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Audio 12: Reclaiming Obligation

The Greatest Story Ever Told: Audio series with Barbara Marx Hubbard & Marc Gafni

Dr. Marc Gafni:

I am delighted to be here in Podcast 12 with my beloved whole mate. There’s role mates, there’s soulmates and whole mates and we’ll talk about that in a future podcast. Barbara and I are delighted to be evolutionary partners, Lady B. We are in Podcast 12 and we are talking this week about as we decided before, the next piece of the story, which is the story of duty, honor and obligation. This great new universe story we’re talking about. Where is duty in it? Is there honor in it? Is there noble obligation? Or is everything just kind of optional? How you feel on a particular day at a particular moment, you know, a great statement of, “It’s my life, don’t tell me what to do with it. It’s my life.” Actually in a deeper, sense it’s not our life. In a deep sense, our life is part of the great unfolding of life. We’re not separate from. We begin to actually understand that as unique self, in this great new universe story emergent from evolutionary science, emergent from all the interior sciences, it’s not [inaudible 00:01:13] life.

It’s kind of like being on a boat and you say, “Let me drill a hole in the bottle of this boat.” Well it’s my part of the boat, hello? Well no, we’re all in the same boat together, that’s what it means, we’re in this together means we’re actually, says systems theory. There’s chaos theories, there’s complexity theories, there is system science. We’re part of this together, we’re part, all of us of the seamless code of the universe. We’re all part of the same life system and the same interior system of consciousness and we all affect each other, we all affect each other exponentially.

Actually, the notion of, it’s my life don’t tell me what to do. Well that’s a myth. It’s not your life, your life’s not separate from your life impacts on, is influenced by everything. There’s nothing that exists independently of everything. That’s a shocking realization, that’s exciting. And we’re unique expressions of that everything. We’re irreducibly unique expressions of that everything. There’s that which Lew can do, who’s recording this particular podcast with our friend Merlin, that Barbara can’t do and that Marc can’t do. Because Lew is an irreducibly unique expression of the love of intelligence and the love of beauty that is the initiating and animating energy of all that is. Well that’s pretty exciting.

From that perspective, beloved, we can actually begin to talk about a new story of obligation. I remember sitting up in Exeter, in New Hampshire and I was talking with some faculty from the Exeter private school and from Andover, which is another private school up there and a couple people from Harvard divinity school. The assumption of the conversation was, in our world, we cannot articulate a theory of obligation. The only people who have a theory of obligation are people who were lost in the past. All the erudite people at lunch said, they’re the fundamentalist. They have a theory of obligation because the Bible tells them what to do.

We, we have options. We don’t have a sense of, we need to do this because that’s our duty. We’re honor bound to do this or that. We have a sense of obligation for this or that. In fact, when you talk to a classical post-modern liberal person and we’re all post-modern liberal and conservative on this podcast and neo-con and radically liberal and radically left and radically right. That voice that lives in us, which is post-modern liberal and you say the word obligation, we cringe. We contract obligation, it doesn’t expand us, it doesn’t make us go large, it doesn’t make us feel delicious and delighted and vitalized and radically alive. Quite the opposite.

So we need to articulate is there a new vision of obligation? Or is obligation only a regressive idea? In this great new universe story, we are actually reclaiming obligation at a higher level of consciousness. Because without a notion of obligation, without a notion of I am needed and therefore I am obligated. Without a notion of there’s something that I have to do and that reality needs me to do, my life actually becomes empty and vacuous.

The second I realize that my life has purpose and that all of reality has telos, that the entire evolutionary process has telos. Telos drives, purpose drives all of reality and science hasn’t come to grips with that. Science dances around the fact that we live in a purpose driven universe, that the universe is so clearly going somewhere, in all of its dimensions up and down science. Science just pretends that that mystery doesn’t exist. All of reality is driven towards movement, but in particular, directions. That’s just not movement which is a function of that which just happened, it’s an actual movement which is drawn forth. Reality is attracted forward, there are intrinsic directional paths and trajectories clearly built into the very structure of reality.

Feeling all of that together, we are human beings who have telos, who have purpose. Take all of that together, constructive theory of obligation. We think and know that it actually can, it’s part of the great new story. Obligation works in actually a very simple way. Once you say it, these seemingly, deceptively simple ideas, actually transform our entire experience of being alive in the world. Here’s an obligation coming at you. First, let’s just say that the word obligation, let’s play with language for a second. In the original Hebrew, the word obligation means both love and obligation, same word. Well that’s pretty fascinating. What does it meant to be obligated? It means to be in love. What does it mean to be in love? It means to experience myself as allured, by reality as needed by reality. We’re not yet there, what does obligation mean? What does it mean to be obligated?

Here’s the theory of obligation, the most elegant one available today in the cosmos. We’re obligated when we meet the following five criteria. One, there is a need that needs to be addressed. Two, that need is a legitimate need, it’s an authentic need. Three, we recognize that need. Four, we have the capacity to meet that need. Five, we are in some sense the only people in the world, that have the capacity to meet that need in the unique way that we can.

I’ll give you an example that you’d be in, but then I’ll turn it over to you. It’s huge, big drum roll, friends, that’s obligation. Here’s an example, my friend Ariel, her mom just passed away. She is her mom’s only daughter. Her mom also has a couple of sons, who weren’t quite as close to mom, with a different relationship with mom. She went to be by her mother’s bedside. She didn’t have a particularly close relationship with her mom. Although again, more than her brothers. They had also lots of complexity between them. She felt like she had to go, there was really no choice. There was a part of her that just wanted the doctors, well paid staff, well paid private attendants to come. She knew it was the end of her mother’s time and she could come really at the very end to say goodbye. She felt, “No, no, it’s not true. I’ve got to get there earlier.” She came and she spent the last several weeks of her mother’s life with her mother.

Now there was a need, her mother needed someone with her. There was a legitimate need. She’s transitioning from this life to the next. It was a need that Ariel recognized, three. Four, Ariel as the only daughter, had the capacity to meet that need. She had the capacity to meet that it because she had a relationship with her mother, she had the capacity to meet it because she financially could get up there and be there. There are a whole series of cluster of reasons that gave her the capacity to meet that need. Five, she was actually the only person that ever was, is, or will be that could actually give that kind of care and that kind of listening and that kind of presence and that quality of being-ness to her mother. At any place in the world, no one else could’ve done what she did. Those five together form obligations.

To be a unique self is to know that I am irreducibly unique. I have a unique capacity, a unique quality of intimacy, a unique presence that no one else that ever was, is or will be, other than me has. As an evolutionary unique self, I realized that evolution, all of reality, the impulses of evolution expresses itself uniquely through me and therefore I can do something, I can address a need. In my unique circle of intimacy and influence and I can address a need for presence in the world that’s incarnated only by me. My unique presence, my unique gifts, my unique quality of intimacy.

All of a sudden, it all changes to meet my obligation. Which is when those five criteria exists, it’s my duty, but it’s my delightful duty. It’s my obligation, but it’s the utter joy of obligation, it’s honor, it’s nobility of doing that which is honorable and it’s the ecstasy of doing that which is honorable. All of a sudden, I am for the first time located in the cosmos again. Not in a regressive, fundamentalist way, but in a way which has no less powerful a story of duty, honor and obligation. Once again, we find ourselves in the cosmos.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Yes, yes, beautiful. I’m thinking in my own experience of obligation, a relationship between obligation and love. The first thing I felt really obligated about was when I gave birth to a baby and I can remember what happened to me. I was 21 years old and I didn’t even think about being a mother. What happened in there was a complete overwhelming sense of love and obligation. Which is to say, watching over that baby every second, getting up in the middle of the night, wanting to take care of it no matter what it was. I remember just noticing how that could create a certain kind of love that activates obligation that you would give your life for instantly for that unknown child. I’m tapping into that ability.

Then there was another type of equally powerful obligation in my life, which I would call love to like purpose. Or love of the impulse of creativity calling you to do something unique that you think only you can do that is somehow needed. I remember when I felt this way about my particular part of the evolutionary story. I was talking about the need to say yes to whatever that impulse is in you toward the evolution of the world, because the evolution of the world needs you. You jump from a newborn baby to the evolution of the world. Somebody said to me, “Barbara, are you assuming evolution needs you?” It appeared ridiculous. And then yet relating it to the love of a newborn child, is the love of the obligation that I felt for whatever was in me, that the mystery was that it should be needed at all, by evolution. If you think of evolution as this enormous power of creation, however you conceive it.

I wanted to just deepen on how I have experienced obligation around giving your gift the whole way of creativity and life purpose. Comparable to giving your gift to an individual, whether it be a newborn baby, a mother, a brother, a friend. Whatever that exact relationship is, Marc, between obligation to the newborn, obligation to affecting evolution. What is that relationship in there?

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Beautiful. Beautiful, so let’s start with mom. Hello mom, 21 years old, first baby of five, right?

Barbara Marx Hubbard:


Dr. Marc Gafni:

Oh my God. There we have it. There’s a need, the baby has a need. It’s a legitimate need. It’s clearly a legitimate need, there’s two. Three, you obviously recognize the need. Four, thank God that you have the capacity, thank reality, thank evolution, you have the capacity to meet the need. Here’s five, because that baby was birthed from your own interior, in some self evident way you have the ability to meet that need in a way that no one else that ever was, is, or will be, have the ability to meet that need. No one else is available to it.

Actually, that’s so beautiful. Actually, this understanding of obligation is incarnate and self evident and obvious and beautiful and calling out from the mother engaging her child. What happens is, we think that that exhausts our life purpose. In the old world, in which children were needed to populate the planet, were needed actually for survival. Survival was bound up with having prodigy, having children and it made perfect sense. In a world in which we’re worried about overpopulation. In a world in which we actually are trying to understand how to manage life on the planet, but we can’t actually exhaust obligation in the birth of children. Many people are choosing not to have children. Which is a legitimate and often sacred choice.

How do we actually begin to understand this notion of obligation? We need to bring something else on board, which is, I am a unique self, I am birthing something in reality through my unique presence, through my unique quality of intimacy, through my unique gift. That is needed even if sometimes it’s gonna be Marc trying to write unique self, or Barbara trying to write conscious evolution, or our friend Howard Bloom who wrote his brilliant book on how a godless universe creates, as it were. Sometimes it’ll be Ken Wilber writing integral theory.

It’s not just about people trying to write source code changing books. Actually, every unique human being, what you and I call wheel of co-creation wheel 2.0. Wheel of co-creation 1.0 is all the people who are the great leading edge innovators worldwide, gather and we connect innovators worldwide and we connect what’s working at the leading edge worldwide. Wheel 2.0 is we realize that all of reality is a unique self symphony, which is gonna be our topic next week and that everyone has an instrument to play. Everyone’s needed and everyone’s presence and intimacy manifests uniquely by reality, can do something that no one else can do. That is the shocking, radical amazement, awareness, consciousness that comes to us.

We actually wake up to the true scientific exterior and interior signs, nature of reality. That actually, beloved B., wow you had something you could give. Not just because you’re a great futurist. Everyone listening to this podcast, actually has that ability, all five of your kids. Who are not great futurists, they’re just doing their own thing, all have that ability. All your grandchildren, can you feel into that love?

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

I can and I’m getting at the essence of obligation as love in both spaces. It’s one for the newborn child and another for the newborn creativity in the present, because creativity is divine and one’s own creativity is a given from the process of creation that was given to you. You were given the newborn child, you really didn’t make that child, you had no idea how to do it. It is. That unique creativity that each one of us has internally when we feel it, it’s as much given to you as to the newborn child. It’s in you.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Yeah. Love and obligation, that connection that we started with, the Hebrew word which is the same word and you pointed to it as kind of key. I love my child, I am obligated to my child. I love my child because I’m connected to my child. ‘Cause I feel I’m not separate from my child. ‘Cause my child is an expression of my creativity and reality. When we actually participate in the evolution of love, I actually begin to love myself, meaning I love my unique self. Self love is self perception. Love is a perception, it’s not just an emotion. Love is to see something, I see it with God’s eyes. I see myself with God’s eyes. Self love is a self perception, it’s a unique self perception. I realize I have a unique self, I have a unique gift to give. I realize wow, reality needs that gift, just like a baby needs its mothers milk. When I really get that, wow. Then I begin to fall in love.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

I didn’t really know. I didn’t really create that baby and I didn’t really create my internal capabilities, but that yes of love, that people will give their lives for both things. For people they love and also for the work that they know they are divinely destined to do. That’s true for everybody. I think it’s a great theme and I feel obligated to you, Marc. Because I feel that in that same thing of the newborn baby and the newborn self inside me. Is the obligation to joining genius with somebody whose self is so related to your own that you feel you’re giving birth to a new human and the new humanity by joining. Thank you, thank you thank you.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Thank you, Barbara. Yes, we get to love each other, but we realize that our loving each other isn’t just an option, it’s an obligation. It doesn’t become less of an obligation, it doesn’t have less of a quality of delight and goodness. Love, it becomes more, the fact that I’m duty bound toward someone, that I am honor bound towards someone, that I am obligated towards someone. It’s not an obligation that’s imposed externally, it’s not an obligation imposed by a tyrannical government, by an authoritarian religion. It’s an obligation that’s a natural expression of the love and intelligence coming awake as me.

Maybe you’ll comment on this Barbara, we’ll move towards closing right here. In the old world, duty and honor and obligation were imposed often tyrannically. They were authoritarian, they were life denying. Governments demanded that people give up their lives. Kings, despotic kings demanded that people for the sake of duty and honor for the king, die and their families die in needless and senseless wars. We began to actually get a sense of the anathema of obligation. We claimed our freedom. Now we need to go the next step. In the new universe story, I’m not free from obligation, my obligation emerges from my freedom. That’s so deep, that’s so profound. My freedom, I made free expression of the love intelligence and as a pre-expression of the love intelligence, I freely must choose to fulfill my duty and honor to you. The mother, her deepest freedom is to nurture her child.

Freedom and obligation actually aren’t a contradiction. When the love and intelligence wells up inside of me and demands with radical audacity and delight that I step forward, honor bound by the nobility of obligation, that is my greatest freedom. There’s nothing more freeing and liberating than actually fulfilling the obligation that wells up from the unique nature of love intelligence that is me, that is my unique self. Close it up, love. Take us in.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Well obligation and love unite in me to express creativity, which is the creator within us, giving its gift through us. That’s the beauty I see here. Thank you Marc, thank you Merlin, thank you Lew, I appreciate it so much.

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