The Private and the General

How did the title “General” become an image of authority and “Private” of subservience to that authority? Surely it’s as private individuals that we know who we are and what we choose to support and defend in this life.

Generally, I try to coordinate my activities with those of others and harmonize my presence here on earth with what I perceive as conducive to a greater good. Privately, while aspiring to connect with that greater vision, I must grapple with selfish impulses that can subvert any chance I have to realize that wider perspective.

In the context of the military, I imagine that the title of General must refer to the wider perspective on strategy, troop placements and resources available to the upper echelon; although those on the top, especially elected officials with no military training, have been known to start wars in vain pursuit of notoriety, profit or reelection.

Generalists risk missing important details and being oblivious to the consequences of decisions in the lives of private individuals who have to live with them; while privately our wants and aversions often ignore the impact of our behavior on Mother Earth and our fellow living beings. Otherwise, how is it that the weight of waste clogging our oceans is greater than that of all the fish, whales, and other living creatures who live there?

What a delicate balance there is between the individual and global dimensions of our lives in this world.

A phrase in the Time, Space, Knowledge vision–“Universal Unique”–captures the dilemma which, as conscious beings, we live with every day: on the one hand we are individuals and on the other we are participants in an all-inclusive wholeness.

Both perspectives—of the unique and the universal, of the private and the general—are vitally important if we are to survive this time in the life of our world. If we don’t gaze out at the vast fields and oceans of our world with wonder and appreciation, we will be condemned to pace back and forth, like feed animals unable to freely move, imprisoned by our own fear of the unknown. And if we don’t honor our own individuality as a God-given foothold in the vastness of this realm, how will we act, what will we see, and whose heart will we dream can one day be open?

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