I continue to get some pretty amazing emails from people who still admire and follow my brother's philosophy, now more than twenty six years after his death. Here is one such email I have received.
It is articulate and the content wholesome. Food for spiritual thought so to speak:
Reflections On Modern Living
If Anthony de Mello were alive today, what would he make of 21st century Westernized civilizations?
When Tony presented the Rediscovery of Life satellite workshop at New York’s Fordham University in in the mid-1980s, here is how he reflected on society: “Despite our technological advances – we’ve yet to solve the problem of human suffering: loneliness, heartache, emptiness, depression, despair. The quality of our living has not been raised. We have more comfort, speed, entertainment, erudition – not less fighting, cruelty, or greed.” Are these striking words relevant now?
Mental and emotional suffering is more prolific now, and the mass prescription of anxiety and depression medications has done nothing to eliminate the causes of suffering. These medications were initially designed and trialled as short-term support mechanisms to be used in combination with therapeutic approaches, yet nowadays therapy is skipped, and pills are prescribed and swallowed for decades. Rather than acknowledging and fully feeling our suffering in the moment, medical and pharmaceutical ‘ technologies’ have simply facilitated our psychological repression and done nothing to help us master and experience the suffering of the self.
Outside of the medical realm, mobile ‘phone companies advertise that their services are connecting people, yet often this is only through words on a screen instead of heartfelt, person-to-person contact. Loneliness, heart ache, emptiness, depression, and despair are not transformed by contact from other people using mobile devices; they are transformed by connecting with the reality of the situation that we have created for ourselves, fully tuning into our feelings, and then, if need be, to act differently.Illusory Happiness
Comfort, speed, entertainment, and education are more readily available in a greater number of countries now, yet these can interfere with our ability to accurately perceive reality. A more comfortable home, car, or work environment does nothing to permanently change the perception-distorting despair we feel about the inadequacy of our communication skills in interpersonal relationships, or the failure of our business ventures.
Comfort provides additional sensory stimulation and pleasure, yet these experiences of pleasure are very short-lived; our underlying anxiety, depression, or tension will resurface, and moves our awareness away from the perception of comfort back to the distress that is begging to be experienced in that moment. Faster vehicles, speedier service, and faster Internet download speeds may save seconds, yet they do nothing to prevent us from wasting years living with a stressed mind, and missing out on the experience of happiness that is available in each moment.
Even a university education is perceived as a means to an end; a means to acquire a ‘better’ job after graduating (better than what, or who?); to get more money, which can then purchase the distractions of “comfort, speed, [and] entertainment,” that a higher salary can pay for. Still today, many people equate financial wealth and material comfort with happiness; these are often the same people taking the antidepressants and other medications. Yet happiness cannot be acquired through external means, let alone through a pill because happiness is our innate state.
Rather than using education as a vehicle to fuel personal growth, and to discover how one can serve and love the world, education has become an illusory trap. People believe that they need to acquire higher and higher levels of education to be able to contribute to the planet. Acquiring knowledge and degrees is no substitute for showing the ability to love.Entertainment and Greed
Entertainment has become a significant distraction from experiencing the present moment. We may choose to watch films and television programs - and even participate in computer games - that depict graphic scenes of action, violence, drug use, power trips, and sex, and these hook the unconscious mind into a false sense of reality. Such forms of media can be so absorbing that we disengage our connection with what reality truly is. Researchers have already observed increases in stress in the human body while people watch gang violence in a movie, and aggressive words and behaviors by on-screen characters is also known to reinforce existing beliefs that behaving in this way, real life is acceptable.
Entertainment is also not bringing people together in the presence of reality; when two or more people watch television or a film together, more often than not, each person is watching the screen with little to no awareness of the other person’s experience; entertainment is becoming a solitary affair, and yet it can also be lovely by inviting meaningful and loving, present-moment engagement and interaction between people.
On fighting, cruelty, and greed, might Tony say that we have simply become more technologically sophisticated, and more emotionally-aloof from the consequences of our behaviour? Governments in certain countries continue to use false logic and then military force to achieve their goals to acquire resources from other lands for corporate shareholder profit. Greed has become commonplace through lobbyist-stimulated policy loopholes, turn-a-blind-eye operating practices in the financial sector, and institutional hierarchies rewarding the CEO or president, while paying the worker on the ground a minimum wage.
The CEO fails to see their interdependence on the ground-level worker, without whom, there would be no business and no profits to earn a bonus from.
Tony probably would be unsurprised at all of the changes that have occurred during the last 26 years since his passing. He would maybe quote Julian of Norwich and say that: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” The reality is perhaps that society in Western countries has made no progress in reducing human suffering during the last 26 years, and yet in this present moment, as you read these words, all is indeed well.