Visitor friends would often ask me: "don't you get rock fever?" meaning, wouldn't they? I would respond that it all depends whether you have horizontal or vertical consciousness. With vertical consciousness there was no end to the levels of depth that you could keep discovering. Never were you constrained by boundaries on land or sea.
Another way of putting it is pointing out the difference between a consciousness of scarcity and a consciousness of abundance. We all know people, even very rich or wannabe rich people, who are more apt to see what they don't have and are fixated on getting and consuming more and more. They see the world, people, and themselves as deficient, as victims (e.g. of corporations, others, government, communists and capitalists), as needing to free themselves from constraints to gain more power.
And we also know people, even very poor in material possessions or poor in spirit, who are more apt to see what they do have and are grateful for their life, their friends, and the beautiful world they have inherited. They acknowledge their limits in time, space, and capacity but use them to grow in wisdom and grace. They recognize and experience injustice done to others because they have a strong sense of empathy but even this they see as a way to free themselves to engage with others to gain more power.
I pray to be a person of vertical consciousness with a spirit of abundance. I imagine the Buddha, Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth, Saint Francis, Saint Ignatius, Emerson, Gandhi, King, Mandela and all true revolutionaries to be such souls.
I am working in a small neighborhood, through a small organization, connected to a small faith community of the District of Columbia. This does not seem as exciting as heading a UN project or a multinational corporation, not as thrilling as contributing to space exploration, not as significant as restructuring a political party to change national policy or studying the neural basis of Alzheimer's disease as I have friends who are so doing. Yet, when I think about it with my vertical consciousness and abundant spirit I am quite energized.
For I see our little project in our little neighborhood of Columbia Heights, DC as a microcosm of, entry point into, and lesson for a universe. It doesn't get much bigger than that!
Let me probe the levels of what we are doing. It compares to inhabiting the crust of the earth with its seas, mountains, and plains. But underneath tectonic plates are moving. And underneath them a flow of molten lava that affects the planet's magnetic polarities. And then we come to the core and the center of gravity.
Here are levels of our human life and action that a vertical, abundance oriented spirit might discern.
1. personal: solving personal problems through programs and projects.
2. common: knowing and affecting the region within which our little neighborhood is being shaped
3. sociological: discovering the patterns in the American political economy that has shaped the global economy.
4. philosophical/ethical: probing the roots of behavior in human nature and existence.
5. spiritual/religious: co-creating a universe of meaning for our being and action.
6. transcendent--descending into the core of existence and ascending through it out to the stars.
The personal level is where individual troubles and opportunities arise. Its where we make day to day decisions about where to live and work, where to shop and bank, where to go to school, and who to befriend and love.
At the common level we recognize that our individuality is really conditioned by our affiliations, our families and clans, our communities and nations. We do not exist except already connected in a web of relationships. This is the John Donne "No Man is an Island" level.
The third level is discerned by what C Wright Mills called "the sociological imagination." Here we uncover the hidden social structures in our political economy within which our personal troubles and opportunities arise and how they are being shaped by the society into which we are born or plunged.
At the forth level, through deep thinking within ourselves and each other and with the aid of philosophic and scientific psychology and anthropology, we reflect on the structure of our common human nature and existence. Through our understanding of the human condition and capacity, we can develop criteria for judging our behavior individually and communally. We are able to raise the question of justice.
At the fifth level we critique and reinvent the narratives that give us meaning--the narratives relating to our origins and destinies, our place and time in the universe.
The final level for me is the dynamism that connects all levels and all beings vertically and horizontally. It is the transcendence in evolution, in community, and in our spirit.
And so I have developed a proposal that I have submitted to the Atlantic Magazine and the Washington Post.