In 1981 my knowledge of exotic and terrifying predictions about the world’s future were limited to vague references to Nostradamus, or Michel de Nostredame, the famous 16th century French apothecary and prophet and his puzzling, apocalyptic quatrains. Of passing interest, they affected my life not at all.
Ten years later I was a member of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, a spiritual organization based on the channeled teachings of a former Washington cable TV executive, JZ Knight. My life centered around surviving “the Days to Come,” a fearful polyglot vision of karma, violent earth changes, alien invasion, terrorism, death and chaos that had members of the school scurrying to put up food, buy guns and dig vast expensive underground shelters to weather out the coming storm. At that point in my life, of all the potential visions of my future, sitting at a computer on Boxing Day 2010, above ground, calmly writing while tea brewed and my cat purred in my lap, was the least likely of all.
By 2001 I had graduated to the understanding that we were indeed screwing up the planet to such a degree that it was inevitable dire consequences would ensue, but I no longer worried about it. My focus, instead, was on what I could do to mitigate the damage that would inevitably be meted out on the unconscious masses (who always take the brunt of every social/evolutionary/climatic storm). I wrote my Congressmen and women, forwarded emails, campaigned for the Democrats, and got involved in the green building movement. Eventually I ended up working with the filmmakers of the international indie film hit What the Bleep Do We Know!? promoting films and books I hoped would help uplift the consciousness of the world enough to change the course we were on.
I was a driven woman with nothing less than the world’s salvation on my mind.
Nowadays most of us experience being driven by one thing or another – the need to change things, the need to succeed and have money, the need to be desirable, the need to get the next computer upgrade or iPhone app, the need to be beautiful, comfortable, happy, esteemed, popular – you name it.
At the same time, we could say that much of what modern civilization focuses upon (consumption) and considers important (more things to consume at a faster rate) is insane – especially since pursuit of these VIPDs (very important personal desires) is rapidly leading us to the point of ecological disaster, climate change, terrorist brinkmanship and mass psychosis.
Let’s face it, being driven – even being driven by positive social ideals – is to become mentally obsessed, compelled, consumed, and bedeviled… all conditions that hold more than a tinge of mental instability. It doesn’t matter if your obsession is grocery store coupons, Greenpeace, Al-Qaeda, fundamentalist Christianity or Reformist Tea Party ethics… being compelled for good or for ill is not the issue. Being driven is the issue, for it is a form of madness, pure and simple.
Heading into the year 2011, over 26% of the US population now suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Imagine that. Over a quarter of all our family members, office co-workers, government officials and corporate execs are verifiably mentally ill at some level or other. And if that isn’t a disturbing thought, I don’t know what one is.
So what the hell do we do about this?
Having come from a highly driven space, with all my personal and professional focus on “doing good” for over a decade, I feel I can at least comment on the potentials.
“Being” is the natural opposite of “doing.” And yet our society has become so addicted to doing that we’ve even begun framing being in “doing” terms. Millions of little children each Christmas think that “being good for Santa” really means “not doing bad;” Calvin stops throwing slush balls at Suzie, Tom Sawyer stops dipping Becky Thatcher’s braids in ink, French and German foes share rations and cigarettes in the trenches together on Christmas Day during World War I before renewing hostilities the next morning.
“Being good” is as dangerous an idea as a loaded gun is a weapon. Subject to every individual’s interpretation, every religion’s creed, every nation’s dictates, “good” can mean anything from feeding the poor to killing physicians who provide abortions. Doing good has been the excuse for every holy war and the slaughter of billions for millennia.
It’s the surplus of doing that has us in such a pickle.
But if we take the simplest understanding of goodness as meaning that which does no harm in thought, word or deed, and all of us simply moved through our days being that way, the world would be a radically different place. It would be paradise. Heaven on earth. And it would happen in a moment. No decrees. No taking action and creating legislation, no demonstrations, no Crusade, no police enforcement necessary. Everybody simply being harmless would change everything.
And all the fearful predictions of Nostradamus, all the thousands of years of doom-saying would fade away to nothing.
 From the NIMH website: Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.