A Clear and Present Danger
A Mindful Wake Up Call for the World
by Dr. Stephen J. Johnson
Director, Men's Center Los Angeles
In January of 2017, humanity was informed that The Doomsday Clock’s Most Dire Warning Since the Cold War was posted. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced on Thursday, January 26th that the Doomsday Clock now stands at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, suggesting that existential threats now pose a greater danger to humanity than they have at any time since the height of the Cold War.
The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic warning about how close the world stands to “midnight,” that is, nuclear or existential catastrophe. Since 1947, the Bulletin’s scientists and security experts have updated it annually. Many of the world’s most acclaimed scientists—including Stephen Hawking, Susan Solomon, Lisa Randall, and Freeman Dyson—sponsor, oversee, or consult with the Bulletin.
“This is the closest to midnight the Doomsday Clock has ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room. It’s been 64 years since it was closer,” said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University and the chair of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors.
I don’t know about you, but this is pretty alarming news. It’s a harbinger or wake up call for anyone who chooses to be conscious of the world beyond our own individual day-to-day lives.
A week ago “The Supreme Ruler” of North Korea, Kim Jong Un had his half brother assassinated with nerve gas in full view at a Malaysian airport. Only a few years ago he had his uncle and mentor (his father’s brother) devoured by a pack of a hundred hungry dogs. It’s my understanding that at one point his grandfather instructed his son, Kim Jong Il, to destroy the earth if North Korea was ever at risk. While the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, was visiting our country and in discussions with President Trump, North Korea fired another ballistic missile over the oceans toward Japan, a clear test of our new President, and a symbolic bullet across America’s bow.
It is estimated that North Korea is 2 to 4 years away from the ability to arm a long-range ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching Japan, Hawaii and California. You just know that Kim Jong Un has never gotten over the Sony movie parody of him. It’s probable that he has a map of Los Angeles with a big bullseye on it.
Furthermore, there are big questions concerning Iran that tested it’s own ballistic missile recently and even bigger questions regarding Russia on all levels. In addition to the issues concerning the relationship with those on the Trump cabinet involving Russia, It’s evident that Russia is also testing us and apparently has nuclear armed submarines just outside of our oceanic borders. We’ve been fairly evenly matched in nuclear arms since our nuclear arms reduction agreement following the Cold War. President Trump has expressed that nuclear arms are not desireable but if we have to have them we should be “at the top of pack.” Are we crossing the threshold and gearing up for an escalation of the nuclear arms race?
Last night I watched Mel Gibson’s new feature film, Hacksaw Ridge. The extraordinary true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss who saved 75 men in Okinawa, during the bloodiest battle of WWII, without firing a single shot. Believing that the war was just but killing was nevertheless wrong, he was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon. As an army medic Doss single-handedly evacuated the wounded near enemy lines - braving enemy fire and putting his own life on the line. He was the first conscientious objector to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor. This is a story for our time. It’s definitely a story for today!
This is a very powerful film along the lines of Gibson’s acting prowess in the characterization of the legendary thirteenth century Scottish hero William Wallace in the film Braveheart, as well as Gibson’s stunningly confrontive directorial portrayal of Jesus’ final hours in the film, The Passion of the Christ. Gibson has once again presented an authentically true account of the horrors of extreme violence and man’s inhumanity. The film is emotional and graphic and at the same time it’s a powerful message, like that of Jesus the Christ, of a man’s personal commitment to live his principles of nonviolence even under the extreme pressures to abandon them.
I highly recommend this film. Similar to WW II hero Louis Zamperini (portrayed in the book and movie, Unbroken) who held firm to his convictions and survived, despite the highest odds that he would perish, Private Desmond Doss was truly another amazing example of a good man, a model of mindful manhood under extreme pressure.
During the 1960’s and 70’s into the 80’s I had a sense that my generation was making a significant and potentially lasting difference in improving the state of the world, environmentally/ecologically and through our humanitarian efforts to stop the arms race and uplevel the international understanding, empathy and compassion for each nation’s utmost concerns and basic needs. I now feel that we were ideologically naive. It doesn't mean that the message or our efforts were not true or needed, but that the prevailing negative energies at war with those that are more positive are giving the world a real test of whether we will actually be able to save ourselves from the brink of annihilation.
If not now, when?
The Indian Guru, Shree Rajneesh, who left his body in 1990, warned that “we don’t have the time to build more castles and amass more treasures on Earth and that we may have just enough time to save our souls.” If not now, when?
There is a resurgence of protests and resistance throughout the world to stop and reverse the trend toward nationalism, sectarianism, racism and the narcissism that is pervasive. We seem to be drifting in the wrong direction further downstream from the understanding that we will not make it as a humanity unless we co-operate as ONE people, unified through our diversity to create the solutions to the global problems that we’re facing.
We are up against some very real concerns, not least among them is that, In demographics, the world population, the total number of humans currently living, as of August 2016, was estimated at 7.4 billion. The United Nations estimates it will further increase to 11.2 billion in the year 2100.
There are those who believe that the world, in it’s present state, is basically unsustainable at 9 billion inhabitants. At this point we may not make it to 2100 and 11.2 billion. How do we deal with these mounting challenges?
Some believe that we’re asleep at the wheel in a vehicle that is traveling along a bumpy road toward a cliff. If we were to alter this trajectory, turning the vehicle around before it’s too late, if that’s even possible at this point in time, what do you believe it will take?
I have found that an antidote to feeling anxious about things beyond our immediate control is to get moving and especially moving in a direction to do something to counteract the negative emotional energy pollution that’s all around us. It’s actually incumbent on each and everyone of us who aspires to traverse the path of mindfulness to ask ourselves what we are doing to make a difference where it counts.
It’s uplifting to be a part of the solution. It’s a natural anti-depressant when we are engaged and involved. Some are called to do something on a global level. For those who aren’t, it’s important to remember that each of us has a calling. It’s as important to be a Spiritual Warrior on the homefront as it is to be one out in the world.
If you feel that you are not called to do something in the world at large, then focus your calling on making the most positive difference in your own personal world. Put your own life in order and pay attention to your soul’s path on the journey toward enlightenment. Pay attention to those who are more in your immediate sphere of influence. Count yourself as an example of a Mindful human who has taken an ethical and moral stand for what you believe in. Join forces with those who lead the way with those that came before in the name of LOVE. Make a bold statement with the legacy of your life on the Sacred Path.
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Dr. Stephen Johnson is founder and executive director
of the Men's Center Los Angeles and leader/wayshower
of the Sacred Path men's retreats for the past 30 years.
He is author of "THE SACRED PATH: THE WAY OF THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR," an amazing how-to book for
men who want to become better men . . . AND
for the women who care about them.
The MCLA Wisdom Council honored Dr. Johnson's amazing 30 years of mindful men leadership and mentorship with a special commemorative film that debuted on the mountain at the recent 30th
Annual Sacred Path Men's Retreat.
Click here to view "The Sacred Path."