The Year of Release from Tutelage; Part One
By John Taylor; 2006 June 29
Let us consider a plan to unite and thus save the human race from the dangers rushing at it from all directions. Urgent as is the crisis, a crucial question remains unanswered, where to begin? I have been thinking for some years about a repeating ten-year cycle of planning years starting in 2010 that somewhere along the line would gain official recognition and sponsorship by international bodies such as the United Nations.
The first and most important year would be devoted to meditation and reflection; it might be called the "Year of Planetary Enlightenment," because in order for the collectivity to solve problems individuals will need self-illumination first and foremost. As we noted here not long ago, Emmanuel Kant defined enlightenment as freedom from immaturity or tutelage and suggested the motto: "Sapere aude!," "Have the courage to use your own reason!" Our prime obstacle, Kant said, is not ignorance or lack of understanding but lack of courage and the resolve to use our own minds without being steered astray by others. In the centuries since Kant millions have been deluded by ideologies since discredited as false and deceptive, false gods that lead only to war, injustice and violence.
The great philosophers and religious teachers of the past agree that our first and greatest struggle is and always will be to overcome the obstacles posed by our own folly, laziness, bias, baseness, gullibility and inauthenticity. Once the reason is released, the mind freed and the will resolved, we need only lay our own field of service out and draw up a clear, coherent plan of action.
The overall goal for this year is for each to gain his or her own measure of happiness by becoming an effective investigator of truth. To do that one must pause and think about who I am, where I want to go, what mission I wish to accomplish in my work and career, as well as how to improve our hobbies, play, sports and recreation. Another name for it, then, might be the Year of Truth Seeking. No specific meditation technique or doctrine of enlightenment would be advocated, for that would defeat the open-ended nature of the questioning (dialectic) process. Rather one thing and one only would be asserted emphatically and repeatedly: the right and duty of every citizen of an enlightened world to dare to be wise, Sapere Aude!, the motto that Kant suggested for planetary patriotism.
Once personal plans are integrated into collective plans in the second year of the cycle, the Year for Unity in Diversity, then assuredly torrents of human potential will be released that will wash away all of the apparently impossible challenges confronting the human race. The first two years of the planning decade would be a combined festival celebrating the unity of humankind, because the first two principles of enlightenment, search and oneness, are so closely allied as to be inseparable. Here are some points to consider during this reflection year for the first four years following the Year of Enlightenment, in chronological order.
Year Two; Year of Unity in Diversity. Main questions: If we are to have unity in essentials and diversity in what is not, how do we decide what is essential? What can safely be left to grow on its own and perform what is no less essential than the essentials: augmenting human character and diversity?
Year Three; Year of Unity of Religions. Prime questions: Why are we here? In what sense does everybody, atheist to theist, have a religion? What universal spiritual concerns and values can be a basis for common action? How do we promote these common, universalist interests?
Year Four, Year of Science. The scientific method is something all can learn and apply for ourselves. In essence this method is systematic questioning, a process that this first year commences. How then can I use the methods of science in my own life and career? How can I set my faith in support of reason? How can our common religion support scientific ends? How do we direct technological advance to the good of all and suppress all misuse of knowledge for which we are not ready?
Year Five; Year for Eliminating Prejudice. Falsity has a viral quality to delude the mind similar to the vulnerability of the body to epidemic disease. How then can we apply epidemiological measures to matters of thought? How can we protect ourselves from the prejudices, the "isms," of racism, sexism, chauvinism, all the forms of "otherism," "us" vs. "them" thinking, -- what some term "alterity" -- which are the root cause of war and violence? What comprehensive world publicity campaign would stamp out once and for all the grassfires of hatred bursting into violence caused by the multi-headed hydra of alteric deception?
Similar points to reflect upon could easily be devised for the following five years of the decades, which are as follows:
Year Six, Year for Economic Adjustment
Year Seven, Promotion of Education
Year Eight, media, communication, language
Year Nine Equality of the Sexes
Year Ten, Year of Ethics and Universal Peace
The Year of Enlightenment would mark the first occasion in history that the entire human race ever thought about one thing at once. Such inner, invisible activity alone would do more than any outer project to focus public opinion, lay the groundwork for a general consensus and, most important, form a single, focused human conscience. Beyond generalities, an entire year devoted to meditation would serve practical ends by repeatedly centering the attention of the world, and in particular leaders of thought, upon how to refine and re-define those questions that matter most to our survival. There is no lack of diseases afflicting us, or even of well thought out prescriptions to remedy them. What is missing is just what Kant said, an enlightened will to develop our own reason, to seize our maturity and live an examined life.
The physical preparations for year one of the ten year planning cycle would be the cheapest, easiest and simplest of any year. All it requires is that we come together, sit in silence and reflect. Since even physical coming together is optional, everybody in the world can participate in their own mind, even those confined by ill health or isolated by geographical location. Indeed those most in need, the poorest and most afflicted, having drunk the dregs of human suffering, would -- for once! -- be at an advantage in comparison to the privileged, who tend to live superficially busy, unexamined lives, lives that Socrates considered not worth living. Daring to reason is one thing, daring to reason together (in spirit if not in body) is another thing entirely. This would be the first time when the entire human race would come together to think about its own needs, both as individuals and as a whole.
Although the physical arrangements are elementary, the intellectual demands of this year would be by far the most onerous of any year in the planning decade. They call upon our best minds not to spoon-feed pre-processed answers but to help each and all see for themselves, and to pose new questions to themselves first and foremost. Their new role would as often as not be the gadfly that Socrates modeled and suggested, the goad that moves inert, conventional imitators to use their reason for the common good. There would be, as yet, no set platforms to lay out, only listening for original insights, thinking and readying of self for action. Those who are not intellectuals or professional thinkers would seek their own place to invest their God-given talents in some other unique service to humanity during the upcoming nine years of the plan.