A dear old friend since college, Agyei Tyehimba, posted this question on his facebook page the other day. I thought it was a good question. I’m going to give my answer, but I want to also share an answer from another college friend ours named P.Kasso (nickname). He’s a Sagittarius, a fellow Buffalonian and we love his artwork! I thought his answer fitting for this first full day of the Winter Solstice and Capricorn. Capricorn as the first sign of Saturn is about evolution, progress and ambition. (These are three different manifestations from high-end to low-end of the power that Saturn has over the idea of movement itself. I will post on those another time this month.)
My answer to the question above is pretty straightforward. I said, “The failure to realize that we all are one species and this is our only home. Our minor choices enable bigger choices that ultimately affect us all, positively or negatively. *Takes sip of fair trade coffee*”
But P.Kasso’s answer literally blew us away because it really touches on the core of our issue, the lasting legacy of a civilization that’s become too fascinated with its ambitions and “progress.” Here’s his answer:
“In 1996, the United Nations Human Development Programme studied the impact of economic growth on human development. http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr1996/chapters/ They determined that the current standards for measuring growth provided a very inadequate picture of human well-being, and urged that much more attention should be given to the QUALITY rather than the quantity of growth. That’s nothing new to the socially-conscious thinkers in Agyei’s circle, but what I found very interesting was their methodology for writing the report.
The UNHD committee solicited all the member nations to submit all of the problems facing their people. Of the hundreds of thousands of issues and problems, they found that nearly all of them fit into one of four categories: culture, politics, economics and the environment.
The committee then looked at the issues and problems within each of the four categories and boiled them down into a single word to describe the conditions of humans in relation to that category. They found that, on whole, despite a surge in global economic growth during the latter half of the 20th century, people around the planet found themselves:
Culturally – Rootless (Economic growth had snuffed out unique cultural identities)
Politically – Powerless (Economic growth had not been matched by the spread of democracy)
Economically – The global economic situation was so badly polarized they needed two words: Jobless (Economic growth had not translated into jobs) and Ruthless (Most of the benefits of economic growth were seized by the rich)
Environmentally – Futureless (Economic growth had despoiled the environment)
The committee then went a step further and boiled these conditions, Rootless, Powerless, Jobless/Ruthless, Futureless, down into one single word to describe the overall condition in which people of all nations found themselves. That word is – meaningless.
For most of the people of flesh and blood, soul and spirit, alive at this critical time, sharing this miraculous planet teeming with life and everything needed to sustain it, hurling through a universe full of mystery and potential – life is meaningless.
The antidote for a world that feels increasingly RootLESS, PowerLESS, JobLESS/RuthLESS, FutureLESS, and generally meaningLESS, is for us to be MORE. The cure begins in finding those things that make our lives meaningFULL.
The meaningful work of poets, artists and writers is to keep creating events, objects and stories of great meaning that inspire us to be MORE and imagine the FULLness of life. The meaningful work of teachers, parents and mentors is to help our kids find their own unique genius and teach them to use their gifts to become MORE powerFULL, mindFULL, hopeFULL, joyFULL and a world that is more meaningFULL.”
Per P.Kasso’s answer, I’ve said for years now that despite the great gains of science, science as a form of knowledge is extremely limited. It can provide the illusion of objective context, but it cannot give subjective meaning. Astronomy, for instance, has done a brilliant job of giving the world a better understanding of how our galaxy and other galaxies move, but not what it all means. That’s why people still flock to astrology, though science has supposedly disproved it as a legitimate form of study and inquiry. (Nice job, science! I’m glad you’re doing better w/ star clusters than signs of the Zodiac.) Ultimately, people need meaning even more than measurements of progress.
That’s that. Thank you, P.Kasso. We love you!