Understanding Development: The Value Laden Concept
I already indicated that I believe in St. John’s assertion that God is Love. Truly, then, it must occur to you that development anticipates no more than being in God, with God and for God. For those of you who do not trust in the belief in a deity, I will placate you by using words like ‘the all in all’. Like it or not, we refer to the same reality, we just have to affirm higher powers. Like it or not, we just have to affirm the influence of those powers on us and around us. Like it or not, we just have to move in the direction of them higher powers, if we are to live to the full i.e. as truly human, without pretense.
As human beings we are contingents; limited beings. We by necessity require the help, sustenance and support of the higher powers. However, unlike any other thing that is totally and helplessly dependent, the benevolent higher powers allowed us capacity for auto-determination. We have rational capacity, which enables us capacity to exercise free will. Our rational capacity allows us capacity to identify, recognize and choose. We encounter something; we determine whether it is good i.e. whether it possesses goodness and we desire it and our rational faculties after considering the means towards it and the end in acquiring the desired thing wills it and chooses to acquire it or to move into an intimate stance in relation to it.
The object of desire of our rational faculties therefore I believe is the good. Our rational faculties anticipate the good through its unrestricted desire for knowledge. Knowledge is fact about what is, getting insights into what is. Knowledge is all about truth, when reason conforms to reality. Once we attain knowledge or truth, we make relations with other truths in anticipation for ‘the truth’. ‘The truth’ is attained when all relevant, correct and necessary questions have been asked to establish all the necessary relations until ultimately the whole is grasped. The whole cannot be grasped unless we rely on him/her or it that is the possessor of the whole.
The acquisition of knowledge is about establishing relationships; causal, association, place, time, quantity, quality, position, color, direction, stability, etc, etc. It is about knowing how this relates with this; how this affects this or benefits or is affected by this. Once we have crisp knowledge, we have power. We have capacity; capacity that enables us to auto-determine ourselves. It therefore, follows that knowledge is at the center of any developmental process.
Having knowledge in totality is our aspiration; it entails knowing how all things relate to each other. However, as limited animals, we can only see things from an angle. Our knowledge is always in a perspective. Therefore, we require the help of the higher powers towards knowing what we would do in each case were we to have knowledge in totality.
Of the higher powers, we have recognized there being of the supreme most; that greater than which no other can be thought, as St. Anselm would have put it. Through our consideration we have agreed that this Being is “Being for”. ‘Being for’ in self is Love i.e. the unrestricted desire to affirm goodness. It flows from goodness because Goodness in Himself/Herself/Itself is a self-affirmation. Goodness moves towards perfecting everything in self, an act of self-affirmation. Goodness desires self such that in the self as evidenced in the effects i.e. goodness’ works, goodness is well pleased and glorified. This is what we strife towards i.e. that we affirm ourselves and enjoy, be happy, feel good. Our hope and trust is always that what we do brings joy and fulfillment. What we seek is no more than real understanding and realization of the self; total appreciation of the self.
The Supreme Being helps us realize what we would do had we knowledge in totality, were we to understand all relations that exist between things. We are able to look at the work of His/Her/Its hands and from that we get insights into His/her thinking. Everything is set in order, there are cycles and everything comes in its time. Each thing is designed to complement and is complemented. There is balance, harmony and stability. Transitory actions are only but a process towards states of harmony, stability and balance. Storms come so that people prepare and build for themselves systems that afford them a more stable existence i.e. with fewer risks of unforeseen storms causing havoc. From the way the universe is set, opposites running into opposites but with the better as the end, we thereby infer that in everything we should seek only ‘the good’. The good here refers to none other than any action or object that affirms life.
Our world of today is in every way chaotic because people have forgotten about seeking the good. Rather, people are busy looking for utility i.e. usefulness and of course only I can know to what use I can put any object or process. We should not be about the usefulness of a process or object; our quest or inquiry about anything should be geared towards its goodness. Goodness goes further than just usefulness to include divine-ness. If our inquiry goes into divines, we are inevitably considering relations beyond circumstantial ones towards necessary, essential relations that are eternal and all encompassing. All relations, of course are rooted in the being for-ness of God i.e. the love of God from whom the effects got that mark.
This inevitably raises the issue of interdependence as a necessity. That, not only among species but also among all things, interdependence is vital. We depend on each other; we need each other. I am tempted to think that every mature human being at one point in his/her life fantasized about the egalitarian society. Those that claim not to be into thinking utopia only do so because they have already convinced themselves that it is unachievable or only achievable in the life after death. However, deep down in their hearts lies a utopia; that which they desire to be in the here and now, the good human society according to them.
The Ideal Society: The good society according to me is where people’s capacity for auto-determination has been enhanced. Auto-determination entails choosing of a reasoned out path, way or art of living and having the capacity to follow the heart’s desire. Auto-determination is opposed to being determined by another force. Some forces that determine people are psychic, some are economic, some social, religious, historical, emotional or physical ones. True auto-determination is achieved when pure reason is allowed to pursue its end. Its end is directed by the unrestricted desire for knowledge. The unrestricted desire anticipates the unrestricted one, the all in all – according to me, the supreme of all beings who is God. He/She/It that is the source and provider of everything that I knew, I know, I will ever know or that I may know. Having made our limited inquiry into God, we realize that the best we can say of Him/Her/It is that He/She/It is a ‘Being For’. His/Her/Its essence, I am convinced, is being for us His/Her/Its creatures. He is Love i.e. the unrestricted anticipation that affirms the good. He is the goodness that only affirms through perfecting. Pure reason therefore anticipates our total self-affirmation as beings that flow from ‘being for’ and are meant to ‘be for’.
The way of development, therefore, my dear friends is no more than ‘being for’. This is the way of the Most High- He is for us all and our being depends on Him/Her/It. Those that live in Him/her are ‘beings for’ i.e. they are other-centered as an affirmation of the goodness that they participate in. they are guided by only one law i.e. the law of love. This law advocates for the appreciation of all that is as a whole but not only as a means. It goes beyond seeing anything only in terms of utility.
There are many ways of looking at a stone. One person sees a stone and all that comes to his/her mind is ‘what a good material for building the house?’ Another sees the stone recognizes a complex structure, a wonder whose being depends on higher powers. Another goes further to recognize that the constituent elements that form the rock are part of the constituent elements that form his/her good well-trimmed body. Before the same stone one is awed while the other remains indifferent and neither thinks nor feels anything as he/she uses or plays with the stone.
A Call to Humility: Human one remember that you are dust i.e. a thing like other things except for the living breath that gives you immaterial properties. Your immaterialness makes you superior if we were to make a hierarchy of beings but that does call for being haughty on your part. But on the pride and use your senses. See, touch, smell and taste, you will definitely see, taste, smell, touch yourself in that stone. It is a non-living object and so are you except that you are enlivened by the superior powers conferred on you. See that they are the non-living entities that sustain the living you. Refuse to take some dead meat of a goat, refuse to eat anything dead and let me see how long you will live with pride and haughtiness. Come on you animal, how better are you from the pig. Apart from the fact that you were privileged with reason, whose object of desire is different, at an instinctual level you are a pig, a dog, cat or whatever animal you may choose. You are gifted with reason whose object of desire is meaning that is found in order. Order flows from the desire and order depends on well-established stable relations. Definitely, you are doomed to relate and you have no otherwise. Like it or not, good relationships are those that are guided by affirmation of the good in the other. Affirmation of good is the anticipation and movement of love. Therefore, love has to be for and towards everything that is.
I know that things are different, thus love for different things has to be expressed in ways that are proper to the thing. Before a stone, awe leads to contemplation and thankfulness to the creator. Before an animal, awe leads to the contemplation of beauty, glorification of the creator but also good care for the animal because it feels. Before a rational animal, awe should lead to contemplation, gratitude, and care for the animal feels but also an effort to be meaningful to each other so as to contribute towards the needs of the reasoning self. Among rational animals there are categories. Know why male and female they were created. Men and women come together necessarily because the human species has to be preserved. However, see that there is more meaning to human encounters. Let your encounters not just be about responding to stimuli and maintaining homeostatic balance. Let it not be that sex is only about feeling horny and releasing the tension or pressure.
Fundamental Role of Self-love: I want to call you to the contemplation of the whole. I have heard many of you unashamedly declare that you know not of love. Some claim that love is no more, while the majority claim to love when they do what does not affirm goodness. I will start from the basics i.e. love of self. My dear friend, how do you express love of self? How can someone tell that you love yourself? Do you really love yourself? Ask yourself along these lines: when were you last punched in the face because of your awful words? When did you last have a sleepless night because of troublesome thoughts? When did you last just find yourself in a shade because you took too much alcohol and blacked out? When did you last suffer from a venereal disease? When did you last get arrested for being disorderly? When were you last stressed or depressed? When were you last in a fight with your wife or husband? When did you last fall out with your parents, friend or relative? When did you last consider suicide? Etc. etc.
I want to declare that love of self is expressed in no more than virtuous living. Adultery, fornication, stealing, perjury, corruption, giving false witness, not honoring parents, brethren and friends, murder, torture and cruelty, etc are the signs of lack of self love. Self-love is about affirming self as a ‘being for’ i.e. one that flows from goodness and is for goodness. It is an acknowledgement to the self of one’s own worth, integrity and power to make a positive difference i.e. a difference that all people that care for me, all people that I care for and I personally can be proud of as to be able to point to it over time as a wonderful event to memorize or a wonderful structure that generations can depend on. This kind of difference is not measured by its 'monumentality'. Rather, nobility of purpose, determination, hard work and ingenuity employed make it stand out. It is as little as welcoming the beggar at your diner table, making a great working place for your employees, giving your children the best in terms of parental care, training your body that everyone appreciates and says ‘wow… he or she looks good!’ it is the training your tongue such that the words that flow from you spell peace, love, harmony, gratitude and everything in that category of attributes. It is about eating right and helping others eat right. Above all else, it is training oneself to think right.
Thinking right only comes with training. We have to learn to see the loopholes in our own reasoning. We all have ‘demons’ that come in and stop us from pursuing thoughts to their logical conclusion.
We have past experiences that have contributed to our making certain assumptions, because of certain unfulfilled needs we have developed certain impulsive behaviors, we have been fed on certain beliefs that have compromised our pure desire to know by blurring our vision, we live in circumstances that have encouraged certain prejudicial and stereotypical thinking. To move beyond this entire maze and start to deal with things as they really are, we have to train ourselves towards transcending our own prejudices, assumptions and beliefs so as to consider everything with objectivity. Objectivity will help us towards being able to affirm what is really good as opposed to what we would otherwise have affirmed as a result of our prejudiced judgement.
One that thinks right sees oneself right. He/she is able to see his/her strengths and potential but also weaknesses and blind spots. Thinking right does not allow one only to remain at the level of recognition, one moves in to use his/her potential and strengths to look for ways of helping out in connection with his/her weaknesses and blind spots. Love anticipates the affirmation of what is good. Thinking right, I define, is the identifying as good what is good per se. As indicated, this is not easy thus need for training. Thinking right helps an individual affirm his/her capacity and employ the capacity towards even greater capacity for auto-determination. It therefore follows that self-love is the positive condition towards using personal capacity for greater capability and self-determination. This is where our spiritual entrepreneurs should come in. many people desire ‘the fulfilling existence’. Our spiritual entrepreneurs, without much ado, should help people realize the power of self-love in their pursuit for the fulfilling life. In fact, it is clear that people need to be helped towards self-love. The only sure way of helping people towards self-love is by helping them to think right. That is what our teachings, dogmas, doctrines, rules and directives should be about; to help people think right. Ours should not be ideologies or a mass of beliefs whose crude syllogisms make them wanting. Rather, our teachings should be laid down procedures, rules and structures or frameworks that can help people discover the truth for themselves.
Our argument should not be “do this or you are doomed!’ but rather “ this is what we think about it all, consider it and see if it makes sense to you”. Let not threats prevail but the beauty of the argument, the logic that makes the discourse or teaching juicy and meaningful even to the docile mind. This allows one to exercise his/her free will such that he/she chooses that which he/she is persuaded by not that which he/she has to choose lest he/she be doomed.
Self-love necessitates the love of the other. We can only affirm ourselves through actions. Actions directed at the self do not resonate like actions aimed at the other. We can either affirm ourselves as self-loving or diabolic. If our actions affirm the good in us and the good that is the other, we are affirming ourselves as loving people. If our actions are disruptive, destructive and chaos oriented, we are obviously diabolic i.e. we lack in self love; we have not discovered ourselves – we have allowed our circumstances to run the show rather than us exercising our capacity for auto-determination. Self-love, we have asserted. is dependent and ingrained in right thinking. The historical Jesus, the great spiritual entrepreneur of all seasons stated that we should love our brethren as we love ourselves. Therefore, if right thinking is the manifestation self-love, the same should apply as concerns love-of-others. Love of self propels us towards thinking right which leads us into loving ourselves even more because we discover more as we enter into the deep that is the goodness we are.
Thinking right, therefore, leads us into the deep that is the goodness that the other is. Then as we move in to acknowledge, uphold, appreciate and savor the goodness of the other, we are affirming our own goodness because only what is good anticipates and appreciates goodness. Right thinking allows that we deal with things as they are, in their proper place. It therefore follows that right thinking allows that we appreciate order- things as they were designed, things as they are naturally supposed to be. This calls us towards virtues of respect and reverence. We do not scatter but contribute to the maintaining of the whole. What it means is that when I see a brother, I am out to respect him as he is and not to shake him up so as to find out of him what I want. It is not about what I want; it is about the other as he/she/it is.
Say Yes to the Order of Things: Therefore, treat a stone in a way that is proper to the stone. In the same spirit, treat the cow, the child, the under age, the age mate, the man, the woman etc in a proper way. Each category of beings has that which makes it special, particular and different. Respect should prevail, and caring out of reverence is the way. Cases of rape, defilement, murder, torture, cruelty and abuses of all sorts arise because of not thinking right in relation to the other. People do not think right about others because they do not think right about themselves. Self-knowledge is at the center of good relationships. To move away from being a nagging, overly critical, cruel, indifferent, insensitive partner to others, get in touch with the self. Understand what makes you tick. What is the dominant feeling in your life? What are your habitual thoughts from which habitual actions flow? What are you assumptions about life, what do you belief? What do you value in life, about yourself, about others? Self-knowledge helps one acknowledge his/her own contribution to what comes his/her way in life. Responsibility is what comes with the gift of auto-determination. Therefore, unless we become responsible persons we cannot claim to love self or others.
Call to Being Responsible for Each Other: If only people were responsible! Our utopias would be realities; we would be living our dreams. Responsibility as a fruit and gift of love allows that we take charge and consider how to move towards what is good i.e. that which we shall value and be proud of- that which fulfills. Our world of today is overly capitalistic. The slogan on peoples lips is ‘ eat before you are eaten’- the rule of the jungle. At a tender age children are taught ‘offense/attack is the best defense’. When it comes to wealth, grab as fast as you can from others and use what you have grabbed to grab more and more. It has become the world of me i.e. impulses and instincts are overblown in me that me no longer has a sense of purpose. Me has been reduced to the impulses i.e. greed for money, power, sex, and recognition. In this world people care not to think. Everything is set out; you grow to struggle for wealth, power, sex and recognition. Like pigs or dogs or good hyenas, ours is a ravenous existence. We have no choice; we do not exercise our free will- all we do is struggle, fight and square it out in the cruelest way possible.
I remember a scene in primary school. Our beloved teacher bought for us (beloved students - ten of us) three loaves of bread and juice to share. After placing the goods at our disposal and after our statements of gratitude marked with a full dose of excitement, the teacher left us to ourselves. No sooner had he stepped out of the door than each one of us jumped for the catch. We growled, hissed, jabbed and groaned to get a bite.
Much was spilt, and too much was trampled upon. Many were chocked and many bled from bruises sustained during the scuffle. When all was calm, a few that had the muscles remained tall with some junk of bread, munching away proudly. The weak and lean ones matched out dejectedly nursing their bruises, some with torn shirts, a bleeding nose or scratches here and there.
I stand to be corrected but I believe the people of my age think that was the only best way of getting a share from the goodies. We have been raised in a culture of grab or languish. Once a resource is discovered, we prepare perfectly for the battle and jump in to growl, jab, stab, crush, bash, confuse and if all tricks are not working, extermination will work.
Imagine if instead of all jumping in to grab something off what the teacher had offered, we sat down calmly and engaged our brains somehow. We would have realized that survival for the fittest is costly not only to the weak but also the strong. The weak are likely not to get even a morsel. The strong, though better placed to get their fill, will use unnecessary energy. It is also possible that much of what we are trying to grab will be wasted in the scuffle. However, most crucial, human integrity and dignity is compromised in our impulsive reactions as opposed to well reasoned out solutions. Had we had stood back to reason, we would realize that through equal (not necessarily in a mathematical sense) sharing of the goodies, each one of us would have gotten a share that would have satisfied him/her. There would be no feelings of quilt or shame that only make many even more cruel and harsh as cover up. There would be peace, laughter and joy among us. Rather than going away dejected, we would be rejoicing in the provider, our hearts filled with gratitude.
Setting Priorities Right: We do not care; the Machiavellian spirit guides our actions - ‘the end justifies the means’. Of course all can agree that our interest is noble, we want fulfillment in life. We want to increase our capacity for auto-determination. To increase our capacity for auto determination, we need power and the stronger our power the better. True enough, I do not dispute your argument as far as the end is concerned. We all by necessity seek fulfillment in life. However, fulfillment is not a static position that comes after a long stretch of involvement. Fulfillment like happiness, like development, anticipates itself. Find fulfillment in the intermediate ends, in the means towards the end and ultimately you will be holistically fulfilled.
More so, does fulfillment necessarily come from grabbing a lot? No, I think fulfillment comes when our mind is convinced of the rightness of our actions and achievements. Well, what you want to achieve is right but you are using the wrong means to it. Consequently, you will achieve what you want but fulfillment will elude you or will be short-lived. Why? Because, the wrong done as means to the accomplishment will haunt your conscience denying you rest. This explains why there are the many of them that have grabbed and are stinking rich but pathetic. In their desire for fulfillment they made what should be a means an end and used all the wrong means to achieve that end. Once they achieve the end a question spruces, ‘then what?’ They have no answer thus they remain restless.
Real Power: They are powerless who struggle to assert their powerfulness. Some use guns; others use wealth while others use their status to assert themselves in ways that make others feel small. True power for a human being should be inborn rather than acquired. True human power is only activated and cultivated rather than acquired, bought or demanded for. Only one power is truly human i.e. the power of reason which enables them to have powers unique to them. The proper use of human faculties is dependent on thinking right. Those that think right, we have indicated, have love as their guiding principle. Those that have love as their guiding principle do not seek to lord over others. They neither seek to destroy nor belittle or shame as a show of their power. Rather, they build and uphold; they nurture towards more power i.e. the power to love having recognized the depth of goodness.
Our consideration or understanding of power makes nonsense out of the present day capitalist teachings. It is not what we acquire that makes us fully human but the extend to which we use our rational faculties to make a positive difference in our life and in the life of those we care about. This is the power that anticipates all necessary questions so as to capture reality as it is and thereafter make the best of ones circumstances. Making the best of ones circumstances is not just about me but also about others because we are doomed to relations e.g. interdependence. We are called to a life marked by dignity and integrity. Human integrity and dignity is at stake as long as people do not care about the means to their ends and the questions as to why they value the given ends.
Towards Egalitarianism: All people can achieve harmony; peaceful co-existence and a joyful existence on this world, provided all think right. This is a far-fetched dream it would seem but a possible one. Sharing is at the heart of good living. Sharing can only fulfill if parity is exercised. Equality among human beings is rooted in their essence, however, though people contribute differently, respect for each individual’s contribution is the only way towards affirming the equality. According to ones contribution, individuals should be rewarded. However, each individual person is entitled to the bare minimum for a comfortable existence. Unless each individual is comfortably in possession of the bare minimum he or she is entitled to by virtue of being, the greatest contributor should be considerate in his/her demand for remunerations. If only we could be considerate! All people would afford a comfortable existence despite the great contributors having to enjoy some luxury. The egalitarian society is achievable; all we need to do is think right. Development is about that, it anticipates the egalitarian society; when every one can sigh and proudly enjoy being himself/herself because he/she has not only enhanced his/her own but also the other’s capacity for auto-determination. Then we shall live in harmony, complementing each other and working hard to make a better dwelling place for our great grandchildren and their children.