiritual in our time and age is to be creative and a force of change to the hopelessness and madness that characterize the human conditions on planet Earth today.