Shahriar Shahriari

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As above, So below

The more I look around and the more I look inside me, the more I am convinced of those old words of wisdom: "as above, so below; as within, so without."

I used to think that there were many problems in the world and that it was our duty to be of service, to help eliminate these problems in our own little ways. Phrases such as "Think globally, act locally" were quite attractive and alluring. I was also a victim of my own misunderstanding. I was yet another one, drawn towards saving the world.

Now as I am growing older and hopefully wiser, I have a different outlook. I have learnt how to look within as well as without. And I see so many similarities that I am astounded and even perplexed.

I recognize that every problem that I see with the world is a simple reflection of another problem within myself, my family, and my community.

I see the pollution in the world, and it reminds me of the poisoning of my own body. I see the increasing agricultural dependence on fertilizers and pesticides and other chemicals, and I see my own increasing need for vitamins, minerals and other synthetic supplements. I see the protected natural water reservoirs and I see my own consumption of bottled water.

I see our increasing need for packaging and transportation of food from one part to another part of the planet, and I see my own extreme reliance on packaged foods and supermarkets. I see how so many large agricultural cartels produce so much of the world's food, and I see how fewer and fewer giant mega-stores and large supermarkets control more and more of the delivery of my food to me.

I see large areas of old growth forest devastated by clear cutting, and I see a bald cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy walking past me.

I see the deception of our politicians and the failure of our political system, and I see the tendencies of my own ego, twisting and turning my own words, to convince my mind and my body to do things that my conscience has forbidden. I see the general public dissatisfaction with the political system and the people's complacency to the extent of giving up any kind of direct action, and I see my own conscience taking a back seat to my ego's choices and decisions.

I see the abuse of public funds both in governments and charities, and I see my own propensity to put comfort above conscience. I see the public reluctance to vote and I see my own tendency to not make choices.

I see the public fascination with the mind numbing programs on television, and I see my own habitual excursions into flights of fantasy. I see the law enforcement problems in our country, and I see my own lack of self discipline in my own family, my own work, my own relationships, and even in the way I treat myself.

I see that our society values material achievements above making a difference, and I see my own preference to accumulate goods and status symbols, over being of significance. I see a world striving to succeed, and I see that I want to be successful. I see fierce competition in a dog-eat-dog world, and I train myself with a lot of dedication to win the game of my life.

I see a world fascinated with making small areas clean and healthy, and I see my own fascination with fitness, dieting, cleansing, fasting and any other way to remove any symptoms of disease from my body.

I see a world still full of discrimination, all be it covert and subliminal, and I see my own tendencies to stereotype, group, pigeon hole, and create in-groups vs. others for myself.

I see the unprecedented violence and war and destruction, as well as our immense capacity to destroy our planet, and I notice the rise in violence and abuse in the family, even the self-abuse that we subject ourselves to, and ultimately the rise in the incidents of suicide. I also notice the more innovative, deadly and sophisticated ways in which we are creating this abuse, directly reflecting the immense destructive technologies that we have created in our world.

I see the increasing incidents of child and spousal abuse and I see my own tendency to ignore my inner child and neglect my inner female or male energies as the case may be.

I see the rigid organization of religions and spiritual creeds, and concretization of dogma and rituals, and I see my own tendency to create personal rituals for myself, hoping that they will promote my spiritual growth, and lead to my salvation. I see the accelerating trend to move towards fundamentalism, and I see my own inclination to run towards my old and outdated comfort zones.

I see a world fascinated with technological advancement, with or without the necessary moral understanding, and I see that I am enchanted with every form of technological gadget that is being offered to me.

I see a legal system that has become a burden to the society, which is more interested in its own bureaucratic perpetuation than upholding truth and justice, and I see myself doggedly adhering to laws and diligently fulfilling bureaucratic requirements, even if I do not believe in them, and even if I consider them unjust and immoral.

I see a world that is focusing on effects, remedying every problem in hand, and I see myself going to doctors, healers, accountants, lawyers, therapists and even psychics to find remedies to solve my latest issues.

I see a world that is destroying more and more of the natural habitat, giving less and less room to other species and ultimately forcing them into the downward spiral of destruction and extinction, and I see friends being forced out of jobs because of corporate downsizing, forced out of relationships because of unhappy partners, and forced out of their homes because of bankruptcies.

But I also see a world with a number of rebels who are advocating a different way of living, small pockets of communities who have created their own local economies and their healthier and more respectful ways of life, and I see individuals who are rejecting the status quo, and opting for honoring their ideals instead of the socially expected norms.

I see small and sometimes large groups and organizations who are trying to bring compassion and caring into this world, and I notice the odd individual who does do something without any expectation, only because he/she cares. I even sometimes catch myself doing a random act of kindness.

I see more and more communities taking responsibility for their own well being, and I notice that increasingly I have been taking responsibility for my own affairs.

I see a world generally seeking peace and becoming more and more creative in finding ways of bringing peaceful solutions. I also notice our individual ways of bringing peace and harmony to our lives and our neighborhoods. Even living peacefully, side by side with the animals and plants and our planet.

I see a general resurgence of interest in spirituality, and I see my own increased interest in understanding my own soul and my own spiritual path and purpose.

The question is not whether this inter-reflection is there or not. The question is whether we can and should change our world from without or from within, or perhaps both?

My own view is that there is only one root cause of all the problems in the world, and if we remedy and eradicate that cause, then every other problem that is caused by this will either be automatically resolved or simply dissolved as a byproduct. The main and only root cause is that we face a "crisis of perception". If we simply change the way we look at the world, if we begin to find the right or at least the more correct perspective, then we will understand everything more accurately. We will then be asking the more relevant and appropriate questions and consequently find the pertinent solutions and remedies.

Simplistic? Perhaps! And what if this is the right approach?

Simplistic it may be, but at least in my experience, most truths have an economy and simplicity to them, a kind of simple beauty and grace.

My solution to the problems of the world is to not concern myself with the problems of the world. But to only focus on my own existence and its associated problems. To align myself with my conscience. To not allow social duties and expectations dictate what I do or how I live. In the words of James Joyce to: "...not serve that in which I no longer believe".

To live from the inner fountain of my soul. To do the things that inspire and energize me. To serve those values that make me lose sense of time and space and fatigue. To not be concerned with opulence, nor status, nor duty. In the words of Joseph Campbell: "to follow my bliss!"

This on the surface may sound individualistic and will only lead to anarchy. But how can it, if I follow the wishes of my soul? How can my inner or higher guidance lead me and my world to a situation that is reeking of havoc and pestilence? How can it not direct me to my best state of well being, which will automatically include a world that is harmonious, loving and wise. Of course this is all provided that I believe in the existence of a higher guidance or inner mind. That I have faith that the universe is based on law and order and operates with a loving and harmonious tendency.

But even if I don't, and I only think of my own well being, then if I consider its long term implications wisely, I will have no alternative but to reject violence and greed and hate and above all fear. It will be in my best long term interest to "follow my bliss", for following my bliss is doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. It is the best way I know to bring joy to my life. A joy that I will carry with me till death and maybe even beyond.

And if the maxim "as above, so below; as within, so without" is true, then if I am joyous and blissful, then the world has no alternative but to be blissful and joyous. Fixing the world is an inside job. How can it be otherwise?

Shahriar Shahriari
February 1997
Vancouver Canada


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