Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Myth of Hierarchy

"Going with the Flow"
-a river in the wilderness-

I came across a letter recently published by a veteran Jesuit priest who, after 45 years in the ministry, has now decided to resign as a priest in protest over the structure of the institutional church. His comments about the inherent and intolerable problems of “hierarchy” in the institution really resonated with me, not only as a commentary about the established church but as an insight into the “toxic” way most people approach life in general. The priest writes:

We humans cannot be fully ourselves
without being in communion with all that exists.
We need conversion from the prevailing consciousness
that views reality in terms of separateness, dualism and hierarchy,
to a new awareness of ourselves as interdependent partners
sharing in one Earth-Human community,

In plainer words, we need to end the worldview that structures reality
into higher and lower, superior and inferior, dominant and subordinate,
which puts God over humanity, humans over the rest of the world,
men over women, the ordained over laity, human beings over a world of nature

In one sense these few paragraphs pretty much summarize why I think so many people find themselves so “stuck in a rut” in their everyday living. We are all part of the design, rhythm and flow of nature, and yet so many of us live in a way that moves contrary to the natural flow- of course this will always lead us into a lonely, dead-end way of life. 

Living here in the desert, I am more in tune with the world of nature nowadays than I have ever been before in my life. I have come to understand that the essence of the natural order is ecology and not hierarchy. In fact, everything that has being is ecological and not hierarchical.

The desert is an exceptionally fragile eco-system and so there is nothing here that is hierarchical, no one part is designed to be subservient, all the parts need to be in concert with one another for life to be sustained and to survive. Ecology and not hierarchy is the lesson the desert teaches - this is the lesson the entire world of nature teaches us.  

Every day as I walk along a wilderness trail it is very obvious to me that all the “parts” are essentially the “whole.” Nothing in the desert is more important or less important than anything else, everything “is” a complex web flowing together in a beautifully intricate dance of life – the sky and the sun, the stars at night, the sand and the water, palm trees and cacti, flying insects, birds of the air, even the snakes that crawl under the rocks, everything has a purpose, nothing is ever relegated to a position of inferior or superior.

This is how nature is designed and we human beings are woven into the fabric of it all.

We belong to nature.

But in our hubris, humans have determined that we are somehow superior to it all. We have fooled ourselves into believing the Myth of Hierarchy, and in fact we have designed our entire world in such a way that it is often contrary to the natural ecological order.

Many people honestly believe that the world of nature somehow exists to serve us and so we pollute the air or destroy the oceans to satisfy our economic goals and political ends.  Even in our relationships with one another, we have crafted a world that looks like one big “organizational chart,” with some people at the top of the hierarchy and others who are thrown into a trash heap at the very bottom of the pile – those in “charge” and those designated as subservient servants.  This is the myth of hierarchy that we have foolishly adopted as true. 

No matter where you go you will always find someone who is “in charge” of somebody else, even in families and in personal relationships, somebody always seems to be “in charge” of somebody else. This is especially true in the world of business, politics and public life. The “mom and pop” 10-person organization, the vast medical or educational establishments, the way in which organized religion is structured – everything is ordered in terms of hierarchy and everyone is always looking for ways to climb up the ladder of success.

Is it any wonder so many people feel like their lives have somehow wound up in a dead –end?  That’s what happens when you go against the design and flow of nature.

It is not even slightly surprising to me that all the great wisdom teachers over the ages, people like Jesus and the Buddha, have all taught that that we can only find our “true selves” when we break out of our ego and learn that there is no separation after all. There are no superior others who have greater dignity and are more important. We will thrive and survive only when we trade in our belief in the myth of hierarchy and embrace the lessons of ecology.

We human beings cannot be fully ourselves
without being in communion with all that exists.

1 comment:

  1. Would you mind if I posted a link to this particular big on facebook? I think everyone should read it.