Norman D. Livergood
In many of the essays on this Web site, we concentrate on revitalizing social principles. But it is the comprehensive goal of this site to assist in attainment of an understanding of those treasures of our human heritage through which people become fully-developed in every facet of their lives.
This essay focuses on the aesthetic, intellectual, and philosophical ideals of human life, exploring how these transcendent human treasures must be rediscovered and preserved.
To understand what wealth really is, let's take the hypothetical situation in which a rich man named John D. Billionaire purchases an expensive set of the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
John D. can't really own the works of Shakespeare even though he has a bill of sale for the set. Why? Because to "own" Shakespeare in an authentic sense means that you have the capability of understanding his works and the sensibility to appreciate the subtle nuances and dimensions of his writings. Neither of which John D. has.
Defining Human Wealth
Describing the hypothetical John D. Billionaire in this way does not involve the intent to demean this person or to presume a superior aesthetic sensibility or moral integrity. This hypothetical scenario simply makes it clear that authentic wealth is something much different than mere affluence.
In a hundred years you and I--and Mr. Billionaire--will have our being in another realm where true wealth will be measured in terms of the capabilities we developed during our earthly life.
So at any given moment in human history, the people who possess true wealth are the women and men who have developed deathless qualities such as:
- Compassion for others
- Understanding of humans and the events in which they move
- Appreciation of beauty, truth, harmony, justice, and freedom
- The ability to manifest what we understand
- The desire to continually evolve (supersede past shortcomings and develop new abilities)
"While I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting any one whom I meet and saying to him, after my manner: 'You, my friend--a citizen of this great and mighty and wise city of Athens--are you not ashamed of devoting yourself to acquiring the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation, and caring so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?' . . .
"I proceed to interrogate and examine and cross-examine him, and if I think that he has no 'virtue' in him, but only says that he has, I reproach him with undervaluing the greater, and overvaluing the less.
"For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul."
Socrates's Speech Before the Athenian Senate
Humankind's Lost Treasures
Wealth is not physical objects at all, it is the possession of qualities which will survive the death of our physical body.
Genuine wealth requires specific capabilities, among many others, the discernment of subtlety, nuance, and hidden dimensions. These capabilities are not innate; they must be attained by each individual. This means that humankind can lose its wealth if it loses its ability to:
- Recognize its underlying values
- Appreciate those values
- Pass on essential capabilities to each generation
Recognizing and Appreciating the Foundations of Human Wealth
Humans can lose the ability to recognize higher values if they mistakenly identify lower values as supreme. For example, humans can mistake sheer violence and mayhem for bravery and courage. It can mistake mere crude, uncultivated, indecorous "self-expression" for authentic art or music. At present, the seemingly unfathomable appetite for mindless, inane TV sit-coms and rabid-right "news" shows drives out the possibility of truly entertaining comedy or genuinely fair and balanced investigative reporting.
I'm not advocating the high-brow, pseudo-sophisticated, stuffy pretentiousness that now often passes for "culture." We can revitalize and maintain our priceless human heritage by developing and then using our aesthetic and intellectual abilities. The concomitants of human wealth can only be taught or transmitted by persons who have themselves developed the requisite capabilities of a truly cultured person, not merely studied them so as to be able to discourse learnedly about them.
"Have you thought out or taken stock of your first principles? What are your most valued possessions? Begin there: love, health, time, etc., to mention a few. Decide which they are and observe how you are guarding them, cultivating them and acknowledging them, your treasures. . . .
"The free choice is yours, only choose; do not muddle along until unconsciously you have fashioned habits which are your paste jewels. The time will come when you must abide for awhile by your choice, and your treasures will be ashes in your hands."
Stewart Edward White, Across the Unknown
At present, fewer and fewer persons know about this treasure trove we're speaking of, not many have any appreciation of it, and only a handful can recognize the capabilities which make it possible for a person to "own" our cultural riches. We now live in a barbarous age in which humankind's heritage of literary, moral, and aesthetic values is not only ignored or disparaged by brutish, ignorant people but has been entirely forgotten by most of them.
This "letter to the editor" in a local California paper is representative of this savage temperament.
Teaching poetry is a waste of taxpayer money
"The Dec. 20 column. . . about the state poet must have infuriated many people. Most of us realize that writing poetry is the refuge of the unstable and the preoccupation of many unteachable American students. The very act of writing poetry makes people narrow-minded and strangers, narcissistic and is a complete waste of time."
This was written by a man who lives on the shores of a polluted lake and who probably thinks that classical music is also a waste of time. To such people the only response is silence, leaving them to their own barren lives.
Rediscovering Our Priceless Cultural Heritage
Below are specific links to material which encourages us to discover our hidden cultural treasures:
Our exploration of human artistic and literary treasures in this essay presupposes an awareness, to whatever degree, on the part of the reader of a higher or spiritual dimension. If a person believes that mechanistic materialism (there is nothing but matter in motion) is the true interpretation of reality, then she or he would find our exploration humdrum or nonsensical.
The Perennial Tradition--to which this essay points--seeks to transform the entire structure and direction of society. Its goal is to infuse day to day living with a transcendent awareness that helps humans learn to commune with higher forces about them.
"The exceeding beauty of the earth in her splendour of life yields a new thought with every petal. The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time. These are the only hours that are not wasted--these hours that absorb the soul and fill it with beauty. This is real life, and all else is illusion, or mere endurance."