In this day and age of selfies, social media, and obsession about celebrity, have we forgotten to be watchful about vanity? There is a popular species of mindfulness in contemporary culture, but we usually do not pay close attention to every aspect of life–particularly the stuff that is personally uncomfortable.
Modern and ancient wisdom reminds us that we, ourselves, are the source of most of our problems. Furthermore, wise people do not go about accusing and blaming others for perceived wrongs. The sage is not driven to convince us that he or she is divinely chosen, distinguished, special, and worthy. Likewise, if someone feels the need to point out their humility, they probably are not very humble. We are not always alert to these traits because of today’s “me culture”.
Again, although mindfulness is a popular fad these days, vigilance has been thrown under the bus. We are assured that being mindful will enable us to solve or cope with our problems. What is often forgotten is that it is also important to keep a weather eye open for troubles without becoming paranoid.
As a nation, the United States places a great deal of trust in technology to keep watch on our security. There are super secure buildings, motion detecting yard lights and alarm systems for our homes and business buildings. There are state of the art radar systems and satellite surveillance to monitor our national borders. All these walls and devices have lulled us into a false sense of safety. All of these measures can fail if we are not vigilant to threats from within.
Our wisest leaders from Thomas Jefferson to Desmond Tutu have all said something to the effect that the price of freedom and liberty is eternal vigilance. Some alert thinkers have reminded us that external and internal attacks on our well-being can happen here in America. Complacence and apathy are our worst enemies. The saboteur is an esteemed insider.
The Founding Fathers of the U.S. wondered how long their experimental democratic republic would endure. They knew that if the citizens let down their guard for even a moment in time, our liberties would be lost. The masses are easily swayed by fiery rhetoric and appeals to fears and prejudices. Our wisest ancestors understood the ancient wisdom that those who remain calm in the storm are most likely to survive and remain vigilant. Panic slams the door closed on deep attentiveness and wisdom.
These days, we are threatened by a resurgent wave of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred within free societies. This has come about through social complacency, relaxation of vigilance, and deficits of clear-thinking. The public is under siege by a barrage of misinformation and propaganda from inside and outside our borders.
Thoughtful alertness is a skill that must be practiced in order to protect our diversity and liberty from intolerances and tyrannies. Our very way of life depends upon vigilance.
Wise people exercise moderation in their lives. They recognize hysteria and disturbances as distractions that fog positive vision. They understand that there will always be a need for constant vigilance in order to maintain happiness and freedom.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers a thought from the 19th century abolitionist and minorities advocate Wendell Phillips. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”