Unit 3: Reality Is Not Finished
Topics of this unit: initiation, knowledge, reverence and meaning, magic that escapes us, technology, unintended consequences, conflict, hospitality, giving without depletion, agreements to change the world, peacemaking, the Middle Passage, and freedom from the past.
Modern language, especially English, contributes to this loss by its implicit delusion that the world is finished. Orland calls for a restoration of the relational nature of meaning, even the relational nature of truth. We can revivify English through reverence for the listener (or reader), so that we don’t limit it to a system of arbitrary signs that imposes meaning on the world. The modern conception of language is, like technology, an imposition of power onto the world. In both cases, in the end it is we ourselves that fall victim to that power. This has long been true in the industrial age; it is all the more apparent in the digital. We create with little appreciation for the unintended consequences of our creation, which give form to the shadow motivations behind the creations at the outset. We are like the Magician’s Apprentice, loosing magic on the world without the wisdom to know what we are really doing. The negative consequences proliferate. We use even more “magic” (technology) to manage them, thinking more technology will solve the problems caused by previous technology.
In the next segment, Orland offers a specific application of the power of language channeled through reverence, as applied to conflict. It takes the form of a question, “What do you need from me to be you?” – the essence of hospitality. This section merits repeated listening. He is not advocating capitulation to the other party’s demands. Following the question to its depths, one arrives at something that you can give without depletion. Why? Because it is your purpose to do so, and the enactment of one’s purpose strengthens the life inside.
From Hospitality (What do we need from each other?) arises a sequence of agreements that can profoundly change the world. Please keep in mind that Orland is speaking from direct practical experience here. I get really frustrated with those who accuse him of spiritual bypass, because he has successfully applied this understanding to peacemaking between the Crips and the Bloods in LA, creating practices and mentorships that have brought peace to gang conflicts all over the country. So, he knows what he is talking about. Can you imagine how profound the change would be if the same principles were applied universally?
Session 3.3 addresses the question of freedom from the past from a totally different direction. Orland speaks of the freedom available from the initiation of the African people through the Middle Passage into slavery. Such an initiatory ordeal births soul qualities that can become a freedom to create a new future. His words are highly relevant to certain political conversations today. He urges us to look well beyond “equity,’ because the resolution of historical exploitation, enslavement, and genocide is not that the formerly oppressed are given an equal seat in the very society that persecuted them (and then goes on to persecute others). It would be to transform the society itself, Not to insert differently colored faces into the same roles, maintaining society as it is.
These three units have all, in one way or another, been about freedom from the past, whether it is technology taking on a life of its own, conflict, or historical socially-perpetuated trauma. Freedom from the past means the freedom to live into a future unlike the past. That requires releasing fixed ideas about another person, oneself, or the world (because these fixed ideas are the product of past experiences). Then we can sincerely ask the question, What do you need from me, to be you? (without thinking we know the answer already.) Let’s work with this question. It is an orientation, a state of hospitality and service. We can hold it in relating to another person (in conflict or otherwise), or toward the world in general. (What does the most beautiful future imaginable need from me, so that it can be it?) In either case, you can feel an internal surrender in entering this question. Remember, it doesn’t imply capitulating to someone’s demands. It seeks to meet what they really need, not what they think they need. What do they really need? You cannot know except through sincere inquiry, communication that holds the other in reverence. I suggest actually using the question itself as a dialog launcher in a tense relationship. Let each party ask the other that question, and spend a few minutes meditating on the reply, and see where it takes you.
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