Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, August 26, 2008
You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization
from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass.
A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.
- John Buchan, author, born on this day, 1875, in Perth, Scotland
Frighteningly true. So much of what we call “civilization” seems to be a very thin veneer. And what makes it so thin, I wonder? Think of the millennia that have gone by since recorded history! Think of the things of beauty and wonder that have been developed on all levels of accomplishment. In textiles, ornament, poetry, glass, sculpture, all the arts and skills, machinery ….. and on and on. Even in the times of conflict and war, up to modern times.
It is my impression that the wonders of “civilization” have been developed by those with leisure, social prestige, and education. Including war, when the privileged plan, and the poor and oppressed classes serve as the canon fodder.
The same, alas, seems to be true of religion. Some will argue that in general religion has helped in quieting the more savage aspects of the human personality. But Genesis barely knew what it was talking about when it spoke of the consequences of human banishment from the Garden and from intimacy with “God”! The veneers are easily ripped off any of the religions that proclaimed compassion and justice and equality, and practitioners easily are co-opted or panicked into Inquisitions and Jihads. In my darker moments, I wonder if any religion, or any “civilization” is worth anything in terms of leading humanity towards those human qualities that so many have at times identified as “high”.
Carl Jung was occasionally asked if human transformation was possible. He apparently always answered, “If many individuals are willing to do the inner work necessary, yes”.
I guess it’s up to each of us, who together form communities and peoples. Each one of us must take responsibility for our Self. It must begin there. “There” where “religion” is not about creating and maintaining some kind of social veneer of control, but about self-Enlightenment leading to the same hope for each.
Will we humans ever change? If so, how? Or is the fear of survival just too much to transcend tooth and claw?
What do you think?