The Prodigal Son Returneth

It has been almost four years since I have posted.  A lot has happened.  And a lot that could have happened didn’t happen, and for that I am truly thankful.  As one should expect, I am a different person than I was.  I am not the lost, scared little puppy I tried so desperately not to be in my 20s.  In some ways, I am a much more philosophical person.  I think that happens when faced with a crisis and facing fears.  Once those fears are dealt with and relegated to the rear view mirror, there’s so much more time and mental capacity to examine life.

Which is ironic, because there is so much more to fear today.  Terrorism.  Terrorism in America.  Donald Trump.  Hillary Clinton.  Economic uncertainty and inequality.  Social isolationism.  A culture in decline.  Escalating violence between police and inner city youth.  More so than with terrorism as an ideology or a Middle Eastern Caliphate, we are a nation at war with ourselves.  We don’t know who we are.  In some instances we are one thing, while in other cases we contradict ourselves.  We honor and seek to preserve our Constitution above all else as a collective people, except when it gets in the way of our own personal beliefs and entrenched investments.  Then we seek to dispose of certain parts of it as if they shouldn’t have ever existed.  We are a nation in such fear of the future, of foreigners, and of each other that we have no time, mental, or social capacity to answer the philosophical question that will sustain us: Who are we?  One thing is for sure: we are no longer who we used to be.

I have a theory about how social identity works, on both a local and national level.  A social group is a complex mix of the individual identities within the group, and, in my mind, there are really only five types of individual personalities in the world.  The first type is those who are arrogant and are not afraid to be so.  These are the politicians, business men and women, and the like who rule the world through whatever means possible.  Books have been written about the advantages of sociopaths holding leadership positions because of their abilities to get things done in the face of all sorts of opposition.  It seems to be a prerequisite for running for office.

The second type is those who are arrogant but can’t abide it, so they present themselves as being overly humble, to the point of seeming like they have self-esteem problems.  This often presents itself among fundamentally religious people, who see a value in seeing themselves as sinners but who can’t help condemning other sinners for sinning.

The third type is those who think they are worthless but who can’t abide it, so they present themselves as being overly confident, to the point of seeming arrogant.  These are the bullies, the addicts, and the criminals.  Our prisons, schools, and inner cities are full of these people.  The fourth type is those who think they are worthless and can’t hide it.  These are the depressives, of whom we have many.  Ironically, the third and fourth types also tend to be the greatest economic and artistic innovators, if they can harness and use their creative energy.

These first four types all seem very unique, but they all have the same root problem.  They are obsessed with themselves, their pasts, their futures, their fears, and how other people view them.  The other types like to point the finger at the criminals and bullies of the third type for creating all of society’s problems, but all four of the above types contribute equally – though differently – to our collective illnesses.

The fifth and final type of people are not concerned with themselves at all.  They are not arrogant, because they don’t think they are better than anyone else.  They do not feel worthless, because they do not think they are worse than anyone else.  They know exactly who they are, they are comfortable with their strengths and weaknesses, and they couldn’t care less what others think of them.  They see themselves as intricately interconnected with everyone and everything around them, and they are profoundly grateful to be alive and part of the world.  These people may not rule the world, but they are often the most influential and innovative.  These people remind others of the value of life.  There are and always have been relatively very few of this type of people, but they are the ones who drive humanity forward.  Buddha.  Plato.  Jesus.  Bacon.  Franklin.  King.  Ghandi.  The Dhali Lama.  Anything truly valuable that we take for granted in our families, communities, institutions, and religious and political systems today are direct results of efforts by this type of people.

The mix of the above five types of people in a particular social group determines the character of that group.  Obviously, the more of the fifth type of people a group has, the better off that group is going to be.  And the more first and second types a group has… although strong and efficient… the more a group will struggle to find its soul.  Finally, the more third and fourth types of individuals who cannot use their creativity for the good of others, the more static  and in danger of collapse a group becomes.

This is an overly simplistic model, but I think it paints a more-or-less accurate picture of where we are as a people today.  We have too many Type 1s and Type 2s in powerful positions who are resisting the efforts of the innovative Types 3s, 4s, and 5s who are trying to move us forward.  We are too wrapped up in ourselves and too fearful to allow ourselves to progress.  9/11 and terrorism has played a key role in that.  We have become more Type 1 and 2 as a society in reaction to the fear terrorists have aimed to inflict on us.  In that way, they have already won the war, regardless of the outcomes of the individual battles.  They have induced us to become a people that we would have in years past despised.  We have put aside the values that made us great, and without those, we are incapable of not only defeating the ideology of terrorism but also the malaise that plagues us even more profoundly.

But all is not lost!  Most… if not all… of us have the potential to be Type 5.  I was Type 2 early in my life, moved into Type 3, crashed for a short time into Type 4, and after several years of intense therapy and work, I have taken on the characteristics of a Type 5 person.  I am not self-obsessed for the first time in my life.  I know who I am, and I am not afraid to be that person.  I am not afraid of anything, because I’ve been through hell and back.  Fear means nothing to me, because I let go of any sense that I own or deserve anything I have… except my mind, which no one but I can distort and terrorize.

Because of the things I’ve been through and my journey out of fear, I think I have some unique things to say about what is going on in the world today and how we can solve some of our enduring issues.  In some ways that was always the aim of this blog, but now I think I can more successfully accomplish that goal.  I am now who I was always meant to be, so maybe now I will be able to say what I was always meant to say.