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Who are you and what have you sacrificed in order to fit in with the collective? What have you been asked, or required, to give up in order to gain the position you now hold? At what point does the needs of the collective outweigh the essential make-up of the individual?

There is a dividing line. It is an amorphous line, ever changing, ever moving within our individual journey through life, that shows the difference between sacrificing one's ideals and vision for the good of others and making the sacrifice because it will allow you greater rewards within a collective. Making the sacrifice for the good of others allows for soul growth. Making the sacrifices for oneself brings about soul death. There are those who refuse to make sacrifices or to negotiate, clinging to their own vision and creating discord between themselves and others. There are also those who continue to effect sacrifices in order to gain prestige, wealth and privilege within a collective system.

And they're only gonna change this place
By killing everybody in the human race
They would kill me for a cigarette
But I don't even want to die just yet.

It is easy to see how a collective reduces the value of the individual and that individual's freedom of movement. Even a democracy, supposedly the most enlightened form of governance, is essentially mob rule where the vision of a majority is imposed upon the remaining individuals within the collective. Yet we must learn to fuction and grow within any collective. There are many great examples of individuals who have realized their personal vision within the most oppressive collective systems imaginable. It can be said that oppression breeds greatness within individuals. Those who are aware of oppression cannot relax until they have asserted the value of the individual experience within it. Those unaware of their oppression tend to become lazy and complacent. Those who struggle know how to revise and change their vision until they can get where they need to go.

Those who are oppressed or limited in the paths they can take to realize the individual vision have an easier time finding an enlightened path because they must negotiate and make sacrifices. Those who are gifted with power and resources to do as they wish are more likely to drift into temptation. Those who suffer and are repressed are the truly blessed. They have much easier access to the archway into the Kingdom of Heaven than those who are heavily burdened by the power and resources they have fallen into the temptation to accumulate and horde.

The evolution of an enlightened civilization must grow to allow individuals to realize their potential, their dreams and their personal desires as long as they do not interfere with the freedoms of others to do and act as they choose. As long as any collective within the present body of civilization does not realize that, it is regressive and self-destructive. Individuals may be successful on some level in "raging against" the collective, but until individuals are able to work together to realize the value of the individual within the collective, we will not advance ourselves in any meaningful way. It is troubling that in the present day it is becoming fashionable to oppress the individual in favor of a collective vision of some kind of security, but throughout history these things have come in waves. We take two steps forward and then someone comes along and forces us to take three steps back. It is the way of things.

In the coming days, individuals will likely need each other more than at any time in recent history. Because of this, we need to learn how to treat each other with the respect we would ask of others and to escape from judgments and decisions based on personal beliefs. To survive we must move beyond tolerance of others and into true acceptance. And remember, if you suffer as a result of the actions of others, you are blessed.

Judge not, lest ye be judged

Whether it is on a personal level, or through the veils of the collective body of a society, to judge is to appoint oneself the god of one's brothers and sisters. The functioning of a collective, on an enlightened level, is to do everything possible for every individual within the collective without infringing upon the right of other individuals to be who they are. This does not include avoiding "offending" individuals who disagree with the nature of other individuals. They are free to follow their path while the other is free to follow their path. The first step to enlightenment is to give unto others the same rights you would claim for yourself. Do unto others and so on and so forth until you are so dizzy you pass out from contemplating the beautiful angles of the new pool table we've built for mankind.

The angels play many angles.

In order to find yourself, you will have to travel a path that helps you to overcome the fear of the true self and deliver you away from the arms of temptation and into a greater harmony with the soul. Temptation is what leads us to fulfill ourselves at the cost of others. This is how you can tell the difference between realizing the self and succumbing to temptation. If what you do is done at no cost to others, and, we can only hope, at benefit to others, then it is a good path. If we must take from others to realize the self, then we are on the wrong path, for in the end the journey is truly about more than the self. It is about those we touch and those we help, guide and learn from along the way.

And so, who the hell are you, really?

It is key to face your fears and enable youself to laugh, even at those things you have come to find offensive. Fear limits our range of movement, whether it is a complex fear of failure or a more easily defined fear of something like dogs. I once was crippled by my fear of failure. I avoided doing anything, or putting myself into any situation, where I considered failure even a possibility. Now I purposely enter into situations where failure seems very likely. Instead of trying to escape failure, I jump into its jaws and laugh as we dance together in a lovely little mad tango trying to get the better of each other. Failure can never win. I consider winning and losing to be equally desirable outcomes of any situation. Once teaches. The other moves me forward. This is the key to invincibility.

The limits of any situation involve three factors. There is the self, the actions of other individuals who are in some way involved, and the impact of the collective on the situation in question. In order to most clearly realize one's objectives, one must take all three factors into consideration. You must know what you are capable of and what you are not capable of. You must understand, respect and find a level of harmony with other individuals involved, and you must know how the equation will play out within the limitations of the collective.

Picture yourself as an architect or engineer. Picture yourself living in a neighborhood where there are many houses and many children. Your vision has seen that the neighborhood has a problem. There are dozens of children and there is very little for them to do in the way of entertaining themselves. Often they play in an empty lot at the end of the street, but this lot is filled with garbage and a collection of junk that could be dangerous to them, as it includes rusted scrap metal, nails, screws and weapons of mass destruction. You want to do something. Your plan involves cleaning up the empty lot and building some kind of playground there. In order to bring this plan into bloom, you will need to consider the three factors in the equation, the self, the others, and the nature of the collective.

Given your background and experience, you know you are capable of designing and constructing the playground you now see in your mind's eye. You decide that you are willing and able to participate in a cleanup effort. You also realize you cannot clean up this lot alone. You will need the help of others in the neighborhood. At the same time you look into the backgrounds and the experience of others in the neighborhood and find there is a carpenter, a landscaper and an old man who dealt with unexploded bombs in World War II. These people will be of great assistance to you in your efforts, but you cannot assume they will agree to your plan or be willing to do the work required. The mistake often made by individuals needing the help of other individuals to make a plan work is that they see the situation only through their own eyes and become frustrated or angry when others do not see the same vision. In order to overcome this, you must develop a sense of empathy that allows you to see the vision through their eyes. They might not want to invest the time and money involved in the playground project. At least they may not want to make the investment for the same reasons you do. The old bomb dude doesn't have any children. The landscaper has cash flow problems in his business and has taken to drinking heavily every night. The carpenter spends much of his time in pursuits involving his membership in a fundamentalist church. You must find a way to appeal to them within the vision of their own personal reality.

In addition, the collective takes two levels of navigation. There is the collective of the neighborhood, which must be convinced the playground is a good idea in everyone's best interest. There is also the larger collective that will demand building permits, adherence to zoning laws, knowledge of safety codes, etc. All this must be navigated to make the vision of one person blossom into a vision that is no longer the vision of one but the vision of many.

The struggles of the individual when dealing with other individuals and the fabric of a collective reality are often grounded in the need to take credit for an idea and an unwavering commitment to a single, individual vision. One lessens one's support for a plan when one continues to push one vision of that plan and when one continues to promote the plan as "my plan." When one pushes a single "one truth" method of reaching an end, one runs the serious risk of discounting and devaluing the ideas and visions of others. Perhaps, because of your own bad experiences with church organizations, you refuse to allow the carpenter to bring friends from his church to work on the project. You can easily discount valuable assistance by clinging to personal prejudices, especially when done in the name of a project being "my damned idea."

To function within a collective, from the collective of the neighborhood to the larger collectives that form governing bodies, one must be willing to make some degree of sacrifice. The key is in understanding what sacrifices are merely sacrifices of pride and which are truly sacrifices of the self. Pride can be sacrificed at the altar. The self must move forward. Pride is a crutch. Your vision may include a swimming pool at your playground. The collective may rule against this, as there is no way to affect lifeguard protection twenty-four hours a day. To sacrifice the swimming pool is a sacrifice of pride. It isn't necessary to achieve the vision of the playground, but it is amusing how many projects fail to come to bloom because of such stances of pride. The angry visionary retreats into his home and curses everyone because he wanted "that damned pool." The enlightened man realizes that changes in a vision are necessary, and that aspects of a vision may need to evolve and change in order for the core element of the vision, in this case a playground, to be realized.

One can retreat into the self and cling mercilessly to single thread interpretations of one's person vision. To do this leaves an individual on an island where nothing will ever truly be realized. If the purpose of our adventure here in samsara is to learn to integrate ourselves with others and interact in positive, progressive ways that lead us closer to the heaven dynamic, then we must learn to consider the vision and the ideas of others as equal in value with our own. If we can teach this as a method of personal operation, then perhaps one day even those misguided souls who feel they have a license on The One Truth will see the error of their ways and learn to release their prejudice and righteousness.

It requires an unarmed army, growing daily in numbers, setting the example for those who embrace zealotry as a way to force others to accept their vision as the only path to be travelled. Negotiation and compromise must always be part of the equation. Sacrifice is stronger than coercion. Forgiveness is stronger than retribution. Any prophet who has seen the light of the heaven dynamic can teach you that.

One day you will build your playground. You already have all the materials in your possession. You just need to find them.

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