One of the benefits of living in our present era of advanced medical and psychological knowledge is that we can look back over several thousand years of recorded history and make the connections between spiritual problems that people have always identified and link them to their psychological and physiological effects.  Yet ironically, even given the benefit of this knowledge, we still face the same problems that our ancient ancestors faced and too often, make the same bad choices.

For all of its acquired knowledge, Western society has become quite unbalanced in many areas of life.  The reasons are many, but I’d like to focus on a few.  The industrial revolution with its technological advances in manufacturing and transportation made the factory, for over a century, the focus of professional pursuits.  Mass production was seen as the path to greater wealth.  And to be sure, the industrial era produced plenty of stuff.  More stuff was the promise of the future.

Our relatively free market economy produced many beneficial things.  But we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve become victims of our own success.  We’ve seen the material benefits of the industrial era and found that there just isn’t enough stuff to eradicate our problems.  Thieves still abound, although they are much more technologically savvy today.  Troubled kids are shooting their classmates at an increasing pace.  Suicide rates are steadily rising.  You’d think that with all of our abundance, we’d be happier, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Our country is more polarized than ever, and the other influential nations in the Western World, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia seem to be experiencing the same thing.

We excoriate the industrialists for ravaging the natural resources that they used to build grand cities, create sprawling suburbs, and give us affordable transcontinental and intercontinental travel.  Advances in agriculture and refrigeration gave us the ability to feed the world.  But it came at the cost of topsoil depletion, erosion, and chemical fertilizer runoff.  And people around the world are still going hungry.  Our legal system is the most comprehensive ever seen in human history, and clinical psychology has made enormous advances from the days of early theorizers.  Yet in the United States, our incarceration rates are insanely high.  In short, we’ve gained knowledge of the physical world, but we haven’t solved the most important problems that lie latent in the human heart.

And now, a new generation is making the same mistake in this adolescence of the information/communication era.  Society now views globalization with ethnic cultures fuzed into a single, bland, secular, homogeneous culture as the solution to interstate conflict; and artificial intelligence will certainly take care of the rest.  All we have to do is use these things to build a better system.

A better governmental system.  A better legal system.  A better healthcare system.  A universal (and actuarially perfect) insurance system.  A better educational system—free, of course—one that is suited to molding humans who will conform to the coming perfect system.  In this system, there will be an equal number of women and men in STEM professions, because we have decided that statistical equality is the best metric for measuring societal success.  We will once and for all be able to dispense with the archaic notion of “family,” for family will be unnecessary in this new system where perfect government schools and programs will raise children to be perfectly suited to their perfect environment.

This is not new.  In fact, this undertaking has been tried in various forms for millennia.  Ever since the cycle of violence began to spiral out of control, the majority of humans have rejected a theistic solution to human violence and have endeavored to create a system that simply did not permit conflict.  Ah, the System.  The program.  The institution.  The processes and the procedures.  Rather than seeking to reconcile with our Creator, we spend all our energy building artificial structures to regulate other people’s behavior according to our preferences.

In the process of creating these structures, we have produced negative psychological and physiological effects on individuals that in turn, reduce our society’s ability to actually progress.  By emphasizing following procedures over problem solving and good judgment, we’ve essentially shut down the part of our brain that performs these functions.  The brain’s left hemisphere is the part that deals with what is known—the logical portion where we construct and follow efficient processes.  The right hemisphere is where we deal with what is unknown—the creative portion where we explore and seek out new solutions to existing problems.

Left and Right Hemispheres of the BrainBut because we have bred an inherent mistrust of individual creativity and initiative, we have replaced those functions with procedures.  Businesses, social institutions, and government agencies have become dominated by left brain, procedure-worshipping thinking.  Educational institutions are now little more than indoctrination centers.  Rather than being environments that stimulate creative thought, they are more than ever institutions that seek to produce ideological clones that are committed to The System.

“Leadership” training is heavily emphasized in our culture.  But it’s not really leadership we are teaching.  Rather we are teaching methods of institutional coercion—how to get people to go along with The Program.  Hence we are bombarded with mantras such as, “trust the process,” “follow the rules,” and “have faith in the system.”

Now at its most basic, a system is just a group of things that work together to perform a common function.  Think of the human digestive system.  And structure is good and useful.  Evidently, humans don’t prefer to live in caves and holes in the ground.  And processes are very useful things.  I imagine any store keeper that is any good at his or her job has an efficient process for tracking inventory.  The brain’s left hemisphere helps us master mathematics, follow the rules of logic, and design useful procedures.  But in our pursuit of the perfect system and the perfect process—ostensibly, to prevent people from even having the option of screwing up—we have culturally relegated the brain’s right hemisphere to “frivolous sentimentalities” such as art and individual expression.

The result is that our brains’ right hemispheres have atrophied.  Our creativity has been stifled by industrial-era indoctrination centers.  Our natural bent toward problem solving has been severely inhibited by procedural compliance.  We don’t bother to develop good judgment because it is no longer required.  All that is required is that we follow the process.  As a result, the things that make life meaningful are being stifled by our culture in its reckless pursuit of the perfect system.

We were put on this earth to create.  To solve problems.  To take care of the earth.  To take care of each other.  But in our hubris, we’ve concluded that individual creative endeavors are ultimately detrimental.  We think that we’re going to solve the problem of human violence (and maybe disease and tragedy and suffering while we’re at it) by building a system that runs like a well-oiled machine.  A system in which every person is molded into indistinguishable clones of the systemic ideal.  And we develop processes.  Processes intended to negate the need for true, visionary leadership.  We have substituted programs for human contact.

We spend so much time demanding, demanding, that the government do something to fix our problems.  Congress needs to pass more laws.  The President needs to spend more time on this thing and less on that.  Our courts need to force corporations to become institutions of social welfare.  We want more programs and more procedures and more mechanisms to force people to just follow the process!  We complain that nothing substantive is getting done, and we blame the other party for being so damned obstinate(!), and we fight with each other over which new onerous set of laws should be added to the books.

And we do exactly nothing to actually help others.  We are not using our creativity to solve problems.  And we are certainly not exercising our God-given mandate to take care of the earth or each other.  And the dormant right hemisphere of our brain is withering.

I suspect that two things lie at the bottom of this mania for a systemic overlord:  the need for absolute control over our environment and the pride that drives us to build a system that facilitates our rising to the top of that system’s hierarchy.

If history is a good indicator, the majority of people will continue down this current path.  But there is another way.  We can follow the example of the One who, when he walked this earth, chose to establish a kingdom that was not bound to this world’s system.  A kingdom that revealed the impotence of every religious and political system.  He brought healing to those who were sick and gave hope to those who were in the grip of despair.

It’s time we stopped looking for systemic solutions to our problems and began reconnecting the two halves of our brain.  And then, begin reconnecting with each other.  

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