In my last post, the U.S. Presidential Election had just concluded and reactions and analyses were swirling turbulently around us.
Since then, things have calmed down a bit. There was no mass exodus to Canada. There have been some protests and petitions, an unfortunate increase in hate crimes (as reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the FBI), and the media is still trying to figure out how to deal with the unconventional and unpredictable Mr. Trump. The President Elect, through his cabinet picks, has set off some alarm bells.
Whether you are someone who is anticipating the coming change with eager anticipation or, alternatively, filled with trepidation and even horror, life must go on.
In this time of uncertainty, it might be sensible to go back to basics—to think about what people want and need at the most fundamental level. By that I mean, their very purpose in living or being. It is important to remember, from Seth’s viewpoint, that individuals create the living picture of our society, politics, government, culture, and so forth, not the other way around. So we have an opportunity to shape the future.
Seth’s teachings about practicing idealists, closely tied to his statements about “natural law” and human impulses can help us understand how to do this.
Natural Law and Value Fulfillment
In many posts on this blog I have mentioned Value Fulfillment. According to Seth, it is one of the fundamental aspects of reality. To refresh your memory:
You are born with a desire to fulfill your abilities, to move and act in the world. Those assumptions are the basis of what I will call natural law. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Amber-Allen, 1995/1981, p. 259)
So what are the Natural Laws that Value Fulfillment is based upon?
Natural Laws are the inner laws of nature that underlie all realities, not just the one we are of aware of. They guide all kinds of life. Seth says they are laws of love and cooperation. These laws are what make us feel safe and secure in the universe, understand that we have a part to play in the whole, and give us confidence that we will creatively add our gifts, talents and outlook to the world. In a nutshell, Natural Laws are what give life meaning.
Seth says that we all come into this world with an impetus toward growth and action–but not growth in terms of size or how much space we take up. Rather, it is a qualitative measure based on how fulfilled we are in the things that matter to us or which we most value.
Chances are that you can look within yourself, your own family or group of friends and identify what some of those values might be for each of them. Some people are competitive and value a challenge. Some people are nurturers and feel fulfilled when they are helping others. There are those who have to feel active all the time; or creative, artistic, or musical. Some people have the need to act as catalysts or to make others laugh or to use their athletic abilities; others get their thrills from always learning or teaching. The list is long and varied.
According to Seth, the way the universe is configured allows for every individual to pursue his or her own Value Fulfillment without impinging on anyone else in a negative way. That is the ideal.
You are born seeking the actualization of the ideal. You are born seeking to add value to the quality of life, to add characteristics, energies, abilities to life that only you can individually contribute to the world, and to attain a state of being that is uniquely yours, while adding to the Value Fulfillment of the world. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 259)
So far, we humans seem to have missed the memo on this. In fact we have phrases in our language that reinforce the idea of winners and losers, such as “zero-sum game,” in which the only way for one person to “win” is for another to “lose,” so that together they net out at zero.
This is contrary to how the universe actually works, according to Seth. He says that, if we were all true to our values—faithful to being our True Selves—conflicts would dissipate.
Your True Self, Impulses, and Spontaneity
People tell me that they don’t know who their True Self is. It is the Self that you are naturally, without having to try. Think back to childhood. Were you a quiet child who liked to make things out of natural materials you found in the woods? Or were you a child who had to be the center of attention, putting on plays and musicals? Were you someone who liked to read or explore or did you prefer playing sports? Maybe making new friends came easy and you made everyone laugh. Were you kind to others and eager to share? Did you like to build and destroy and build again? Children are more likely to act on their impulses than adults, so it is easier to identify what they inherently value. They are still in their pure form.
Seth says that if we act on our impulses they will lead us to Value Fulfillment? That sounds kind of scary. We’ve come to think of our impulses as things we should keep in check. Seth disagrees; by impulses he means the underlying motive power of everything in existence.
Impulses . . . provide impetus toward motion, coaxing the physical body and the mental person toward utilization of physical and mental powers. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 242)
Seth reminds us that impulses are what keep the body going. Every cell and organ has an impulse to do its unique job. Our impulses help us make specific choices out of all the probable choices we might consider. Children are often scolded for their impulses. But impulses are what make them use their muscles and minds. Parents often are fearful that their teenagers’ impulsiveness will lead to trouble. But their impulses are also what allow them to learn, explore, and mature.
Impulses are doorways to action, satisfaction, the exertion of natural mental and physical power, the avenue for your private expression – the avenue where your private expression intersects the physical world and impresses it. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 243)
We get into trouble, according to Seth, because we ignore our small, everyday impulses, either because we have been shamed into doing so or when we act a certain way to meet some set of standards imposed on us by parents, culture, religion, gender norms, business, or even by our own egos.
Today, when someone says, “He acted on impulse” it often means something negative. We use it to describe a person who has committed a criminal act that is unnatural or someone who makes a mistake and later regrets it. But Seth says that it is definitely not human nature to hurt others, to destroy, or to violate.
Even Jane Roberts did not realize that she had been ignoring simple impulses, while she sought after heroic ones, until Seth made it clear to her. She believed so strongly that she ought to be writing that she would not let herself get up and go outdoors or to take a break and go out dancing with Rob. Over time, she became so arthritic that she could barely move. She said, “As a result of such beliefs, I’ve had a most annoying arthritis-like condition for some years that was, among other things, the result of cutting down impulses toward physical motion.” (p. xvi)
Seth often spoke about spontaneity as the key to action. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure what he meant. But now I think he was talking about impulses.
How many times have you thought about someone and said to yourself, “I should give her a call,” only to ignore the impulse and forget about it 2 minutes later. That was a lost chance at spontaneity. Or suppose you are at work and you have an idea to do something differently than the way it’s always been done, but you don’t bother to bring it up to your boss or co-workers; you might be embarrassed if someone strikes down your idea. That is also a lost chance. Some days you may long for fresh air, which might be just what you need to clear your mind or calm your nerves, but you tell yourself that you are too busy. These are just some of the many ways we squash our impulses.
But won’t we always choose the “wrong” impulse? Instead of turning to something that calls to us from within, we might answer the call to something from outside ourselves—like alcohol, or mindless TV shows, material goods, or cheap thrills. Do you really believe that those things are what your Inner Self really craves?
Impulses are meant to guide us toward fulfillment. But we are so used to ignoring them that after a while we do not even realize we have them. I’ve mentioned before that these nudges are coming from our Inner Self—that Self that is always on our side, always looking out for us. Some of us are able to set and achieve big goals but, in the process of achieving them, we ignore all the small impulses that could make our journey so much more rewarding and enjoyable.
The impulsiveness that erupts into violence or rudeness or destructive behavior is the result of long-term repression of small impulses. It can also be the result of highly ritualized behaviors that are ingrained in us by stereotypes that we’ve accepted. One of the stereotypes that impeded me earlier in life was the one that said “Good girls don’t . . .” Fill in the blank with “excel in math;” “speak up to authority;” outshine others, even if they are good at something;” “speak their minds.” How can you ever fulfill yourself if you let conditioning like that dampen all of your impulses?
When such natural impulses toward action are constantly denied over a period of time, when they are distrusted, when an individual feels in battle with his or her own impulses and shuts down the doors toward probable actions, then that intensity can explode into whatever avenue of escape is still left open. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 244)
Which impulses have you denied?
Becoming a Practicing Idealist
Once malaise sets in, you often stop trying to use your own power constructively; it seems hopeless. Ironically, our own small sphere of agency is precisely where we can turn things around. Rather than trying to change the world—a job too big for any one person alone—we must change ourselves and our own impact on the world.
Seth says that if conditions in our society are less than ideal, then it is time for the individual to make a change.
To change the world for the better, you must begin by changing your own life. There is no other way. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 292)
A lot of people today feel like they have no forward momentum, whether economically, socially, in their relationships, or in their careers. I find it funny that at the end of many national news reports there will be a “warm and fuzzy” human interest story. Sometimes a famous person has befriended a sick child who reached out to him. I’ve heard of a complete stranger rescuing someone from a burning car or donating a kidney. In December you might hear about an anonymous person paying off the lay-away accounts of a bunch of people at the local Walmart.
As much as we love these stories and they really touch us deeply, we don’t see ourselves as capable of comparable acts in our everyday lives. But even small acts of kindness will be rewarding. How hard would it really be to add a little bit of kindness to another person’s life? What really stops you from taking a little, positive step toward your own ideals? Through small steps you can find your True Self again. This is what a “practicing idealist” would do.
. . . Exploring and expanding your experience of selfhood gives life a sense of purpose, meaning, and creative excitement—and also adds to the understanding and development of the society and the species. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 301)
It’s never too late to become a practicing idealist. You can start with baby steps. Think about how you spend your time. Whether you are at work, at home, with friends, or in the public sphere, allow your true impulses some freedom. Seth said to insist that each step you take along the way is worthy of your ideals.
The complement of acting spontaneously, is ceasing actions that are not spontaneous and do not add to your fulfillment. At the beginning of this blog, we were looking at the political climate in the U.S. If you remember that individuals create the “atmosphere” of our times, then ask yourself what you can do to improve the atmosphere around you.
If you do this, your life will automatically be provided with excitement, natural zest and creativity, and those characteristics will be reflected outward in to the social, political, economic, and scientific worlds. (The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p. 304)
Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 be a time of renewal and fulfillment for all of you!