TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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Each person is better served by self-reliance within the community of humankind than by subservience to ideologies.

The human path is not easy: Infants are uniformed, illiterate, inarticulate, sexually diffuse, self-centered, and dependent on conflicted societies (Overstreet). Each infant has duty to self to achieve psychological maturity. Societies encourage people to become compliant--to a god or a philosophy and a family and a country and a career. There’s almost no time to “know thy self.”

Each person’s path toward self-discovery is unique within a concurrent 80 years of humankind’s millions of years’ progress (involving perhaps 100 billion people). Thus, "I am" is not alone. The adolescent’s path lags humankind’s maturity, but the adult has the potential to lead.

Justice is necessary for liberty. But is unity beyond I am desirable? I’d like TEDsters’ thoughts.

Perhaps people who acquire hope, humility, and uncertainty develop the necessary, evolving skills for leadership. It is difficult to think of an example for all cultures, but Abraham Lincoln, whose time was cut short, comes to mind. Perhaps TEDsters can suggest people who led/lead humankind’s progress toward psychological maturity.

In addition to H. A. Overstreet's book, The Mature Mind, at least two TEDsters helped inspire this presentation.

1. Matthieu Mossec’s conversation, “Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion.”

2. Leslie Saunders’ phrase “independence within interdependence,” in the conversation, “It seems the conversationalists herein have relegated the golden rule to the world’s list of bad ideas.”

(General revision: 11/20/11, to "subservience to ideologies 11/22, added 2 related talks on 11/29-30, 1 on 12/6/11)


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    Nov 26 2011: It basically says that when we come into this life we are a complex of physical and subtle, non-physical aspects. In as much as we can affirm that we can know and delimitate the body, it is then possible for us to know our physical dimension (a very relative assertion), but as long as we are still bounded to this physical perception we cannot access more subtle aspects of ourselves – briefly, the soul and the Spirit. In it might enter our mental activities, our intellect discrimination – power of decision, or will-power – and the impersonal spiritual happiness, translated in what we know as our being connected to the universal Spirit.
    Their mutual interaction can be explained by the example of the computer – based on a modern interpretation of the ancient knowledge (Bhagavad gita 13.3) as follows:
    our gross physical body can be compared to hardware; the next one in terms of subtlety is the subtle/astral body - the software, then our ego (our self-identification, ahankara) to the interface, the prana to electricity, and the soul (jiva, or atma) to the user; above all supervises Paramatma, a “system operator” that controls a network of many computers which may be the human society as a whole (and not only that)- in our concept, God, or whatever name we can give it.
    And, of course, the functionality of this system in continuous interaction with the material world strictly depends on the condition of our bodies, like degree of maintenance, age, health, abilities and so on. What’s more, and our western religions do not agree with, is that when one gross body is completely out of use, the functionality is not there anymore, and, therefore the reason for this body – then jiva (the soul) has to leave it through the process we know as death, and for the next stage, in accordance with the system’s laws (Paramatma, the super-soul, or Spirit, or God, or Universe), a new destination (body) is being assigned, process known as reincarnation. “For indeed our consciousness doe
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      Nov 26 2011: Eastern culture seems built on intellectual constructs about the soul. The constructs convince people who merely want to live in peace that they should have a guru to teach them about their soul. Many become voluntary slaves to gurus.

      For these reasons, I would not give a moment's thought to ideas or claims such as those of Tibetan Yogis, for example: see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A4unS_Z2yE .

      As a member of the LSU Collegium for Science and Religion, I helped host a Saturday seminar on Zen Buddhism. A speaker advocated dedicating yourself to a guru until you become so informed that in order to advance you must "Kill the guru," meaning, become self-reliant. I asked the speaker, "Why not 'Kill Zen Buddhism?'" He did not respond. But none can dissuade me from self-reliance.

      There is insufficient time in my lifetime for me to follow a guru. I must focus on my own psychological maturity. I want your seven virtues to be obvious in my behavior.

      I forego interest in spiritualism for inspiration and motivation, which I find everywhere in the real world and therefore have no interest in other worlds.

      Yet, I could be wrong. Therefore, I do not wish anyone to follow me. Let them focus on life or soul, or life and soul, depending upon their own minds and hearts. Let them be self-reliant.


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