Monday, December 28, 2015

We Don't Need Saving

Modern film is obsessed with superheroes--Luke Skywalker, Thor, Iron Man--all of whom function as a kind of surrogate savior. But I don't believe that we need someone to deliver us from evil, to save us from some ourselves or imminent disaster. This predilection to view the world in need of saving has its roots in the mythology of almost every major religion. Jesus, the Buddha, Mohamed, Krishna, all of these figures can be seen as proto-, if not outright, messiahs.

What we need today, on a civic level, are citizens. People committed to resisting cynicism, remaining informed, and holding our leaders and lawmakers accountable. I don't expect any single person to solve the world's problems; it's only together that we can make a difference. I advocate solidarity more than singularity.

The Buddha's final instruction were for his students to rely on themselves, not as heroic pillars of rugged individualism, but as engaged participants of the world who maintain moral and personal standards. Waiting for and relying upon someone else to save the world--whether it be a historical figure like Hillary Clinton or a mythological one like the second coming of Jesus--is a direct abdication of our responsibility to our lives and this world.

Don't wait for Jesus or another Buddha. Be the Buddha, not as a singular being who strikes into the darkness to lead others, but as an active, engaged participant in the world.

We are never truly alone, for we exist inside of a vast matrix of interconnections in which we are constantly relying upon other beings, forces, institutions, processes, and so on. Of course we are individuals with moral agency, but it is our relationships that inform and empower us. If we recognize those relationships, then we are one step closer to seeing through the hero/savior myth.

Although it doesn't make for good storytelling, we need awakened communities and societies more than privileged individuals whose job it is to save us, because ultimately they are perpetuating the myth of heroic isolationism.  

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