We are living in strange times. All times are strange, perhaps, but these times are particularly strange. Never before have corporations had such broad-sweeping control over the environment with the power to do so much harm. As a holistic physician, a lot of my “doctoring” has turned into activism because we can only be as healthy as the soil, the air, the water, we all ingest. Because every “corner” of the Earth affects every other—as dust from the Kalahari has been found here in Hawaii—this is a global challenge. On our side is the same broad reach that the internet and videos afford. We can communicate with each other as a global counterculture.
There is a certain spell from which we all have to wake up, and I wholeheartedly include myself in this need to wake up. We all have personal dreams, and in a more decent world with humanity not facing the very real possibility of its own extinction, pursuing personal dreams is a high calling. But now even this high calling I am finding I have to let go of. As I recently posted on my Facebook Page:
Our planet is sinking. There is no longer “my dream.” It’s either “our dream,” or no dream.
The spell we have to wake up from is personal fulfillment that is not significantly inclusive of the whole and is not fighting for justice and for the ending of toxifying the environment. While many don’t like to create an “us and them” dichotomy I have no problem calling it the way I see it. While we all pollute and contribute, we do so because this is the way the system is set up. Many of us don;t choose to go out of our way to pollute the world when a better solution is available; I don’t, anyway. Yet, to a degree, we have to pollute in ways we don’t want to. We have to drive, we have to buy packaged food, we have to buy computer; we have to support the telephone and electric company, to some degree—unless we want to be cut off from the world in a significant way. If the paradigm were sustainable, I think we’d all be on-board with doing things differently.
So, I will continue to try to stop the corporations from tearing down the world to whatever degree I can. I honestly don’t know how or if we can do this, or if it’s too late for our children to inherit a decent planet. Yet, even if the effort is futile, I will continue because ti is my calling to improve life, even if a small corner of the world. And this calling meets my crtiicial thinking cross-check for sanity. For me, a world without nature and relatively pristine resources to ingest is hardly a world worth living in. Many places in the world are already ruined in this regard. And I am fighting to protect what we have left. many don;t think we have to fight, that we an just “love” the world back into shape. Well certainly we need love, and we also need the wisdom to define love more broadly to include those qualities and acts that we usually separate from love, like anger, fierceness, resistance, and sometimes acts of rebellious outrage. Part of me believes that anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know what’s going on, or chooses to ignore it for an inability or unwillingness to face pain. This is why I place so much importance on embracing and dealing with our own pain. When we do, we come out of personal denial and are able to see the reality of the world we are living in and let it affect us, which in an emotionally healthy person, causes him to act out of care.
“‘We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual “autism”’.”
Many years ago while reading a book by another Thomas, Thomas Moore, I remember his saying something to the effect that all human activity creates waste, bears a shadow. In other words, there is always waste and damage to the environment in the things we do no matter how “green.” Even tribal peoples living wholly off the land impact the environment cutting trees for fire wood and building materials and clearing jungle to grow food. It’s just that they did it sustainably, not for profit, but for necessity. Of course, there is a big difference between spraying a field of food with pesticides and clearing a plot to grow food without poisoning the place. So, a question I keep in mind with the resources I use is “Is this a reasonable exchange, a reasonable burden, a reasonable shadow I cast with this endeavor?” The people who fly around in planes and publish books that directly encourage and support environmental activism I consider an specially worthy and okay use of resources.
So, back to the spell. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of species on the Earth, and this one is said to be the most severe of all. In fact, human species is at great risk, and the prognosis is not good with business running as usual. Any concern needs to be based on sound reasoning, and I have found lots of sound reasoning for the peril we are currently in. Apparently the shit hasn’t really hit the fan enough for most people to be seriously and personally affected, so most of us go on marginalizing our awareness. But the change are afoot and what the next ten to twenty years will bring scares me.
Because of the global environmental context in which we find ourselves, I am re-evaluating every aspect of my life, all the major categories of living in which I participate: work, relationship, travel, family, social media, buying things. In short, I am honing my work as much as I can to directly address the problems of pollution and injustice. In my personal life, I stand up to unfairness, even if it ruins my day, or stresses out my week. I won;t get into another relationship unless it expands my love and supports my work in the world. I can’t justify having children at this point, and I feel sadness knowing what kind of world children being born these days are stepping into. I don’t recommend having children, not only for the overpopulation issue, but for the inordinate suffering that is looming ahead, and knocking now on our doors. The children issue is a biggie; we are wired in ways to want family and children; it’s a dream for many. Too often the desire for children is to satisfy the selfish desires of the parent at the expense of what is best for the child. In the face of climate change, I don’t a positive reason to have children. And, yes, every parent thinks his or her child will be special and different than the rest. I see this as more ignorance and denial to justify the prospect of not having to let go of a personal dream, which in another world would be reasonable. Even without climate change, I support having children in a stable and supportive relationship where both mom and dad are around and stable in themselves, with one another, and in the world.
One of the most important things we can be doing is simplifying our lives…not dumbing them down, but following the principle of “outer simplicity, inner richness.” The outer simplicity I refer to is not getting involved in things that aren’t really heartfelt, saying away from addictions and distractions and stuff that just weighs you down in debt and stress. Traveling lightly is another way to simplify. Simplifying is important for these reasons:
1) reducing overhead frees up time and resources and gives you time to focus on things outside the hamster wheel of samsara: like activism, time in nature and protecting nature, community projects, resistance, creative projects, growing food, critical thinking, emotional work, and plotting against the machine.
2) doing with less reduces your footprint, is liberating to body, heart, and soul, and boosts confidence, self-esteem and mental health…and it prepares us to be without many of the conveniences that may soon disappear.
3) leaves us psychic space to notice the world, read the news, care about others and the planet when we’re nto so wrapped up in our own neurosis.
Here are some links to the most poignant news briefs for what’s going on:
The spell is that we live in a world filled wit the ordinary challenges. The spell is that our personal dreams are what matter most. The spell is the happiness and pleasure pill we have been asked to swallow, and we all have. The spell is that our actions now are made thinking the future will exist for humans. This is all in great question.
When the house is burning down, do you think of having kids, lounging around, disappearing in fix of love hormones, how you are going to buy that extra vacation home?
Our house is burning down. I am considering what is most important, which is a consideration I undertook even before I realized just how bad our situation is…because life is short anyway. But now what is important is less personal and more global. Maybe it’s just that my personal is dissolving more and more into the collective asI wake up and adjust to what’s happening.