Ralph J. Dolan: Guided by dreams of noble lives
Ralph Dolan poses for a portrait, Tuesday, in Northampton. SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »
HAYDENVILLE — It has been suggested that the human being has one foot in the mud of existence and one foot in the stars, that he and she are both brute animals and angels. We struggle here in this earthly existence, making our way however we must and yet aspiring to reach our a higher self.
Is this not the story of how life came to be upon this planet over its four billion years of evolution?
Consider the diversity of life forms that have emerged on Earth. The human being was brought into life by some mysterious design. It grows, develops consciousness and attains adulthood with knowledge of the self and of the world where we all sojourn for so brief a time.
We humans are obliged to fill this time somehow. The ways we choose to do this tell us about who we are, define our character and mark the levels of maturity we gain. They also tell us something about how we see the world in general. Is the world a perpetual battleground? Or a circle dance? Why are we here? What power has brought us to this place, to this level of consciousness? More importantly, what do we do with it?
A lot of human behavior called “business” includes a fierce competitiveness. We are taught that it is virtuous to rise up the economic ladder at the expense of others. We are here to glorify the ego, to be wealthy, highly esteemed and elevated above the masses. All the peasants of the world are the losers in this game and must be sacrificed for the higher good of some.
This way of life seems to encapsulate the basic dynamic of evolution itself as described in Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” It’s the survival of the fittest. The big fish eat the little fish. Some are destined to win. Many are destined to lose. Dominance and subservience appear to be woven into the fabric of the evolving earth.
And so war is an inevitability. Conflict among humans is part of being alive. To exploit one another, other life forms and the earth herself, is considered a high level of human achievement.
If this struggle for survival wears you down, you can be consoled by the promise of a better kind of existence after death in some heavenly realm.
Or perhaps Darwin’s theory of natural selection is not the end of the story. What is implicit in his teaching is that life is continuously out-performing itself, aspiring toward higher levels, going in directions impossible to be predicted by what came before.
Why not now? Why not here?
It may be that these crises that now confront humanity — perpetual war, grinding poverty, racism, radiation poisoning, exploitation, forced dislocations, rising tides and extreme weather patterns, dirty air and fouled seas — are nothing more than the dynamo of evolution pushing us all to define for ourselves, and then to reach for, a new conception of what it means to be human.
Human beings are dreaming animals. While mired down in the struggle for survival, dreams come — and in them we can act with great nobility. We see angelic humans who would never consider taking advantage of another human being.
When we dream, we shuck off the scales of competitiveness and find contentment working for the good of the community and striving to live in harmony.
This new human sees that the advantages once sought for one’s ego now must be extended to all people everywhere. No matter what a human does or does not do, no one should be excluded from the feast. All of life is made more noble, more humane because ego has grown into the higher self. The higher self encompasses the whole earth. And we would no more desecrate this good Earth.
Ralph J. Dolan of Haydenville served in Vietnam and has had a career as a licensed psychotherapist. His column appears monthly.