Waking Up and the Curse of Cassandra

It can be pleasant at times to remain asleep – snuggled under the covers in our comfy bed, strolling through fantastical dreamscapes entirely of our own creation. And even after we rise, we may remain lost in reverie for much of the day – savoring our dreams, and pondering ways to bring their deliciousness into reality. Yes, the real world can be harsh at times, and sometimes we succumb to an overwhelming urge to simply escape into our fantasies for a time. The problem comes when we confuse our fantastical dreams with reality.

Spiritual growth is often likened to waking up. When we wake up in the spiritual sense we begin to see the dreamlike nature of the life that we are living. Those awesome achievements that we once celebrated, that we’ve been so proud of for so long, that we thought defined who we are – we come to see them as meaningless in the ultimate sense. Our pursuit of them and the importance we once gave to them comes to be seen as but a dream.

Cassandra was a prophet whom nobody would believe.

Waking up can be difficult in a world that seems intent on remaining asleep. Our materialistic society, our dog-eat-dog economy, our inane “reality” television-oriented culture, and our environmental carnage do not simply disappear because we’ve awakened to their nature. No, even as we come to lament the vapidity and cruelty of the world of which we are a part we can also come to lament our having awakened to it. Wasn’t it a pleasant dream that we were once living? Wasn’t it nice at times to be swept up in the delusions that we never even questioned back in the days before our awakening?

My heart has been heavy of late. There is so much suffering, so much cruelty, and so much ignorance in the world today. And even when people are trying to do the right thing the result is often ineffectual at best or counterproductive at worst. Back when I was a college student studying to become a high school teacher there was this brand new technology that was going to revolutionize education – the computer. Well, even with our great advances in computer-based education our education system as a whole has never been in more dire straits. Urban schools, especially, are failing to provide children with the education that they need out there in the “real” world; and as we’ve learned from the unrest in Ferguson, for instance, this is a reality that is tearing apart our social order. You can probably imagine, then, how my heart sank when I recently read an article about Ph.D. level educators proposing ways to revolutionize learning via the use of this new technology..., er…, tablets. Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of our schools are doing a fantastic job. We have school systems where kids are building robots in grade school and sequencing DNA in high school! It would seem that the sky’s the limit! Unfortunately, the other side of the coin is that a huge portion of our workforce is not prepared for jobs more advanced than the lowest level of manual labor. We could really use those factory jobs that have gone away on account of the increased automation that robotics has provided. We could really use those farming jobs that have gone away with the advent of big agribusiness and its embrace of genetically engineered crops. This is the truth that needs to be considered along with the truth of some of our kids doing incredibly advanced school work.

So many of our problems are met with so-called solutions that only end up making things worse due to their being hatched and carried out while we remain in the depths of our collective dream states – our various social, political, and economic worldviews. For instance, we try to incarcerate ourselves into a crime-free world and instead we end up creating an underclass of people unable to find gainful employment by any legal means. We try to bomb the world free of any people who may threaten our way of life and we end up creating huge terrorist networks that attract disaffected individuals from all over the world. We try to remediate the problem of global warming by moving away from “dirty” coal and toward so-called “clean” natural gas – replete with its induced earthquakes and ground-water contaminating fracking compounds. How often do we ever really solve our problems, anyway?

Waking up then, in the spiritual sense, is not some ecstatic experience that takes us to a new level of blissful understanding – at least not for long. Waking up brings with it something akin to the curse of Cassandra, the curse of seeing the way things are and yet seeming to be doomed with respect to ever affecting their change. But this is precisely where real spiritual growth takes place. Can we shoulder the curse of Cassandra and keep from succumbing to the weight of world weariness? Can we see things as they are and still remain engaged with the world that we arise in – working as best we can in order to nudge it toward awakening? This is the very heart of spiritual practice.

See also: posts associated with the keywords 'Global Problematique' and 'Don't Know Mind.'

Cassandra, by Evelyn De Morgan via:

Copyright 2015 by Mark Frank


Popular posts from this blog

Six Types of Happiness in Hesse's 'Journey to the East'

The Heart Sutra and the Five Aggregates (Part 2 of 5)

Beginning Anew