Thursday, January 22, 2015


[Approximate Watching Time: 5 minutes]

About an year ago, I let out "an existential cry" that pointed to the atrocities some of us human beings are committing on the rest of creation (other human beings, animals, plants, mountains, rivers and the very planet itself). We do this mostly unintentionally and unwittingly.

I've attempted to capture the same cry with images and sound in my first ever video compilation that I call "Geophilia", for love of the Earth. Here's what my friend, Marc, who I mentioned in the above blog post has to say about this video:
Congratulations !…. What you’ve created is E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T  !…. and in my opinion, of great significance, potentially of world-wide impact, should it manage to go “viral” !…

Not only are you addressing a life-and-death issue, but you’re tapping into our brain at the EMOTIONAL level (right lobe, the path to our soul) which, in the end, can be more powerful than the rational level (the left lobe, the realm of our egońęc mind). By the end I was choking and had tears running down my cheeks…  :)
Thank you, Marc, for your support, and for honing in on why videos like this make a deeper impact on our consciousness than any number of words. As it's said, a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are some pictures...

Please share as widely as you can!

[Update - 12/11/2015] Here's the video on Vimeo (YouTube has muted the video due to copyright issues around the soundtrack, regrettably, despite the credits at the end!)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tying in the Threads so far (and introducing a new perspective)

[Approximate Reading Time: 15 minutes]

It's been about two and a half years since I started writing here. What a journey of discovery it's been. Thank you for coming along with me on this ride. Your companionship and dialogue have enriched my travels.

Today, I am going to synthesize the writing I have been doing so far into one blog post. It's partly a summary, but it should also be a "connecting the dots" exercise where I weave all the key posts so far into a story. I will also introduce a new perspective that will help with this exercise. Many of the posts I have made so far might appear disparate and unrelated. In fact, many of them were snapshots of my consciousness at the time I wrote them. As I went through the archive today, I could visualize an organic evolution of my worldview, and with it, an expansion of my consciousness. I will make an attempt to present this worldview to you here (in short form, of course) and will link to the relevant blog posts from the archive as I go along.

My journey of discovery is by no means complete. I have a feeling it will only get more interesting. But I am at a point now where I feel that the basic structural framework of my worldview is in place. It's quite radical if you compare it with the dominant cultural worldview of our times. I use the phrases "dominant culture", "modern culture" and "civilization" interchangeably. This is in contrast to the hundreds if not thousands of non-civilization cultures found across the world. To refer to them, I use the words "tribal culture", "indigenous people" and "native culture", again interchangeably. Also, civilization is a "younger culture" as opposed to the myriad older cultures (some of which still exist today) that predate civilization.

It takes a very skeptical and open mind to even begin to grasp the implications of my findings over the last few years. If you told me a few years ago any bit of what I am going to share with you, I would have looked at you with skepticism myself. So I wouldn't be surprised if you did the same. But I ask you to let the ideas trickle in. As I requested of you in one of my earliest posts, give these ideas a chance! Let them enter your consciousness. Invite them in and play with them.

Why go through all that trouble? You don't have to. This blog post (and this blog itself) is not for everyone. If you are happy with your current worldview, if it makes sense to you, if it easily explains the world you see around you to your satisfaction, you will probably not find much of value in entertaining a different worldview, other than having fun with disparate bits of information and perspectives. But if you are not content with the dominant story that's been presented to us by the mainstream culture we have grown up in, if you have more questions than answers, if you are confused about why your day-to-day observations don't correspond with the dominant story, you are in the right place.

A cautionary note that I think is very important at this point: it might get quite depressing as you enter this new story. If it gets too depressing, please stop reading. Come back when you're ready. There's a time for everything. It might simply not be the right time for you to get into a different story today. Stay away from this blog until the time is right! This is not to be taken lightly, if you're like me. I have spent much time mulling over and feeling extremely sad and depressed about what I was discovering and uncovering. Such are the times we live in. Stepping into the role of an observer or witness helps me deal with it, but it can be quite overwhelming anyway.

The new perspective I present now is actually a depressing one.

Several months ago, I came across the work of an abortion specialist from Boulder, Colorado. He's a practicing physician who has been researching the human story from a unique perspective. Dr. Warren Hern has published numerous papers and presented his research at conferences throughout the US, but unfortunately, his work has gained little attention from the mainstream.

I will be taking a deeper look into the work of Dr. Hern on this blog in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that he's been studying the growth in our numbers, and the growth of urban areas and their characteristic resemblance to a malignant process. It makes a lot of sense to me but I can see why it doesn't to most of us. Needless to say, he finds it hard to disseminate his work more widely because it's such a downer topic. It also runs counter to the predominant theme of civilization which is "growth is good" and most of us have a difficult time seeing it any other way.

I was on the phone with Dr. Hern this week to tell him about a couple of broken links on his web site. We spoke for 20 minutes. He said he's been working on his research for 45 years! Perhaps his profession (since he runs an abortion practice) predisposes most people who come upon his work to an unfortunate bias, but I find his work highly relevant to understanding how and why we humans got to where we are, facing one existential crisis after another. Take a look at his papers here if you're curious. I'm convinced he's on to something very important.

So, yes, what we call civilization is a malignant process. It's a cancer on the planet! Even if some of us are neither depressed nor surprised about it, upon first learning of this angle, it's a whole different thing when we begin to realize how everything we do today in modern society contributes to this malignant process. We're not talking about the occasional oil spill in the ocean, or the emissions from our cars and trucks, or the corrupt corporate CEO who saves costs by cutting corners, but the entire infrastructure of civilization itself: banking and finance, education, science and technology, medicine, government, politics, religion, just about everything. All of our institutions are engaged in the primary task of converting previously non-monetized things into monetized resources. The World Bank and the IMF, for instance, are not about making the lives of poor people easier, but about development and extraction of resources from so-called third world countries. Education and schooling is not about enlightenment and growth but about making engineers and businessmen who will come up with more efficient ways of pillaging the planet. Medicine is not about healing the body and soul, but about industrial chemical pharmaceuticals and profiteering. Even the non-profit sector is not exempt when we consider that institutional policies at the largest "conservation organizations" like the Sierra Club and WWF encourage collaboration with the most destructive industries on the planet, like logging, construction and transportation. In short, the work output of the various institutions of modern civilization constitute the very core of a malignant process.

If all this sounds cynical, so be it. We are facing extinction. How long are we going to avoid facing the facts? How long are we going to put on a happy face? How long are we going to pretend everything is hunky dory? The dominant narrative of social and cultural progress, technological development and improvement in the human condition breaks down upon closer examination. We need a new set of lenses to look through and understand where we have been, where we are and where we are headed. What we thought of as exceptions are in fact the rule. Despoliation of the environment is not an exception but the very basis of civilization. Urban growth is not a panacea but the characteristic signature of a malignant process. You and I, friends, are not unlike cancer cells ravaging our host planet day in and day out. What makes it worse is there's no escape from it all. We can't help but be part of this process with everything we do. Such are the times we live in.

Consider this extract from one of Dr. Hern's papers:

"Malignant neoplasms in organisms have several classical characteristics: a) rapid, uncontrolled growth; b) invasion and destruction of adjacent normal tissues; c) metastasis (distant colonization); and de-differentiation (loss of characteristic cell and tissue appearance unique to each kind of tissue) (Anderson, 1961; Perez-Tamayo, 1961). Metastatic lesions tend to be more aggressive and grow faster that the original tumor."

Metastasis (distant colonization) is exactly what has been happening in the world over the last few thousand years, and especially over the last few hundred years. I wrote about the imperial nature of San Francisco and how centralization has been a key trend in human affairs throughout civilization. Cities and urban areas are about centralization of power. The world has increasingly centralized over the last few thousand years. Trade routes like the silk route allowed transmission of not just goods but ideas and culture between the East and the West as long ago as 2000 years. According to Wikipedia,
The Silk Road, or Silk Route, is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads, and urban dwellers from China and India to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.
Today, when I can make the trip from San Francisco to my hometown in India in less then 24 hours, the world is thoroughly centralized. The reason why I can speak, read and write English is because India was colonized by Britain for over 250 years. The British brought not just the language but a whole new set of infective ideas and technologies which blurred the distinctions between Western and Eastern civilization. This is not to say that Eastern civilizations of ancient China and India were not part of this malignant process themselves. There are plenty of indications that the "high civilizations" of the East colonized distant lands with their religious and cultural ideas in their own way for thousands of years before Western civilization took over in the last few hundred years. Civilization itself happens to be a sign of malignancy, whether it took birth in the plains of the fertile crescent or, in the case of Western civilization, ancient Greece or on a smaller scale, the Incas and the Aztecs. Civilization tends to alienate people from the lands they are part of, insulate them from their roots, and make them look and act more like each other. That brings us to de-differentiation, the loss of uniqueness.

Today, civilized people everywhere watch similar TV programming, talk about the same ideas of progress and growth, dress similarly, laugh at the same jokes, and otherwise lead similar lives. We face the same problems everywhere, from the slums of Mumbai to the suburbs of Los Angeles - long commutes, bad air quality, stressful jobs, lack of time, poor nutrition, etc. Modern culture would have us believe it is better for all of us to be like each other. But that's not how nature works. Healthy natural systems have a dazzling amount of variety in them. The more the variety, the higher the resilience. And quite simply, the more the beauty too. What's the fun in seeing the same old yellow arches of McDonalds all across the country? Where's the unique cuisine of each region? De-differentiation has been another key trend in the last few hundred years.

So why did it all come to this? Why did the human story turn malignant? As it's said, every seed contains the knowledge that will bring about its own undoing. We could argue that it was inevitable all along. Whatever ends up happening can be said to have always been inevitable. Why fight reality? In any case, my interest lies not in exploring the "why" but the "how". Understanding how the story of the human species turned malignant is challenging  yet fascinating. We can trace key developments throughout pre-history and history to some extent but at the end of the day, we have to resort to some educated and informed conjecture to interpret what we discover. The work of revisionist anthropologists in recent decades is of much help in this exercise. Revisionist anthropologists challenge the commonly accepted view of our early ancestors as under-developed, barbaric, savage, violent, uncultured, superstitious, brutish forest dwellers who lived in holes and caves, running scared of predatory animals, and always at the verge of starvation. It turns out the joke is on the modern man instead!

The story began about 2 Million years ago when the ancestors of homo-sapiens first appeared. By about 200,000 years ago, a tenth of that time, humans who are anatomically similar to modern humans walked the African continent. Their brains were similar to ours and they were no less intelligent than us. They had already figured out how to first sustain fire, and later to start it. Rudimentary language was also part of their lives. These "developments", although seen by modern culture as highly positive in the evolutionary sense, actually alienated us from the rest of creation, even if just a bit. We still lived in small tribes, mainly extended families, and foraged, hunted and gathered our food. We lived in balance with our surroundings, plants and animals, rivers and mountains. Every tribe had its own unique and peculiar creation story or the "story of the people". The story explained who they were and where they came from and how they were to conduct themselves. To the modern man, many of these stories seem out of date and laughable. But there's something to be said about stories that sustain people through hundreds of thousands of years, generation after generation. Modern man sees this time in our history as "the time when nothing happened". Well, that's our story, a story of change, ever faster change, change for the sake of change itself. It's no accident that the shift from a "boring" story to an "exciting" one also marked the beginning of the most advanced stage of the malignancy that we face today. It's hard to relate to the life of a pre-historic person but numerous revisionist anthropologists in recent decades have challenged the dominant narrative to cast light on the abundance and happiness in the lives of our ancestors. For instance, see the work of Marshall Sahlins.

I have talked about tribal and indigenous peoples quite a bit over the last year starting with my post about the book "Indian Summer" which gave me much to think about. I commented on Peter Coyote's insightful comment on the difference between tribal culture and civilization here - tribal cultures value wisdom passed down the generations while modern culture values  a certain type of materialistic intelligence and forward-looking change. It's not that tribal peoples didn't change their customs and traditions. Like every life form that lives in balance with its habitat, our ancestors adapted to changing surroundings quite successfully. They were experts in listening to what their surroundings were telling them. In fact, it came naturally to them. They didn't see themselves as different from the environment they lived in. They very much viewed themselves as part of the fabric of the lands they lived on. When change did happen, they worked with it slowly, carefully and deliberately. The Native Americans, for instance, talk about looking ahead to the next seven generations to gauge the impact of any change they are considering making to their age-old ways. Contrast this with the modern mindset where risk-taking and dangerous enterprise are highly valued and celebrated. I wrote about how our younger culture that we call civilization and tribal cultures approach the precautionary principle differently here.

Modern culture would have us believe that the entire world is on the verge of being civilized. It's just a matter of time, they say, before the benefits of development and technology reach every man, woman and child living anywhere on the planet. Civilized man takes it upon himself, in his ignorance, the task of civilizing others. This is, of course, done with the utmost of good intentions. Like a priest who proselytizes a tribal person for the latter's own good, for his own salvation, the civilized man goes about the work of civilizing others with particular zeal and energy. It's not that civilized men are bad people. They are like any other people. If we humans didn't believe in our stories fully, we wouldn't have sustained ourselves and thrived for all this time. I'm not blaming the character of any civilized man or woman here. It just so happens that our story today is at odds with harmony and balance with our surroundings. The story of civilization is one that is unsustainable and will eventually end. Just how this end might come about is captured well in this documentary.

And while we prepare for the day of our reckoning, tribal people everywhere continue to be dislocated and dispossessed of their ancestral lands. I have talked about the plight of tribal peoples today here and here. These are the healthy cells that are still fighting for survival as the cancer that is civilization rages on, approaching closer and closer, promising to either kill them off or assimilate them (turn them cancerous). Understanding how our own ancestors used to live (because all civilized people are also descendants of tribal people) and how tribal people all around the world still live today has been a key element in deciphering our own modern story. As modern civilization, in its insatiable appetite for natural resources, invades and decimates the lands that tribal peoples have called home for generations, we lose an immense and invaluable amount of knowledge and wisdom. In our arrogance, we try to assimilate tribal peoples into our own sick and unsustainable culture under the guise of helping them out and bringing them development. So the next time you're asked for a donation to build a school in a small village in Africa, you know what that's all about!

Tribal societies are the most egalitarian and free societies humans have ever lived in. I explored how this contrasts with the modern state here. Primitivism and the two key books that I've read that explore it are mentioned here. These books, "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn and "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" by Thom Hartmann have made essential contributions to my understanding and I highly recommend both to anyone interested in digging deeper into our story.

While tribal culture is about simplicity and elegance, modern civilization is about accumulation and scale. Modern culture is about force and alienation. As my understanding of these issues evolved over time, I had plenty of debates with friends and co-workers. I challenged the dominant narrative and it cost me dearly in strained relationships with a couple of friends. My heated debate with co-workers at Google was the last straw and I left the company soon after. I realized how different my thinking had become compared to that of the people around me, if it was ever that similar to theirs at all in the first place. The debate brought many differences to the fore. Nevertheless, I tried to practice empathy with my friends. It was richly rewarded in terms of both a better bond with my friends as well as a more nuanced understanding of the world around me.

I've said so much about tribal people and tribal cultures and it's now time to see what transpired in the last 10,000 years when some of those tribal peoples, the ancestors of modern man, took to agriculture, the domestication of plants. 10,000 years is just a small fraction of the 2 Million years we've been around. Or even the 200,000 years anatomically similar humans have been around. But so much has happened in the last 10,000 years beginning with agriculture. One thing lead to another. Domestication of plants resulted in settlements and disturbed the egalitarian structure of the tribal society. The natural order of tribal life was transformed. Instead of relying on nature to provide what's needed exactly when it's needed, man started taking things into his own control. Daniel Quinn explores this process in his books.

The domestication of plants, which when done at scale is called agriculture, is a sign of control over nature. We are no longer satisfied with what the universe provides us. We'd want it a certain way, we'd want to predict what it will give us, we'd want to control what we get to eat several months down the line, and we'd want to breed different plant varieties to make new ones to suit our tastes. Modern bio-technology can be seen as an advanced form of this initial urge to get what we want, and force our way through it.

With the domestication of plants underway, the domestication of animals and people soon followed. When early settlements took hold, the old tribal practices, customs and traditions broke down. There was no new story to replace the old one. We've been experimenting with one new story after another for 10,000 years and have failed miserably. The debate between capitalism and communism, for instance, is an example of how we have never been able to figure out what works. Control begets control. Control of man over nature begets control of man over animal and man over man. This is exactly what we see today when we talk of factory farming and slavery.

In the absence of a strong time-tested story, it's a free for all. Such conditions are ripe for the rise of those among us that are prone to a bit of sociopathy. It's very likely that sociopathy has always existed among humans to some extent. Some of us are just a bit more sociopathic than others. Some of us are just a bit more desirous of control than others. It's just natural and expected. But the tribe knew how to work with sociopaths. In extreme cases, sociopaths were ostracized and banished or even killed. The goal then was to maintain peace and continuity of the tribe. This worked for hundreds of thousands of years. But when the tribe disintegrated with the beginnings of agriculture, the sociopath reared his ugly head. When we talk about private property, we'd do well to recognize that it's the work of the sociopath. The sociopath soon locked up some of the food produced from early agricultural practices and called it his own. Sociopathy is about control. The sociopath soon realized that in order to retain control over what he called his own, he needed help. The sociopath surrounded himself with a couple of strong men who would do his bidding. Such were the beginnings of hierarchy.

Private property and the hierarchy that's needed to protect it is the order of the day today. It's the rule. It's the law. One of the primary responsibilities of the modern state is to recognize and protect private property. That's the new story that we all believe in. We believe in it so much that we think it's natural for hierarchies to exist, that it's normal for some of us to "own", that it's normal for some of us to own much more than others. I have come across people who are rather quick to defend the sociopaths among us. Most of us simply don't see our most celebrated and successful politicians and businessmen as anything but role models. It takes quite an inversion of viewpoint to see Steve Jobs as a sociopath.

“Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control.” - Lord Acton (1834-1902) (John E. Dalberg), English Catholic historian, politician, and writer

It was not that easy for me to empathize with tribal people, having been brought up in modern culture. But it was much harder for me to empathize with those on the opposite side of the spectrum. If tribal people are those that are close to the land, the wealthy elites and members of the ruling class are those that live farthest from the land, insulated from it, and oblivious of their impacts on it and on their not-so-fortunate brethren. I played the blame game for a while, charging the wealthy elites with all the evil in the world. But as I said in an earlier blog post, my journey wouldn't be the same without me practicing empathy with those that I have the least in common with. And so I tried doing that, having recognized the basic truth that if I were in their shoes, having experienced the same circumstances as they did, I would behave just like them. It turns out billionaires live in their own strange world. For instance, a billionaire who is surrounded by multi-billionaires actually feels poor.

I have written about sociopathy and I highly recommend reading the book, "The Sociopath Next Door". It's actually debatable if agriculture resulted in the rise of the sociopath or if the sociopath planted the first seed in his backyard. Sociopathy is about control and it's quite likely that the sociopath next door in a tribal settlement in the fertile crescent decided to skip the walk needed to forage for food and instead decided to exert control over his future by planting a few seeds of fruit or grain in his backyard. It's also very likely that for the longest time, such attempts were thwarted by the tribe, for they saw it as an inherently dangerous act, detrimental to the future of the tribe. But then, one day, it happened. The rest is history, as they say. Is it any accident that history actually starts with agriculture and everything before it, the "boring" part of our long existence on this planet, is relegated to "pre-history"?

Here, it's instructive to look at the parallels with cancer in the human body. Cancerous growths appear in the body and go away all the time. A healthy body deals with such growths in the usual way and deploys its resources to kill off malignant tumors. However, when the body is not in a state of healthy balance, when it's already stressed by environmental and other factors, it finds it difficult to fight off an abnormal development. Even then, with early detection and some external help, like surgery, herbal remedies, radiation, or chemotherapy, it's possible to remove the cancer and stop it from spreading. But there comes a time sometimes when the body is not able to deal with the cancer in the normal healthy way and the malignant process spreads out of control and metastasizes.

The rise of the sociopath can be seen in similar terms. The sociopath is a cancerous cell. As long as the tribe is strong and healthy, it's able to deal with one of their own in a healthy manner. It's likely that this has happened innumerable times throughout pre-history all across the world in thousands of tribes. As long as a tribe is held together by a strong time-tested story, it's able to fight off attempts for control and restore the natural order of things. But there came a time eventually, when for a particular tribe, the story of the tribe was not as strong as it could have been. Perhaps an unforeseen natural calamity exerted so much stress on the health of the tribe that the sociopathic elements in the tribe asserted control over the rest. Even so, it would have taken generations for the story to break apart to such an extent that the entire tribe could be called cancerous.

Sociopathy is about control and sooner or later, the cancerous tribe, initially infected and turned cancerous by just one or two members during an exceptionally stressful time, seeks to control and overrun neighboring tribes and habitats. When such a cancerous tribe makes incursions into the territories of surrounding tribes, there were always other healthy tribes around them which would deal them a deadly blow and prevent the cancer from spreading. Tribal people knew it when they saw another tribe out of balance. They were thoroughly attuned to their environs and it was easy to spot abnormalities and they would prepare to act. It's not unlike today when tribal peoples all around the world know the cancer that civilization has become. Looking at civilized people from the outside, they clearly see how we are going about destroying everything that they have considered sacred for generations.

Eventually, however, there came a time when the surrounding tribes could no longer contain a particularly vicious tribe that had turned cancerous. And thus were sown the seeds of modern civilization which is based on control. Empires, imperialism and hegemony are advanced forms of such control. It did take a couple hundred thousand years for it come to this.

It's easy to see the parallels between cancer in the human body and the human cancer on the planet. Today, the planet is suffering from a very late stage of cancer. The sociopaths among us rule. The sociopaths in charge of running the world have created a culture that nurtures other sociopaths and helps them percolate to the top of the hierarchy. This is what happens with runaway cancer. Most of us generally think our leaders are decent people. As decent as they might be in personal relationships or at the office, to be a leader in a sick and out-of-balance culture requires a sick and out-of-balance person. Again, this is not to say a sick person is a bad person. It's the story that has possessed him that's more important, not his personal character. The sociopath is about control at all costs. That's the story that possesses a sociopath.

It's the sociopaths who have designed and implemented all the dominant institutions of our culture. The corporation, a key tool in the modern sociopathic leader's arsenal, is itself a sociopathic entity. The flavor of capitalism we have today, crony capitalism, favors the sociopathic CEO.

Having been trained as an engineer by our modern industrial civilization and having worked in technology, I have written quite a bit about technology. While most of us look at technology in benign and beneficent terms, technology is actually one of the most potent weapons in the arsenal of the modern sociopathic leader. Just as the sociopath is about control, technology is also about control. Although seen by the dominant culture as a potential solution to most of our problems, technology is actually not what it is presented to be. Technology is not the electric appliances and smart phones we have come to depend on. It's the core infrastructure that aids centralization of power and control. Technology helps the sociopath gain more control. It takes from one and gives to another. Technology takes away from the working classes, rural folks, tribal peoples, plants and animals, rivers and oceans and ecosystems. It takes away power and resources from those who live close to the land and gives them to those who live away from the land, insulated from it. Technology is responsible for the highest amounts of inequality humanity has ever seen in its entire history.

So where do we stand today? The sociopaths in charge of the world have complete control of the dominant media that billions of us access every day. Surrounded by news from all corners of the globe, news that seem disparate and unrelated, it's hard for most of us to make sense of what's what. The news business is about control and profits. It's not about education and enlightenment but about propaganda and continuing the dominant paradigm that the sociopaths have so carefully put together for their own ends. One has to read between the lines and look at alternative news sources to make sense of what's going on. It's no accident that in the age of Google, it's all the more difficult to discern the important news from the unimportant news. There has been a significant decline in quality investigative journalism in the last few decades. The result is a world of uninformed, misinformed and apathetic citizens who struggle to make decisions in their own best interests. This is par for the course, given that technological civilization has undermined the ability of its members to comprehend what's going on in the world. The more the information we have at our fingertips, the less we understand and comprehend. Even as we stare in the face of climate chaos and a mass extinction, the topic is off limits and missing from the public discourse, except in the occasional fictional drama on TV. The planet is on the edge of runaway warming. Humanity can best be described to be in hospice. In addition, a rush for the last remaining resources on the planet promises to result in a major conflagration between nuclear states. That's where we stand today: a cancer on the planet, a cancer on the verge of killing off its host and killing itself in the process.

What to make of all this? If you are not much affected by what has been said above, it's because it's a story. Not all of us connect with every story. This is a story that helps me understand and relate to the world better. I hope it helps you in a similar way when the time is right. But if you are affected, if you feel despondent or depressed, I'd like to offer a few words of support. You and I didn't choose to be born. You and I didn't choose to be brought up by the culture that raised us. You and I didn't choose to be born in this day and age. You and I are unwitting participants in a grand story that's unfolding this very moment. We simply do not know what it's all about. That's the nature of the human condition today.

Perhaps we could zoom out a bit and it would make us feel just a bit better. Just like cancer in the human body is a sign of imbalance between the body and its environment, the human cancer on the planet is perhaps a sign of an imbalance between Earth and its environment! Who is to say that the solar system or the galaxy we are part of is not exerting some sort of influence on the planet that has thrown planetary affairs out of balance? We simply don't know.

I try to deal with all of this as a witness, as an observer. I happen to be witnessing what's going on on this planet that I was born on, at this particular stage of its evolution. One way to look at this is that I don't need to judge the events that are unfolding one way or another. I don't even need to view this cancer that humans have become in a negative light. Perhaps this is how things end in the Universe. Modern Science would have us believe that we have a grasp of how the Universe works, or that we will soon. Science, with its reductive approach, helps us understand certain aspects of the physical Universe, in a narrow way. At the end of the day, the story of Science is no different from the story of a tribe. Different stories have possessed different peoples in different ways at different times. In this sense, stories are more powerful than the people they possess.

In a Universe filled with stories, the meditator works toward a state of mind that observes and identifies all the stories that he or she is possessed with. Many of these stories are not easy to notice because they lurk in the subconscious. We have internalized them. With practice, it's possible to notice and identify those stories that we believe in at a deep subconscious level. With practice, it is possible for us to go beyond any and all stories, including the one that says we are in a human body! Beyond all the stories lies a state of complete surrender and bliss.

Take heart, it's all going to work out just fine. You and I didn't choose to be born. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Stay alert to the moment, stay unattached to the outcome of your actions and witness what unfolds.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Homelessness in Google's backyard


The Great Forgetting - Precautionary Principle

I was looking at this article on the risks associated with WiFi and how a Waldorf school in Minnesota researched the issue and eventually made a decision to remove WiFi from its campus.

Toward the end of the article, I encountered this: an example of "the great forgetting".
In the decision to have WiFi in a school or in our homes, it is perhaps wise to apply the Precautionary Principle. This principle, developed in the early 1980s, is meant to guide decision making regarding ecological and health policies. In the agencies of the European Union, the Precautionary Principle is officially recognized as a determinative guideline in making decisions that affect the environment and public health.

The Precautionary Principle states that when a new device, activity, or policy is proposed, and before it is implemented, those who will provide and profit from it must prove conclusively that it is not harmful. The burden of proof should be on those proposing and promoting the innovation. Those who question or oppose the innovation should not be required to prove that it is harmful.

At this time, no one, including the very powerful electronic communications industry, has proven conclusively that exposure to Wifi is safe. There is no proof that short- or long-term exposure to WiFi for children or for adults is benign.
According to Wikipedia,
Regarding international conduct, the first endorsement of the principle was in 1982 when the World Charter for Nature was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, while its first international implementation was in 1987 through the Montreal Protocol. Soon after, the principle integrated with many other legally binding international treaties such as the Rio Declaration and Kyoto Protocol.
So, yes, as far as Western Civilization is concerned, the precautionary principle is indeed very recent. But Native Peoples all around the world have long held the precautionary principle as a sacred tenet for eons. The Iroquois codified it in their constitution but it has been an unwritten rule passed down the generations for thousands of years. When we wonder how modern civilization has managed to bring us to the brink of extinction in just a few hundred years, we'd do well to remember that the indigenous peoples of the world, no less smarter than modern man, have nurtured and sustained their tribes and ecosystems for thousands of years very successfully. Their understanding of the principles of sustainability far surpass any that are taught in the most advanced universities of the modern world.

This, my friends, is an example of "The Great Forgetting"! Modern man has forgotten the wisdom of his ancestors. In his hubris arising from material advancement, he looks down upon the traditions and thought of older cultures with disrespect and disdain.

As Thom Hartmann writes in "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight", Western Civilization is a young culture. Our most important inventions and discoveries date back to just a few hundred years, and in many cases, as in the case of the precautionary principle, just a few decades.

Here are a couple of screenshots of the contents of this book which I highly recommend:

It's time that we, inculcated in the ways of a young culture that is Western Civilization, realize that the story of humanity is not one of constant advancement from a barbaric existence toward a "civilized culture". In this story, our current crises of ecological destruction and mass extinction are explained away as unfortunate side-effects. The dominant view is that, if we do go extinct and take the planet down with us, it's just because humans are a flawed species and all our Science and Technology hasn't been able to help us overcome our flaws and take us to utopia. The human train ran out of fuel and failed to reach the station! It's a story of constant evolution and progress with an unfortunate climax.

In reality, our species has been devolving for several thousand years now and the devolution is only speeding up. Technology is a turbo-charger accelerating this process. Human extinction is a logical consequence of this process. The best times that our species has seen seem to lie prior to agriculture, during the many tens of thousands of years when we were hunter gatherers.