Chicago’s recent NATO Summit is one more example of how our species — from caves to skyscrapers — still huddles together seeking security in a dangerous world. For all our bravado with fast cars, big homes, and large portfolios, scratch bravado’s surface and you find a desperate need for security.
The evidential numbers are staggering: guns…locks… alarms…gated communities…police patrols… security systems and alliances of all kinds. Big Sur painter Henry Miller has a lusty opinion about our fixation: “The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones that will give him no pain or trouble.”
It is spoken in the true spirit of the American West with its colorful history of the lone rider conquering all with only his gun and his guts. And yet even the mythical Cowboy had to learn that once you leave the land, you’ll need something more.
That “more” comes with a network of safeguards from stoplights and pedestrian crossings all the way to standing armies and international alliances. We are no longer riding tall in the saddle, master of all we survey. As much as we long for — and enjoy watching — our favorite Clint Eastwood or George Lucas hero-movies, we leave the theatre just one small member of a very large scared population.
Two questions. How much of our independence should we surrender for our security…? How much independence do we really have to surrender…? Once we’ve shored up our sense of Independence with enough cars, homes, and portfolios, the second question stands larger than even the first. Its answer will be different for different people. And yet won’t it always come down in the end to what we ourselves believe about ourselves? How, deep in the recesses and sanctums of our best being, we perceive our personal strengths and weaknesses?
Some call these recesses and sanctums the Self. The Id. The Consciousness. The Essence. The Soul. The precise name for them isn’t all that important. Precisely how we confront those questions IS.
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