A Quote and the Inherent Problem in Today's Conservatism
Last night I was flipping through the past two years' yearbooks looking at senior quotes, trying to get an idea for my own quote. Most, to be sure, were unimpressive, and although most were creative, most were just creative ways of saying the same things, and they didn't say anything of profound meaning or perhaps didn't mean anything at all. Then I found Emily Dell, who graduated last year.
I didn't really know Emily at all; she was just in my AP European History class last year when I was the lone little sophomore. She dropped the class at the semester, too, if I remember correctly, so the very little I knew of her wasn't all that impressive either. Her choice of senior quote though was practically enough to make me fall in love with her.
"Your soul is the whole world." -Hermann Hesse
She chose a quote from my favorite author of all time addressing one of the most meaningful ideas that I possess. In fact, before last night I had already put that idea into my own words through my own thoughts; it is my second life-principle, and it can be found to the right. The quote is from Siddhartha, which is already listed as my second favorite book I have ever read. (The whole list is not in any order, but the first two -Steppenwolf and Siddhartha- are.) I didn't remember the quote from the book, but I certainly picked up much there in the form of learning to look into myself.
The quote is found early on in the very first chapter and is in fact itself taken from the Upanshads- the spiritual scripture of Hinduism. Through it we realize that who we are is bound in with absolutely everything around us, and that in turn all the world is bound into our selves. As my principles state, it absolutely essential that people must love themselves. What can one not love about oneself? How can one survive if one does not fully embrace all that one is? Individualism is a great thing, and celebrating the individual is one of the best things a person can do. Before developing my principles, I had not held Ayn Rand in high regard at all. I gained a new respect for her, however, when I realized that all she had done was to reach the first life-conclusion that we must love ourselves. What she failed to do was move to the next step, which is realizing that to love oneself you must love the world.
This the inherent problem in the conservatism of today- it cannot see the unity in the world. I will not just say conservatism and leave it at that, because what is conservative and what is liberal changes much throughout the ages. Just as the "liberals" of the 19th century espoused ideas that I would find disgusting in the modern world, conservatives centuries from now will probably uphold principles far greater and progressive than those of the wildest idealists of today.
But in today's world, we are surrounded by the greed of the individual. Most Americans don't even empathize with their neighbors, let alone people in other countries. We see the weekend murder, another highway crash, a disaster killing thousands, and it all just whizzes past on the television screen. We do not accept that there is so much suffering surrounding us and we turn in upon ourselves- selves that are truly missing something, and this is the embrace of all humanity and of the whole universe.
Conservatism focuses upon the preservation of the status quo, and the status quo of today is such a vile state that you have to realize that those who don't want to change anything must truly be blind. There is so much to do, both for our own nation and for the world. The conservative thinker focuses on whether their taxes are going to go up while schools are choked to the point they must accept corporate sponsorship. The conservative thinker focuses on how well we're doing with the "mission" in Iraq while the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by our invasion and occupation go ignored. The conservative thinker sits, just as Wilson said, and languishes in their own well-off condition. Well, we are well off. I am, you are, our country is. That's exactly why we should be the ones reaching out, but the bitter irony is that our ability to help the world is just blinding us with greed.
It is unconscionable to accept this state of the world- unconscionable to deny that change is needed. For many things it is unconscionable to deny what changes are needed and to deny that they need to happen now. The only question is how we must go about making change, and this is something that needs the soul of the whole world.