PRESENTATION by Don Ayre
Thank you, Paul. Paul has recently returned from missionary work in Ethiopia. And he tells me that he’s off to Greece in a few weeks. As he mentioned, he was my neighbour across the street when I lived in Fort Gary for 46 years. As neighbours, Paul and I had many opportunities to exchange ideas with one another and over time, our conversations progressed from lawn cutting to matters of spirituality. Jean and I have since moved to Portsmouth Retirement Community but Paul and I still manage to meet over coffee. My experience has been that those of us who want peace and believe in it as something worth working toward don’t connect with one another often enough.
I was very pleased when Paul offered to make some introductory remarks at the launch of Toward a More Loving and Caring World. He has read my manuscript at various stages of development and is a part of its history. And now by being here today, you are, too. I’m thinking that like Paul and me, you are finding that the world is becoming too divisive and too violent and wondering what more you can to change it. Why else would anyone attend the launch of a book called Toward a More Loving and Caring World? So you are what I like to call Kindred Spirits. I like to think that we are growing in numbers.
Paul mentioned that four questions are uppermost in my writing, thinking and ongoing research. They are Who am I? What’s it all about? Where do I fit in? and Why are we here? I first noticed their significance forty years ago when I was teaching child and family therapy at the University of Manitoba. However, my fondness for the writings of Carl Jung and Eric Fromm – especially Fromm’s The Art of Loving – were causing me difficulties with the other instructors as we were a Freudian based school and Eric Fromm’s writings were considered to be too unscientific to be included in the curriculum. In particular, Fromm had differentiated four kinds of love beginning with love of self and extending to love of humanity. Eventually, I went in to private practice as a consultant.
More recently, I have found these four questions to be important to me in regaining my sense of direction in a world that is becoming increasingly violent. You may have been prompted by world events to think of these questions, too. With different words, perhaps? Who? What? Where? and Why? Keep them in mind.
When I started writing Toward a More Loving and Caring World four years ago, it was in reaction to 9/11 and to the violence that has been ongoing until today. I tried an earlier version that I self-published in 2010. It was entitled Meditation and the Evolution of Cosmic Consciousness and it had a slightly different focus. I’ve always gathered my thoughts by writing and tried to share them by self-publishing, even going back to pre-computer days.
As far back as I can remember, I have been an uncompromising idealist who believed in peace at all costs. A lot of us in 60s and 70s were uncompromising idealists. We were the “Make Love, Not War” generation. We were living in the shadow of the mushroom clouds caused by the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Never again”, we had promised. Even our scientists were optimistic about the new sense of spirituality that was emerging. Shortly after World War II, Albert Einstein said:
Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune intoned in the distance by an invisible player.
He was openly against any further wars: “I don’t know with what World War III will be fought. But I do know what the next war after that will be...sticks and stones.” He was hopeful that the mysterious tune that we would all dance to would be one of peace. The Beatles’ John Lennon even wrote a song that had us all singing about peace. Some of you might remember the song: Imagine.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
Add to this, the technical gurus of my generation like Marshall McLuhan – and even the politicians of the day (Kennedy, Trudeau) – were optimistic. They envisioned “A global Village.” Needless to say, the 9/11 attack on the twin towers of World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House shattered my idealism…probably that of my generation. It wasn’t the beginning of the World War III that we all dreaded; it was the start of something entirely new: Global Terrorism. To pick up the pieces of my idealism and to personally regroup, I decided to develop a deeper sense of spirituality. It was my research toward this end that resulted in my self-publishing Meditation and the Evolution of Cosmic Consciousness.
Writing it helped me. But even with the renewed sense of inner peace that I gained, I continued to feel discouraged. The world around me – at least, as I viewed it through the windows that TV and the internet provided – seemed to be getting worse. It became evident to me that Cosmic Consciousness would not be enough. Before we would be able to develop our humanity in terms of being custodians of planet Earth, we would have to learn to get along with one another. We would need to develop a deeper sense of oneness…a Universal Love. But how, I wondered?
A quotation from another one of my generation whose writings and speeches had inspired me came to mind. Martin Luther King had put it this way: “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
I decided to re-examine my experience as a family and child therapist and later as a consultant in search of some psychology-based wisdom that would lead to a personal strategy for peace that I and perhaps others could use. To broaden my search, I decided to draw on research related not only to the more usual psychological, social and emotional sources related to my professional learning but also spiritual sources.
The earlier book that I self-published was easier to write because I wrote it mostly for myself but, in Toward aMore Loving and Caring World, I wanted to reach out to people of like minds and to actively contribute to a more positive world outlook. I was almost half way through the new manuscript when I had the good fortune to meet Heather Emberley who offered to work with me as an editor. Heather recognized from my earlier writings that I was trying to put into words something that was relevant to today’s world and probably useful to other concerned individuals but that I needed some professional help. Working with Heather has been like being a student in Writing 101. At her insistence, my manuscript went through no less than five revisions and lost nearly 60 pages of what I had previously considered to be deathless prose. Heather, I discovered, is a tough-minded editor. I am very grateful to her…and you as readers will be, too.
I’d like to acknowledge Sarah Wood of McNally’s. My manuscript had over 40 computer-generated diagrams that I had used in the development of my research and quite a few quotations from authors whose thinking I had found to be inspiring. Sarah did an excellent job of including the diagrams and quotations appropriately when she converted my manuscript to book form. It was quite a challenge.
I’d also like to acknowledge John Toews of McNally’s and the event facilitator who works with him, Bruce Smith, for getting us together this afternoon. I find that those of us who are Kindred Spirits tend to think, act and make decisions independently. We belong, we participate but we don’t connect easily. So we are not easily identified as a market. That’s why books like mine often have to be self-published. To me, self-publishing is a little like translating what I think into a message that I can stuff into a bottle and throw into what I believe to be the ocean of truth with the hope that someone will find it and read it. So “launch” is really the appropriate word.
I would especially to like to acknowledge my partner in peace, Jean. She has listened to me tirelessly as I thought-out-loud about the message I wanted to convey in Toward and More Loving and Caring World. She has been the power behind what Paul referred to earlier as my “tenacious optimism”.
The result of all of this support and encouragement has been what I think is a very timely book. But that is for you to decide. The way I see it, we are four dimensional creatures – body, mind, heart and spirit – caught in a three dimensional world of our own making. We live mainly in the physical, intellectual and emotional realms of existence. We have created a materialistic world that is short-changing us spiritually and we are under enormous pressure from today’s global growth and development to change. We have to catch up – individually and collectively. It’s up to us.
We can’t change the world. We can only change ourselves. At the beginning of my presentation this afternoon, I asked you to open your minds to what I call life’s four most basic questions – Who? What? Where? Why? Keep on questioning. Keep on growing. Keep on reaching toward a more loving and caring world, not as an ideal but as a reality that we are building together.
It’s not the answers to life’s four most basic questions so much as the persistent asking of these questions that is so important. In fact – as I suggested earlier – we ask these four questions of ourselves all the time beneath the surface of our day-to-day living. But it’s better to be aware of our doing so. And it doesn’t take much time or effort.
1) Asked daily and in an integrated manner, these four questions open us up to experiencing Universal Love in relation to ourselves as individuals, in relation to other persons (significant others, we like to call them), in relation to society as a whole and in relation to humanity. In psychology, it’s called Developing the Self.
2) Coupled with brief periods of meditation, they lead to the sense of Cosmic Consciousness necessary for our learning the new sense of spirituality demanded by today’s globalization. In theology, it’s called Growing the Soul.
A global village that is loving and caring is still possible. It's up to us.