The Difficult Search for Self Realization - Leonardo Boff

The Difficult Search for Self Realization

por Leonardo Boff
There is currently a broad erosion of the ethical values that were generally lived and passed on by the family, and then through school and society. That erosion has caused the guiding stars of the sky to be clouded by interests that are harmful to society, and to the future of life and the equilibrium of the Earth.
Despite this darkness, we must also recognize the appearance of new values, linked to international solidarity, caring for nature, transparency in social relations and the rejection of forms of oppressive violence and transgression of human rights. But not even this has diminished the crisis of values, especially in the field of the market economy and speculative finance. These define the path of the world and the daily lives of wage earners, who live under the constant threat of unemployment.
The recent crises have exposed the mafias of speculators installed in the stock exchange and in big banks, whose huge earnings and capacity for thievery of other people’s money almost caused the collapse the world financial system. Instead of landing in jail, such scoundrels, after minor adjustments, have returned to their old vice of speculation and to the game of wrongful appropriation of the «commons», the goods common to humanity (water, soils, seeds, energy, etc.).
This anomic atmosphere, where anything goes, that also reaches into politics, dulls the ethical senses, and, faced with widespread corruption, leaves people feeling impotent, and condemned to bitterness and humiliating resignation. In this context, many seek meaning in self-help literature, comprised of bits of psychology, oriental wisdom, and spirituality, with prescriptions for complete happiness, all of which is an illusion, because it is neither based on nor supported by a realistic and contradictory sense of reality. Others go to psychologists or psychoanalysts, who give more grounded counsel, but everything boils down to the following recommendations: given the failure of the things that create meaning, such as religions and philosophies, and considering the confusion of world visions, the relativity of values and emptiness of existential meaning, seek your own path, work on your deepest Self, establish your own ethical references to guide your life and seek self realization. Self realization: that magic phrase filled with promise.
It will not be me who combats self realization, after having written, The Eagle and the Chicken, a Metaphor for the Human Condition, (El águila y la gallina, una metáfora de la condición humana, Trotta 2002), a book that urges people to find in themselves the basis for sensible self realization. This comes from a wise combination of the eagle and chicken dimensions. When should I be a chicken, that is, concrete, attentive to the everyday challenges, and when should I be an eagle, seeking to fly high, in freedom, to realize hidden potentials. Articulating such dimensions creates the possibility of successful self realization.
I think that this self realization is only reached if three other dimensions are seriously incorporated.
The first is the shadow dimension. Each of us possesses a self-centered side, arrogant, with other limitations that do not dignify us. This dimension is not a defect, but a sign of our human condition. To accept that shadow, and to take care that its negative effects do not affect others, makes us humble, understanding of the shadows of others, and allows for a more complete and integrated human experience.
The second dimension is the relationship with others, open, sincere, and consisting of enriching exchanges. We are beings of relationships. There is no self realization if the bonds with others are severed.
The third consists of nourishing a certain level of spirituality. I do not mean by this that the person must belong to a particular religious confession. It can happen, but it is not indispensable. What is important is to be open to the human/spiritual capital that, contrary to material capital, is unlimited and made up of such values as truth, justice, solidarity and love.
Into this dimension comes the question that cannot be avoided: What, in the end, is the meaning of my life and of the whole universe? What can I hope for? Going back to cosmic dust, or to the shelter of a divine Uterus that accepts me just the way I am?
If the reply is the latter, self realization will bring profundity and an intimate happiness that no one can take away.


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