Monday, February 29, 2016

Evolution Takes Time

A Sufi teaching tells of a traveler who was crossing a strange land known as the Land of Fools. While walking down a rural road he observed farmers fleeing in terror. “There's a monster in that field,” said a man as he ran past.
The traveler looked out into the field and saw a watermelon. So he called the farmers together and offered to kill the monster for them. He then walked into the field, took out a knife and cut the melon in half and started to eat it. The farmers were horrified and feared the traveler more than they had the watermelon. They drove him out of their world with pitchforks, screaming “He'll kill us next if we don't get rid of him.”
The following season another traveler found himself journeying through the same world, and the same thing happened to him. But instead of offering to kill the monster, he agreed with them that it was dangerous, and by tiptoeing away from it with them he gained their confidence. He spent time in their homes until he could teach them, a little at a time, the facts that would allow them to rise above their fear of watermelons and cultivate the melons themselves.
The truth alone does not make people free. Facts do not change attitudes. - Dick Sutphen in “The Oracle Within”
An important moral of the above story is that evolution (both in ourselves and in the world) takes time and can’t be rushed. Rarely do things leap suddenly from one thing to another, but rather they transition step by step. In reading a book, we patiently turn one page at a time. In life, we grow one year at a time, and can’t transition from age 20 to 80 without first being age 50. Many of the most effective leaders in history (spiritual and otherwise) created change not by taking some grandiose end vision and throwing it (or trying to force it) upon the populace all at once, but rather by seeing what was needed for society at the moment, and presenting attributes and qualities that society was ready to handle, and in a manner that they were capable of handling. The best way to serve the world today is much different than it was 1000 years ago, and it will be very different a million years from now.
Another article says: “You do not grow a plant by instructing it to do so, or worse by pulling on it. You do not get people to innovate by tasking them with innovating. You grow a plant by providing the Soil, the Space, the Sun... and letting it happen.” Tugging on a plant to try to make it grow faster will just uproot and kill it. That’s why our planet works the way it does, and we don’t have Angels or other evolved beings coming down and just telling us the meaning of life, punishing wrongdoers, and so on. Earth is a big garden, and we’re learning to grow in our own uniquely messy and beautifully muddy way. :-)
A related concept about evolution is that it takes place more through refinement, than elimination. For example, society doesn’t overcome destructive weapons all at once, but rather we first learn how to use explosive forces appropriately. Similarly, it isn’t effective to just repress anger or other “negative” emotions, but rather we learn to express them cleanly and in appropriate scenarios. Consider history up through World War II, in which conflicts largely took place physically, through armies and violence. Since then, deaths through war have been much lower. Instead, conflict today primarily takes place on emotional and mental levels, through ideological debate, internet flamewars, and so on. In other words, violence has to a significant extent refined itself from physical to non-physical levels. Eventually, it will “scroll off the screen of humanity” altogether, so to speak. In the meantime, as seen in the story, it helps to understand the ways in which people and the planet actually change, so we can make our efforts better help instead of make the situation worse, and just as importantly make our collective journey smoother. ♥

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