You and I and King Cobra and Queen Anne’s Lace and every other living thing on earth are small and temporary little leaves on the ancient (4.5 billion years and counting), vast, and diverse Tree of Life. Typically, you know a lot more about the neighborhood surrounding your little leaf than you do about mine and vice versa. Yet, I may discover things that are of use to you. And, you may discover things that are of use to me. So, humans, have one gift that is valuable above all others.
But before we explore what that valuable gift is, let me ask you a question about how you would react to a hypothetical.
Suppose you were so poor that you barely had enough to eat, no clothes to wear, a small damp cave for shelter. You were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Now, suppose I gave you a magic ring that changed all that. If you wear this ring — voila! — you now have clean water and sufficient food and plenty of clothes and a house that really shelters you from the extremes of the environment. In return, you must wear the magic ring at all times. If you remove the ring, your life reverts immediately.
How tempted would you be to throw that magic ring in the toilet?
Yet, that is precisely what many people do.
And, if a sufficient number of people throw away the ring, everyone will essentially live the life of a beast.
That “magic” ring is, like most rings, circular. It represents the whole of humanity. It represents the family. It represents a club, a marriage, a lodge, a company, a church, a school, a class, a group of friends. It represents our respect for each other as human beings. It represents our ability to communicate with each other.
You could call that ring love and I wouldn’t object. It need not be imbued with so much positivity that people feel love. But it must be overall positive. It represents truth. It represents empathy. Love is strong and it can overcome both a few misdeeds by everyone and many misdeeds by a few. But if lies become more commonplace than truths, civilization will run downhill and eventually cease.
Similarly, if hate and fear and contempt are how we mostly regard each other, the marriage, the family, the club, the school, the church, the party, the lodge, the company, the group of friends will eventually disintegrate. In many cases, it would disintegrate into a self-destructive war except that most people will stop themselves because they don’t want to be ostracized or jailed by the larger society. If, however, the entire society becomes rife enough with hate and fear, no one will come to anyone else’s rescue.
Our entire survival depends on our gift, our ring, our community, our country, our fellow human beings.
Our gift is not our lightning speed of running.
Our ring is not our ability to out-swim the shark.
Our gift is not our powerful jaws, or our steel strong talons.
It is our ability to communicate with each other by sharing experiences. It is truth, caring, and cooperation. That is our one gift that enabled us to survive and thrive.
A democracy can take many specific forms. What it is, at base, is that it recognizes the gift as a fundamental value to be cherished and used. The fundamental purpose is to ensure that government is aware of and takes into account how policies and people and processes actually impact people who live in the democracy. In a representative democracy, the people, in turn, can vote for people to represent them. They can vote for any reason they like; e.g., because they admire a particular person; they believe they will do a competent job; they like the candidate’s promised policy changes; they find that the candidate reminds them of his funny old uncle Al who always had the best candy on offer.
No democracy is perfect. There has to be in its structure and processes more truth than lie; more empathy than indifference; more love than hate; more hope than fear. In some democracies, there are basically two parties; others have dozens. Parties may differ on philosophies, priorities, platforms, programs, etc.
A “party” who rejects democracy itself however, is not an actual political party. The term “political party” only makes sense in the context of a democracy. If “elections” are determined by those in power, they are not actual elections and there is no party. It’s just a group of thugs who want to rule by hate and fear and lies. That is not a political party. It is not a legitimate part of a political process. They want to throw the ring away in the toilet. They want to subvert the truth to lies. They want to severely limit love and enhance fear and hate. They divide rather than unify. Oh, and guess what else? Historically, they want war. They will ensure that war just as Putrid is doing right now.
Democracies have also been known to start wars. When they do, it’s often based on lies. As communication has become more ubiquitous, it has been harder and harder for democracies to lie, cheat, and be cruel. Most people don’t want that! Most people want there to be more truth, love, caring, and cooperation. There are plenty of differences about how to go about that. That’s fine. That’s just the sort of difficult and messy problem that democracy is particularly less bad than any other system.
As I said, I really think most people prefer interacting in a caring and cooperative way. We see that it’s more effective in getting things done and it simply feels better for everyone. For that reason, dick-tater-$hits have to provide lies to help assuage the consciences of its citizens. “Oh, they are all murderers and rapists! You shouldn’t feel bad about being cruel to them!” Another favorite is: “Oh, they aren’t really human beings, the way we are. No need to treat them any better than a fox trying to steal your chickens!”
Needless to say, this ploy completely fails on many people and isn’t completely effective on anyone. Any time you’re cruel, whatever story you tell yourself about it, you know you are destroying a bit of yourself. Except, what you are really destroying is something much vaster than a bit of yourself. In fact, what you are destroying is something much vaster than all of yourself. What you are destroying by being cruel, whatever story you tell yourself is the human branch of the Tree of Life. Lies weaken that branch. Cruelty weakens that branch. Bullying weakens that branch. So too does cowardice.
The architecture of karma shows that the future impact of your present day behavior is much greater in scope than your present impact. Behaving well is in your interest because what you are is essentially a very small and very temporary part of that ancient, vast, and diverse Tree of Life. The more you can enhance that tree with truth and love, the better for the whole tree.
Don’t throw away the ring. Wear it proudly. It is truly an amazing gift!