Saturday, July 4, 2009

Just Keep Your Head in the Sand

Tell me, why do we do these nonsensical things:

Come up with plans to geo-engineer a solution to global climate change, rather than changing our ways.

Come up with health care reform schemes that will still allow vast fortunes to be funnelled into the dysfunctional and corrupt pharmaceutical, medical and insurance industries, rather than changing our ways.

Continue to seek pharmaceutical treatments for the symptoms of our unhealthy lifestyle choices, rather than changing our ways.

Try to mend the economy by returning to business-as-usual, rather than changing our ways.

Are we so undisciplined now that it's impossible to take responsibility for the messes we have made? Must we always be engineering solutions that allow us to continue along just as before, as dysfunctionally as ever? Have we gone so soft we always expect to be bailed out of the scrapes we get ourselves into? Whatever happened to discipline, sacrifice, and a willingness to put the greater good ahead of immediate gratification? Nobody seems to want to do the work involved in creating a healthier paradigm. It's just business as usual. Keep your head in the sand. Keep doing what you've always done.

What's going on with that? Why can't we immediately and drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions, fix the healthcare system (not access to it--first we have to fix the medical system so that medicine is about healing again, not about profits and drug-pushing--then we can worry about access), take responsibility for our health by living well in the first place, and begin the transition to a steady-state economy. But no, all of that requires work, discipline and sacrifice. And you can't ask that of anyone these days, it seems.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Geo-Engineering Hubris

Last month the Washington Post published an article by Samuel Thernstrom entitled "Could We Engineer A Cooler Planet?", which argues that geo-engineering may be the most sensible approach to handling climate change.

Herman Daly very eloquently argues against such madness in a brief response that, unfortunately, was not published. It's available for viewing on the website: "Geo-Engineering the World for Candles".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Moving Beyond Belief

The amazing capacity of the human mind is what distinguishes us from all the other critters on the planet. The refined ability to reason and make complex plans, to postulate, to question, to debate--these are skills that set us apart. (Not to imply that other animals don't have amazing mental skills, some of which are comparable or perhaps even more advanced than our own.)

It amazes me that we don't use our mental skills more mindfully. It seems these are our greatest gifts and yet we most frequently use the powers of the mind to alienate, destroy and degrade. We create mental constructs, like "consumerism", " partisanship", "economic growth", "us versus them" in all of its forms--all kinds of destructive belief systems that bear little resemblance to reality.

As I enter my fifth year of seriously practicing voluntary simplicity I notice that beliefs are becoming less and less important to me. What people think, all the mental gyrations they go through in response to something--that really doesn't matter much to me anymore. What matters is what IS. I'm trying to learn to experience just that, without turning on that machine in my head that wants to spin and spin each experience, turning it into fixed belief. I waste much less time lost in my head and I spend much less time worrying or caring about what other people believe.

My greatest teacher on this subject has been my buddy John. I met him when I first moved out here four years ago and we've been great friends ever since. But the thing is, belief-wise we couldn't be farther apart. If beliefs were all that mattered we should be constantly at odds if not at each others throats. But we just never go there. We've never argued or debated our beliefs. And you know what, it's made for a very pleasant relationship. Ignoring beliefs lets me just experience this guy directly--his kindness, humor, generosity, helpfulness and his thoughtful ways. Focusing on our beliefs and our differences would blind me to what really is. So tell me, what actually matters--what he thinks about an issue, or how he actually lives in each moment?

I think we could all live more graciously with each other if we quit focusing on beliefs and paid more attention to what IS. Couldn't we all benefit from learning (or re-learning) to live directly, without creating all this spin in our heads? Wouldn't the world be a happier and healthier place? Wouldn't we move a step or two closer to harmony and peace?