I've been really busy lately with my classes, preparing for finals. I have my last class on Monday with a group of about 60 Japanese students that I've been teaching American Culture and History. We'll be looking at 1990 to the present, and I need to sum things up for them.
What I've been thinking, as we moved through the 20th century, is that America has had a dramatic impact on the world, with our culture, technology, values and ideas- especially our ideals of freedom, individuality and the pursuit of happiness. But what seems to have happened is that in recent decades it's become increasingly clear (to many of us) how futile this is. And perhaps, with the election of Obama, we are seeing a potential shift. An opportunity to change, in a positive direction. People realize the old ways don't work.
Freedom is meaningful when people are oppressed by others, but personal freedom in pursuit of pleasures or material things- on it's own- has created a lot of suffering. In business and economics we see the chaos created by letting businesses do whatever they want- environmental destruction, economic implosions.
People need self-discipline and must consider their actions carefully, or they create so many problems. The pursuit of happiness thru pleasure and material gain is a grand experiment that has failed. In the words of ecologists, its "unsustainable."
Seems like civilization has been crashing, we've experienced a long downhill slide in so many areas. Good things have happened in terms of greater understanding of ecology, greater political equality, changes all over the world with people gaining greater say in their lives. But there has been a down side- too many families, societies and communities are unraveling.
Violence in the media and on the streets, addictions, obsessive sexuality, sex industries, food issues, depression, suicide, unemployment, poverty, etc... All these problems are interconnected, and I sense many people are seeking wisdom now. People are looking for wise leaders. Not just spirituality, and not science either, but everyday common sense- the practice and transmission of greater wisdom
in business, in education, in politics, entertainment, in families could really make a difference...
I wonder if you all might share some of your thoughts on this, using language that is secular and universal, not "Buddhist" per se. Cause that seems to be a key challenge now, to translate dharmic wisdom into mundane terminology, and practices. And to somehow find a way of helping that wisdom to seep into all areas of society, for the benefit of Buddhists but even more so NonBuddhists, as those who are not practicing are suffering more and (most importantly) are greater in number.
We can talk about Obama if anyone is interested, current events.
As I mentioned in another discussion I want to possibly write an article or book this year, on wise leaders, or wisdom in the popular culture, something related to this. Something with dharma roots but that is secular in focus.