“This is the nexus: Do you want to learn how to unify your individual field of consciousness with a realm of bliss and tranquility, or do you want to lie spread-eagled and drooling on crystal while Taylor Swift tickles your brain into a saccharine coma?”–from Revolution by Russell Brand
What really strikes my fancy about Russell Brand’s new book is his emphasis on spirituality. “Joining with god,” might sound a little cheesy coming from a comic revolutionary, but this is one of the main messages of his manifesto. It was after worshipping at the false altar of drugs, money and fame that he found “god” as the only true answer to his physical, mental and emotional cravings.
Now, before my devout atheist parents roll in their graves, though I always picture them aloft the clouds of a beautiful summer day, I must state that I find much to dislike in religion and almost equally as much to dislike in “woo-woo” New Age hocus-pocus. However, a long and winding road has brought me to seek spiritual comfort food (as opposed to Ben and Jerry’s) and I must admit that I am a fake Buddhist. (Meaning, in my case, that I read many Buddhist books but don’t meditate regularly or belong to a sangha.) Buddhism has helped me enormously to deal with the ever-grasping monkey mind and to divest the power I used to give to my own ridiculous, ego-driven, narrative-building thoughts. (A much more valuable lesson and portal to freedom than I got out of many years of therapy.)
So why do we need spirituality to save the planet and ourselves? And what does “spirituality” mean? Mayan rituals or hatha yoga or sprinkling holy water or bowing one hundred and one times a day? I think it means two things: seeing that we are all connected, interdependent beings and that cooperative, loving acts towards one another and the planet are the answer. At the heart of our “Buddha nature” (or “vicar nature,” as Brand has it), we just want to love and be loved.
I know that sounds silly in this age of the individual, when we live in fearful solitude most of the time, drowning in Starbucks and nervously checking our phones, leapfrogging from one website or bite of information to another, and asserting ourselves in our minds as if we were starring in our own life movies or heartbreaking stories of personal development. It sounds nuts in this age of selfish selfies and red carpet poses and celebrity news in which someone like Renee Zellweger wins universal condemnation for touching up signs of aging as if she had been caught red-handed in a gory crime scene.
So when Russell Brand says that we need to base our societies on “spirituality” or human kindness instead of simply putting economics front and center, is that really “woo-woo” and way out there? Or is that tapping into the only truth we know: That love is all we need? No easy fixes on the horizon. But only love can save us. God only knows, capitalism can’t.