If not now?
Behind the proscenium arch of the Greek stage, a tragedy of calamitous human suffering is enacted as government officials quaff cognac and puff at phallic cigars. In this modern day drama, the chorus are ordinary men and women. For many, suicide is the catharsis to loss of livelihood, shelter… and hope, as bloated politicians overstep legal boundaries, and machismo businessmen arrogantly avoid tax payments. This is not really a play about inflated subsidies and debt bingeing of the last decade. Behind the curtains of the euphemistically-named “austerity measures” which darkly ripple across the landscape of so many lives is a far more sombre enactment of a terrible crime.
To the ancient Greeks, Hubris was the greatest crime of all. The outcome, when mere mortals challenged the gods and their laws, overstepping the boundaries, was never without repudiation. There was no escaping the fated denouement. The ancient Greeks had two phrases that encapsulated Greek thinking, and are still relevant today: Know thyself. Nothing in excess.
The glare of the spotlight illuminates the Greek stage, yet in countries, boardrooms, factories, schools, and homes all over the world, misuse of power is a fatally flawed fractal design.
Today, the word Hubris is imbued with a sense of over-confident pride. Only with quiet contemplation and vigilant self examination can we acknowledge where we overstep the boundaries in our ignorance or self-righteousness. Only with scrupulous honesty can we hollow out behaviours that arrogantly assume our entitlement to friendship, or love, or money, or recognition, when it may be we who did not fulfil our side of the bargain. Can we truthfully claim we are owed something when it is so often we who were not present, diligent, honest, or loving? Can we slouch flaccidly in the hammock of our own self-absorption, meting out judgements and criticisms that make others wrong, ourselves right?
All cultures have a code of ethics for thoughts, words and deeds that do not violate ourselves or other living things. In Sanskrit, for instance, Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things. In Latin, Primum non nocere means first, do no harm. Some codes take time to crack, and the best we can do is to cultivate the humble awareness of our connection to all living things and to do no harm. “An authentically empowered person is humble. This does not mean the false humility of one who stoops to be with those who are below him or her. It is the inclusiveness of one who responds to the beauty of each soul… It is the harmlessness of one who treasures, honours and reveres life in all its forms”- Gary Zukav.
Since late 2008, when Pluto entered Capricorn, financial and business structures have splintered. We have not yet seen the full trajectory of the Global Recession nor the full implications of misuse of power in government and big business. Recovery will be excruciatingly slow and desperately jobless. The irrevocable sweep of trans-formation (changing form, which always implies a dying) will impact the lives of each one of us in some way. Sombre Saturn, slowly retracing its orbit until October in ethical, judicious Libra, is a stern celestial marker pointing our attention to the necessity for responsibility, realism, and reason, and maturity in our personal lives, in our communities. Austere times require the wisdom of new governance, new law. If not now, then Uranus (until May 2018), dancing a gypsy dance through the sign of Aries (the incendiary energy of rebellion, uprisings, or self-immolation), will shake the flimsy foundations of “civilisation” as we have manifested it.
The fatal flaw in our society is our inherent arrogance. Our collective hubris that has brought Homo sapiens and the plant and animal species on our home planet to the chasm of annihilation.
Bullies and tyrants hold a convenient hook for all that is unacceptable and shadowy, too appalling to own in our personal lives and collectively. Be vigilant for the convenient human tendency to seek a Sacrificial Scapegoat… heavy-handed autocrats, the captains of sunken ships, the boss, ex-husband or wife, the querulous neighbour. It falls upon each one of us to commit to acts of kindness that expand our capacity for love and generosity that open our awareness to our interconnectedness as living creatures on our beautiful home planet. If not now, then when?
Joanna WattersMarch 5, 2012at11:12 pm
Another stunning piece of writing from you Ing and, of course, as I live in Greece everything you say resonates. Many lives here are in ruins – 600 Euros as a minimum monthly wage? Rent alone in the cities costs that. I would add that I think the opposite to arrogance/hubris may be honesty. The real problem here, and it is the reason why bailouts will eventually fail, is that corruption is rife. This can’t be stamped out with handouts, only reeducation. History tells us that this usually starts with uprisings against regimes. The generational planets certainly reflect this – Pluto taking apart hierarchy, Uranus in Aries, the rebellion of the individual for the cause of the collective. We all have to honour that Uranian energy and passion, the things that set us alight, the knowing that single acts of kindness and grace DO count and make a difference – like ripples in a pond, they will spread. Maybe honesty is the opposite not just to pride but to all that is simply self serving? Every Greek tragedy has the Chorus – the voices are starting to soar!