Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Copy and Paste

I've been writing my church's worship service for Sunday, and I asked my friend K, who is more into ecology and sustainability than I am, if she knew of any good passages on sustainability that would serve as a reading or readings for our service. She was quick to share some really wonderful material, including some quotations by the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh. I am not sure how much commentary I'm willing or able to provide today, but let me at least share some excerpts from this Guardian interview I came across yesterday.

Hanh writes: "The situation the Earth is in today has been created by unmindful production and unmindful consumption. We consume to forget our worries and our anxieties. Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption is not the way."

"He says that it is an ill-conceived idea that the solution to global warming lies in technological advances. While science is important, even more so is dealing with the root cause of our destructive behaviour: "The spiritual crisis of the West is the cause for the many sufferings we encounter. Because of our dualistic thinking that god and the kingdom of god is outside of us and in the future - we don't know that god's true nature is in every one of us. So we need to put god back into the right place, within ourselves. It is like when the wave knows that water is not outside of her."

"Our way of life, our style of living, is the cause of [spiritual pollution]. We are looking for happiness and running after it in such a way that creates anger, fear and discrimination." At least in the Western world, much of our happiness is tied up in staying busy for busy-ness's sake, for making money to keep up with the Joneses. This is not to say that individuals do not have meaningful lives. But Snooki and a new Lexus every year are fabricated cultural ideals and goals. And they are killing us on many levels.

He and others talk about the evils of capitalism. I believe in innovation, though not for its own sake. I believe in improvements, but not for the greed of profit. I believe in the desire to take care of oneself and others, but I believe that communities and not islands are the way to effect this.

And then the hook, the same hook Jensen talks about: "Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come," he warns. "Civilisations have been destroyed many times and this civilisation is no different. It can be destroyed. We can think of time in terms of millions of years and life will resume little by little. The cosmos operates for us very urgently, but geological time is different.
"You accept that this civilisation could be abolished and life will begin later on after a few thousand years because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope." Part of me read this as a little non sequitur, but then it clicked again and reminded me of what I wrote recently about our worship of human life at all costs. My ipod, awesome as it is, is not worth the lives of those in the "third world" who were destroyed to mine the minerals that go into my technology.

[Note: this article also shares that "When visiting America, [Hanh] persuaded Martin Luther King to oppose the war publicly, and so helped to galvanize the peace movement. In fact King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968." This tickled me, as I blogged about King quite recently.]

"His whole philosophy is based on watching the breath and walking meditation to stay in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future." I'm still pragmatic and capitalistic enough to work in the system. I have a job. I make money. I consume goods, often unthinkingly. But my quality of life is improved when I am intentional, present, and in the now. It has been an active practice of mine for over a year now, and I am so happy.

Thich Nhat Hanh encourages people to avoid toxic things, whether they are edible consummables or alcohol or soul-damaging [my word, not his] media. I think these are things to be mindful of. I am not a radical yet, but I think there is much we can learn from. And now back to one of my oldest mantras (I'm full of them... or something... recently), "Everything in moderation - except Love."


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank You

Many thanks to those of you who commented here as well as via email, gchat, and in person about what I meant by worshipping life. I was talking about the way the Civilized worship human (and that usually means middle class or upper-middle class U.S.) life, disregarding the lives of other people and definitely the lives of the plants and animals that serve us and die for us. My friend Will asked pointedly why I'm not a vegetarian yet. It was a good question. The truth is that most of us needlessly kill animals even if we are vegetarians. Whenever we are not mindful of what and how we consume - whether it's food, textiles, electronics, gasoline, other energy - we are disrespecting the earth. Why we should respect the earth (or creation, or the Creator, or the Tao) is the topic of another post, I suppose. It's something harder to argue on the grounds of logic. There's a major moral component to it. Of course, there's the utilitarian idea backed up by some 20th century economists that says that what's good for others is often good for us. So nice for science and psychology and philosophy to catch up with what is for some a fundamental life principle.

In short:
- Be mindful of what you do. Even if you only pick fallen fruits and nuts, you're still killing some of the grass you walk on. Life feeds on life in a cycle. Respect that cycle.
- Read my tirade on love and war at my other blog.
- Consider reading Derrick Jensen's Endgame. Start with the Premises. Argue with them. Sit with them a while. Pay attention.
- Love.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Next they'll call me a terrorist.

Why? Because at least in part I oppose capitalism, and by exercising my First Amendment right I may possibly hurt commerce. UnAmerican, I tell you.

"Capitalism is incompatible with a truly ecological civilization because it is a system that must continually expand, promoting consumption beyond human needs, while ignoring the limits of nonrenewable resources (the tap) and the earth’s waste assimilation capacity (the sink). As a system of possessive individualism it necessarily promotes greed, individualism, competitiveness, selfishness, and an Après moi le déluge philosophy."

~ My Source

And, yes, "apres moi le deluge" (sans accents) is from Karl Marx.

Competition can be healthy, and individualism is part of what makes us human, but we take it too far. I don't want to crush the human spirit, but I think a little selflessness would be awesome. If you don't believe in selflessness, then think about the economic theories that demonstrate that sometimes what is best for all of us is best for each of us, instead of the Randian inverse myth.

Trade is good.
Technology can be used for good.
Communities are best.
Worshipping life (and doing ANYTHING to extend it) is bad.
Worshipping growth is bad.