The literal meaning of the word “apocalypse” is: disclosure of knowledge. In the biblical Greek apokalypsis means “uncovering” or “unveiling.” We have observed that current events and the behavior of the people caught up in those events reveal that we are not yet capable of responding to life in a way that promises a brighter future but sadly merely perpetuates our past. Many of us are trying to deny or lie about certain aspects of our life or keep them a secret. Let us proceed with an “unveiling” of some of humanity’s worst kept secrets.
How serious is the problem of humanity’s behavior in failing to create a sustainable future? Robert Reich’s description provides a “snapshot” of current events in America. “Economic and technological dynamism was upending jobs, convulsing communities and splintering families. At the same time, inequalities of earnings, wealth and job security were widening.” (1)
Observations similar to that of Reich’s are being made around the globe and differ only in their details and biases. But first, some more examples of what the human mind is describing and experiencing. Notice the centrality of an individual person’s or community’s worldview to the experience they think they are having. For the purposes of our brief essay we define worldview as beliefs, attitudes and values held by an individual or collective. It is important to also realize in all of today’s current events the key role that fear has in determining the manner in which human behavior is expressed.
On the other side of the globe in Myanmar over a half-million Rohingya (Muslims) have been expelled by Myanmar’s military-controlled government. The fear underlying the violence between Muslims and Buddhists illustrates both religious and cultural conflicts. Any successful attempt to address this unfolding catastrophe will have to begin with the understanding that the only actual differences between these two communities lie in their contrasting worldviews, the stories that they believe about themselves. Differences between the Buddhist and Rohingya communities exist because they believe they exist, not that there are actual fundamental differences between them. Which brings us to the crucial distinction between what is true and what seems to be true. Which is to say that without being able to tell the difference between truth and illusion humanity is doomed to ceaseless suffering.
“The Rohingya and Buddhists inhabit separate realities.” (2) The conflict among the Muslims and Buddhists in the region involves two fundamental illusions which means that the fears driving their self-destructive behaviors are unfounded. First, the “story” about the differences containing each of the two peoples has no basis in reality. All human beings are fundamentally exactly alike. Secondly, that means that believing that their neighbors are the other and thus a dangerous people has no basis in reality.
Politicians (we won’t mention any names) love to exploit the illusion of non-existent differences by pandering to fearful segments of the electorate. Several powerful men of late have been exposing themselves in more literal ways. “Lately [November 2017], each day has been a carnival of exposure, as we’ve watched the stones overturned to reveal more and more supposedly great men as criminals, perverts or frauds. Some people are surprised by this, but many are not. In several cases, the big revelation was already old news, the kind of thing we used to call an ‘open secret’—something that wasn’t O.K. to acknowledge on the record, lest it come back to bite you.” (3)
The way we treat each other in the Global Village is governed by where we believe we are, our worldview or the story we tell ourselves. Our behaviors are also driven by who we think we are, our identity, which is determined by the story we have come to believe. This is the fundamental structure of human consciousness and we would do well to accept responsibility for our role in abiding by these actual principles which will determine our experience as we choose what our future will look like.
Insight # 14: Without a clear understanding of how prevailing illusions influence human behavior the experience of the inhabitants of the global community will continue to repeat the egregious suffering of the past.
- Reality and Illusion in ABC’S
- Reich, Robert R. “What’s Happened to Us? The New York Times Book Review. July 23, 2017, page 16.
- Cohen, Roger. “This is Not a Reality Tale.” The New York Times. November 26, 2017, page 1.
- Chocano, Carina. “Plain Sight.” The New York Times Magazine. November 11, 2017, page 12.