What if our core human value is morality? What if our job here in this life is to learn to manifest only truth? Can we fight the loss of trust and truth, can we draw back the curtains and bring sunlight to the dark, dank corners of our society now shrouded in secrecy? What is it that you seek when you are on your best behavior, in other words, when you are acting morally? If you are like most people, you sense that there is a profound, non-dual truth that lies at the foundation of our material existence. Some people call this foundation God, others string theory, but nearly everyone desires to understand it better and to connect with it in more satisfying ways. Because we inhabit corporeal bodies, we live in a world of duality, where opposite states of being lie along a continuum, and your awareness can move along that spectrum as your experience and your understanding changes your viewpoint. For example, one spectrum is hot on one end, cold on the other. Or we might examine truth and lie, or good and evil. Implicit in any spectrum is a seemingly inherent human need to judge, to select one end of the spectrum over the other. This world of duality also presents us with hierarchy; our modern culture’s hierarchy places mind over emotion, male over female, self over world, idea over feeling, doing over being, and good over evil. But ultimately, none of these are *Truth*: they are all a result of a story we tell ourselves to attempt to make sense of the world, of a choice we make about what is important, or from our making a distinction about something and then making a judgment. Is this where we get side-tracked, because our *story* is all about ideas and not about experiences? Do spend all our energy on thoughts, and none on merely *being* in relationship?
Our morality is also a cultural artifact; yet often it springs from our sense of what is just, or what our spiritual teachers have told us is *good* in the eyes of our Divine Master. Note that when we focus our attention on being spiritual, we seek a spiritual experience that confirms our connection with all-that-is. We do not seek a spiritual thought; we talk about our spiritual beliefs, not our spiritual conclusions.
Another way to speak of this wholeness we feel when we connect with our source is to use the word *integrity*. At its root, integrity means *whole*: when we are complete, we are integral. Spiritual experience allows us to feel that what we sense as our identity of *Self* encompasses the whole of existence; thus it places us in our own integrity. Morality, or the expression of truth and the manifestation of right action, is what we demonstrate when we live in integrity. We must live whole in order to be whole. Our issues today might well stem entirely from the fact that this modern culture denies integrity. Let’s look at how freedom, trust, and truth, fundamental parts of integrity, are being affected by this denial.
Freedom, or free will, is how we demonstrate our integrity. We are what we do in the dark: when I do something that I will not be proud of but I think that I can get away with it because I expect that no one will ever find out, then that is my true nature on display. We all have freedom to act; few among us act with complete integrity. We can never know everything there is to know before making decisions; and so we rely, to varying degrees, on trust: trusting others, trusting ourselves, trusting data. If that trust is violated, a clear lack of integrity, then that will affect us and any future decisions that we make involving the untrustworthy party or data. Let’s acknowledge that the untrustworthy person is often ourselves. It may be obvious that truth is an important aspect of integrity, but we often overlook one very important question that we should always pose about truth: am I 100% sure that this is true? Byron Katie has developed a short process she calls “The Work”. It starts with this question, and if you are honest with yourself, you can see how there is very little we can be 100% sure about, especially if other people (and their stories) are involved. We all make sense of our world through storytelling. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we tell ourselves we have been wronged or disrespected, that we will now be late for an important meeting because that other guy was so rude, that we almost got hit, the potential stories are myriad. We make decisions and take actions based on one or two of these stories, as if we knew the truth. But we don’t, and so we are not acting from integrity when we do this.
Similarly, our unconscious mind filters the millions of bits of sensory input that our brain takes in every second, looking for the important or pertinent data. Trying to do this while only using the energy of a refrigerator light bulb, our brain leaves most of the available data out of our conscious awareness. My ego’s primary responsibility, to keep *me safe* while on a strict energy budget, means that I usually react out of habit rather than any intense processing. If an arising situation looks like something I have encountered before, I see only the solution I used previously; it’s just easier that way. Additionally, if I expect to see something then I will see it, and if something entirely foreign comes into my space I may fail to recognize it because I’m not looking for it, or I don’t even know what it might be . I look at something in your hand and my mind labels it *book*; but someone who has grown up in the rainforest of Ecuador, and has no word in her language for book, would be unable to attach the same emotional, economic, or use value to it that I do. But all of this means that as much as we prefer to think that we make good decisions, we are usually wrong! We fail to see pertinent facts, we misinterpret what we do see, and throughout the process we are relying upon the particular slant that our culture has taught us as being the correct view. Part of our indoctrination includes the inability to see other possible ways to define our world and to act within it. “There is no alternative” is one way our story defends itself, and this makes it difficult for us to break out of the old dysfunctional story and start a new one. As one example: even today, different cultures have different world views. Americans feel that we always have to be moving, be doing *something*. We fear boredom, and will read magazines, or check email on our phone, while standing in line at the supermarket. We eat on the run, and treat food as *fuel*, and often eat alone ; unlike the French for instance who treat food as something that is savored, and treat eating as an experience worthy of respect and an event to be shared, especially with friends and family. This is one way that a different take on life, one of connection and relationship, can manifest even in the modern world.
The flip side of this argument that you are what you do in the dark is what happens when we cannot hide; when we are under total surveillance. The knowledge of always being watched changes our behavior and stifles dissent. The inability to associate secretly means there is no longer any possibility for free association. The inability to whisper means there is no longer any speech that is truly free of coercion, real or implied. Most profoundly, pervasive surveillance threatens to eliminate the most vital element of both democracy and social movements: the mental space for people to form dissenting and unpopular views. What surveillance really is, at its root, is a highly effective form of social control. Democracy, even the shadow of democracy we currently practice in America, rests on the bedrock foundation of free association, free speech, and dissent. The consequence of the coercive power of surveillance is to subvert this foundation and undermine everything democracy rests on. And the most insidious aspect of the current state of affairs is this: by automating the process of surveillance, they have created the ability to effortlessly peer into the lives of everyone, all the time, and thus create a system with unprecedented potential for controlling how we behave and think. And by using contractors, rather than government employees, they not only bypass the normal constraints that would limit the government’s ability to use the data, they place our data firmly in the hands of the corporations who are controlling not only we the consumers, but also the government itself. As corporations firmly grasp the power and control afforded them by the surveillance state, and concentrate ownership of the media in the hands of the very few , even freedom of the press falls away, leaving no one to investigate malfeasance or report on violations of legal or moral codes of conduct. The darkness deepens…
So we are severely challenged to live in integrity when there are so many issues with the rational thought process our culture expects us to use. We cannot *think* our life, we live it, we experience it. We find our deepest feeling of integrity within experience, not thought. We must always question everything our mind tells us, because nothing can be proven to be 100% true. We think using limited data anyway. We are taught that there is no alternative, that this is how things must be; an altogether funny thought since you only have to look back into your own past to see that you have had other ways of living that work, too. So how can we find our core, our *Truth*? As already noted, our deepest sense of connectedness comes not through thought but through experience. What is your experience of *Truth* in today’s American culture?
[This is an excerpt from my current book-in-progress. you can provide comments using derek at derekjoetennant.net]