Friday, November 18, 2005

Nature's Little Rule Book

Hello, dearies, this is Mother Nature. I'm speaking up here because you humans seem to have an awful lot of difficulty understanding and living in accord with the rules of life on Earth, so I thought I'd lay it all out for you in a very simple and direct form. This is very important, so please pay close attention.

Rule No. 1 - Life on Earth is a web, NOT a pyramid.

At first glance, this rule may seem obvious, even trite. "Well, of course," you may say. "I know that! Tell me something I don't know!"

But this rule is not directed at your rational mind, which probably knows perfectly well that life on Earth is a complex interweaving of hundreds of millions of different kinds of organisms and processes. Instead, it is aimed at your cultural mind, the one that has been trained from the day you were born to believe in the mythology of your modern culture - a mythology that, when it is lived out in billions of peoples' lives around the world, is destroying the web of life on Earth.

"Hey, wait a minute!" you are probably thinking. "We modern, scientific people don't believe in myths anymore! Myths are only for less developed, pre-scientific cultures."

But given that you humans seem almost completely unable to alter your destructive way of life even though your supposedly rational, scientific minds are generally quite aware that you are destroying the fabric of life on Earth, it seems rather obvious there's something else going on than just rational, scientific thinking. That something else, I suggest to you, is mythical thinking.

In its most basic sense, a myth is simply a story that attempts to explain to the people of any given culture how something came to be the way it is. A mythology is a collection of myths that, taken together, attempt to explain and express a culture's deepest understanding of the world and how it works, and the place of humans within it.

Of course, you modern humans don't see your myths as myths, you think they're The Truth, just like every other culture from the Greeks to the Maya has viewed their myths as The Truth. That's what's tricky about myths - they don't appear as myths to those living in them. So although you think modern people have progressed beyond all that mythology stuff, the fact is that snuggled up right beside your scientific understanding of the web of life is the pervasive myth that life on Earth is a pyramid - with humans at the very top.

According to your modern mythology, the broad base of the pyramid of life is populated by all of the bacteria and other supposedly "primitive" forms of life that are viewed as being animated by merely the instinctive struggle for biological survival and reproduction. In your mythology, as one climbs up this mythical pyramid, life becomes more and more complex until suddenly there is the great leap to the much-vaunted self-consciousness and presumed "superior intelligence" that allegedly makes you humans so "special" and "unique" among all the rest of life on Earth.

A more extreme form of this "myth of the pyramid" goes even further, lifting humans completely off the top of the pyramid and placing them in the space somewhere above it. In this version, humans have somehow magically transcended the whole messy, instinct-driven mass of life: there is the "natural" world - nature - and then there are humans.

This mythic imagery of a pyramid with humans at top is designed to emphasize several key, interrelated aspects of the "story" being told by the mythology of human civilization:

One, that humans are so special and different from all other forms of life on Earth, that you have somehow been elevated "above" everything else;

Two, that because you are such a special species, you are exempt from the rules of life that govern every other species on Earth;

Three, by virtue of your superior position at the top of the pyramid, you humans are somehow "meant" to rule over and use the rest of life on Earth for your own purposes; and,

Four, even though your supposedly "civilized" way of life is driving you to both a human and ecological catastrophe, you can't give it up because that would mean giving up everything that makes you humans "special" and admitting that you are not, after all, "meant" to be at the top of the pyramid, dominating and using the rest of life on Earth.

In other words, the guiding mythology of modern society is the "myth of human exceptionalism" - a story that tells you that humans are so utterly special that the rules of life that apply to every other species on Earth somehow don't apply to you; that the world was, in effect, made just for humans so you could have a stage upon which to show off what a wonderful and "highly evolved" species you are; and that you have no choice but continue acting as you have, even though you now face ecological catastrophe as a result, because that would mean not fulfilling your supposed "destiny" as the most wonderful, special species that has ever walked the face of the Earth.

The myth of human exceptionalism also tells you that humans are so special that, unlike every other species on Earth, you can somehow control your fate (and the fate of everything else that lives on Earth). That is the enormous - and fateful - conceit and drive behind agriculture and the entire edifice of human civilization that agriculture has inevitably spawned - the desperate attempt to wrest your fate from the "hands of the gods," to become as gods yourselves, supposed masters of your own fate. But you are not gods, you do not have the gods' wisdom about how the world works, so you are making a real hash of things in your vain efforts to be as powerful as the gods.

I hope that by now it is clear that, regardless of how you modern, "advanced" humans like to think about yourselves, the fact is that you do have your own unacknowledged myths and mythology. In and of itself, that is not a problem. What is a problem is that your particular mythology - the myth of human exceptionalism - has led to the point where Earth now stands on the edge of a sixth mass extinction, one caused not by an massive asteroid from space but by 10,000 years of humans living an unsustainable myth.

What is worse is that you seem helpless to do anything to stop your incredible destructiveness, even though you now stand on the brink of ecological and human catastrophe. In such a dire situation, it really does become imperative that you try to tear the blinders off and take a hard look at the mythology that is driving you to persist in such a destructive way of thinking about and living human life on Earth. In short, you need a radically new way of thinking about and living human life on Earth.

Rule No. 2 - The evolution of life on Earth has NO inherent direction or "purpose" that directs it to develop supposedly "higher" forms of life.

Quite frankly, my dears, all evolution "cares" about is what "works" - that is, can a species find and successfully adapt to an ecological niche? If it can, that's wonderful. If not, goodbye.

In other words, the "purpose" of the evolution of life on Earth was NOT to eventually produce humans as the supposed pinnacle of life. Consider: If the reason for the existence of the universe and Earth was just to provide a stage for humans to eventually appear on, why does evolution continue, why do galaxies continue to collide and black holes form since you appeared on the scene? The fact that the universe and evolution have continued without even the slightest hiccup since the appearance of humans is a compelling argument that, whatever "purpose" there might be for the universe and evolution, it certainly has nothing to do with making sure that the human species came into existence.

Now I know the news that the "purpose" of the universe - or even just the evolution of life on Earth - is not to make sure that humans came into existence probably comes as a big blow to your apparent need to feel like you're better than every other form of life on Earth because of your presumed superior intelligence. Well, I'm sorry, folks, but the reality is that you are just one of tens of millions of species, each one of which has an equally important role to play and none of which are higher or lower, inferior or superior, less than or better than any other species.

To put it more bluntly, if you - a supposedly "highly evolved" species - are blinded enough by the glittering myth of human exceptionalism to insist on continuing to pretend like the rules of nature don't apply to you and allow your population to spin out of control while fouling your own nest, so to speak, then evolution will in effect say to itself, "Hmmm, that species is not working out right," and consign you to the evolutionary trash bin, along with the billions of other species that evolution "tried out" but didn't "work." In other words, humans really aren't that special - you are in fact just one species among many, governed by the exact same rules of life that govern every other bit of life on Earth.

Rule No. 3 - Life on Earth is infinitely subtle, complex and interrelated.

Although your scientists have indeed made great strides in understanding how the vast interconnecting web of life on Earth "works," the fact remains that what you humans don't know still vastly exceeds what you do know. Indeed, that will always be the case, even a million years from now (assuming you are still around then), because everything is connected to everything else, which effectively makes life on Earth infinitely complex. As a result, you humans will never be able to fully understand all of the potential impacts of your efforts to control and manage life on Earth for your supposed benefit.

If you don't believe that humans will always be inherently limited in their understanding of how life on Earth works, I'd like you to stop for a moment and try a simple thought experiment. Get out a blank sheet of common notebook paper. Now make a complete list of everything that is somehow connected to the existence of that piece of paper and trace out all of their inter-relationships. Then make a list of everything that is connected to the things you have just listed, and trace out the inter-relationships of those things.

Here, I will help you get started. The first thing obviously connected to the piece of paper is the tree that was cut down in order to make it. Since sunlight is necessary for trees to grow, we can also "see" the sun in that tree and thus in the piece of paper. And because trees need water to grow, we can also "see" clouds and rain in the paper. Beyond that, we can see all of the factors that affect climate and rainfall: the presence of greenhouse gases (both natural and anthropogenic) in the atmosphere; the oceans and the heat they absorb and store from the sun and atmosphere, the ocean currents which help move heat around, and so on, as well as the things that they affect; the levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere, including human-caused air pollution; the convection due to the heat island effect caused by cities; and so on.

Be thorough and go deeply here: Where do greenhouse gases come from and what are their effects? What factors drive ocean currents and what happens if those factors change? What are the natural and anthropogenic sources of particulate matter in the atmosphere and how do they affect climate and rainfall? How do greenhouse gases, ocean currents, particulate matter, climate and rainfall affect trees and forests? If you don't know the answers, then use the Google search engine and try to find them.

We can also see in the piece of paper the soil the tree sunk its roots into, so list everything that contributed to the making of the soil and trace out all of their relationships. What else lived in the soil around the tree's roots? What plants, bugs, butterflies, spiders, lizards, birds, bacteria, fungi and other life lived in the tree and its surrounding forest, the nearby streams and ponds, etc.? What are their ecological relationships and what other things affect them?

Of course, we can also see in the paper the logger who cut down the tree, as well as the logging company and its other employees, and the loggers' spouses and children. Going further, we can see all of the people, farms and factories involved in producing the food, clothing, school books, medical equipment, and the vast array of items in the stores and market they shop in, as well as the trucks, trains, and ships involved in transporting both the raw materials to the factories and the finished goods to the store or auto showroom. Don't forget to see, too, the plants, animals, and ecosystems that once occupied the places now taken over by pulp and paper mills, farms, houses, schools, hospitals, mines, steel mills, factories, stores, roads, airports, and so on. What are their interconnections? How have they been affected by the making of the piece of paper in front of you?

Have you given up yet? I should hope so, because even though it's just a simple piece of paper that you're trying to understand, as you've just demonstrated it's basically an impossible task to completely describe everything that is connected to that piece of paper, let alone understand how all those things interact, for the simple reason that everything in the universe is somehow connected to that sheet of paper.

In other words, no matter how supposedly smart or technologically "advanced" humans are, if you can't even understand everything connected to a simple piece of paper, you will certainly never be able to understand life on Earth well enough to not make a complete hash of any effort to try to "manage", control or dominate it, SO PLEASE STOP TRYING. Indeed, the dismal results of your efforts to just understand and manage just your own behavior, such as your disturbing propensity to resort to violence to solve problems, should be enough to put the lie to your pretensions of being able to understand the rest of life on Earth well enough to successfully "manage" it.

Rule No. 4 - Death is an essential part of life on Earth.

At some point in time, every individual animal or plant must die in order to provide the basis for new life. As just one example out of tens of millions, the death of a rabbit or deer fawn in the jaws of a wolf means food for the wolf's cubs. This is something you humans know quite well, given that you even have a catchy little song about it ("The Cycle of Life" from the movie The Lion King).

When this rule is allowed to function as intended, each species has an optimum average age of death which allows the ecosystem of which it is a part to flourish in a relative state of balance. Although the death of an individual might occur earlier or later than its species' optimum age of death, the average age of death for the species as a whole will, over time, tend to be that which most promotes both the ecosystem's balance and diversity, and thus even the continued survival of that species.

There is also an average optimum lifespan for all species taken together within an ecosystem, based on the natural resources (sunlight, nutrients, etc.) available to that ecosystem. In other words, if for some reason one species begins to live longer, the lives of other species will necessarily be shortened. (Note also that if the average lifespan of a species is reduced too much for too long, that species will eventually go extinct.) Predation, disease, aging, parasites, and fluctuations in food availability are just some of the many ways that nature has of making sure that, on average, the members of any given species don't live too long at the expense of other species and the ecosystem's diversity and balance.

Now I know you don't want to hear this, but just like every other species on Earth, humans also have an optimum average age of death - one that promotes the health and diversity of those ecosystems of which you are a part. If you exceed that optimum average lifespan, that inevitably means an unbalancing of the ecosystems that you affect and shorter lives on average for the other species with which you share those ecosystems.

That, of course, is exactly what is happening as you continuously strive to lengthen the human lifespan by trying to guarantee your food supply through agriculture, develop antibiotics and other forms of intensive modern medicine, and so on. The resulting extension of the average human lifespan has therefore predictably resulted in the destabilization and degradation of Earth's ecosystems and decreased lifespans for the majority of species on Earth, many to the point where they have either become extinct or are now on the verge of extinction.

In other words, what you so proudly point to as glorious human accomplishments - medicine, agriculture, municipal sanitation systems, etc. - are in fact an environmental disaster for the rest of life on Earth, given that they have led to an astronomical increase in your numbers during the course of the 10,000 years or so of human "civilization." In short, if you want to have any hope of conserving what remains of the vast and wondrous diversity of life on Earth, you MUST give up your bizarre fixation on "saving" every possible human life and artificially prolonging the human lifespan, and instead start allowing yourselves to die "naturally." Yes, that means some of you will die "untimely" deaths, but keep in mind that your continued refusal to allow death to play its natural role in your lives will inevitably mean the untimely death (that is, extinction) of much of life on Earth, including very possibly your own.

Rule No. 5 - Variety - lots of it - is the spice of life.

Contrary to the commonly held assumption that life expresses itself most fully by striving for supposedly "higher" levels of development, the truest expression of life striving to fulfill itself actually lies in its exuberant diversity - which you are now rapidly destroying.

Biological diversity (biodiversity) is nature's way of assuring the resilency of ecosystems - that is, their ability to recover after disturbance, whether natural (e.g., floods, drought, fire, etc.) or anthropogenic (human caused) - because greater species diversity provides more pathways for recovery. For example, monocropped corn in a rain-watered field will simply shrivel up and die during a drought, leaving nothing but dry husks and bare ground highly vulnerable to erosion, but in a diverse grassland, drought-adapted species will remain and expand their productivity. (The disastrous Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the U.S. can thus be seen as being caused in large part by a lack of biodiversity due to agriculture.) Similarly, a forest with a number of tree species will be able to handle periodic outbreaks of pests such as bark beetles more effectively than a forest made up of only one type of tree because some trees species will likely be pest resistant.

In many ecosystems, diversity is maintained by "keystone species", typically predators that control prey that would otherwise dominate a landscape and thereby reduce species diversity. In the absence of predators, for example, rabbits will rapidly multiply and overgraze an area, causing species extinctions and reduced biodiversity, as has happened in Australia (where rabbits have been introduced into an ecosystem with few rabbit predators) and parts of Europe (where rabbit predators have been mostly eliminated by humans). In such situations, the coyote or other rabbit predator is a keystone species, keeping rabbit populations in check and thereby helping to preserve the ecosystem's balance and diversity.

Imagine what would happen, though, if all of the rabbits should get together and declare war on anything that preys on them in an effort to wipe them out. Should the rabbits succeed, their numbers would explode and most plant life rapidly eaten down to the ground, resulting in ecosystem collapse. I mention this because that is essentially what is happening as a result of your war on grizzly bears, lions, bacteria and any thing else that might prey on humans. Indeed, one of the reasons human population control has proven to be such an intractable problem for you is because of your ongoing efforts to wipe out all of the predators that would normally help limit your numbers.

Rule No. 6 - Assuming stable rates of predation and other causes of death, a species' population inevitably increases as its food supply increases.

If you fence off an area, put 10 rabbits in there, and then provide enough food to feed 100 rabbits, it is absolutely guaranteed that you will soon have about 100 rabbits. No matter how many times you duplicate the experiment, you will always wind up with about 100 rabbits. And if you then increase the food to an amount that will feed 1,000 rabbits, it is similarly guaranteed that you will soon have 1,000 rabbits.

This illustrates yet another one of the basic rules of nature that you humans know quite well, yet you steadfastly refuse to consider its implications for humans. That is, every year you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on birth control and other so-called "population control" measures, all the while studiously ignoring the simplest, most foolproof population control measure there is - to simply stop growing more food!

If for some reason rabbits overpopulate an area and eat everything down to the nub, and then start dying of starvation because they've eaten all of the food available in their ecosystem, does nature come charging in with emergency relief shipments of rabbit food pellets to save them all from starving? No, obviously not, because starvation due to a species outstripping the food resources of their ecosystem is one of nature's natural ways of "curing" overpopulation. Indeed, rushing in more food to feed the starving rabbits will only serve to allow their numbers to continue to grow despite the fact that there are already more of them than their resource base can support, therefore guaranteeing that there will be even more starving rabbits in the future. So you decide, is it more humane to let x number of rabbits starve to death now, or to supply them with emergency rations with the result that there will be x+y starving rabbits next year?

Because humans are in fact just another animal, the same rules of population ecology that apply to rabbits hold true for humans. Yet you still keep growing more food and then express surprise and consternation that your so-called population control measures haven't worked as human population continues to spiral upwards each year. For over 40 years now, your population "experts" have predicted that birth control pills and sterilization, raising the status of women, development, and other supposed population control measures will cause human numbers to stop growing. Yet here we are now, 40 years on, and the time it takes the world's human population to add another billion people has gotten progressively shorter. It took all of human history up to the early 1800s for the world's human population to reach one billion people and until 1960 to reach three billion, but today, despite 40 years of "population control", the world's human population grows by one billion people every 11-12 years or so.

Of course, what else could we really expect, given that you keep growing ever more food? One can only wonder what catastrophe it will finally take to make you humans finally consider the only proven means of population control that there is, that is, to stop trying to endlessly increase your food supply.

"But, but, but," I can hear you stammer in horror, "what about all of the starving people in the world?! We can't just let them all starve to death! We have to grow more food to feed them!"

No, you don't have to keep growing ever larger amounts of food. In fact, all you are doing by growing more food to supposedly feed "all the poor starving people" is making sure that human population continues to grow and that ever greater numbers of people will face famine in the future. This is "humanism"? This is "progress"? I don't think so.

[An important side note: Due to the horrific impacts of colonialism, imperialism and racism, the ugly situation is that most of those now afflicted by famine and starvation are in the so-called "developing" countries, but the ecological position that humans need to stop growing ever more food to stop the explosion in human population should not be construed as meaning the rest of the world should just let millions of people starve to death in those countries. The desperate environmental crisis caused by human overpopulation does mean that it is urgent that humans stop trying to constantly increase their food supply, but if that should lead to food shortages and starvation, fundamental justice requires that the burden should be equitably distributed among the entire human population and not just one segment. How could such equitability be accomplished? That's for you to decide, for I have no doubt that such an inventive species as yours could come with some way of fairly "sharing" the pain of doing what is necessary to really control human population growth.]

Rule No. 7 - You are allowed to compete with other species for food, but not to wage war on them.

As Daniel Quinn points out in his book, Ishmael, lions may not like the hyenas that compete with them for food and territory and will sometimes pick fights with them, but lions don't organize all-out, genocidal war against hyenas as you humans do against any species that dares to eat "your" food, with your pesticides that indiscriminately poison everything that comes near "your" crops, or your "predator control" programs that seek to exterminate the bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks and eagles, etc., that occasionally prey on "your" sheep, cattle, chickens, etc.

What you humans fail to realize is that trying to deny competing species access to the food that you claim as yours alone can only lead to eventual ecological devastation. The other species that compete with you for food exist for very good reasons: Because biodiversity helps preserve ecosystem stability and health (see Rule 5, above) and because they form an important part of the food chain. Just one of many examples: Wolves do not just eat "your" sheep or cattle, they also eat deer, and the extermination of wolves in much of North America has therefore led to widespread ecosystem damage due to the severe overpopulation of deer in such areas as the northeastern U.S.

Rule No. 8 - Earth's ecosystems are NOT evolutionarily designed to withstand a species that goes gallivanting all around the world and willy-nilly introducing species from one place to another.

In other words, STAY PUT and stop moving and trading things all over the place!! Can I put it any simpler than that?!

As you well know, your wholesale introduction of non-native species into new habitats - both deliberate and "accidental" - is the second leading cause (after habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation) of the mass extinction crisis you have unleashed across the planet. This ongoing (and increasing) introduction of invasive species is leading inevitably to the homogenization of Earth's ecosystems based on a limited base of "weedy" species and is rapidly depleting the biodiversity that life on Earth needs to sustain its resilency.

It is also quite evident that your puny, underfunded systems for preventing the introduction of invasive species are almost complete failures at protecting ecosystem integrity. Indeed, they would continue to be so even in the unlikely event of their size and funding being increased a thousand-fold. Why? Because the whole shebang of life on Earth is so infinitely complex and sly that you will never understand it well enough to know everything to look for when trying to keep things from slipping past your monitoring systems.

You know all this quite well, yet you steadfastly ignore the ONLY logical conclusion that can be drawn from the situation - that you MUST stop traipsing all over the place and stop moving and trading plants, animals, and everything else out of their native ecosystems.

Rule No. 9 - It's very easy to determine what a sustainable way of human life looks like - just look around you.

It always amazes me how humans seem to think that figuring out how to live in a sustainable fashion is such a difficult question that it requires think tanks filled with experts, global conferences, mastery of a veritable library of research and books, and all of the rest of the lucrative trappings of what can only be called a "sustainability industry." Contrary to appearances, though, what constitutes a sustainable way of human life on Earth is quite simple and lies in plain sight all around you - that is, in the example of the tens of millions of other forms of life that manage to live on Earth without creating environmental havoc, not to mention the example of the hundreds of thousands of years of human life on Earth when you humans did actually manage for the most part to live in a truly environmentally sustainable manner.

What is the crucial difference between you modern humans and the rest of life on Earth, which was "working" quite well before you humans decided you knew better and started gumming up the works? Quite simply, what your hunter-gatherer ancestors and the rest of life on Earth have in common - what "works" - is the willingness to "live in the hands of the gods."

"Oh, great," you say, "and just what the heck does that mean?" Well, for starters it means accepting that ultimate control over whether or not you live or die resides in something outside of yourselves. It means a profound acceptance of death as a necessary, natural and expected part of life on Earth, not its negation. It means giving up the delusion that you can control the terms of human life on Earth.

Practically speaking, it means not trying to guarantee your food supply, as you humans do with your vast, intensive agricultural systems, but instead accepting that it is the sole perogative of the "gods" to decide if you or any other species will have enough to eat. It means not resorting to artificial measures to avoid death, as with your present clutching at synthetic drugs and medical technology in order to prolong your lives. It also means accepting that some of you might become "meat" for a tiger, grizzly bear, mountain lion, or shark, just as rabbits or deer become meat for you.

Given how deeply ingrained your myth is about how supposedly wonderful "civilization" is - how humans have lifted themselves up out of the "slime" to where they can aspire to control and dominate nature, indeed, life itself - it's likely that you aren't very thrilled about the idea of living in the "hands of the gods." Even when you do allow yourselves to recognize for a moment that you are doomed unless you can somehow break out of the trap of thinking there is no other way for you to live human life on Earth except by destroying it and yourselves, you still recoil from facing the changes you must make, believing that to live in any other, less destructive way would somehow be less than truly human.

So no doubt your mind is now rebelling against everything I've said. "But, but, but," you're angrily sputtering. "You're saying we should live just like any other animal!" That's right, I am. Because despite all of your supposed intelligence and technological skills, at base that's what you are - "just" another animal on Earth.

Consider this: Tens of millions of species are willing to accept the necessity of living in accord with the rules of life on Earth, but one species - yours - keeps stubbornly insisting it is too "special" to be limited to living within those rules, and in the process is obviously badly mucking things up for all life on Earth. Putting on your most rational, logical "hat," how likely do you think it is that all of those tens of millions of species are wrong - and that the one stubborn species is right - about the best way to live on Earth?

Consider this, too: You humans assume that all of the other tens of millions of forms of life on Earth must be less intelligent than you because they accept "living in the hands of the gods" and don't try to seize control of their fate like you have. But what if you have it backwards? What if the real measure of intelligence is not stubbornly insisting - in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that trying to control everything is the best way to live? What if true intelligence instead is accepting the necessity for "living in the hands of the gods" so that the ecstatic dance of life - including your own - might continue to flourish on Earth?

Is it possible that the lizard sunning itself on a rock, the lion lazing under a tree in the noonday heat, the whales singing in the oceans and the ravens playing on the wind know and accept an essential wisdom beyond your limited human concept of intelligence? I think so. I think they are in touch with dimensions of life on Earth that are far more wondrous than any technological achievement, no matter how grand - dimensions you have sadly lost touch with in your futile search for mere material security.

Let's be honest here: You humans are literally driving yourselves crazy with your essentially psychotic conceit that you can control life on Earth. The levels of human dis-ease, mental illness, addiction, dysfunctional, destructive and unsatisfying relationships, sadness, crime, hatred, fear, violence, "ethnic cleansing" and genocide, terrorism and war are all going through the ceiling as you keep frantically escalating your efforts to control everything even as you unsuccessfully struggle to keep up with fixing the messes you've made. This is "progress"? This is really better than "just" living as an animal - in your case, as a simple foraging animal? I don't think so.

Given the dismal track record of "progress" and "civilization" in procuring true human happiness, health and security, it is no wonder that so-called "savages" and "primitive" people around the world typically fiercely resisted the imposition of the alleged benefits of "civilization." Perhaps they are not so "backwards" after all? Perhaps they can see, as you cannot, that truly "the emperor has no clothes" - that "progress" and "civilization" are in fact a massive fraud? Perhaps they know what you have forgotten, that a truly graceful way of living human life on Earth can only be based on a profound acceptance of the need to live in the hands of the gods instead of pursuing the deranged - and ultimately disastrous - conceit that you can become gods yourselves?

There is even a lot of good, sound scientific evidence that living in the hands of the gods offers a way of human life on Earth that is far more healthy, graceful and happy than the frantic, destructive alienation currently driving you towards disaster. Anthropologists calculate that, on average, hunter-gatherers spend only 3 to 3-1/2 hours a day on meeting their needs for subsistence. The rest of their time is mostly spent hanging out, playing, napping, and other pleasant pastimes. And contrary to popular myth, "primitive" hunter-gatherers are (and were) generally much healthier than you so-called "civilized" folks and once they make it past the dangers of early childhood, typically live as long as you do. The archeaological record, for example, shows that humans lost 6 inches of height due to malnutrition when they began adopting agriculture as a way of life.

Perhaps the most important advantage to living in the hands of the gods is the enduring sense of embeddedness, the reassuring feel of always being "home," that comes from living life according to the natural rhythms of the life flowing about you, as opposed to your ever so modern alienation and estrangement, the constant unacknowledged pain of which drives you to drink and drugs, neurotic and destructive relationships, hatred and war, and worse. Indeed, giving up the disastrous conceit that you humans can manage and control life on Earth opens you up to wonders that are unimaginable to most of you now. The true gift of the experience of "embeddedness" that comes from living in the hands of the gods is that it frees you to reconnect with the immense wonder of nature and spirit. Most of you don't even realize what you've lost due to civilization and its relentless chatter and chasing after "things" - the easy ability to talk with animals, plants and, yes, even rocks, to move back and forth in time, and a host of other "miraculous" abilities. Which leads me to the final rule of life on Earth.

Rule No. 10 - There is much more to life than meets the [supposedly "civilized"] human eye.

It has been very sad to watch as your futile search for physical security has pulled you away from pursuing the true, inexhaustible wonders that life has to offer. Truly, there is so much more to life than just the material world - there are vast, endless realms of wonder and mystery to explore. There really is no need to worry that returning to living in the hands of the gods will somehow reduce you to a stupid, mindless way of life.

There is a way of truly human life on Earth far more healthy, graceful and balanced than the destructive alienation now driving you and much of the rest of life on Earth towards disaster, a way of life so powerfully connected to the unnoticed wonder that surrounds you that it can actually heal the immense devastation you've caused during your misguided attempts at so-called "human progress" and "civilization." But re-connecting with those wondrous dimensions of life and regaining those miraculous healing abilities - what you call "spiritual" - can only happen if you give up the delusion that you can control your fate, that you are somehow so special that you are exempt from the rules of life on Earth, and shut down the endless - and ultimately meaningless - chatter that fills your minds.

The damage you humans have caused to Earth during the course of your 10,000-year-long march of so-called human "civilization" and "progress" has now reached the point that even the most heroic physical (and by extension, political) measures will no longer be sufficient to stave off the environmental holocaust looming over you and the rest of life on Earth. Ecosystems around the world are starting to collapse now from the accumulated impacts of human activity, not 30 or 60 or 80 years from now when the pundits say human population growth will supposedly "stabilize." In other words, the level of global ecological damage you have caused has now reached a point so severe that the only thing that can save the present level of biodiversity (and quite possibly human life) on Earth is nothing short of a "miracle" - that is, the healing of Earth on a so-called "spiritual" level. But that is something that can only happen if you make a choice to return to "living in the hands of the gods."

So you humans have a fateful choice that you must quickly make: You can either continue on your inevitably disastrous course of vainly trying to become "masters" of your fate, or you can accept "living in the hands of the gods" as your hunter-gatherer forebears did AND as all of the rest of life on Earth does, and in doing so regain the world of miracles that you forsook for the glittering but ultimately useless - and deadly - world of material goodies.

Oneida Kincaid
(Originally written in December 2002, last revised on November 18, 2005.)

Note: The "seeing the whole universe in a sheet of paper" exercise is from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Dan said...

Dear Oneida Kincaid,

Hello! I stumbled upon your website www.awok.com and searched for you thereafter to give you a message. Your message is heartfelt, sincere, non-combative and reasoning. Therefore, I take the time to briefly respond with a comment.

As wonderful as the ideas you present are they are based in "problem" thinking. As you quoted Einstein as saying we cannot use the same thinking we used to solve the problem that we used to create the problem. The problem is HUMAN thinking and ACTION. And it goes to an even more fundamental level. It is power that is the issue. For even the Creator of the universe (think theoretically if you do not believe in a personal Creator) could not solve the problem if he could not implement his thoughts despite the will and influence of any and all other entities.

Obviously, a twin issue is RIGHT to power or sovereignty. Who has the right to implement thinking into action? Who has the right to give and enforce law, setting standards of right and wrong for all thinking beings? Only the entity which has the right will be able to command the respect of all humble, peaceful and reasonable people.

Quality and type of Wisdom is another issue. Without a superlative wisdom, wisdom that sees from a vantage point higher than nationality, culture, individual personality and time and space, the problems cannot be properly addressed.

Proper motive is another core issue. Without an entity that is without corruption and the ability to be corrupted but that is motivated solely by selflessness born out of pure LOVE as that of a parent there will be deviation in the implementation of the philosophy. Even the possibility of deviation will mean eventual doom to any program of governance and implementation of any type of thinking.

The Bible explains that God is by rights of Creatorship the Universal Sovereign. (Revelation 4:11) His main attributes are Love, Justice, Wisdom and Power.

A universal issue raised in Eden (see Genesis chapter 3 in the Bible) shows that his right to sovereignty was challenged by a spirit son (later called Satan) and our original human parents. God allowed time for the questions raised to be answered: 1) Is God's rulership the best? and 2) Is humankind better off ruling itself?

The Bible shows that when this issue is answered in front of all intelligent creation then God will consider it settled. For the good of all he will forceably re-assume power over the Earth and all creation in the universe. Bringing the Earth back into balance and all things marred by man's experimental self-rule will be the agenda for the first 1000 years of the cleanup agency God will use. (Revelation 20-21:4) Two names for this agency are "The Kingdom of God" and "The Kingdom of Heavens" which Jesus taught all humans should pray for. (Matthew 6:9, 10; Luke 11:2)

The Bible assures sincere persons like you and me that God will not allow humans to destroy the Earth. (Revelation 11:18; Isaiah 45:11, 12, 18, 19)

Today any person that wants to be a part of what God is doing can learn what God wants him or her to do to support his sovereignty.

If you want more info just go to www.watchtower.org and "contact us".

Best Wishes.

Dan
hyperscreen@gmail.com

10:02 AM  

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