The economist John Maynard Keynes once said that;
"The day isn't far off when the economic problems will take a back seat where it belongs, and the heart and head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behaviours and religion."
The day that Keynes predicted is now coming towards us at full speed. Our instincts are telling us that we can no longer seek a solely economic answer to our predicaments. The Church of England has just appointed, to quote the Financial Times, their "best-informed analyst of capitalism", Justin Welby, as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Greece is on the brink of default despite all our efforts, and we now know that fiscal austerity alone will not save Greece.
We are looking to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth to get us out of our current state of turmoil but the problems we are facing today, we know deep down, will not go away by dint of the same consciousness that created them. Yes, we do need to solve our financial woes, but we are also at a crossroad on earth that we have not seen before.
As I wrote in the Financial Times, "Camels can pass through a needle's eye", with my dear friend and inspiration, Desmond Tutu, this is not a crisis of capitalism per se. It is the notion of strict individualism and self-interest that separates us from each other, our humanness and nature; that is robbing us of our happiness. We are in essence social beings so this is a crisis of not giving and receiving enough love, not daring to love.
GDP measurements and mathematical formulas used in economics can help portray a picture if the underlying assumptions and data are good, but economics is really a social science depicting human behaviour, and human behaviour is based on human emotions. What we are seeing now is a world ruled by fear, and fear is the opposite of love. It is fear of not having enough that leads to greed, corruption and a fight over resources. But it is also fear making us think that we have to show up dressed in success, and that we can't be loved for who we really are.
Our materialistic society has produced a lot of things we can be grateful for and that we enjoy every day, but the cost has also been high on the environment and our personal and global relationships. The culture of achievement shaped by the notion of "survival of the fittest" and individualism has meant that we separated ourselves from our innate values. Human beings belong together, love, are compassionate, and also receive joy from simple pleasures like holding a loved one's hand, walking barefoot on a sandy beach or simply awing the beauty of nature - the things that cannot be measured or valued in monetary terms.
We have been seeking happiness through materialism, consumption and keeping up with the Joneses - through economic growth. Yet whilst GDP growth has been on the increase the past 50 years - numerous studies show that happiness has not increased. We have become so very adept at being intellectuals and rational human beings that we can't see the forest for the trees. As poet and philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol said "...of what avail is the open eye if the heart is blind?"
We all hunger for something more, and more never seems to be enough, and we try to fulfil this void with various degrees of money, power, lust, fame, alcohol and so on. We might even build our personal relationships around her looks or his fast car. The truth is, this can never sustain us or bring happiness because the most basic human need is for unconditional love - to love and to be loved. We know that when we are surrounded by unconditional love there is little to fear.
True happiness is found in our human relations - it is having love in our own lives; it is giving love to dear ones and to strangers through kind acts or philanthropy. Caring and giving is true happiness and joy. True happiness is found in goodness; it nurtures and it never harms. This is also why it is difficult to hail in a too individualistic society that separates us from each other, and we are having sleepless nights, maybe even infringing our personal integrity because we need to win, so all this deprives us of our inner happiness.
Because we have to win and be competitive it is more difficult to be vulnerable and to show love in case it might be perceived as weakness. But love is the privilege of the brave. You have to be brave to love because it makes you vulnerable. Vulnerability shows our humanness and allows us to truly connect with others; it opens up for a love otherwise not possible.
Perhaps worryingly, the inherent hardiness of individualism also means that we haven't fulfilled our need to receive love. Deep down, although we might not say so openly, most of us have doubts that we are truly worthy of unconditional love - this is what we must heal because this is where our fear of others, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being good enough or having enough, stems from. Poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi said it well -"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
We will never find true happiness through GDP growth alone. To love and be loved - is what ultimately sustains us; all spiritual traditions tell us so and humanists would agree. By letting more love into our own lives through all our relationships, we can nourish our global, community and individual needs. It is time to let the heart lead and let the head follow.
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