Ben's thoughts on bringing life to ourselves
This is chapter 1 of Ben's portion of SolSeed: The Book of Life.
Imagine waking up on a Monday morning excited and energized by the knowledge that you're going to spend the day doing something you love: work inspired by your innermost dreams and desires, and their intersection with the deep needs you see in the world around you. Do you know what kind of work that would be? Are you doing it already? If so, then by the SolSeed Movement's definition, you are spiritually fulfilled. If not, then regardless of whether our particular vision interests you, we want to help you work toward finding or founding the tribe that will support you in doing what you feel called to do.
This definition of spiritual fulfillment may seem strange to you. Isn't spirituality mainly about things like prayer, meditation, and attending religious services? We don't oppose these practices (though we find the concept of praying to a supernatural entity rather dubious), but we value them only as a means to an end: preparing your mind for the hard but rewarding work of turning your passion into positive action.
The centrality of Passion
- Passion drives us.
- Without Passion,
- Empathy and Wisdom are impotent.
- I pledge to identify and channel my Passion,
- to embrace my animal nature,
- to be my true self, Happy in the Sun!
- ~ from the SolSeed Creed
Passion originates in your emotions, not your rational thoughts. These emotions are the source of snap judgments you make automatically and immediately on encountering almost anything: a person, an idea, a piece of art. You're instinctively attracted or repelled, and this subtle emotional response shapes your subsequent interactions, often without your consciously realizing it.
Not all of these reactions are appropriate or positive, of course. For example, many if not most people have an instinctive fear of difference, which drives all the various forms of prejudice and discrimination that still plague our highly diverse modern societies. So it's important to recognize passions that contradict our values and prevent them from shaping our actions. This is one reason why the SolSeed philosophy seeks a balance between Passion, Empathy, and Wisdom.
But it's a mistake to pit our intelligence in a direct battle against our Passion. Your neocortex, the top layer of the brain where advanced thought resides, was not evolved as a control system that would override the much older, less intelligent parts of the brain. Rather it serves as a guide to help the so-called “reptile” and “mammalian” parts of the brain meet their goals more effectively. The neocortex is like a small person riding a large elephant (a metaphor more deeply explored in Brandon's part of the book). If you don't like what your “elephant” wants to do, you can't fight it directly, because it's too much bigger and more powerful; you have to change what it wants.
Luckily, our ancestors have been social creatures for many millions of years, so Empathy (a main topic of the next chapter) is built into the deep layers of our brain, and merely has to be emphasized when we're worried that we might do something harmful to others.
Defining your Passion
Modern Western culture has some strange ideas regarding what people should be most passionate about. It tends to assume that people prioritize either romantic love or the attainment of material prosperity, or some combination, above any other goal. While being passionate about finding love makes sense for almost everyone, a true Passion for accumulating financial wealth and possessions is much more unusual than our cultural norms would suggest.
But because I and most readers of this book live in this culture, the easiest way to consider other possibilities is to frame them in terms of the general idea of wealth. It also helps to begin with the most self-centered forms of wealth-seeking. In addition to material and financial wealth, there is emotional wealth in the form of love (including love based on kinship as well as sexual relationships) and in the form of happiness, a vague concept that can point in many directions.
Some people are happiest when building and maintaining their social wealth, through interacting with a circle of good friends and making new ones. Others are most drawn to the emotional fulfillment that comes from experiencing or creating aesthetic wealth, in the form of art, music, architecture, natural wonders, and so on. Still others seek joy in the attainment of knowledge and wisdom, whether by studying some of the accumulated intellectual wealth of humanity, or by seeking to add new gems to that store. All of these Passions share an ambivalent status: they may be pursued primarily for personal gain (whether monetary or in terms of happiness), or for the sake of creating something valuable to other people, or for both of these reasons.
Finally there are purely altruistic Passions, most of which center around helping people in need. Doctors, teachers, social and charity workers who are passionate about their work all fit into this category. People who work to protect and restore wild ecosystems and endangered species also exhibit this type of Passion.