There are many varieties of addicition, but, sooner or later, we each have to address what is the paramount addiction in the Western world: our psychological dependence on the worldview and lifestyle of Western civilization itself. This is the point brilliantly made by eco-psychologist Chellis Glendinning in her book My Name Is Chellis, and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization. The Western worldview says, in essence, that technological progress is the highest value and that we were born to consume, to endlessly use and discard natural resources, other species, technological gadgets, toys, and, often, other people, especially if they are poor or from the Third World. The most highly prized freedom is the right to shop. It's a world of commodities, not entities, and economic expansion is the primary measure of progress. Competition, taking, and hoarding are higher values than cooperation, sharing, and gifting. Profits are valued over people, money over meaning, Firest-World entitilement over global peace and justice, "us" or "them." This addiction is the most dangerous one inf the world, not only because of its impact on most of humanity but because it is rapidly undermining the natural systems that sustain the earth's biosphere.
All other addictions in the West can be seen as components of this larger one. If we are born to continue, then it is a dog-eat-dog world, there is no deeper meaning, no human soul, and creation is just a huge, dumb joke. That's a conclusion you wouldn't want to live with every day; better to distract and deaden yourself with addictions.
By the time we reach our first adulthood, our ways of thinking about ourselves and the world have been molded and constrained by the predominant values of Western culture. This limits us in ways difficult to see at first; we are like fish in the sea, unconscious of the cultural waters within which we have come of age.
All children and adolescents fashion personalities that fit within their native culture. In the West, that means a society largely materialistic, synthetic, technological, anthropocentric, ethnocentric, and egocentric. Fitting in with such a culture is difficult to accomplish without losing contact with our souls and with nature, the web of life. Western lifestyles that revolve around a constant barrage of anemic distractions may be, in part, ways of self-numbing so as to minimize the pain of that loss. Many people have succumbed to daily routines of soul-starving entertainment, superficial fashion, and mind-numbing jobs.
This way of life becomes an addiction. The more we live this way, the more alienated we become from something deeper and more meaningful, and the more we need this way of life to keep us from experiencing that alienation.
How do you address an addiction this pervasive? Begin with the soulcraft practices found in these pages. Relinquishing attachment to the adolescent identity is a primary means of overcoming our dependence on the cultural worldview within which that identity was formed.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Here is some more excellent material from the book SOULCRAFT by Bill Plotkin. Much food for thought...