Sacred America, Sacred World
Chapter 2: What Is a Sacred America?
(continued & concluded)
In America’s future, I also see us leading the way in health care, reforming hospitals to integrate holistic approaches to health and teaching effective methods of self-healing, as well as creating sophisticated education and media programs that shift our habits around lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise.
I also envision an America in which we have better balanced the vital dynamism of free markets with the wisdom of social and environmental safeguards, ensuring that the companies that deliver great products and improve our world are the engine that drives not just our economy, but the entire world’s. I see America embracing reforms that ensure corporations are even more accountable and transparent in a way that lets markets reward the best not only in serving us products but in serving all the stakeholders in our society. And I see us putting the incentives and safeguards in place to ensure an economy that truly has opportunity for all.
In this future vision, America will have taken seriously the importance of healing our history with Indigenous people and African Americans. I see a climate of respect, dignity, and honoring, as well as fair and equal treatment within our systems of justice, which will increasingly focus on restoration rather than retribution, cutting our prison populations to a fraction of their current size.
I see this shift in our justice systems freeing resources for empowering more of our young citizens with quality education that prepares them to be responsible, creative, and contributing members of society. I see an education system that takes seriously the need for social and emotional intelligence education as well as training in the skills to become a good marriage partner and family member.
Finally, I see America leading the way in the emergence of new, vibrant structures of democratic participation on a global scale, with governing bodies that ensure the global rule of wisdom rather than war. This will be part of a shift from a paradigm of global dominance to one of collaboration, in which America’s leadership does not derive from overpowering others but from honoring all voices in creating a cohesive and peaceful global community.
That vision is achievable if we choose to make it so. Making that vision real is the foundation of this entire book.
Chapter 3: The Next American Dream
All our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them.
— Walt Disney
Every era carries its version of the American Dream, often told through the story of a hero who triumphs over obstacles to reach the summit of success. We love our Horatio Algers who overcome poverty to find wealth. We revere our Founding Fathers who threw off the oppressive yoke of Britain. We celebrate our scientists who put a man on the moon. We need our dreams, ideals, and heroes to provide meaning for our lives.
For the current phase of American history, our American Dream has become increasingly focused on material fulfillment. The dream of home ownership, a white picket fence, and two cars in the garage has grown into one that envisions a mansion, a vacation home, and a yacht. Our impulse toward more — which is at the core of our natural evolutionary drive — has too often failed to move toward higher levels of our creative expression and fulfillment. So we end up just wanting more and more “stuff.” In that way, our desire for “more” fails to transition to an American Dream that is focused on more happiness, meaning, adventure, service, and joy rather than material accumulation. This contradicts the research, which shows that materialism actually undermines well-being, while real happiness comes from quality relationships, personal growth, and a sense of meaning.
Achieving a materialistic dream can certainly build good virtues — entrepreneurship and hard work, thrift, and discipline. It can train us in some aspects of living a sacred life. Indeed, building a safe, comfortable, and beautiful nest for our family is a noble endeavor. However, what happens when we fail to uplevel our dream is that we keep expanding the American Dream laterally, filling our homes with ever more things. We “fatten” the dream rather than deepen it. We accumulate excess in our garages, closets, attics, and around our midriffs. And we build ever-larger castles to accommodate our ever-expanding roster of possessions.
At the same time, we’ve colluded in creating an economy in which more and more of our citizens can no longer participate in any kind of American Dream, which leads us to wall off from their misery while they envy us. The stark contrast of material inequality sows the seeds for much social unrest as the perception of unfairness is toxic to the well-being of a society.
As we increase the bloat at the upper levels, our American Dream becomes stagnant, leading to a life of material excess that does not foster a sustainable society (or real happiness). We become consumers rather than creators, viewers rather than citizens. We sit on oversized sofas watching enormous TVs in houses that far outstrip our actual needs. And then we spend much of our life energy on earning the money to support this level of material overabundance.
The current version of the American Dream, while once a noble focus for our aspirations, has largely failed to mature into its next level of sacred expression. A solely consumerist, materialist dream does not elicit our full potential nor inspire a life of meaning and can often distract from the quality relationships that are more central to happiness.
To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...
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This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 18 - Empaths, Sensitives & Intuitives Summit