It is a broad observation over decades that plans and schemes for 'making life more meaningful', or happy - or more spiritual - will never work. The plans and schemes will never work for long, and never fully.
All plans and schemes come up against the basic nature of the this world - which is mortality and entropy; which entails that all shall tend toward destruction. So all plans and schemes will - for one reason or another; indeed for many reasons - fail of thier original impulse and intent.
This may be disguised by the pretense that 'what we offer is what you want' - when The System controls a situation, and attempts to draw individuals into that System such that their desires are inculcated and gratified.
But this never works either; because The System represents a massive simplification and distortion of human nature. Human nature can be (to an extent) simplified and distorted to match The System (or a sub-system - maybe a church; or the plans and schemes of a spiritual method)...
But the real Self, the eternal divine Self, will never be satisfied with this.... Our real Self will indeed cry out in existential pain (i.e. despair) against the attempted spiritual fraud.
This is why it seems of vital importance to understand that This World is ultimately about spiritual learning - with reference to a future resurrected and eternal life. This life is Not about self-improvement; because in an ultimate and overall sense we as Mortal Men cannot be improved; things-in-general cannot be improved - certainly not in any comprehensive and coherent, stable fashion.
Improvement is not what this World is For.
This strikes me as a vital thing to remind ourselves about; because so much of the world, so much of culture and religion; assumes, supposes and asserts that (in an ultimate sense) we are supposed to make ourselves better and make the world a better place; and that this betterment is both incremental and overall.
The assumption is that we each ought to be getting better and better - and better as-a-whole not just in specifics).
And The World too: the world is overall and as-a-whole supposed to be improving, and we are each supposed to assist in this project to 'make the world a better place'.
Yet the experience of any Man and of Mankind alike has shown that none of this is possible. In the end, whatever positives (and there are Many); sooner or later; there will be corruption, disease, decay and death.
Therefore; either we recognize that we and this world are designed and intended to be a domain for experiences from-which we personally ought to learn - and the meaning of this learning being expressed fully, only after death and in Heaven -- or else we will always and forever be disappointed, always on a knife-edge and tending to fall into despair.
So maybe the eastern religions are right, in the sense that the 'world', which they term as maya (not deception as such, but more like a mystery, the limits of our knowledge), cannot be the end of our spiritual endeavours. It can furnish us with knowledge or information (which is imperfect), but it is ultimately temporary, or misleading/leading to errors. Our real purpose is to become aware of the limits of this world, not necessarily be totally detached form it in an ascetic way, and realise that the inner spiritual awakening (whether that is the Hindu, or Christian, or Buddhist one) is really our sole purpose.
Sage entry - it evoked one of my favorite passages from The sound and the fury in the first paragraph after the Benji section -
...I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire...I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
- William Faulkner
This speaks to a dissatisfaction I've always had with any preacher/priest's sermonizing. I haven't been able to pin down exactly why, until I read this. As with many things church, a subtle internal shift does a lot. In this case, simply interpreting a homily as if the priest was implying an imperative "learn" rather than "improve" changes a lot of admonitions from depressing to edifying. (long time reader, first time poster)
Jas and Pilgrim - Well. Thats the negative, skeptical side of what I said, but misses the positive side. Both are needed.
Ress Yes, that's it!
I really like this distinction between learning and improvement. I have adolescent children, and from an improvement-perspective, it's very depressing indeed. But from the perspective of learning and individuating, it's very encouraging.
Your post reminds me of this apt quote: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Henry David Thoreau.
When younger, I was enamored by Star Trek. I thought: this is our noble purpose as humans--exploration & scientific advance. As I became older and wiser, I saw that such narratives are incoherent (at best) unless grounded in spiritual reality.
It is interesting to reflect that the "Borg" as arch-enemies in the series (not socialist Roddenberry's original idea) was the closest TNG ever attempted to realistically discuss modern evil. The Borg are an ugly mix of man-and-machine devoid of any individuality, forced to operate as a Collective. The Borg are the System which assimilates everyone ("resistance is futile"), wiping out this "real Self, the eternal divine Self," in a quixotic quest for materialistic perfection.
It is ironic that the writers of TNG could not (or would not) understand that technocratic space socialism (the Federation) is, itself, an inherently Evil System of the same kind as the Borg. TNG writers were--to apply the imagery of the the Thoreau quote above--hacking at the branches of evil, while ignoring the root." The spiritual corollary seems to be that right action can only flow from right orientation, which itself must be reflect spiritual reality that, as you put it, "this world [is] intended to be a domain for experiences from-which we personally ought to learn - and the meaning of this learning being expressed fully, only after death and in Heaven -- or else we will always and forever be disappointed, always on a knife-edge and tending to fall into despair."
Of note, I do not see what you said, or what Faulkner wrote, as negative. I see them both as wise!
The main thing is to realise that we are not the main drivers ourselves. The Spirit inside drives and regulates and things then proceed on that upwards briar bordered path.
@James - I know what you mean, but (nearly always) the impulse must comes from us, and certainly the choice to proceed. To the modern adult mind, it is far from 'passive' - usually requires a great deal of input.
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