Just another of those words, like hope, that we use so often yet so rarely stop and reflect on the fullest meaning of the word; its deepest meaning. In the strictest sense, as in the definition of the word, it has much to do with moral and ethical principles. Sound ones, I hasten to add! (I am, of course, not including the meaning of integrity as one of physical soundness; as in the soundness of a ship’s hull.)
Yet, and I hesitate to write this, terms such as moral and ethical principles don’t slap me around the face with any force. One person’s ethical principles may not necessarily match another person’s ethical principles.
So more digging around the web, looking for some personal clarity of the meaning of the word. I came across this view of integrity: Integrity starts with the soul. Now that did engage me immediately and felt like that metaphorical slap on the face. Then a few moments later, my web search turned up a Zen Buddhist quote: “Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.”
That stirred some ancient part of the old memory cells and I turned to a notebook that I have long used to jot down things that warranted being remembered. Yes, there it was: “Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”
Thus drawing together these separate strands leads me to see integrity as a key foundation of change. Not exclusively, but equally vital a foundation of change as hope and goodness. Perhaps, foundation of change isn’t the most apt mental image. Foundation is too static an idea. Better, perhaps, is Professor Kaufman’s use of the term, and image, of vehicles. As in my previous chapter on The importance of hope: “Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go.”
In other words, our change in thoughts, our own internal deliberations to be the change that we need to be, sit on hope, goodness and integrity. We all remember that old saying about not being able to give away what one doesn’t own!
Now is this some cosy, self-indulgent line of introspection? No! Emphatically no!
I say this from a belief that the lifting of the importance of integrity is key to our survival. I am going to open up that bold statement by turning to my blog, that carries the same name as this book: Learning from Dogs. The blog was started on July 15th, 2009.
When I started Learning from Dogs I was initially rather vague about the purpose of the blog yet knew that the blog should reflect the growing need for greater integrity and mindfulness in our planetary civilisation. Some of my early musings indicate where I was coming from: “Show that integrity delivers better results … integrity doesn’t require force … the networking power of a group … demonstrate the power of intention … cut through the power of propaganda and media distortion …”
Then further reflections on the purpose of the blog: “Promulgate the idea that integrity is the glue that holds a just society together … urgent need as society under huge pressures …. want a decent world for my grandchildren … for all our grandchildren …. feels like the 11th hour….”
Because, while it may sound a tad grandiose and pompous, if society doesn’t eschew the games, the half-truths and selfish attitudes of the last, say, 30 years or more, then civilisation, as we know it, could be under threat.
Or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say that our civilisation is under threat and the time left to change our ways, to embrace those qualities of integrity, truth and consciousness for the very planet we all live on, is fast running out.
That’s why the concept of integrity is so critically vital. So vital that there is a return to integrity.
I going to enlarge this chapter, from the strict investigation into what we mean by the word integrity and its relevance to this present time, to a more philosophical view, and I am going to do so by returning to my blog.
For in September, 2013 I published a post under the title of Our broken ways. I wrote about climate change, the way our forests across the world were being fragmented and the impact on wild life in terms of increasing rates of the extinction of mammals; concluding with my criticism of money and power.
There was a comment left by Alex Jones, himself an active blogger with a blog called The Liberated Way. His words in his comment cannot be bettered by me and, consequently, here they are in full:
Hi Paul, what you highlight are examples of disconnection between humanity and nature and with each other. I have on my own blog highlighted a concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – which is only possible when the self realises that they are part of an inter-connected network of life. Your example of islands of fragmented forest where disconnected wildlife are dying out is how it is with disconnected humanity, we are doomed to destruction because we are cut off from the life-giving connection to nature.
All the problems you highlight are symptoms of the disease of disconnection, and until there is reconnection to nature none of these symptoms can be successfully addressed.
War is an integral part of nature, when people seek to dismiss this then they add to the disconnection from nature. I was stung in the face by a drunken wasp a few days ago, this is how it is with nature; it is beautiful but also brutal. Peace and balance are illusions; one might say that life is in a becoming because of unbalance and strife. I advocate harmony, like a downhill skier we do not seek to control our surroundings, but instead act in harmony by moving around the obstacles such as the rocks and trees.
Disconnection can be as large as destroying whole forests by ignorant energy policies to those idiots who kicked a puffball to pieces before I could harvest it, or the new owners of my former home who have taken a chainsaw to all the trees and bushes in the garden. People who are disconnected do not consider how their actions impact nature or impact people, contrary to the philosophy of Ubuntu.
The only way for species man to survive on this planet is for every element of man’s existence on this planet to be rethought of in terms of the natural order. The integrity of the natural order.
“I am because we are!” Each and every one of us is where we are today, for good or ill, because of what we are: part of Nature. It’s so incredibly obvious – we are a natural species – yet who reading this wouldn’t admit at times to behaving “as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.”
Millions of us have pets that we love. Yet we still miss the key truth of our relationship with our pets. That we, just as much as our pets, are a part of Nature and subject to Natural order. We have so much to learn from our animals.
A close friend, John, wrote in a recent email to me that, “We are spiritual bankrupt. We spend too much of our time thinking about ourselves and what we want and too little of our time thinking about other people and what we all need.” Continuing in that email to add, “this spiritually bankruptcy had preceded our moral and economical bankruptcy.”
John closed his email by emphasising that the solution to our moral and financial problems, as well as our salvation as individuals, and as a species, is spiritual. “We simply need to love the Nature of God, the earth and each other regardless of what we may believe God to be.”
Now whether you are a religious soul, or a heathen, or somewhere in the middle, it matters not. For if we continue to defy Nature and the natural laws of this planet we are going to be dust before the end of this century.
We have been blessed by an evolution that has allowed mankind to achieve remarkable things. Even to the point of leaving the confines of our planet and setting foot on the Moon, sending probes from out of our Solar System, and even landing on a comet. There’s a sense, a distinctly tangible sense, that man has conquered all; that we have broken the link from being part of Nature; from being of Nature.
And now Mother Earth is reminding all of her species, every single one of them including species man, that everything is bound by her Natural Laws.
Thus rests my argument for not only what do we mean by integrity per se but how it is intimately and irrevocably a function of our relationship with Nature.
Indeed, understanding the power that comes from leading truthful lives and how an individual’s power and level of consciousness can be enhanced through greater integrity, understanding, and compassion could be the most remarkable discovery that any one person could ever make.
“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyse the causes of happenings.” Dorothy Thompson.
1565 words. Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover