“Gratitude is an attitude,” the aphorism goes and there is a lot to recommend a cheery outlook on life. Evidence predicts that a positive attitude is healthy and certainly is a happier way of looking at things.
Conversely, we’re cautioned that judgment is a treacherous task, destined to dismay. No doubt, when something is judged, opportunity arises for assigning lack. So the admonishment not to judge seeks to save us from the negative response of disappointment. But how do you avoid noting an obvious failing without judging? When something is amiss, can you just “Turn it off,” like in the song from the play The Book of Mormon? Deliverance from this conundrum comes by way of discernment.
Dictionaries define discernment as “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.” Hey, works for me. Discernment allows one to observe reality and dispense with judgment or emotional disdain. You can say, “I’m not negative, I’m discerning.” You can “spot it” even if you don’t “got it”.
Let us give thanks for the green, green grass of home. I’m a child of the ‘60s. What heady times they were. Probably many generations think their developmental decade was the greatest. But I once asked an elder who had lived long and prospered well if he thought the decade of the ‘60s was really so different. He had lived through Paris of the ‘20s, a decade of amazing creativity and social upheaval. He matured through the ‘30s, known for remarkable national and worldwide change. He was an adult in the 1940s and ‘50s. The 1950s marked huge growth. But he told me that to his observation, indeed, the decade of the 1960s was absolutely, hands-down the most remarkable and “different” decade of all.
In terms of thanks this season, I have to say I’m grateful to see that American attitudes toward marijuana use have begun to change and reflect the impetus born of the ‘60s decade. Make no mistake, I’m no stoner and don’t even support the regulation of an herb that grows wild but just seeing the adoption of an attitude of common sense makes me give thanks.
No thanks for these. There is, however, no thanks due for the shortcomings troubling society and the world that we sought to change in the ‘60s. It’s ironic and disturbing that of all the many goals the upheaval of the 1960s enumerated, the one most wholly reached has been liberalizing the use of pot. So many other dreams and goals have withered that I suspect there may be a dark reason. There is work to be done.
Nature. In the ‘60s we really thought we were going to see a change in attitudes toward the environment. Fifty years later, the planet is in far worse shape than it was then. Energy mismanagement, waste, pollution — all have grown out of control. Rather, one could say that big corporations have gained control and seek to control nature rather than work with it. The greatest offense may well be the misuse of what we call agriculture and meat production. But all of our environmental goals have fallen sadly short.
Equality. Socially and economically, equality spans a widening gap. There seems to be even less unity between races than in the 1960s. In some weird ways society was more tolerant of gender orientation fifty years ago than it is now. It almost seems like the more that factions demand, the less respect is granted. The Anonymous and Occupy movements lasted about as long as the current generation’s attention span.
Peace. Governments of the world, especially ours, are ready to bomb or drone other cultures out of existence for fallacious and specious reasons like non-existent WMDs or unproven use of nerve gas. Through the ‘60s, demilitarization was a huge goal. Instead, we’ve destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, mount black ops, and now threaten Iran. Were it not for a verbal gaffe by our Secretary of State, there is little doubt we would be raining cruise missiles on Syria.
Politics. America has become less democratic even while we violently export democracy to countries that have been ruled by tribal culture for millennia. Democracy is but one of many forms of government and was well suited to a melting pot of settlers fleeing despotic nations by choice in the 1700s. Democracy obviously doesn’t suit countries where monocultures have existed under tribal or monarchal rule for centuries.
Population growth. Another cause from the ‘60s where we’ve lost the battle. We were struggling in 1960 with 3 billion people on board and looking to reach zero population growth. We are now headed toward 9 billion on earth and have slowed the growth rate by less than 1%. Overpopulation is the core reason for most of the problems we face.
High or sober? It’s sobering to think of all the lofty goals of the ‘60s — peace, freedom, equality, a healthy planet — the only thing we can claim is that dope is becoming socially acceptable. It’s time to make peace, equality and freedom just as acceptable.