ISOLATION AND CONNECTIONTALK BY RAVI LOGAN | FEBRUARY 2020
A couple hundred years ago, the central valley of California was lush with life. It would be hard to find another place on the planet that was so teeming with life. It was a beautiful place to settle and thrive. The gold rush of the 1850s in California drew a lot of attention to the central valley, and there was a wave of migration. Migration prior to this had gone into the Willamette valley of Oregon, but then the Oregon trail split off into California, and a great land rush occurred. The problem was that the valley was already teeming with human habitation with one of the greatest densities of Indigenous peoples of the country, which presented an obstacle [for Euro-Americans], [who undertook genocide of the peoples who inhabited here.] With the many massacres that took place, the Indigenous peoples receded away as the Euro-Americans advanced.
One of the tribes that suffered from this was the Yana tribe, maybe up near Chico. One of the bands of this tribe, the Yahi, was hit with two or three massacres until their population was reduced to four people, struggling for existence in the remote wilderness. They were then discovered, and those four headed off into different directions. One of them was a man that became known as Ishi. Ishi was unable to find any of the others after that. He just lived alone in the wilderness for years.
In the very early part of the 1900s, his aloneness became so deep that he just essentially walked into civilization, despite fearing the culture which had exterminated his people. Maybe somehow he made the calculation it was better to face that, rather than to be alone.
It is very painful for human beings to be alone, to feel alone. [When we are alone,] we have [almost] no scope to give meaning or purpose to our life, or [the opportunity to] develop our humanity and express it. It goes very deep into the hardwiring of our social nature that we are social animals.
We are all aware that there are many living at this time now who feel deeply alone. They may not be in the situation of Ishi, who lived completely isolated from other humans. There may be people around [those who feel very alone], but not the feeling connectedness. Connected in the sense of intimacy, having others that care for one’s self, having others that validate one’s existence, that witness one’s expression and prospering in life. Their experience of life is one of deep aloneness, which is very painful, and contributes to the depression that many feel, which is epidemic in our culture.
Many of you have heard about the soldiers that go to war. They are in the worst of conditions, but they live tightly together as a military unit with a sense of shared purpose. And [as] they come back from this experience back home, they miss it tremendously. Their transition and adjustment is often problematic, which contributes to the experience of PTSD.
..many human beings not only feel the isolation and alienation in our social existence, but also isolation from nature, [isolation] from the fabric of natural life that we have evolved with.
Layered onto this is that many human beings not only feel the isolation and alienation in our social existence, but also isolation from nature, [isolation] from the fabric of natural life that we have evolved with. An isolation from the Mother, so to speak, which also contributes profoundly to psychic anguish in the lives of many. There is now a field of psychology called “eco-psychology” that has looked at the deep effects of our alienation from the natural world.
Then, add onto this one more profound sense of disconnection and isolation of aloneness. That is the feeling of disconnection with Source, with the Divine Entity, the Cosmic Entity. Ultimately, our existence is a manifestation within an individual expression of this Supreme Entity, and feeling the interconnection with Source has great importance to human life. It is, among other things, a source to be drawn upon for understanding and wisdom. It is very hard just to intellectually figure out meaning in life, how to live in the world, and where purpose lies [on an intellectual level].
When Ishi came out from the wilderness, he ended up living the rest of his life within the Euro-American culture, with a space to live at an anthropological museum in Berkeley, California. It was maintained by the Kroebers (the parents of Ursula Le Guin, a famous author. He was once interviewed [I think] by the San Francisco Chronicle, and the reporter asked, “what do you think of the white people? Of the Americans?” and Ishi simply replied, “smart, but not wise.” I don’t know what he was thinking, but I suspect he could see how even in that time, there was a culture that gave so much importance to the material sphere of life and an economic system driven by greed, and that one could not build a healthy sense of identity and of humanity living on that basis.
To be wise implies that one has, among other things, a clear sense of values, of deep values in life. And ultimately, there is a great lack [of deep values in] the world. There is not a solidity of values, values that are based on a spiritual humanism, which arise out of a clear understanding as to what the human being is and what the expression of life is all about.
There are so many now, I see it, and all of us see it in the younger generations, at least a certain subset of them. Many often move through this town [Eugene] in the micro-communities, [people who] have a tremendous desire to live more tribally, to live more in community, to be able to express and find meaning in community… not just community within a dense urban area, but many of them dream of community that is more connected with the land, with nature. And so many of them seek to bring a sense of spirit, of Source, into their collective expression. The human heart misses this. This leaves us with great longings, whether these are understood or not.
The pendulum now swings back. But in the process of swinging back, it is not so easy because there is so much acculturation that we have, so much experience of social life that has wounded and oppressed us. Sometimes, it can be a little tough to get along nicely in community. It is a bit tough to let go of the materiality that means so much in this society. It is a bit tough to commit the time to seeking connection with Source.
Here [at Dharmalaya] we are collectively aspiring to heal much of that. And there is a very beautiful feeling when it all clicks together, which seems to happen more and more. I think it is important for us to keep in mind that this is not something we do for ourselves, but rather, it connects with a larger purpose. A purpose to create a world that is guided, not just by smartness, but by wisdom.
Ravi Logan is the Director of the PROUT Institute, and the Director of Transformation Education, the training and education department of Ananda Seva. He is the principal author of PROUT: A New Paradigm of Development. His new books are A New Interpretation of Revolution and Transition to a New Era. He is also the co-founder and program director of Dharmalaya, which has as its mission, “to promote dharma holistically in personal, social and ecological spheres of life.”
Ravi has dedicated his life for the past 50 years to the project of the liberation of human beings and society. Ravi has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1972, and shared the yogic teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti in Jamaica in 1974. In 1996 Ravi became a family acharya in Ananda Seva and has been involved with the organization since its inception, volunteering as publications secretary, retreat organizer, and developing training manuals for the mediation teacher training. His latest publication in that capacity is the Ananda Sutram Primer, an accessible format for understanding the philosophy of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti.
This article was transcribed from a talk by Ravi Logan given in February 2020. Transcription by Rene Tricou, editing by Michele Renee.
The transcription may vary slightly from the original recording as it was edited to improve readability.
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