Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Know Thyself

Arrival, oil painting by author, 48 x 60"

Some 2,500 years ago a city smaller than Atlanta produced painting,
sculpture, architecture, theater, poetry, literature and pottery which
stand as monumental foundation for the Art we experience around us in the
west today. In 1982 I stood before the Acropolis in Athens, awed at the
sophistication of a people whose technology was mightily primitive
compared to what has developed since. Yet they were able to construct an
incredibly advanced civilization which despite our tools, we merely echo.
Another aspect that we mirror is a missed opportunity: Instead of
building a just and gentle society providing all with basic necessities
and leisure to enjoy a creative, celebratory life, they constructed
impressive art and implements of war and domination (I know, I know,
Sparta was only a stone’s throw west).

In their invention of democracy however they laid a foundation for the
possibility which we have, so far, squandered. Until our time it
has been by and large a pleasant if utopian dream. With the development of
nuclear weapons, and a consuming population growing exponentially, that
utopia is an imperative that will emerge when we have put an end to war,
domination, injustice and environmental degradation. Imperative because,
if we are not successful we will perish in the uninhabitable environs of a
wasted life system, well underway.

Perhaps Greek’s greatest gift was the admonition Know Thyself, for that is
the means by which we might yet save ourselves. What do those two words
mean? If Self is consciousness then attending to one’s consciousness would be
following that dictum. This would mean becoming the observer, noting the
passing thoughts and emotions and noting also, they are not YOU… YOU are
the observer. Thus released from the captivity of those thoughts,
emotions… karma… one is ONESELF, the consciousness that exists in, indeed
IS , the great now, the eternal moment. That moment is not one of a series
but, as the eternal qualification indicates, is the core out of which the
temporal world emerges and recedes. Some traditions refer to this as
illusion, recognizing that what seems so physical and permanent is
an insubstantial if beautiful pageant, which felt knowledge frees one
to join the exhilarating dance of life.

1 comment:

  1. Well put, Tom. I very much agree with the advice to know oneself. We may disagree, however, on whether an uptopia will ever be realized. Also, I wouldn't say that either Athens or the modern world is superior to the other. For every gain, there is a loss, but overall, I believe the gains exceed the losses.