Posted by stublog on Jun 21, 2011 in ethics
The history of humanity — our “high story” — has in the past been an accounting of warfare between families, tribes, clans, kingdoms, nations, and empires. But we are now engaged in a much more subtle, deeply-rooted, and serious battle. It is a battle for our moral and ethical evolution, and its outcome will determine whether we are capable of safeguarding life on this Earth, or even whether life on Earth will survive at all.
Our physical survival is closely linked to our moral evolution. In fact, the latter predicates the former. Our chances of physical survival, and the hope for the survival of almost all other species on this beautiful planet, are determined by the state of our interpersonal and inter-species morality, and the ethical guidelines that evolve from them.
By any standards, we are not doing well. Although we pride ourselves as having achieved an advanced stage of technological development, ethically and emotionally we are still a primitive species, too powerful for our limited moral controls. We treat our fellow human beings and almost all other animal species with great disrespect, too often accompanied by acts of extreme and barbaric cruelty. We rape, we pillage, we make war. We destroy entire ecosystems for the personal profit of a few.
However, but it is not my purpose to list here all the deficiencies of our species. On the positive side, there are probably more people alive today who feel great anguish at the state of the world than have ever been alive before. There is a good chance that you already are painfully aware of humanity’s egregious failings.
My purpose here is to point you towards the arena in which this moral struggle will be fought, and the ways in which the battle will be waged. I suggest that the main arena is now and has always been within ourselves, an internal struggle to overcome our personal greeds, hatreds, blindnesses, and delusions, to liberate ourselves from our personal unconscious conditionings, as well as to awaken from our collective hypnoses.
The secondary struggle is to take whatever personal progress we may have made, out into the world. This is the work of the Warrior activist, those countless small and large social, political, and charitable acts of compassion inspired by our common spirituality.
Sometimes people confuse the primary struggle with the secondary, and resort to cruel and extreme acts to achieve their ends. This is unfortunate. The primary battle ground is spiritual and psychological, not military or political. Compassion for others must be the prime motivation, not the outcome of a battle or a revolution dictated by a dogma.
The inner struggle is within ourselves; the outer struggle is with society. The outer struggle cannot be successfully concluded without victory on the inner plane. This makes our revolution primarily a spiritual and not a political one. Our task is to awaken and liberate the entire world from suffering. It is the struggle of this time. We are making progress, but slowly, and the forces of destruction are close by.
If we succeed, there will be a future for life on this planet. But if we fail….
Posted by Stuart Hertzog on Mar 14, 2008 in culture
A new personal, social, cultural, and spiritual ethos — a second Renaissance — is urgently needed at this crucial time. Through rampant industrialisation and increasing human population, we are in process of destroying the very basis of life on this planet. Valiant attempts have been made by many well-intentioned people to halt and reverse the increasing destruction of species and ecosystems, but so far these efforts have not succeeded.
Although it has have some success in changing people’s awareness, the environmental movement has not yet reached its goal of genuine ecological sustainability. Enormous amounts of toxic pollution are being released into the world each day, and neither personal activity nor our collective politics have been able to reduce this. Like many others, I am now convinced that no technological “magic bullet” can perform this modern miracle.
The peace and social justice movements also have not yet fulfilled their ultimate goals. Despite the millions who marched world-wide in opposition to the needless and illegitimate invasion of Iraq, the operation went ahead. Trillions of dollars are wasted each year on armaments while millions go hungry or without potable water. Wars rage throughout Africa and the Middle East. Homeless people live on the streets of affluent cities. Endless hate attacks human beings and species at the very root of their existence.
Personal and cultural change
I believe that nothing less than a profound personal and cultural change is required. To become a Lover of Life is to value life for its own sake, and to accept with love the inherent dignity and right to exist of all beings. This fundamentally eco-centric philosophy puts the entire web of life and not the selfish human ego, at the centre of the moral universe.
This is essentially a personal struggle, but it also has a collective aspect. Somehow — impossible though it may seem — we must in large numbers achieve a massive personal and cultural breakthrough in consciousness and ethics. We must all become Lovers of Life to safeguard life on Earth. Otherwise, despite the illusion of material “progress,” we have no future.
The task at hand is vital and urgent. Climate scientists are telling us that the window of opportunity during which we can make positive change is rapidly closing. The human species must evolve to a new level of being and understanding if the rich variety of life is to survive on this fragile planet.
Synthesis of spiritual wisdom
This ongoing collection of articles is my personal attempt to explore and integrate our collective spiritual heritage and cultural wisdom, to create a new cultural and spiritual synthesis that will enable us to coexist peacefully with Nature. It is a “work-in-progress” that perhaps one day will form the basis of a book, perhaps even give birth to a movement of the same name.
I hope you find the thoughts and offerings on this site useful in your own efforts to secure personal and planetary salvation. I wish us all well in this, and hope we may join together in a collective cultural renaissance that will protect and augment life and living creatures everywhere; for our own sake, for the sake of all that lives, and for future generations yet unborn.
As an activist who has experienced the urgent demands of an environmental campaign, I know how easy it is to label one’s opponents as uncaring, insensitive, greedy, or misguided. Stepping back from the fray and focussing on the vast and inexorable sweep of geological time, cools the emotions and brings both clear seeing and compassion.
Patience takes a long time to long to learn, yet contemporary Western society is all about instant gratification. We want something and expect to get it immediately or we become annoyed. Our frustration and anger are based always on a desire to achieve a specific outcome, which we often demand must be delivered immediately or very soon. We are the spoiled children of affluence, and self-centredness appears to be increasing in today’s society.
But patience is based on a genuine detachment plus the loving intelligence of compassionate understanding. It is not the hedonic indifference of self-obsession. This may sound pompous and preachy, but over the years I’ve come to realise that life works that way.
Inside the Tyrrell Museum
For me, the experience that started the move towards detachment came during a visit to the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, and then to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the south-eastern corner of the province.
Seeing the whole history of our small planet laid out before me, from the original condensation of the gas cloud after the formation of the Universe, through the agonisingly slow and patient development of life on Earth, gave me for the first time an insight into the enormous magnitude of geological time, and how recent and fragile is our human life form and its fleeting civilisations.
Just inside the entrance to the Tyrrell museum is a tall display board, facing back towards the entrance. You have to turn around to see it. When you do you face a similarly-shaped window with a view of the side of the ravine the Milk River has cut into the prairie, in which the town of Drumheller sits. On the display board, mirroring the view through the window, is a photograph neatly labelled with the geological epochs in which each layer of sand and rock was laid down.
The ravine is, I don’t know, maybe a couple of hundred feet deep, and just a few feet below the top is a black band, the Iridium Layer, after which no dinosaur fossils are found. Our human civilisation occupies the top few inches. The hundreds of feet of sandstone deposits below this, hit me like a hammer. What a vast amount of time! What enormous changes and leaps of life forms! My mind was boggled.
15 billion years old
This universe is by modern calculations about 15 billion years old; this Solar System and Earth around 4.5 billion years. And human history? …. maybe a few tens of thousands of years? In the history of Earth there have been many great discontinuities, cataclysmic events that wiped out billions of species, whole phyla of evolution that took million of years to develop, disappeared in a geological instant.
Inside the museum, real dinosaur skeletons are arranged in life-sized dioramas, razor-toothed Tricerotops gnawing at the flanks of a giant Edmontosaurus. Here is the battle for survival, writ large. Around them is arranged on displays and dioramas the story of life on Earth… the cooling of the planet… the arrival of the single-celled bacteria… the lichens and mosses… the Age of the Fish… the Insects… the emergence of animals from the sea… it’s almost too much to grasp.
Afterwards, visiting Dinosaur Park and walking on the bones of our Ancestors — my life has not been the same since then. This Universe is vast, and we humans live on one small planet in a remote arm of an average-size galaxy. So what if another piddling species proliferates and dies out? Life proliferates, creating countless billions of evolving life forms on countless billions of planets, I believe. Before this vast panorama, I am nothing, a replaceable unit, a brief flash of consciousness. But as a living creature, I am connected to all that lives.
It’s easy to be wrong
Of course, it’s important to fight the Good Fight. What concerned people are doing all over the world is meaningful and brave. Yet without an overview of the vastness of life and the patience of time, we can get caught up in the heat of the moment and become angry, point fingers, say hurtful things, and commit cruel acts. It’s so easy to be short-sighted and wrong — I’m guilty of that almost all the time.
But as I go through life, I realise that so many of our fears are based on the fear of death, of absolute darkness and annihilation. Perhaps the Christian church’s historic suppression of the concept of reincarnation and the ensuing scientific materiality that denies anything beyond the material and measurable, have cut us off conceptually from the flow of life, trapping us as individuals into the desperation of isolation, which means that we must solve all our problems and get our gratifications instantly, in this moment, right here-and-now.
For the true patience of detachment, we must go beyond our own primitive beliefs. How to do that, is the struggle we face as both activists, and as human beings.