As a word, "transcendence" means a lot to me. It speaks of going beyond what we accept as our fate, to become the person we would hope to be, to transcend our limitations, to find our free, true and eternal self.
The human spirit has a confusing duality, which we see and struggle with within our own self. The human spirit can be soaringly beautiful and give meaning to our lives, but it can also be despairingly ugly and force us to question existence. Both sides of the human spirit and the varying shades between represent possible selves and possible worlds.
Human society is largely arbitrary, it reflects the aspirations of its peoples. The mass of human society that people often see as unable to change consists of individuals like ourselves. Each of us in our lives has constant choices between different paths, the sum of these individual choices becomes our world. If we can change for the better, we represent the evidence that the world can also change for the better.
Philosophy is often derided as being useless, but in our options in everyday life, what guides us between one path and another? It is our philosophy, our attitude towards life and what we think it is about, that ultimately chooses our path. If we haven't analysed our philosophy, if we don't act with the understanding that we are helping to create the world as it is, we are just as likely to contribute to a negative possible world as a positive one.
If we seek to live in an ethical world, we need to make the search for an ethical life the centre of our being.
Humanity has struggled to evolve morally, and I believe part of this stems from the difficulty in finding a philosophy that unites us in the search for a better world. Part of the reason for this is because meaning has been hijacked by religions and other people seeking control, seeking to create a meaning that serves their purposes instead of the world around them.
I don't believe meaning is such a complex thing that anyone can't understand it for themselves. I see a forest destroyed and poisoned for a dollar, a child crying because it is cold and doesn't have enough to eat, a seal covered in oil, a sea bird choked by a piece of thrown away plastic, and I see meaning.
Faith is another concept that has been hijacked to mean blind obedience. I have faith, not in what someone else wishes me to believe, but based on what I know of myself as a member of the human species. I believe that we will be something better, that we won't continue to let people starve, and other voiceless species die, whilst we pursue our own desires forever. I believe there are signs that we are on a path to a better world, that the selfish people who infest our world are but an evolutionary mistake, that kindness, compassion, imagination, beauty and truth, are the way forward to a more happy, creative, productive, meaningful species.
We need to work on how we feel about ourselves as people, because it is the reflections of our relationship with ourselves that mirrors itself in the world. As we become more affluent, we become more depressed, more isolated, more defensive of what we think we have. That more possessions do not lead to more happiness is well known, but we are coming to realise that they may indeed lead the other way.
The reigning ideology of the developed world is that external things are the meaning of existence, we are obsessed with growth rates, currency values, exports, imports, shares, stocks, bonds, new cars, huge houses. If it is true that an emphasis on affluence can lead to unhappiness, then the global system we have created is a machine for the devouring of the human spirit.
It is the relationships with the world around us, what we do for each other, that offers a better chance of happiness, yet our culture is headed in the opposite direction. We need to restructure our philosophies, the interpersonal relationships between us, how we feel and think about ourselves as members of a community. We need less judgement, but when we do inevitably compare ourselves with one another it should not be by wealth or power, but by positive things like kindness and compassion.
Many people feel alone and emotionally isolated, especially the unemployed, people with disabilities, children and the elderly. They remain on the fringes of a culture that doesn't know how to fit them into its central logic of power and affluence, no money can be made out of curing their isolation. They like so many people who our society considers useless, have creative talents and abilities that they could contribute to us all, what are we losing from our current attitudes?
Generally we don't structure human effort productively, because we don't have a positive philosophical system which our actions are contributing to sustain. We waste the energies of people working in factories producing endless plastic crap to be thrown away, whilst there is so much positive action that goes undone.
It seems obvious that there is something wrong with the ethical foundations on which our society rests, and for those not misled by dogma it is clear that we need more compassion in our world.
The first step to a better world is realising that society consists of individuals, like me, like you, we choose our own thoughts, we choose our part of this world, we can change it one mind at a time.
We have the technological and intellectual ability to create a different world, we lack only the wisdom to make it be.