World Creation through Personal Expression, 7th of 10-session introductory course, Invitation to Participate
Creation through Participation in Personal Thinking, Studying, and Expressing Yourself
1. This course is a participatory course, an invitation rather than a lecture, a starting point rather than a conclusion, because the enduring philosophies of the future cannot be dictated, but only created, as people themselves see a need for them and actually do them.
2. Created not, furthermore, by one or two specially informed and/or divinely inspired persons in the cloistered office of a remote university, or in the cloudy mist at the top of an ominous mountain, for no such persons ever did do their work in a complete cultural or theological vacuum. No, the philosophies of the future, however eventually written down, must today be inspired and created among all human persons in and through the universal processes of everyday thought and human life and communication.
3. Even a course like this, devoted exclusively to the topic, can only set out some guidelines and proposals that seem reasonable to its all-too-human author, but which hopefully will stimulate others to join with him on the creative journey of reconsidering the meanings and results of our individuals lives, the lives of our groups, and our roles in the life of all humanity.
4. One goal and purpose of this course, therefore, is to stimulate and urge you, the reader-student, "to write your own book," to think your own way through to a better understanding of your own life. For no studying of someone else's course, no reading of someone else's book, should ever be the end of your quest for a legitimate personal philosophy and plan of action in your life.
5. You may already be experiencing strong reactions to this material, or you may be relatively untouched and unmoved. You may be positively inclined, or negatively, or not at all. Some people grasp "personal creation and world citizenship" the first minute they hear the words, but many others do not, and some, perhaps, never will.
6. You may right now have only a faint idea what these ideas are all about but want to keep going so you can learn what you can about it, to see if it makes any sense to you in terms of your own life experience.
7. For others, the course may be little more than an open door through which you may venture more confidently knowing others have gone this same way before you in search of the same basic things you seek.
8 Or you may have already grasped the leading ideas and be thinking far in advance of the teacher, perhaps visualizing applications of the philosophy in realms that the teacher knows little or nothing about, dated as he is by his own specific time, place, and background experiences in life.
9. In any case, it can hardly hurt us to look more closely at the possibilities of world-creation available, according to our thesis, to all individuals through participation in such basic human activities as thinking, studying, and expressing yourself.
A. Activities of thinking
10. We begin by facing the inevitable question that many skeptics literally spit out with defiance, "Can one person merely thinking make any significant contribution to the world as a whole?" Yes, we propose that "merely" thinking can and does make such a contribution, a central thesis of our entire project, and what a shame that anyone in the world should even need to ask such a question.
11. We use the word "thinking" here, of course, in reference to the whole scope of interior mental activity that includes all forms of intense intellectual, emotional, moral, or spiritual concentration, including prayer, by which people analyze their ideas, review their experiences, prioritize theirs desires, hopes, and plans, and prepare themselves to receive, or at least to accept, the results when they come.
12. It most assuredly does make the world a better place for everyone every moment even one person spends thinking, or even merely asking, "What can I do to help improve the world for everyone?" Any human thinking activity potentially contributes to the creation of a new and better world. Remember, every single reform in history began as an idea in one person's mind, often with a person unknown or long forgotten (Emerson's 1841 essay "On History" contains a germ of this idea).
13. This theme of thinking has many variations, but to be more specific, I list three proven ones. (a) People who understand the power of the human mind can ask themselves, "How might I help make the world a better place for everyone?" (b) People accustomed to practice of affirmations can affirm to themselves, "I am finding the place that is right for me to help make the world a better place for everyone." (c) People who believe in prayer can pray, "Lord, lead me to ways that I can help make the world a better place," or in Christian cultures, simply pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," or use similarly relevant words of prayer in any other faith tradition.
14. There are many other possible variations, of course, but these three proven methods of asking questions, making affirmations, and offering prayers, work when people use them only once, and they work when people use them every day. They work on a time-frame of one minute, and they work on a time-frame of an entire life.
15. No matter who you are, or what your circumstances, as long as you are alive, you can think, you can ask questions, you can learn, and you can pray. Never let anyone take these indispensable activities of human thinking away from you.
B. Activities of studying
16. Secondly, when people pursue a program of rigorously studyingany mainstream subject in which they have genuine interest, they soon discover they walk a path toward a better life for themselves, their families, their communities, and hence, for the world as a whole.
17. Many good writers have illustrated this point profusely, but here I give one mundane example. Even the simple study of everyday philosophy or religion found in self-help books or devotional booklets can lead a person so inclined to ask such questions as these: "What are the values, the goals, the priorities of my life? What is the picture that my life is in the process of painting, or the story my life is telling? What are the components of my life, its methods, its problems?" Seriously cconsidering such questions can lead any thoughtful person to many beneficial life results.
18. You may not see your life as a work of art, or as a story being told, but that is all right with me. You may see life as a scientific experiment, for instance, or you may see it as a ripe tomato."
19. This is not a trivial point, because someone who never thought much about it might hear you say, "Life is like a ripe tomato," and react instinctively that they think life is more like a green tomato, and suddenly you have communication, you have everyday philosophy, you have two people more likely to understand each other, and even more likely to love each other, than before.
C. Activities of expressing yourself
20. Thirdly, by expressing yourselfin search of a better life, I mean writing done by you, the reader-student, or any other activity in whatever media suit you best.
21. You might start, for example, with a daily journal of interesting things you observe in the world, or notice about yourself or others. Some good counselors claim that writing in a daily journal is the best single way to stimulate new self-growth and understanding of one's self and others. A friend once told me she kept a journal of the prayers she prayed for other people, and from time to time I find myself hoping that I am still in her book. But does her private journal make her a better person? Does it make me a better person? How can it not?
22. Other people might write down everything they do not like about the world (and yes, I have another friend who seemingly does just that!), but I hope they also recognize their limitations and think also how to improve themselves, because the world needs that effort from them as much, and possibly more, than anything else.
23. In any case, Why not write to benefit others? Have you ever wondered if an account of your unique observations and experiences might help other people who might learn from what you learned, and thereby, perhaps, not need to "reinvent the wheel" for themselves? Even one short, short story from your personal experience or imagination might teach someone something they desperately need to know.
24. What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in your life so far? What is the most interesting thing you ever observed in some other person's life? On what day did you learn more about life than on any other day? Why not share with others what happened on that day?
25. I firmly believe in stories. People need to hear stories from others, and they need to tell stories about themselves. We do not tell our stories often enough. Just as few homes still had a fiddle-player because of the abundance of good radio and recorded music in 1974-85 when these words were first written, so did cinema and television intimidate many from telling their own stories. I also said at the time, years before the Internet, that computer keyboards at least let you talk back, and thus may represent a step toward redressing the technological imbalance.
26. Meanwhile, the teacher of this material wants to hear any story of yours that portrays real life. Names, exact places, and your current age are usually not so important, but it helps to know the approximate age of the central person in the story. In 1974 I envisaged a new monthly magazine of stories to help reader better understand the stages of life, two or three stories covering whole lives, and the rest organized by age category of the person in the story.
27. By now, of course, in December 2012, the Internet has turned 40-year-old magazine concepts into relics of nostalgia, while dramatically providing new ways to organize and communicate real-life materials to anyone concerned with human development in the various cultures and subcultures of the world.
Workbook Exercises for Session 7 of 10 (optional for auditors, required for credit)
1. List and briefly describe the main ways you have expressed yourself to others so far in your life. Then tell of any other ways you would like to express yourself if you knew when, where, and how.
2. Describe an experience known to you where someone expressed themselves in some way that influenced someone else in a positive or negative way.
3. Using resources at your local public or community college library (consulting real books with real paper pages), or on the Internet if necessary (Wikipedia, etc.), study some significant part of one of this session's three ways of "creating through participation." Describe its key features, and the chief obstacles to its widespread use by people in general.
4. For graduate students, or for extra credit, identify and read basic descriptions of three or four major books published in the last 20 years on creation through personal expression. Discover and write into your notes the leading ideas contained in one such work.
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