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#71  Instead of Life

Today we have the technology for instant communication with any place on the earth, and into the atmosphere above it, and even into outer space. “The sky’s the limit” is no longer true. The limit, if there is one, is expanding so rapidly that we can no longer mark it with clear boundaries at all. And yet a great many human beings are more isolated from each other, physically, emotionally, and spiritually than we have ever been in history.

Physically we don’t need each other as much as we did for example, in the middle ages, or even the industrial revolution. Then we needed the group or family structure to survive, and having others to be with was necessary just to have food and be able to keep warm. Now we have many other options. The external needs are easier to fill; we can make it on our own, and avoid the hassle and emotional uncertainties of personal relationships. But at a cost.

The careers we must pursue demand so much of our time and concentration that we must borrow it from our family time, our personal time, and hope to “make it up” to ourselves someday. But often too late we realize that there is no “someday" and the only time that really counts is now. Your little girl will never be four again, and your little boy will never have another joyous triumphant first bicycle ride that you were not there to see and celebrate with him. There are many levels and degrees of anything in life. But when one thing shuts out most of eveything else, that’s addiction. The name of this addiction is “workaholic.”

There are others less obvious but often much more destructive that also “fly under the radar.” An alarmingly growing way of life all over the world is a life of mental and emotional withdrawal into a fantasy world where we can feel happy and safe. It shows up in many forms but all forms of it cut us off from real participation in life, real consciousness, or any real communications and relationships with other human beings. All forms of it are addictions, and serve the purpose to avoid facing, participating in, and living your life.

The I-Pod, the cell phone, video games, fast sexy cars, law-breaking as a sport, fantasy movies of violence, brutality, terror, mass murders, and sex without love. For the vicarious “thrill of it” we isolate ourselves or make ourselves more and more numb to human feelings, our own and others, so that we need more and more of our “drug of choice” to get the same “high.” This is not about blame, or good and bad. But the question is, Why do we do this? We do it to try to fill the voids in our life, or at least forget about them for a while. But by doing this we actually program ourselves to become numb to the human feelings which are the greatest source of joy in life.

Human beings are group animals. We are biologically and emotionally designed to want and need each other. But when these needs are unfulfilled, or seeking them brings us pain or difficulty, we tend to do one of two things: Strike out in anger, or draw back into separateness, where we feel lonely and unknown, but safer. Because this is unhappy, we compensate by substituting something else instead.

There so many wonderful and amazing techno-toys we can distract ourselves with – games and music and videos, email and twitter instead of real-time and real-people. We can just enjoy a temporary painless denial and distraction. This way we have escaped the pain and challenges of reality inherent in a conscious life.

Technology is the most rapidly growing addiction and substitute for life, and you may not even know it. Your addiction may be as simple and innocent as checking your email and getting drawn into a website, and then a little web-surfing, and before you know it, an hour is gone. Or turning on the TV news while you make breakfast, or just “for company” while you eat lunch alone. Or you may be one of the millions with a deeper, virtually unconscious addiction, with your TV going throughout the day and evening whether anyone watches it or not. All that violence that’s so endemic to network entertainment, gets programmed into your mind, subliminally and tenaciously while you do not even notice it.

There are worse addictions, to be sure. Like alcohol, street drugs, and overuse of prescription drugs. And of course the oldest addiction, overeating, which is out of control in most of the developed countries of the world. The problem is, we are not really hungry for food; we are hungry for meaning in our lives and we can’t seem to find it, so we eat, and the pleasure eases the need for a while.

What are you doing instead of life? How much of your time is slipping away unnoticed while you’re doing something else?

Make no mistake about it, and don’t kid yourself. All of these are addictions, which serve our needs by distracting us from a conscious awareness of our real needs. They give us an easy way to avoid truly living our lives or large portions of our lives with awareness. We simply immerse our minds and habits in these things instead.

The seemingly nonstop mindless violence we see everywhere has become real and common in every area of society and geography. The teen suicide rate is going up shockingly. Children are killing other children, and parents. Only a generation ago this was unheard of. Kids today feel isolated and disconnected from family, so they cling together in gangs in emotional chaos, because they so deeply need to Belong. Because they so deeply need to have an identity, to feel accepted, to Be Somebody. This basic natural human need unfortunately creates gangs, and gangs dare each other to take bigger and bigger risks, and crime is usually the outcome. Social status is no barrier. Any kid can become a career criminal - if the needs are not met some other way.

The violence that we see all over the World is, in fact, mindless. Logically, we would have to sell ourselves on some fantasy instead of reality, in order to believe that killing is right - any kind of killing including revenge, punishing the Bad Guy, or holy wars. That simple decision is at the base of it all. Vicarious experience through viewing violent acts gives us a false sense of power. We forget who we are, and this sets us up for the stress-temptation to commit otherwise unthinkable acts ourselves. Avoiding conscious connection with reality, and replacing it with entertaining fantasy, though it may be easier in the short run never brings anything good for anyone in the long run.

Sooner or later personal isolation and substituition with addictions must lead either to violence and destruction, or self-destruction. Why? Because human beings naturally have a deep inner need to belong, and to matter. It’s hard for us to believe that we really matter, when the world around us doesn't seem to care. It’s hard for us to believe that God loves us, when it seems like nobody else does. It’s hard to believe that God never leaves us, when our parents did, our spouse did, and some of the people we thought were our friends, did too.

You do matter. You are somebody. You are the Beloved of God, who created you and gave you both gifts and challenges to help you grow. You belong to God and God belongs to you. No matter how far you have wandered, you have not lost this, and you cannot.

Even as a mindless violence is growing, there is another, less visible, but powerful force that is growing too. It has been called Mindfulness, or New Thought, or the Buddha Nature, or Christ Consciousness, and other names. It is personal, and it takes a unique form in each one of us. Whether meditation, prayer, or something else, it's essence is simply recognizing the people around us as being created by God, and so are we. You may find your truth in meditation, or listening to your inner truth, or in quiet walks through beautiful places in nature. The rushing stops, the water stills, and clears, and you can see all the way to the bottom of things. You can see your true reflection.

When you open up all your senses, you become aware of every beautiful thing in this vast ocean of beauty we are actually living in all the time. Sometimes this vision is brought forth by a catastrophic challenge, a health crisis, or a great personal loss. Or it may just need a chance to get away from the noise. When we are able to simply Let Ourselves Be, in the present, in the real, we find that God is also present and real everywhere we look.

Choose to be conscious and aware in your life. Seek that stillness and clarity. Practice being conscious, fully present, and real, in a safe place. Meditation may or may not be your best way. Find your natural way. Then when you practice this, it helps you to be conscious and present and aware in more of the times and places you encounter in your life. When you do, you will be stunned and amazed at how much you see that you had not seen before, that you had not known existed. Your world, your spirit, and your life begin to expand. The answers are there, the peace and safety are there. They have been there all the time. You ARE somebody. You have always been somebody. You are the Beloved of God. This is the truth. Know it, and be free. Today is a good day to begin.