Week 6: the new doctrine of M.A.J.

Herewith another rumination on the 6th topic of the 8 Week Challenge, JOY ……. & perhaps a reason for why Joy is so difficult to find ………….

As I am of the famous & infamous generational cadre known as the Baby Boomers, I grew up during the Cold War. This perpetual political, military & intelligence confrontation between the United States & the (then) Soviet Union colored & influenced everything in the lives of those alive when it began, in the aftermath of WWII. And, then it held sway over the next two generations also. Some families in the U.S. built bunkers in their backyards & stocked them with canned goods. The suspicion of & hunt for Communists pervaded nearly every government action. Children learned to “duck & cover” through drills in elementary school. We all waited for ‘the bomb’ to be dropped. Both countries, along with their satellites & allies, built up their military arsenals, & no American politician could afford to be labeled a ‘dove’ re the Communist threat. To justify the arms race, fear of “them” & their threat to our way of life was a constant refrain in public life. To stave off this nascent threat, Mutually Assured Destruction came to be the pervasive government philosophy. The belief that survival depended on the ability to destroy became a way of life.

Say, what?!? Yes, we grew up knowing that the only thing keeping us free of the insidious Communist hordes was that our military-industrial complex was the greater of the two. Peace through superior firepower. Until they caught up. Then, we had to increase our potential for deadly force …….. then, they did ………. then, we did ……….. then ..……. The effect of this was that for all of my lifetime, before the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, we all lived with the presumptive world view that being able to out-destroy someone was a supreme virtue. Put another way, being the most lethal was a higher value than being the most benevolent. No wonder both countries are in such societal trouble now. Under the doctrinal dictates of Mutually Assured Destruction, both countries created destructive cultures. Is it any accident that the acronym for this is M.A.D.?!?

Within such an environment, which went largely unexamined in the developing minds of the U.S.’s children, where was any emphasis on Joy? Oh, there was plenty of emphasis on being happy, on chasing pleasure, on fulfilling the individual’s selfish desires. But there was little cultural teaching on creating the enduring benefits of peace, of community, of oneness, of kindness, of respect toward those of ‘other’ mindsets. I’d argue that it was impossible to create those enduring values, when the culture’s emphasis was on the near-term ability to prevail through assured destruction. No wonder Americans traveling anywhere in the world heard “Yankee go home!”

NOW I can understand one of the reasons it is so hard (for me, & many of my generation) to be truly joyful — we were all taught, tacitly, that being destructive, & being the ultimate winner, was of the utmost importance. And toward that end, the Powers That Be kept beating the drums of fear, suspicion, division, dominance. ((And they still do!)) These qualities & paradigms are the exact opposites of Joy — Joy cannot exist easily, if it all, in such a culture as ours has come to be. Mutually Assured Destruction, aimed at the former Soviet Union, has nearly destroyed us.

What’s the antidote, then?? How to undo this long- institutionalized, & psychically enshrined paradigm? By making it unworkable & replacing it with another, much better world view: Mutually Assured JOY! The roots of M.A.D. have  dug in deeply, & its poisonous ivy has a chokehold on most governments & many cultures. So, uprooting this toxic view of life will take some energy. We Buddhists, those of the Alternate Economy, & many, many others around the world, are reaching for a new way to be. We seek to create a better, finer way of living. We all want a world where a sense of community reigns instead of division, where love is more pervasive than hate, right? Compassion is the answer. By caring for one another as for ourselves, we can begin to live in terms of We instead of You vs Me. Our exploration of Joy this past week has made it pretty clear that we understand that Happiness comes & goes, & in the grasping after it, people become selfish. Perhaps this is the flip side of M.A.D. — the urge toward world dominance implies an ultimately finite view & perhaps we instinctively feel that Happiness is limited too. But Joy, the bigger, more encompassing version of being happy is enduring, it can include everyone. As it is more a way of being than a thing to be had, Joy doesn’t come with the same kind of internally presumed limitations.

So, I’ve sussed out an underlying presumption — Mutually Assured Destruction — buried very very deeply within me. It’s one I didn’t realize was lurking in my psyche, but now I can see its influence has been at work upon me my whole life. Well, I’m done with it now! M.A.D., I repudiate thee ….. I repudiate thee ….. I repudiate thee …..

And now I shall cleanse my mind of the junk installed by a shallow, self-centered culture, no matter how long it takes (please visit my blog, MindMindful, as I blog this journey). And I embrace the new doctrine of M.A.J., Mutually Assured Joy, my Joy, your Joy, & make it my work of this lifetime.

Thy magic power re-unites All that custom has divided, All men become brothers Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

You millions, I embrace you. This kiss is for all the world!

(from ‘Ode to Joy’, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony)