Meditations: Humanity's Darkest Hour
Humanity's Darkest Hour (Before the Dawn?)
At nearly 8000 feet in Lassen National Park, surrounded by volcanic cliffs on three sides, the small lake is a dark, mirror-like jewel, unspoiled by human hands. As a faint breeze comes up, brushing its grassy edges, little birds dart to and fro, and a solitary hawk circles twice overhead.
Rocky outcroppings looming around the mountain lake rise 500-1000 feet above the little meadow. There is an unapproachable stillness here. It is so quiet you can hear the water bubbling up on the edge of the lake from gases emanating far below the surface. A rich, golden brown carpet of reed-like grasses extends well beyond the lake.
A mile further on, a larger lake fills most of a meadow. There is a tremendous feeling of space and peace. One usually has to travel much further into the High Sierra to find such pristine beauty. Leaving, I spot dried bear scat, almost the size of beer cans, full of the remnants of red berries.
What is the value of wilderness? Certainly wild places are not just playgrounds for the rich. They are untainted areas where ordinary people can preserve, renew, and enrich the spirit in a global culture hell-bent on exploitation and destruction. Man is overrunning the Earth, so wilderness must be preserved, or in fifty years the only wild places left will be at the poles.
In America and much of the West, an unarticulated misanthropy has taken hold. Many people have given up on humanity, not realizing that since they are humanity, they are giving up on themselves. The human ability to separate seems to know no limits. Humans ceaselessly separate themselves (is that also a separation?) not only from nature, but also from themselves.
Don't get me wrong; I think a little misanthropy demonstrates a healthy respect for reality. The path to understanding humanity is forged by crawling through dark tunnels of disgust at the history of Homo sap.
The divisiveness and fragmentation that are tearing this planet and the human spirit asunder are the result of the human mind. That is, our vaunted cognitive abilities. Symbolic thought, with its outward and inward productions, is the self-projected god humans actually worship. Selfishness and killing, in countless forms, seem to have always been the primary motivation of our species.
I can't help wondering where it will all end. Will all peoples, and so the human race, go the way of the American people, and become inwardly dead, regressing to the most self-centered and superficial pursuits? Or are we witnessing the darkest hours before the dawn of a new human being, with a silent minority bringing about a transmutation in consciousness?
Life is demanding that each person who would retain their heart and soul attend, understand, and thereby quiet the beastly mind. The word normally given to this process is meditation, but the word doesn't matter. Being self-knowing, and knowing how to observe the mind, is what matters.
Meditation requires communion with nature, but it does not demand wilderness. The true meaning and value of wilderness is that there are places left alone, out of recognition that nature and God are infinitely greater than the human mind.
By having a relationship to nature, even through a patch of sky or a solitary tree, each of us can touch silence where we live. Sadly, however, the vast majority of people mindlessly fill their time with work, entertainment, and recreation.
The impetus for awakening the silence and insight of meditation is the universal religious impulse for realizing what is completely beyond the greedy, noisy, ceaselessly active human mind. That is what will save the individual, and humanity, from the rapacious effects of this globalizing so-called culture.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.