Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Welcome to the New Thunderdome

¡Hola! Everybody,
How is everyone? I have a question: anyone here from Emily? She hasn’t been around lately and, yeah, I’m concerned. If you know she’s okay, let a brother know...

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Welcome to the New Paradigm

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
-- Albert Einstein

“Your paradigm is so central to your mental process that you are hardly aware of its existence, until you try to communicate with someone with a different paradigm.”
-- Donella Meadows

Welcome to my world; welcome your world -- the New World... the New World Paradigm.

In this world, you’re a star -- and so am I. I’m a genius and so are you. Your success will encourage my brilliance, and my charm enhances your power. Your victory doesn’t require my defeat, and vice versa. These are the rules in the New World -- in direct contrast to the rules of the Old World, where win-at-all-costs are the norm. In the Old World, there can only be one winner and many losers.

Well, I’m chucking that whole paradigm. A paradigm can be defined as an entire collection of beliefs, values and techniques, and so on, shared by members of a given community.

In the New World, you don’t have to tone down or apologize for your ability, because you love it when other people shine. You rejoice in your own brilliance without worrying that it’s a sign of arrogance. As you realize more and more of your potential, you inspire the rest of us to claim our own unique magnificence.

I remember hearing the story of the Buddhist monk specializing in bohdicitta (seeking enlightenment as a way to serve others and not personal gain). He prayed on his deathbed to be sent to hell so that he might alleviate the suffering of the lost souls there. As you explore our new world, you will discover that, like the Buddhist monk, you have a huge capacity to help people. Unlike him, however, you won’t have to go to hell in order to express your compassion. It won’t even be necessary for you to sacrifice your own joy or to practice self-denial. Just the opposite: being in service to humanity and celebrating your own power will be deeply connected. They will need each other to survive.

We all like to harp on the Golden Rule as the ultimate ethical principle, but I think it’s about time it’s been improved. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” assumes that others enjoy what you enjoy. I think that’s a huge mistake. There are countless things you’d like done unto you that others would either despise or find distasteful. I say we should have a Platinum Rule. Here’s a new, improved formulation (given to me by a homeless woman on the no. 6 train): Do unto others as they would like to have you do unto them.

Using this new, improved formula is not just a “right” way to live, but it’s also the best way to ensure the success of your own selfish goals. It is said that magic claims to be supercharged rituals for imposing personal will on a chaotic world, but I say that using the Platinum Rule undermines all magic as a way to realize your potential and happiness.

At the heart of the New World paradigm will be what at first looks like a contradiction. In my world, you can have anything you want if you’ll just ask for it in an unselfish way. The trick to seeing through this contradiction and making it work is to uncover where your deepest ambition matches with the greatest gift you have to give. If you ant happiness, then figure out how the Universe, by providing you with abundance, can improve the lives of everyone you touch. Seek your fulfillment in such a way that you become a wellspring of blessings.

A radical first-century activist was quoted as saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

What Jesus knew was that this approach to life is as important to our well-being as getting food, exercise, and sleep. It’s self-destructive for us to hate anything, including things that are easy to hate. As much as I despair at the harm that fundamentalist Christians have imposed on our culture, for example, feeling disgust for them not only makes me sick, it feeds the very “us versus them” mentality I have vowed to root out. Hating them makes of me a hypocrite and taints my integrity. My mental and physical health suffers, and that diminishes my power.

In his book, The Gift, Imagination, and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde writes, “In a gift-giving society, an individual gains prestige by receiving, then adding to what has been received and passing it on. In a consumer society,” he adds, “prestige and satisfaction are gained through accumulation and acquisition. Nothing is given. Nothing is passed on.”

Though you have been born and raised in a consumer society (the Old World), your attraction to the New world suggests that you have the ability to live in a gift-giving society. One of the best ways to change yourself and the society in which you live in is to increase your ability for both accepting and giving generosity.

As I go on to inhabit this New World paradigm, finding its expression in my everyday life, I will leave with the following quote from Carl Jung. It exemplifies the core message of my rant today:

“The whole point of Jesus’ life was not that we should become exactly like him, but that we should become ourselves in the same way he became himself. Jesus was not the exception but the great example.”

Welcome to the New World, it’s been here all along.



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