In 1969 the progressive rock band, King Crimson, released a song called, “21st Century Schizoid Man”. It was inspired by the turbulence of incensed youth, rebelling against their parent’s materialistic values, the horror of the Vietnam war, and the unjust inequalities rampant in the world at that time. The song was a scream of outrage.
As we came into the Seventies, that outrage seemed to settle down. The war came to a close and those angry youths grew into adults, taking on the responsibilities of raising their own children.
Now, we are well into the 21st century and I find myself thinking about that King Crimson song again. The mental health of our citizenry is certainly questionable. About one in six Americans are taking some type of psychiatric medication, and most of that on a long-term basis, as if they don’t see any hope for future betterment.
We’ve moved firmly into a time of mind-numbing, pharmacologic intervention and mass distraction. We pay more attention to senseless entertainments than to the chronic tragedies of our world that could be healed, if we only had the will.
We are in the midst of severe, human-induced global changes and mass extinctions. We live in a time where 25,000 people die every day due to starvation, and yet, in America, we throw away close to enough food every year to feed all of humanity. The insanity of this is clear. But we could turn this around very quickly. So, I ask myself serious questions: What would need to change to affect that type of turn-around? How could we come together on this? What can I do?
We know we can do better. We have such a great potential for creating joyous lives for everyone! It is truly heartbreaking that we’re not moving in that direction. I need me to do better. I feel a great call to expand my consciousness, to seek for a more skillful approach.
I am a 21st-century man on a spiritual path. Though, like many of my peers, I claim no religion. Religions often create more fear than love on any given day. I’m seeking instead for a direct experience of that grand mystery of life and the love that obviously fuels our creation. I am seeking to become a channel for that wondrous energy of love and expanding possibility, to bring it into the world. This seems the great calling of the 21st century—for all of us.
In seeking to answer the call, I have changed my lifestyle choices around diet and consumption of resources to reflect a more sustainable balance with my planetary home and the beings I share it with. Through the cultivation of mindfulness, I seek to wake up from the distractions of society. I seek for spiritual solutions to our global challenges, and I seek to manifest the potential of my own consciousness, so that I may be a better servant to the totality of Life. And this seems the most skillful energy to work from, the energy of service.
The enlightened man in this modern age is a man who is present within the authentic experience of his life, and is aware of how his life relates to and affects the totality of the Greater Life that we all share. The enlightened man truly understands that there is only One infinite living system and we are all a part of it! He is awake and the intention that moves him is one of service, of embracing connection over separation, and love over fear.
At its core, spirituality is simply awareness. And cultivating mindfulness, being present for what is, is the process of spiritual awakening, of becoming an aware, enlightened being.
Many indigenous people, people who were living in harmony with the natural systems of their world, understood the implications of the decisions they made. And their measurement of whether something was a good idea or not for the people was how it would affect those descendants who would be born seven generations in the future. That longer view invites in great awareness to societal planning.
Today, with technological systems that rape the land and that produce radioactive poisons with a 25,000-year shelf life, our measurements for societal decision-making have nothing to do with future generations. We only ask, “Will this make a profit for me today?”. There is no awareness of the wholeness of life in that question, only the greed of a mind asleep and disconnected from the totality of being.
The role of a 21st-century enlightened man is to wake up, to ask what our planetary home needs from us and what our descendants need from us. And then to embody the answers, bringing them into the world, sharing them with others.
We are all being invited to express a more enlightened view, that there is only One Life, and we are all it, every last one of us. It is clear that we need to write a new song for the 21st century. And we can, if we have the will to do so.
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