Monday, July 25, 2011

Spirituality 14

Returning Home

Vintage car, Ulster Museum, March,  2011

There is nothing as reassuring for a child as returning home, home to the nest and to safety.  And indeed, the sense of the consolations of returning home stays with us for our whole lifetime, especially when we are tired or frustrated and want to escape from the world of fret and worry.  We are lucky, of course, if our homes are true homes in the sense that they are nourishing of the soul and healing of our cares.  Too many homes today are places of conflict, and if they are so, they certainly are not places of refuge or healing or of simple escape and rest.

Many moons ago when I was at college in the late nineteen seventies we studied sections of a book by Peter Berger (born 1929) the Austrian-born American sociologist.  That book was called The Homeless Mind, and he wrote it with two other sociologists, his wife and a guy called Kellner.  In this book, these scholars introduce the reader to the concept of modernization and its host of problems which it bequeaths to humankind.  They describe in their book these problems, and then set forth a model that attempts to explain how modernization takes place. Their stated hope is that the reader, after understanding how modernization occurs and the problems it brings about, will be better equipped to deal with modernization and to formulate methods of remedying its problems.

The crux of their explanation is that modernity has two processes (which they call "carriers") that have traditionally brought modernity to the masses. The first process or carrier is technology. These new ways of doing things have brought about new ways of thinking about things. Thus, the arrival of the technology of steam engines and consequently Henry Ford’s assembly line concept were technological advancements that were carried over into many aspects of industry. It soon came to the point so that most workers slaved in factories which used this assembly-line concept along with the other factory-related paradigms, and these eventually became not only processes of making automobiles, but also paradigms of thought for everyday life. Thus, as time went by, most members of the population adopted technological paradigms as methods for everyday reasoning.

As a result, say, of this assembly-line or conveyor-belt approach, people then began to see things as mere components of bigger things.  The sociologists coined the term "componentiality" to refer to this type of thinking.  Indeed, one might even argue, in like manner, that we have begun to think of ourselves as mere components of society.   This, then, results in the creation of "anonymous social relations." In a factory setting, the lowly assembly-line worker does a certain job - screwing in this or that part, which together with all the other parts screwed in or fixed by others - that goes to make up the automobile, without caring who added this or that.  There is, thus, less of a personal touch in the prevailing everyday way of looking at the world. Through this and other ideas brought about through technology, individuals slowly lose their identity. This contributes to the feeling of homelessness. They are alienated, consequently, not alone from their assembly-line colleagues and from the ultimate result of their labour (the car), but also from themselves.

The second major process which brings about modernization, and consequently the feeling of homelessness, according to the authors, is bureaucracy. This latter concept creates more "red tape," as it were, and the individual feels as if his/her life is being controlled to a greater extent than before. Further,  as a result of bureaucratic identification, the individual’s place in life is emphasized relative to the bureaucracy itself - instead of emphasizing the individual as a Smith or a Quinlan, or a member of a local club, his existence as a citizen, for example, is stressed. This leads to more anonymity; the individual becomes hidden in the masses of others who are also under the bureaucracy. The individual’s feelings of homelessness are increased. Add to this complexity the fact that there abounds a "pluralization of social life-worlds" in modern life.   As populations grow and expand due to modern processes, and to the free movement of modern humankind, they are introduced to many ideas that are alien to those shared by their original community, society or nationality.   This is the type of thing the Norwegian mass-murderer and right-wing Fascist Anders Breivik was railing against in his 1500 page manifesto which he published on the Web shortly before his dastardly acts of random assassination.

Moreover, many advances in science are not in perfect accord with beliefs previously held by the community, society or nation.  Thus, individuals come to understand that their ideas are not necessarily universal ones. Truths that were once held to be universally self-evident are now seen to be highly localized  and  even specifically national.  This inevitably gives the individual great doubts about the validity of beliefs which were formerly unquestioned by almost all in the particular society.  In the sad case of the recent mass-murders in Norway, one can see how one sad delusional individual, how one sad "homeless mind" in the person of the massacre-madman Anders Breivik could end up believing that his personal as well as national identity was reduced by the influx of other nationalities into his country.  He rails against multi-culturalism in his chilling manifesto which tries to explain his evil mission of slaughter.

It is almost incredible that someone could write 1,500 hate-filled pages in which he declares war on all Muslims and left-wingers.  Apparently, he even threatens therein to help bring down Western civilisation itself by the year 2083.  Breivik — who honed his terror skills at camps run by neo-Nazis called The Vikings — tells how he built up an arsenal of guns and had kept a huge explosives cache at his isolated farm. His manifesto also contains a diary spelling out the minutiae of what he did for the final three months in preparation for last Friday's bombing and shooting in which some 93 souls perished.  (The police have since reduced this figure to one in the early eighties - See this link here: The Sun Newspaper ).

Furthermore, I believe that the premise of the Bergers' book, named and described above, may go some way to explaining how a man like Anders Behring Breivik could possibly do what he did:

...The secularizing effect of pluralization has gone hand in hand with other secularizing forces in modern society. The final consequence of all this can be put very simply (though the simplicity is deceptive): modern man has suffered from a deepening condition of "homelessness." The correlate of the migratory character of his experience of society and of self has been what might be called a metaphysical loss of "home." It goes without saying that this condition is psychologically hard to bear. (p. 82)  (See this link here: Garret Wilson on Homeless Mind )

Exile versus Homecoming

My home, October, 2003
The Master's teachings did not find favour with the Government that had him banished from his country.  To disciple who asked if he never felt nostalgia for his homeland, the Master said, "No."

"But it is inhuman not to miss one's home," they protested.

To which the Master said:

"You cease to be an exile when you discover that creation is your home."

(Anthony de Mello, S.J., One Minute Wisdom, p. 98)


We are truly at peace when we are at home, relaxed, content with ourselves in our own minds.  This is what really matters.  Am I really and truly at home in my mind?  This is a very important question for our mental well being.  Obviously Anders Behring Breivik is certainly not at home in his own mind.  He is rootless and ruthless, homeless and estranged, a true outsider if ever there was one.  The mind at home with itself as opposed to the homeless mind finds its home no matter where it goes.  Hence it never misses home or is overcome by useless nostalgia or a hankering after things from the past that cannot be recreated here and now.  The mind at home with itself as opposed to the homeless mind can travel anywhere in the world and never feel lonely, because as Tony de Mello so well puts it - "We cease to be in exile when we discover that creation is our home."

3 comments: said...

Namaste, excellent post thanks for sharing your views. I think the future of our world will migrate to a more definitive expression of love or fear. Duality is more than ever apparent.

Tim said...

I agree. That tension is always there. Duality is indeed ever more apparent! We hope that love will triumph. How would we survive without that hope to keep us going? Even in the midst of the hell of Auschwitz those who managed to surive were those filled with hope - how those few managed that is a triumph of the human spirit, is it not Christopher? said...

Namaste brother I believe love must triumph; simply because this is our true essence. We get too caught up in the illusions of physicality and separation. It can be very difficult to remember this is but a dream, we are in a matrix. Like Einstein said "reality is and illusion; albeit a very persistent one"

Beyond the matrix my brother, I have personally been through ordeals I should not have. At the end of the rope there is a knot for everyone to hold onto. For some of us the knot holds amazing truth, grace and acceptance. It is in the acceptance of death we find truth, love and compassion.

In Lak' ech brother, prosper in truth live in love...