This Is No Time to Stick Our Heads in the Sand
The following is a reprinted Editorial Opinion from the editors of ‘The Laughing Man Magazine’ published in 1981.
Special Issue on Christianity, Vol 2, NO 2, 1981
he world seems to be infected by an epidemic of apocalyptic hysteria. We all feel it. Everyone is waiting for the next great cataclysm. There is something deliciously perverse about seeing the catastrophes actually start to happen—and so close to home. Now there are killer earthquakes in Europe as well as the Third World, and inconceivably destructive volcanoes on our own West Coast. Every day we become more preoccupied with anticipation of a nuclear shoot-out. The tinderbox war in the Middle East; the agony of the hostages; California posted for the great quake like a condemned house, by geologists as well as psychics; an economy teetering on the verge of awesome collapse, with “I told you so” doomsayers waiting everywhere in the wings; hidden pollution in every drink of water and every breath of air; even peace-loving John Lennon assassinated by a methodical psychotic at his front door in the one city where he felt free to live— maybe the world really is coming to an end!
It’s true enough: the modern crisis of humanity has some built-in levers that can escalate dreadful consequences to an unimaginably horrific degree. But we would do well to remember that, before our entrance into global consciousness in the twentieth century, the consequences of living could always be escalated horrifically at the local level. Genghis Khan used to think nothing of exterminating half a million people and burning their city to the ground—and why? Primarily because he and his nomadic friends could not figure out what to do with stationary people and structures! The index of torture, insanity, hunger, genocide, and “man’s inhumanity to man” has not risen appreciably in the last few thousand years, any more than the index of human vulnerability to rumbles and eruptions in the surface of Mother Earth.
What has changed is the stakes. When a diplomatic miscommunication to the medieval theocracy of Iran could trigger a third World War, and perhaps already has—then we do have uncommonly serious problems. When an earthquake, or even the endlessly shifting waves, could open thousands of barrels of nuclear wastes deep-sixed conveniently close to an inhabited coastline, thus poisoning incalculable thousands of cubic miles of living ocean for at least several hundred thousand years — the time has come for real human change, emotional, spiritual, and social.
Our interpretation of what is happening, however, must surpass mere head-nodding about the prophecies of the Revelation, or Nostradamus, or Edgar Cayce, or the Ascended Brotherhood, or the popular press. Likewise, our response must transcend mere scheming and storaging for our own survival. As things get worse, men and women of good will and spiritual vision must apply higher wisdom in reading the signs of the times and higher energy for service to the world. This is no time for us to stick our heads in the sand and either moan or snicker about how hopeless it all is
The Laughing Man is going to devote most of a forthcoming issue to a sober analysis of “holocaust-survivalism”—but we thought the matter worthy of comment in advance, because the hysterical mood is building daily. To all who take current dreadful developments seriously and wish to respond as wisely as possible, we propose a simple three-part practice to be performed for the rest of our (perhaps brief) lives:
1. Appreciate the laws of purification
The greatest teachers always remind us that, wherever the laws of life are not obeyed— including the great law of human awakening and selfsurrender to God—then purifications must occur that restore humanity and nature to alignment with those laws. They also remind us that if we straightforwardly conform to these higher laws, then the necessary purification will naturally be much more benign, easeful, and swift than it might have otherwise. We have not heard of a single highly illumined person who insists that the most dreadful events will necessarily occur— even though many of them do indicate that there will be more unpleasant changes in the course of the current purification of the earth. So the best thing to do is study the great teachings, listen to the words of the wise, and do whatever you can to awaken to a full psychic as well as intellectual appreciation of the psycho-physical nature of the world and human life.
2. Become emotionally free of the “News”
The enlightened teachers of humanity have always demonstrated remarkable freedom from fear and concern, no matter how bad the circumstances. Why? Not because they did not care—on the contrary, the saints and sages and adepts have always shown the most profound compassion. They consistently demonstrate a capacity for self-sacrifice in real, human terms that humbles even the most dedicated social activist. No, the reason the great ones are fearless and imperturbable is because they have awakened, to one degree or another, into direct understanding of the divine nature of life. They have actually surrendered themselves to God, and, in the process, their emotional reading of the play of nature and human experience has changed utterly. They have become emotionally free of the need to react to bad “News”—all the presumptions and reports that tend to make us reenact our chronic game of self-consciousness, self-concern, fear, anxiety, despair, and the whole aggravated struggle for self-survival against the unbeatable odds of a “heartless” and chaotic universe where everyone inevitably dies. Enlightened beings realize directly that the world is divine by nature, that all that happens is the play of Grace, and that the way for humanity to reverse its negative destiny is only through spiritual awakening and enlightened service. Such beings naturally allow the Divine to determine their destinies and even their deaths.
3. Devote yourself to sewing the healing of humanity
Certainly, we should all do what is necessary and appropriate to be able to persist in practical terms through difficult circumstances. To store food, to enter into cooperative practical agreements with others, to develop good water supplies, to plan for contingencies—all that is fine. But to move to the Arctic Circle sheerly for the sake of our own survival is gravely to miss the point of this test, this school that we call ‘life.” Spiritual awakening implies interdependency and self-sacrifice, not independent self-fulfillment or self-survival. It is not too late for men and women of spiritual understanding to make dramatic changes even in the imminent fate of mankind—to “take the steam out of the holocaust,” as Da Free John once phrased it. We can do so by entering most profoundly into enlightened prayer for the sake of the world and all beings, and by entering into strong alliances with one another in cooperative ventures for the sake of everyone’s welfare. We can help to ease the sting of the necessary purification by becoming all the more visible, rather than invisible, as self surrendered servants of men, women, and all sentient beings. The Bodhisattva vow to serve all beings does not have a “release in the event of holocaust” clause—as, indeed, has been demonstrated by the Tibetan Buddhists, who have experienced as great a holocaust (that is, the destruction of sacred Tibet by the Chinese Communists) as any other culture on earth. They have simply persisted in their benign service and wisdom practice wherever they found themselves. The great Adepts, like Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Ramakrishna, often wind up dying of terrible diseases— which, they explain, are direct results of association with the karmas of devotees. Such beings simply surrender into the self-giving process and allow the spiritual mechanics of service to eat them alive. Mother Teresa of Calcutta does not mind the stench of the dying; she serves them as the living Christ. So did Catherine of Siena in the plague-ridden fourteenth century—another age when the doomsayers were quoting apocalyptic Revelation with strange relish, just as they do today.
If we are to be true to the spiritual law of life, then those of us who share an enlightened concern for the state of humanity and the earth will rise up and enter into the service of humanity with full faith, free of fear and revulsion. We will be steady in the heartfelt vision of God, and we will be visibly released of any demand upon God that we ourselves survive the fire that already surrounds us.