Something is terribly wrong in this world. Can't you feel it? Maybe the better question is - where do you feel it?
Whenever I've been posed with a difficult decision or tried to make sense out of a seemingly mysterious situation, I've often been told to "trust your gut." I am not sure why the gut is the right body part to listen to, because although my abdomen has been subjected to numerous x-rays over my four plus decades of life, no doctor has ever told me that he discovered a truth meter inside of my gastrointestinal system.
That bit of humor aside, we humans make decisions in ways that we don't always fully understand and metaphorically our "gut" is the symbolic place where we synthesize data, information, events and experiences with our beliefs, feelings and assumptions and from that process develop conclusions. Although our conclusions might be emotionally satisfying, they may not always be based in fact.
I don't know if that description fits your idea of what the "gut" is, but what I do know is that my gut tells me that something is very wrong in this world. But, my anxiety defies description. Medications do nothing to help, because what is wrong isn't a physical ailment. Although we may be doing okay, or even quite well by some standards, there is a nagging sense that something "big" is just around the corner, ready to ruin our lives...again.
And, I bet your gut tells you the same thing. Why do we feel this way?
Logically, perhaps that's not too difficult of a question to answer. We have just lived through three of the most tumultuous decades in modern history. Things that we assumed twenty five years ago to be permanent parts of our social, political and economic landscape have fundamentally changed or evaporated. In our lifetimes, events have transpired that we assumed could never happen. The Cold War ended, the Soviet Union disintegrated, the once poor economic backwaters of India and China are now our bankers, the world experienced the most devastating financial crisis in seventy years and we have yet to work out of the ensuing Great Recession. America is waging war on three continents (at least) against enemies that wear no uniforms and are inspired to violence by a fanaticism the depths of which we have yet to fully comprehend.
I am sure that you could add to this list without trying very hard. With rapid-fire change, comes uncertainty and fear. The cumulative effect is a sense that everything is changing, all the time. And, it is!
Yet, I sense that more than just uncertainty is to blame for the toxic mix of emotional acids burning a hole in our guts.
We feel alone. As a people we are more divided than ever. Over time, we've managed to slice and dice ourselves into red and blue, right and left, my religion and yours, patriots and everyone else. Those with opposing views are cast as having evil intent. Dividing people into the camps of "us" and "them" has become a business model far more profitable than unifying.
"Us versus them" thinking is popular, because at its core there is a kernel of truth to it. At the epicenter of every major crisis we have encountered in recent memory is spectacular corruption. We've discovered that the very people who were supposed to have our backs were either on the take or actively conspiring against us. Over the past decade our leaders have demonstrated outrageous infidelity in nearly every quarter of society. Leaders in finance, journalism, business, religion, politics, government, science, sports and the arts have all betrayed us in some way for personal enrichment.
Drip, drip, drip...that is the sound of acidic drops of corruption, hypocrisy, greed, dishonesty and duplicity falling from those in high positions of power eroding the path in front of us. In "normal" times the occasional dribs and drabs of human weakness fell infrequently and at their peak might create a small stream of scandal over which we could easily step on our way to the summit. But today, it feels as if those little drops have accumulated into an ocean of corruption and fear on which the boats of our lives are tossed uncontrollably in an uncertain world.
Who can we trust anymore?
We know we could weather the storm better if we could lash the little boats of our lives together to form a more stable craft. On this stormy sea I can see your lifeboat from mine, but unfortunately we're too far apart to help each other. When we try to row towards each other, the rolling waves of fear and the rip tides of division make our efforts to come together futile. We're out of control, adrift and on our own. If something bad happens to me, can I count on you to help me out? Can you trust me to do the same?
We've played by the rules, done our best and tried to live an honest life. Yet, why does it seem like the game feels stacked against us? This is how Tom Worth must have felt. He played by the rules and was a success, yet it was all an illusion orchestrated by those in power. Tom's ignorance blinded him to what was really happening until it was too late.
But there is hope.
Even if we have lost faith in our institutions and leaders, we can still turn this thing around if we have faith and trust in ourselves - our true selves. If we can muster the courage to have faith in our true self, the spark of divinity within each one of us, then we indeed can not only weather this maelstrom of uncertainty, corruption and selfishness, but enter the safe harbor of the virtues.
By cultivating the petals of generosity, sacrifice, compassion, goodwill, honesty, patience, courage, justice, mental clarity and creativity, then the beautiful flower of my true self can unfold. These virtues may not be in fashion today, but they never go out of style.
What gives me hope is that because we were both created in the same divine image, you are one of my brothers or sisters, and you can do the same thing. In fact, unfolding our true selves is what we are programmed to do before we came into this life. We were destined for greatness and prosperity; it is just that at some point, we lost our way.
Fortunately, each of us is fitted with a conscience, a spiritual gyroscope that will eventually right the ships of our lives back on course towards our ultimate destination. The sour feeling in our guts is a sign that we are spiritually "seasick," because we sense we have strayed too far from our true course. Trust your gut, because that bad feeling is a signal from your conscience to get back on track.
It seems that the first step towards righting our ships and reorienting ourselves to true north is to unite. If I can find a way to see the best of me inside of you, and you can find it in yourself to do the same, then there is hope that we can join forces to achieve miraculous things. Things that can only be accomplished through cooperation and recognition of the divinity that lies dormant within each of us.
But, here's the deal, we have to do it together. A selfish salvation isn't in the cards. As just one member of the human family, I can't truly be free to enter my Father's House until you are too. Unless we can walk in together, there is something incomplete to any degree of peace that I (or you) may find.
It won't come easy.
To release the best of our true selves we will have to sacrifice that which is the least important. We will have to let go of our selfish interests and desires to make room for God so that the Divine Will can function within and through us. When that day comes, then indeed we will have helped to create the paradise that is intended for us.
But right now, the waves of fear are still crashing over the transom, a downpour of ignorance is blinding us from the truth, the tides of division threaten to pull us apart and the lightning of anger is flashing dangerously close. Yet, faith in ourselves - our true selves - and each other is just the break in the clouds we need to unveil the stars of the virtues needed to navigate to the safe harbor we've been seeking.
We can do this! Transform that bad gut feeling into a fire in the belly to keep rowing towards each other! Don't give up! Can you hear me over the shrieking wind of advertisers, political commentators, extremists and fanatics? Together, we can reach that safe harbor! There is unity in our common heritage and destination, which gives me all the faith I need to keep rowing towards you.
Our survival and prosperity won't come from a temporary ideology, political system, job, money or a gun, but instead by cultivating and accepting the eternal gifts of the soul.