community and comfort, conformity and certainty

Posted on March 19, 2017


“The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.” – Kahlil Gibran

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” – William James

With all of the faults and misgivings of facebook and other social media, it is still possible to use this platform for spiritual formation. I love learning from people around the world about the essence of being human in a world that has forgotten so much due to its entrenchment in culture and conformity. Rajiv is an engineer from India that has had a significant influence on deepening my understand of life; faith, hope, and love. It seems that the outliers tend to find each other using whatever incidental means we happen to stumble upon. For example, in 11 years of blogging, I’ve had over 52,000 hits from 150 countries. Many of these people have connected with me on facebook. But my intention for using a blog format was not to reach others but simply to have someplace to go back to and remember what I have learned as a wayfaring stranger in this wilderness that I can’t quite call home.

Thank you Rajiv Pande for writing what is below and challenging me to go deeper and foldedthink differently rather than conforming to what I have been told. Far too often the asset of longing for community becomes our greatest liability. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Romans 12:2. “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind;” for we are a “peculiar people”. And yet most religion goes about the business of mass conformity without any transformation or freedom. One of our greatest blindspots is that the “principalities and powers” that lie just out of sight are powerful influences using every channel of communication in society to force mass conformity; quietly, unknowingly, undetectably stealing from us our individuality, our uniqueness, our peculiarity, our wisdom, our insight, our authenticity; leaving us stripped of creativity, power, and voice… our birthright gifts.

I especially resonate with your statement, Rajiv: “My loneliness arises not from a lack of social opportunity, but because wherever I look, whoever I meet, has already been ‘taken’ or has become ‘occupied’ territory as it were, in that he or she is no longer an individual up for grabs, but has sworn loyalty to some other community, faith, ideology or other form of mass-conformity.” I long for true community where we can be perfectly ourselves; bands of misfits and outliers, free to live out extremely different and unique lives of meaning and purpose… a people that have not been overloaded and bogged down with downloads; conditioned conformity driven by the principalities and powers of our age.

Unfortunately, we prefer to climb into our little boxes of conformity where it is warm and sleepy, slogging and slumbering through life as we worship our gods of comfort, security, and certainty..

Below is what Rajiv wrote.

“I believe there can be no moral growth without the exercise of our own free will. It is indeed paradoxical that to grow morally, we need to move away from the comfort of conformity and actually become the devil for a while, even if inwardly tormented by our own self-doubt and loneliness.

“I think the denial of free will has a lot to do with the demonization of free will – the misplaced fear that disobedience is necessarily evil.

“And yet the greatest evil has always emerged from zombie like obedience and especially when this obedience acquires massive proportions and entire communities or nations are consumed by it.

“My loneliness arises not from a lack of social opportunity, but because wherever I look, whoever I meet, has already been ‘taken’ or has become ‘occupied’ territory as it were, in that he or she is no longer an individual up for grabs, but has sworn loyalty to some other community, faith, ideology or other form of mass-conformity. Even the neo-spirituals, light-worshipers, oneness zombies etc. have some form of internal discipline and group norms – so these so-called ‘non-conformists’ are actually behaving exactly as they thought they were rebelling against.

“Something weird happens when groups of people come together under a common banner. The anguish of being a moral lone wolf (and therefore a free will believer) is overcome through mutual forgiveness. However, in the process of this mutual forgiveness, moral conscience becomes dulled. The wolf is tamed. The soul is no longer restlessly seeking its own redemption.

“Religions offer this sweet surrender, this abundant forgiveness from an infinitely benevolent moral authority, but always at the cost of individual freedom. But strangely enough, it is not God that is to be found at the heart of any religion, but community. The forgiveness emerges not necessarily from some esoteric and metaphysical origin, but for the greater part from the very earthly and very palpable sense of belonging offered by the ordinary folk populating that religious community.

“Somehow belongingness, while in all respects appears to be a legitimate human need, also carries with it the innate risk of moral complacence. The ‘Greater Good’ has an identical twin co-existing with it as the ‘Greater Evil’. As long as you are within the community all is well. Otherwise ‘hell hath no fury like a community scorned’ (within itself and by its own).”

What profound paradoxes underlie being fully human, fully alive!

Certainty and Security pale in the face of Mystery and Wonder!

“I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough to make every moment holy.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture? ” ― David Bohm

“The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.” ― David Bohm

“There is a difficulty with only one person changing. People call that person a great saint or a great mystic or a great leader, and they say, ‘Well, he’s different from me – I could never do it.’ What’s wrong with most people is that they have this block – they feel they could never make a difference, and therefore, they never face the possibility, because it is too disturbing, too frightening.” ― David Bohm 

“Freedom is a state of mind – not freedom from something but a sense of freedom, a freedom to doubt and question everything and therefore so intense, active and vigorous that it throws away every form of dependence, slavery, conformity and acceptance. Such freedom implies being completely alone. But can the mind brought up in a culture so dependent on environment and its own tendencies ever find that freedom which is complete solitude and in which there is no leadership, no tradition and no authority?

“This solitude is an inward state of mind which is not dependent on any stimulus or any knowledge and is not the result of any experience or conclusion. Most of us, inwardly, are never alone. There is a difference between isolation, cutting oneself off, and aloneness, solitude. We all know what it is to be isolated – building a wall around oneself in order never to be hurt, never to be vulnerable, or cultivating detachment which is another form of agony, or living in some dreamy ivory tower of ideology. Aloneness is something quite different.

“You are never alone because you are full of all the memories, all the conditioning, all the mutterings of yesterday; your mind is never clear of all the rubbish it has accumulated. To be alone you must die to the past. When you are alone, totally alone, not belonging to any family, any nation, any culture, any particular continent, there is that sense of being an outsider. The man who is completely alone in this way is innocent and it is this innocency that frees the mind from sorrow.”

(Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known)