For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matt 6:21,26)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Being Here and Now

Faced with oil depletion and global climate change, many people feel the challenge and urgency of finding solutions that will allow us to meet our energy needs. Although there is plenty of coal left, those potential CO2 emissions would push us well beyond the orange threat level and into the red highest-risk zone, past the tipping point (450-500 ppm) where total manmade CO2 begins to exceed the natural amount, and the actual CO2 in the air would be more than twice what’s natural. Confronted by this constraint, some who have faith in engineering suggest that nuclear energy is a good solution for meeting our needs. But there are many reasons we don’t need nuclear powerplants.

One reason we don’t need nuclear energy is because uranium is also a limited nonrenewable resource. And its mining, refining, construction, operation, and disposal all require substantial amounts of petroleum fuels, and are all accomplished by devices and processes which are largely ill-suited to electric power. And of course the disposal problem is nowhere near a solution.

But there is an even better reason why we don’t need nuclear energy. Fortunately, the human race can be happy, healthy, and comfortable without oil, coal or nuclear energy. We can live well using just the daily and seasonal energy allotted to us by the Sun which energizes the ecosphere, and by Spirit which (you may trust) enlivens the Earth. While this may seem risky to us who are currently well ensconced in the fossil-fuel culture, what we could lose is not as important as it seems.

The truth is that technologies and techniques old and new all entail diminishing returns. For example, consider the refrigerator paradox. Refrigerators, which diligently keep our food cold and fresh, are nonetheless foiled by our laziness when we always buy more than we can use because we can put it all in the fridge for later. Inevitably, some of it always ends up as moldy sludge in the back of the crisper. The fact that you can put it in the compost pile is not a good enough reason for buying food grown so long ago and far away when it could have been perfectly well composted where it was.

Another reason we don’t need nuclear energy is because we matter as much to Spirit within the Earth as the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We were created here by means of evolution. We belong here. We have our own place in the world, and no one else’s. We are a part of Gaia. So we can live here like we’ll live forever, and also as if we may die tomorrow. And as a species we can live near enough to forever, even though each human could die tomorrow. This kind of wisdom can counterbalance the knowledge of Good and Evil, and its fruits which contain both. I don’t think there would be much wisdom in living forever in these bodies.

Those religious principles and practices which nurture our higher selves, and which restrain our self-righteousness and other weaknesses, help us find this kind of wisdom and spiritual stamina. Turning away from more childish and narcissistic religious ways is a great way to create an opening for one’s higher self, and is the kind of action that sidesteps reaction. Maslow’s physical/emotional/thoughtful/spiritual hierarchy of needs is a great piece of continuing revelation which helps each person create a full and balanced life. And we can always do unto others as we would be done unto, which may include considering another’s wishes from their point of view as well as our own.

Every morning when we get up and go to work, we think of ourselves as discrete beings, individuals living out there in the world outside of our skin, without really noticing our bodies’ constant exchange with the world outside of our skins, trading of air, water, food, matter, and energy in both directions. The world moves inside us as much as we move around inside of the world.

Distracted by life’s ordinariness, hypnotized by TV, our failure to notice ordinary blessings helps us to forget what really matters. Why else would we trust nuclear power plants--more engineering for diminishing returns--rather than the sun, the rivers, and the trees, which after all must be the same sun, and the same kind of rivers and trees, as graced Eden. We don’t need oil, coal or nuclear energy to meet our needs for clean air and water, healthy food, and protection from bad weather. We do need an Earth which is healthy, and we need an ecology with plenty of bugs, frogs, trees, etc., all of whom definitely don’t need any more pollution from oil, coal or nuclear, or their artifacts and byproducts.

We don’t need these extra, anachronistic fuels because Spirit, immanent throughout Mother Earth who yet endures despite our abuse, breathes life into the Garden we must live in. And if we matter as much as the birds and beasts of the field, then surely we can gather our share as need be. For we can have our share just as they can. After all, our death rate is always the same as theirs—one per person. And in fact we cannot have our share unless all others have theirs, because without fields, trees, bugs, and birds there would be nothing for us. We each fear there might not be enough for my, er, our individual needs, especially later. But I don’t need more than my share. And we don’t need more than our share. There will be enough for whatever number of people is right for the world, in all the small places in the huge Earth where people eat and sleep. We are one of many kinds of creatures in the Garden. And people can only live if the human race can live within its means.

We won’t need nuclear powerplants when we can create in ourselves the Faith that God as Spirit which inspires the Earth will know the natural homes and niches for the peoples of the Earth. And our share of the food and water will be enough for all creatures and families to live together in this community which is the world. We are kin with the birds of the air, with the lilies whose raiment is more glorious than Solomon’s, and with the grasses which are thrown into the fire. We can live as their kin. We can share niches, symbiotically improvising fractal bio-networks on the gifts of sun, air, water and food that bless and nourish us all. We can just live in each present moment, alive to each piece of Now. You can’t cross the same river twice.

Now of course our human Now contains what has happened, is happening, and implies what may happen. Living in this moment means awareness about the ways that the past supports the present, and how the future awakens the moments as they follow one another. Just as musicians play one sound at a time, while having the whole song in their mind from beginning to end. And while the song is built on pieces of the eternal Now, each playing can only happen once, and becomes a bit of the particular history of that particular song.

And one clock-second is a small local moment, while a day is a deeper one. Deeper yet are moments of moons and years. Together these cornerstones of time cradle us in fundamental rhythms of light and dark, hot and cold, wet and dry, forming an eternal impartial and sustaining Moment. Within this living moment certain events have happened to happen and others have not, so that some aspects of Now are more particular and less inevitable, like the particular creatures which evolution happened to create, or the actual meals made from certain plants and animals.

Perhaps, if I can Be Here Now, I am as close to Eden as makes no difference. In the story about the eviction from Eden, we hear about the Tree of Life, and also the forbidden Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil with its fatal fruit. Eve was tricked into thinking that this knowledge would make her wise, rather than, as it turned out, afraid and ashamed. We must be afraid of death if we are willing to buy too much insurance, like building nuclear power plants just in case our children might want to use so much energy someday. And we must be ashamed and distrustful of our bodies if we have to cover them up with itchy fig leaves and live like we’re not in them. But we are also the natural animals who were created in the male and female image of God in the first chapter of Genesis. We can reclaim this birthright if we wish.

After Adam blamed Eve for his decision, God made him work to take care of her and the kids, so no more carefree hunter-gathering. Then we get further from Eden when the farmer son (Cain) kills the herder son (Abel). And before you know it, we have factory farming and famine. But you can’t push the river. And when you can live by going along with the river, why resist? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But abstention from needless efforts generates no reaction. We can choose to trust the river of Life. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt. 16:25)

Can we live in Faith that we each belong to, of, within the world while we are here? Can we trust that there is a place for each of us to be in spacetime? Can we experience our lives so deeply that our experiences, contentment, and joy transcend the calendar? Appreciation for our blessings Now is another reason we don’t need oil, coal or nuclear. (Economic ‘demands’ are mostly about seeing the glass as half-empty.) Can we fulfill our lives by being the best ‘me’ each of us (and each family, town, etc.) can be? Can we confess that denial and meannesses large and small (whether towards ourselves or another creature) contaminate our experiences, and dim our souls even when they ensure longer physical survival?

Another reason why we don’t need nuclear power is because it can cause cancer. One symptom of nuclear energy is the tumors and other cancers directly caused by various atomic bombs and nuclear tests and accidents, as well as by ‘normal’ mining and manufacturing. And nuclear power itself—its  philosophy, design and use—is a symptom of an unhealthy society, which like a spoiled child insists on all its demands being met, such as insisting on meeting a desire for extra light or TV by any means necessary.

Cancer is a disease of excessive and disproportionate growth. Many people think our industrial capitalistic system’s preoccupation with quantities of money and financial growth, rather than the humane qualities of complete lives, is an unhealthy and evil dead end. The love of money is the root of all evil. 1Timothy 6: 10  And ours isn’t the only culture which spoils the rich and abuses the poor, feeding disproportionate growth. A society or species which thinks it must keep getting bigger is not contented. It’s not in a harmonious homeostatic equilibrium.

There are some thought-provoking parallels between cancer cells and humans who have been ‘civilized’ by the carcinogenic growth culture. When cells in our bodies become cancerous, they go through a sequence of changes that reflect the stages of the cancer. First, the hapless cell begins to experience biochemical corruptions in its internal communication patterns, typically associated with overall bodily conditions such as acidity, high blood sugar or cortisol, accumulated environmental toxins, etc. Not all cells are equally resistant to molecular toxicities, and concentrations vary throughout the body. After 2-3 internal stages, these pre-cancerous cells’ chemical communication with other cells and with the intercellular matrix also starts to break down. Then there are several more stages where the subtle communication patterns among cells, organs, and the body as a whole, start to go awry. Moreover, the microscopic breakdown accelerates as the biochemical influence of the unhealthy cells adds to the preexisting biochemical stresses. Sort of like global free trade.

There are many ways cancer cells differ from normal healthy ones. One key corruption is in apoptosis, which is the natural time of death for each cell, yielding to its replacement. Cancerous cells somehow refuse this natural pruning, as though each thinks it is the tissue, organ, or body. Actually, we all have cancer all the time, as individual cells here and there succumb to any of the stressors listed above. But successful cancer cells somehow evade our natural immune defenses, which in healthy people usually nip the selfish cells in the bud. Eventually, the cancer may become malignant, and then the tumor (which is after all just a symptom of the underlying unhealthy conditions) appropriates its own blood supply, depriving and displacing normal cells. At some point in this process, the cancer  becomes noticeable on our macrosopic level, and often fatal. According to traditional healing principles, your body is always speaking to you in its own way. And if you ignore its whispers (little aches and pains) it will begin to speak more and more emphatically, with symptoms becoming increasingly acute, until it eventually has to shout out with a debilitating or fatal illness such as cancer.

Similarly, nowadays many people in many societies experience various kinds of corruptions in autonomy and communication, within themselves, with others, and with societal institutions. Schools or churches where many children learn to obey rather than think, and are poorly protected from abusive authorities or peers, can be harmful to individuals just as stress or acidity are harmful to our cells. And our nation and species is as greedy for resources as any malignancy.

Curiously, though the fruit of the tree tasted of both Good and Evil, men’s obsession with Evil seems more evident than their devotion to Good. Devotion to fearing inevitable death displaces Living, Now. Is blaming women for (their fear of) Evil a semiconscious ruse so they can get most of the Good for themselves? But the original motivation for getting the goods is to give them to women, as part of the courtship rituals where mates evaluate fitness. However, it’s easier for men to forget that fitness is more than just getting a mate.

And gender polarization sabotages solutions. Women’s internalized repression prevents many from reclaiming the deep quiet yin power that grounds and centers men’s desires. True women’s liberation happens in the hearts and minds of women, and it is not about working jobs like men but about reclaiming our power as sisters at the heart of community and our responsibilities to every woman’s children. It is the birthright of soldiers’ mothers to veto war. It is the role of mothers to care for and manage families and farmsteads, and to make sure that economic activity best meets a community’s actual needs. And it is the birthright of all to know and balance in ourselves the maleness of fight or flight and the femaleness of mending and tending.

And nowadays, the health and sustainability of families, gardens, and farms require tenacious attention to crucial and elemental issues which are far afield from standard home economics. Such issues may be a very long way from our own hearth, like nuclear powerplants and bombs, yet they are as near as some fraction of one’s lamplight. Issues such as how much energy we really don’t need when you get right down to it. “Don’t be nice, be real;” in other words, be true to yourself while being considerate of others.

The true stories of some miraculous cancer healings almost always involve a radical change in the patient who won’t wait another minute to immediately drop everything else they have been doing and start working 100% on their heart’s desire, no matter how short the doctors say that time will be. After all, the future hasn’t happened yet, and 100% can get you in the River. Can one’s bio-electro-chemistry be so altered by such epiphanies that one’s cancer cells then start choosing cooperative behavior? (Even if the cancer cells somehow know they will die then?) Can being true to your soul, reclaiming your integrity, actually be so healthy, even deeply and quietly pleasurable? What is your heart’s desire?

So unity with Nature may mean simply trusting in our Earth’s diverse niches, nests, and nooks in the web of life. Trust can allow us to see niches that would be invisible to one who is ashamed and afraid rather than simply aware and alert. So it is in our power, as individual cells in the body of the world, to Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the care thereof. (Matt.16:34)

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I love asking really good questions. And listening to thoughtful answers.