And yet, for those of us who have been living and serving in such communities these last nearly fifty years, it is obvious that society at large is largely uninterested.
We hear now often (2017-2018) the newly re-minted phrase, "fake news." But I remember when, perhaps twenty years ago, Swami Kriyananda casually remarked that most of the daily news is little better than gossip. At that time I was not entirely convinced. But over the years as I have listened or read more carefully I have come to realize how often his label of "gossip" is accurate. (For this purpose I would say that "gossip" can include speculation and mere opinion, as opposed to objectively verifiable facts or balanced and insightful explanations of current events.)
The truth of history includes the simple fact that the daily news isn't really history, nor are the headlines necessarily the key events of history. It is true that an event like September 11, 2001 will go down in history like 1492, 1776 or 1096 but these are markers, mostly for children to pass their exams or for historians and the public to bookmark into their mental timeline in order to demonstrate their (superficial) grasp of historical events.
Many gasp, moan and groan over the antics and worse of the sitting president of the United States, a trumpet player, if I'm not mistaken. Many have told me that they no longer pay much attention to the daily news as it is largely meaningless hot hair, oops, I mean hot air.
Taking the question of "What is true and what is important?" into a different direction, the art and science of meditation offers us a deeper insight into what is true--for us. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offer a clinical evaluation of the stages of consciousness that unfold when our awareness is turned inward to seek the "what" and the "who" is behind our thinking and feeling.
Mindfulness and introspection might reveal more about what we really think and feel but these, alone, do not reveal "who is thinking and feeling." We might answer that by saying "I" but who is this "I"?
If you answer again by restating that this "I" is the body, gender, age, opinions, thoughts and feelings, it may be the customary answer but it ignores the fact that each one of these things is subject to change and subject to many external influences which also change. Nowadays you can even change your gender! But certainly your body ages and your opinions and feelings change all the time, especially as the years go by. But the "I" is still "I" no matter WHAT the opinion, age, health or gender.
Most people would stop there and just say, well, that's right! "I change my opinions and that's who I AM." Well, ok, if you insist upon it, who am I to argue? However this definition of "I" doesn't really go to the heart of the "I," the undifferentiated bedrock of "I-ness".
Who is it that peers out from behind the eyes? From behind the opinions? From behind the senses and the body? Who is this I who sleeps at night and reawakens each day refreshed and the same?
Whether for purposes of survival or because we are interested, it's perfectly understandable that we participate in the daily news; that we learn about history (whether our family, nationality, race, etc.) or the world. But all of this is vicarious: it's second or third hand or even far, far more removed.
We can't really answer why the daily tweets of the presidential trumpet intrigue us (or not); or why we are fascinated with wars of the past; the history of art and fashion or science; romance novels; making furniture; or any number of other countless hobbies and interests.
All we can say is that certain topics hold our interest. But if we were to introspect on our interests we might find that behind them are deeper, if all too human, impulses, emotional needs, or compulsions.
None of these offer a clue, however, to the consciousness of the "I" which, properly trained, can remain the observer of all our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Who is it that observes that "I am reading a book about Winston Churchill?" Or that "I am typing 'I am typing'?"
The irony behind the inquiry (called the art and science of meditation) to observe the Observer is that the long-term consequence of this daily habit is the gradual revelation of objective reality, not just subjective reality.
Now what IS objective reality? Is it the trumpet in that white house? It could be if you happen to live or work there but otherwise, probably not. Objective reality is whatever you focus your perceptive powers upon, but with this caveat: the strength of your perceptive power determines the clarity of the image.
"Strength" here includes calmness; non-attachment; lack of emotional charge. Stanza two of the Yoga Sutras tells us that to the degree that our perceptive power operates with a steady gaze devoid of superficial reactions of attraction or repulsion in relation to self-interest, our perceptions sharpen towards objectivity. And when the power of perception turns in upon itself, observing it-Self, it begins to acquire a super-human, laser-like power that, as it approaches its penultimate power, transcends time, space, matter, energy and consciousness itself.
As an object approaching the speed of light is said to become infinite in mass, so it is said that as awareness approaches crystal clarity (transcendent of form, thought, emotion, or condition), it approaches the God-state of omniscience, omnipotence, and infinity.
"As above, so below" says the Hermetic doctrine. As our power of perception clarifies we begin to know by instant intuition that which is true and meaningful to us. It may not be ours to expound the deeper mysteries of space or the atom, or to live in a white house, but it may be ours to know what to say to a friend in need; how to best care for ourselves; to accomplish a worthwhile goal; to complete a project; to work harmoniously with other people; to feel confidence, calmness, and courage; and, at last to know God as our own, true Self.
Meditation sharpens our intuitive "I." But it must be more than merely mindfulness: that is, watching our thoughts go by. It must turn in upon it-Self. What it discovers in this journey is often described but, in truth, can only be known by I AM.
And on that note, I AM finished!