Loving Kindness Or . . .

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”— in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.”

“A blow from the whip raises a welt, but a blow from the tongue will break bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as by the tounge.”
Ben Sira 28.17

“Love is kind”
1 Corinthians 13


Why are the wise in one accord in recommending that we yoke ourselves as individuals to the discipline of loving kindness? Why do the teachings of non-violence and compassion exist at the heart of every modern world religion?

If we choose not to follow loving kindness we yoke ourselves to its opposite: hateful meanness. Today, as we start year one of this new United States, I would like to take a moment to look at this issue. Accusing whole peoples of evil never ends well. It is hard, the way I see things, not to expect the most probable outcome of our existing political trends to lead to world war. I cannot help but wonder what the odds are of another twelve months of world peace, such as it is. Things are scary now, there are many active theaters of war but it can quickly get so much worse. I wonder where we will be in the first week of January 2019 and ask all my readers to join me in praying for peace everyday this year. However that may play out, it is worthwhile now, before the bombing starts, to talk as clearly as we can about what is true and what are lies concerning the human condition. We all know the names of history’s most recent mass murderers: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. They each managed to destroy tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of human beings – one at a time. There is an interesting truth in the kill numbers of modern weaponry. It is worth saying in the daylight that if nuclear weapons are used in our next international orgy of violence, history might very well add Trump to that short list. It is something I wish a few more people were considering and taking seriously. That, however, is something not a single person of goodwill can make happen. The best we can hope to do is make circumstances such that it is easier to choose love over hate. People are free to choose loving kindness or not. Some will choose to be the meanest, most hate-filled SOB they can. I believe that what the wise are suggesting by urging us to loving kindness is that this is not a good choice for the person involved, the people their lives will touch, or, ultimately, the world itself.

As a species we now understand, in some fairly impressive detail, just how the inter-generational abuse we are prone to plays out. The human brain is made to take very special note of those things that most threaten its existence. When the brain is traumatized those memories become a load-stone in the psyche for the rest of a person’s life. The emotional, sexual, and physical abuse of the young, for example, do you think the brain ever really forgets any detail of these events? The psychological professions have pretty good models for how the brain is traumatized, how memories of trauma are repressed, and what effects this whole system has on personalities. The psychiatric professions have pretty good models for how the chemical makeup of the memory mechanism malfunctions so that the victims of trauma re-experiencing the memories of the traumatic events as if they were happening again, here and now in real time. The repression happens because the pain is too overwhelming to live with, the repression fails to deal with the pain because the brain never really forgets.

There is a lot to say concerning war trauma which veterans suffer. There is a lot to say about how to turn a human being into a killer by studying the techniques of boot camp. These are important and there is great hope for such people in our newer understanding of trauma. Yet these are effects. War comes out of the heart but what put it there? To get to the causes we need to take a look at childhood trauma.

Children want to be good and please their parents. Self worth and dignity are learned from the respect others show us, particularly those closest to us. Children are trying to earn that respect, first from their family members and later from their society. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong. I would expect most of my readers have had the chance to see a mother who blows up at her child, thrashing them with her adult anger and adult tongue, if not fists, belts, and all the rest. Emotional child abuse is the act of forcing adult emotions into a child’s body where they act as foreign material since children are incapable of assimilating them. Doing so lets a person scar that child for life, just as they were. If instead of love you offer hate, if instead of kindness you offer cruelty, you create the conditions for that child’s future suicide or, if they are the type of person that turns anger outward, their future acts of violence and mayhem. So tricky! You can kill people with your tongue and never go to jail! This is what the world-soul is all about; this long, sad tale of our slavery to hatred and meanness. The most insidious part is that if a child is subject to such treatment long enough, they will come to believe they deserve it. In their heart of hearts they will believe they are evil. Children are not capable of the psychological objectivity required to recognize they are in the hands of a sick parent or guardian. In fortunate cases they avoid adolescent suicide and the adult they become will find the inner resources to confront the abuse and internalized abuser. This is the destroyer we have been discussing in these essays.

Why are the wise in one accord in recommending that we yoke ourselves as individuals to the discipline of loving kindness? The opposite option is to allow the hateful meanness that lives inside of you to rule your life. Then you will enjoy exploding in rage at young children, torturing them for the innocence and happiness they enjoy. There was a whole You Tube channel devoted to films of children suffering things like strapping them down and washing their mouths out with toxic chemicals. Become an explosive bitch and you will get to bask in the knowledge that everyone around you is terrified of you. The problem is your world will become smaller and smaller until the fear you are projecting bites back – and it will. Soon you are living only to control other people through your emotional blackmail, imposing your will whenever it really counts. Choose to feed the hate inside you instead of gentleness and kindness and you create a monstrous appetite that cannot be satisfied. The teachings say it is like trying to slack your thirst by drinking sea water. It gets worse and worse until you can never let a chance go by to target someone’s dignity and send your poison into the soft spot inside where each of us can doubt our self worth.

But why limit yourself to children? You can, if you are careful, find adults with unhealed wounds of their own to push around too. We see such people in our nursing homes after a life long devoted to hate. We see them in marriages when one person is terrified of the other. You can get a real kick out of frightening people, insulting them, making them feel like failures. It gives the abuser a false sense that they are in control of the whole world. We see them attacking low wage waiters and waitresses, clerks and managers at department stores, anyone who can’t hit back.

Here is the thing about this: these assholes and bullies are spiritual cowards. Don’t be fooled just because some of them like to hang out in religions. Don’t be fooled when they wash their violence in the lie that they only do what they do to others “for their own good.” The bully does not have the courage to face the pain within. They refuse to take on the human responsibility to try and control the beast that lurks in the human heart. Each of us must make that choice, day in and day out. The sum total of our choices is what makes up the world-soul.

Repressions Or . . .

There is no script for what our societies are going through. There is no map for this territory. Though groups of human beings have caused massive ecological damage to their surroundings throughout our history, the size and extent of industrialization’s infrastructure is unprecedented on the earth. We are becoming, to use a phrase from Marvel, the destroyers of worlds. Or, to take another popular reference, we are engaged in Star Wars where some are building the death star, the ultimate weapon capable of destroying whole planets at a time. To state it as clearly as possible we could say that the human race is becoming a monster.

Last week we touched on the capability of the human brain to record carefully the details around whatever traumatic experiences it has been through. Those events which threaten its continued existence are prioritized by the algorithm of evolutionary fitness which developed it. The same survival priority has also created the brains ability to hide the knowledge of those detailed traumatic memories from the ego, the self-conscious part of the human experience, if the ego would be incapacitated by them. Again, the priority is to get on with the necessary tasks of day-in and day-out living: finding food, shelter, mates, and maintaining the body in working order. To accomplish this animals have developed the ability to learn and the most powerful lessons are those that concern surviving.

The question of future survival is exactly what our ecological sciences are warning us is no longer assured. Though we are acting as though we do not know this, the facts are so well dispersed among the mass media that very few people are completely unaware. This leaves our social lives in a condition somewhat parallel to someone who is in denial about their childhood abuse. Such people are left doing what they can in the day-in and day-out tasks of their lives but are handicapped by unacknowledged fears, angers, and pain. Psychologists say the body of such people remembers the abuse, the brain of such people has seared the lessons into memory but the memory remains inaccessible to the ego. These repressions mold the ego which needs to navigate around the hot spots, placing it in the state of cognitive dissonance where they both know and do not know what is real for them. In order to avoid thinking the thoughts that would uncover the truth of their past, at some level of consciousness they remain obsessed with that past pain. This allows them to remain vigilant in their task of never allowing the thought that cannot be thought.

When the pain of such dual awareness gets to be too much, such people need to find relief in drugs, fanaticisms, violence, and other less than optimal behaviors. Are our societies that different?

The ongoing and accelerating sixth extinction is weighing heavily on our shoulders. As the evidence of climate change’s loss of climate stability accumulates and our minds take note of it, this too weighs heavily on our shoulders. As the coral reefs die our bodies respond viscerally since the threat of a dying ocean brings atavistic fears that the source of life itself might become poisoned by our hands. We have seen Venus and we have seen Mars, both providing mirrors of what earth could be. Though we may pretend as we go about our daily business that these things are not bothering us deeply, we cannot deny the evidence of our senses. Pondering and understanding the evidence of our senses is exactly what the human brain has evolved to do.

As hard as all of this is on the minds of every human being alive today, it is not the worst part of it. The worst knowledge of all is how simple the solution is to turn our trend lines into life supporting ones instead of the current life killing ones. We all know what we need to do. We need to stop burning fossil fuels.

Here is the thought that cannot be thought in modern civilized discourse. To think it involves so many unquestioned assumptions by which our existing social arrangements are maintained that we cower from it in fear. We need to recognize that Exxon is the enemy. We need to recognize that Exxon is not a few humans but an artificial construct created by our hands but now alive with a life of its own. Imagine for a moment that all the stockholders of Exxon awoke tomorrow morning from a shared nightmare in which they saw the state of the earth one hundred years from now and it shook them all to the bone. Imagine every stockholder suddenly insisting that the board of directors immediately develop a plan to ween the world off its oil addiction. This imaginative scenario is one in which human beings take the maximum responsibility for their choices and use their maximum courage to stand for what is right. What would be the outcome? Nothing. It is not legally possible for Exxon to do any such thing. It must only do that which will bring maximum profit to its stockholders. This is what I mean by we have created an artifact that now has a life of its own.

I do not want to be misunderstood as just another left-leaning guy railing against corporations. Corporations are simply collections of human beings, some of whom have committed evil acts and made evil decisions and will again, most of whom have not and will not. Most human beings are well intentioned. Human beings have a deep need to give back to the societies in which they have received all they have needed to survive. We are moved by the generosity of the hand that gives us our existence and this whole beautiful earth on which to experience it. It provokes a desire to give something back, to make something of the many gifts we have been given. Corporations simply harness that natural desire, though in the environment of truth-repressions they do tend to deliver shoddy, if not down right destructive, results.

Exxon is, of course, just the whipping pole I chose as an example because it is the largest corporation on earth and the one currently in the driver’s seat of United States foreign policy making. Any number of other organizations could just as easily be analyzed along the same lines. This is what we are up against and so far it is proving to be an enemy to future well-being we are wholly incapable of defeating. How can we defeat the Nazi threat of our generation when it is not concentrated in a country or a particular political ideology but pervades our entire consciousness? We are so enamored by the loud bells and whistles of our modern technology that it has become impossible for most individuals to imagine living together any other way. We are enslaved.

No one in their right mind would choose to create the conditions of a massive die off of both people and animals for the sake of a smartphone. Ok, that is a bit flippant but it captures something I think is very real about our situation. First get clear about the die off our sciences are warning us is heading our way – fast. The existing population of close to eight billion human beings may very well become a population of maybe one billion by end of this century. The diversity of animal species could very well be diminished by fifty to eighty percent. Plant life does not escape these dire predictions either. The massive forest die off already happening across many parts of the world (due to Bark Beetles and such) is expected to only increase in a warming world. The desperate slash and burn techniques for acquiring arable land able to grow crops has, as of today, no counter force by which its accelerating rates might be curbed. Lacking predictable climate stability removes the ability to reliably grow food anyway. Those educated in the ecological sciences realize I could go on and on like this but these quick sketches are enough to indicate the die off we are involved in accelerating with our every choice to try and solve our ecological problems in any fashion other than stopping our burning of fossil fuels. Second, the smartphone was not an arbitrary choice of modern high technology. Social scientists and psychologists have made it very clear that allowing Apple and the other giants to sell these technologies to our children has had a profoundly negative effect on their self-esteem and attention spans. This might be an Apple future generations will wish we did not bite. We are looking at the second generation raised on screens and finding the number of people who read serious books about serious matters such as ecology (not to mention war and peace) has plummeted frighteningly. As a society we seem to have lost the ability to retain memories. Stories of great import hit the news wire and then are never heard about again. Where is the in-depth follow-up and postmortem on our crises by which we might learn something from them? (as a citizen do you personally even know how much national treasure the United States spent in 2017 dealing with climate change influenced extreme weather events? How much did Houston cost, that hub of tough talking Texans and oil?) This is the evidence I present for consideration and debate. These are the real world, on the ground facts that need to be answered and not evaded.

I am just a computer engineer, a systems scientist of sorts with a love of reading and a colorful past. I have no letters behind my name, no organizations backing up my words. What do I have? Just some tears and fears that do not let me deny what I have learned in my studies. No one in their right mind would choose to create the conditions of a massive die off of both people and animals for the sake of a smartphone. That is so obvious to me. What it shows me is that most people right now are not in their right minds because most people refuse to be put out by such considerations, refuse the cost of personal suffering such insight entails. Most people, it seems, have chosen to live instead in the lands of childish make-believe, hoping some big parent (be it our father president on earth or our father religious in heaven) will come and fix everything. No, not childish make-believe. We are into something much darker than that where every perversion and deviance is celebrated as a way forward, as if it were a blow for liberty and human rights. Shutting our eyes, closing our ears, muting our voices, we resemble nothing so much as the three monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, and speak of no evils. This might be a viable strategy for dealing with problems that are seemingly so much larger than anything individuals can address, but I worry it is not. I think denial ultimately fails because of the nature of trauma processing within the brains we have, brains Demitry Orlov humbly refers to as Monkey Brains 2.0. This is what has lead me to propose Mindful Ecology as an alternative approach.

Human beings are not powerless before the suicidal impulses that can be planted within them. However, dealing with them requires that we recognize the power that human beings have to make choices. That power lies only within individuals, not within magical father projections or group-think run organizations. Recognizing the power of choice clears the air. As sad as it might seem, you simply do not have the power to make good choices for other people, try as you might by whatever authoritarian enchantments you try. You do have the power to make your own choices. Once you become real clear that it is the burning of fossil fuels that is at the heart of what is ailing us, then you become naturally empowered to act on that knowledge in your own individual way. In the last analysis there is nothing else. In the last analysis, nothing else is needed.

The Mistake Button Or . . .

“Religion, I have come to believe, is designed to be placed on others; relationship is designed to be placed on ourselves. When your religion makes others look like the circus midget cleaning out the monkey cages, but you look like Aundrea the Lion Tamer, then it is nothing more than a shallow understanding of the deeper ways of God. You are truly looking into a mirror darkly, seeing only what you want to see and never questioning the notion that you may be wrong. I wanted to be able to look into the mirror and see me, my face and the face of God looking back at me and through me. I wanted God to be happy at what he saw. I now know God is happy with what he sees in me, and I believe that every second of every day.”
Van Roberts, Rescue Me: Confessions of an Ex-evangelical

“To learn what we fear is to learn who we are. Horror defines our boundaries and illuminates our souls. . . Horror is made of such base material – so easily rejected or dismissed – that it may be hard to accept my postulate that within the genre lies one of the last refuges of spirituality in this, our materialistic world.

I have always been partial to the symbolists and Pre-Raphaelite artists, because they go against the avant-garde. To them, the past was a source of awe and mystery. But unlike the Pre-Raphaelites, the symbolists also cast their gaze inward to find the root of the stain on the human soul: lust, violence, corruption. They connect our human impulses – good and bad – with the mystical, mythical, and supernatural elements that represent them in art (for example, satyrs, skulls, centaurs, demons) and in that they are, in my opinion, truly modern and timeless.”
Guillermo del Toro, Cabinet of Curiosities, from essays Mainstays of Horror and Musings on Symbolist Art


In this cartoon implied nuclear war starts because the guy on Mars can’t see Venus because earth is in the way. Talk about the war between the sexes getting out of hand. In many popular cartoons some character hits the wrong button and its all over. Those buttons are everywhere just now: here, for example, and here. There really is no such button. These images are all lies, or more graciously, symbols. Now that we are living cartoon lives, pretending our consumerism can keep eating the earth for our immediate pleasure without dire consequences, this seems an appropriate introduction to this week’s essay.

There is, of course, a more serious set of ‘oops hit the wrong button’ fears that have haunted the dreams and intuitions of most people for quite some time now. I found David Bowie’s work again managed to capture the mood for me. Drifting into nuclear Armageddon on the back of a set of accidents and misunderstandings is exactly what has been most feared by people of goodwill for a very long time now. It is a very reasonable position to take after the revelations of the details of the Cuban Missile Crisis taught the world just how close we had come to starting a nuclear World War III. Documentation of the many, many close calls that those who deal with nuclear weapons systems have had, though mostly still highly classified and unavailable to the targeted citizens, is sufficient for those who can stomach reading about them to bring any number of sleepless nights. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the classic screen treatment of the subject Dr. Strangelove (from a time when we were brave enough to have anything on the screen talking about these satanic weapons at all). The dark comedy uses the spirit of simple-minded patriotism, racism’s fear of corrupting white folk’s purity of essence, and Nazi-like awe at the sadism inherit in such powerful weapons, to sketch a nightmare scenario in which there is a set of misunderstandings and accidents that start a nuclear Armageddon with the “Ruskies.” It is a film from the time of the maverick directors and leaves little doubt in the viewer that we could well be in a meaningless universe.

There have been a few times over the past three plus years of writing these essays that I have asked my readers to set aside some serious contemplative time to try and extend compassion to people traumatized by news events. This is another of those requests. This time the people we need to hold in our hearts are the citizens of Hawaii that, for a time, were sure the nuclear weapons were on their way.

It is a curious thing to see, this “accidental” experiment in sociological terror. One of my college professors had been involved in psychological operations during the Korean War. He taught me an abiding respect for psy-ops, the aimed manipulation of hearts and minds of a target population. These operations generally aim to instill a type of hyper-patriotism in their targets and will use disinformation campaigns to achieve it. During the Korean War saving the world from godless communism was considered an end worthy of a few lies, ambiguities, and downright deceptions. Today when we see an “accident” like the Hawaii event (and now Japan as well, the only country to suffer the nuclear flames) it would be wonderful to trust the official story. Yet we can be sure that only the most naive will accept it without some degree of doubt. People educated in political history will necessarily be wondering if just maybe something more was going on. Something more sinister. For example, if our government were planning on using such weapons soon, it might well need to examine their threat effect on a subject population. Even better if you could gather data on reactions from both those who have and have not suffered from them in the past. I certainly have no idea if this is the case but want to explore a few things.

The day before Hawaiian’s “jangled nerves” it was reported that Syria used chemical weapons again. Considering Syria has nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing so, it seems quite a coincidence of timing. When the news broke that this nuclear warning was a mistake the exact words used were ‘the wrong button’ had been ‘accidentally’ pushed. We already mentioned the role in our collective psychology that the ‘wrong button’ plays. It might take 20 minutes for missiles launched from North Korea to land on Hawaii as a target. It is interesting that the correction of the mistake took almost exactly that long. That is a long time to have the population of a whole state left stewing in their fears of imminent holocaust. One would think an immediate correction might have occurred to the folks responsible. As a software engineer I find it very hard to believe such correction capability was not built into the system, I’ve seen government technical requirements for software systems. But all of this could really just be coincidences. We are faced with one of those things where the best we can do using our reason is weigh the probabilities for ourselves and remain as comfortable with a serious degree of unknowing as we can. Maybe there is a 5% chance it was actually a planned psy-ops? 20%, 50-50%? Who knows?

It is equally interesting to consider that it was just another dark day filled with unlucky, unplanned goofs. Does that make you feel any better? If that is the fact then the event is even more dismally close to the meaninglessness Stanley Kubrick wove Dr. Strangelove around. In fact, that it really was just a goof is such a dismal possibility that it might be more comforting to weave conspiracy theories around the event, like a planned psy-op as I have alluded to.

There is a third possibility, though not one modern people are likely to consider at all. It is the way most of our ancestors might have thought about what was happening when something like this occurs. They might have evoked the idea that there were demonic forces involved. It could all be accidental for all we can tell, yet unseen the faithful might have discerned the finger of evil entities that are bent on destroying human beings. Or, as Freud once remarked, “there are no accidents.” What a heyday for the demonic, to see so many people traumatized. What a nice way to seed the chances of a real breakthrough with the real weapons someday soon. These funny thoughts occurred to me as I remembered something Joanna Macy, long time Buddhist teacher and anti-nuclear activist, said the last time I saw her. She said that it seemed to her that there must be good spiritual beings watching over our weapons systems to have had as many close calls as we have and not to have had the searing fire unleashed – yet. An image of those compassionate one’s karma bending capacities being worn thin came to my mind when I heard the news about what had happened in Hawaii. Perhaps electing the poster boy for the seven deadly sins may just have my nerves jangled. Perhaps, dear reader, you can spare a thought to also Anchor Me?

I have not talked much about who I am or why I believe myself qualified to talk about this path of Mindful Ecology. I have wanted the value of what I am saying to stand or fall on its own merits. My intention has been to share my experience of truth around the child abuse – spiritual abuse – earth abuse spectrum that confronts us on every side in our times. Not everyone who needs psychological and spiritual healing can afford therapy, so I have given it all freely. I pray, honestly and humbly, that it has been of some benefit to others. I only have a few more things to share before wrapping up this project. The path of Mindful Ecology was never meant to be an end in itself. It is a path. Work the work by staying with the pain your ecological awareness causes you in your life and, I believe from my experience, that it will lead you to where you need to go. In my case this was back to my faith in stories with good endings, my Buddhist-Catholicism-Orthodoxy embrace of brothers and sisters of goodwill from both East and West. Your mileage may differ in its forms but my heart tells me we will share what is essential. I bring this up now because events are quickly moving beyond my pay grade. I mean spiritually. I am a spiritual pygmy among some spiritual giants. If things continue to proceed as I expect them to, it would be good for my readers to find some trustworthy shepherds, people who know something about the role suffering really plays in life and why even the non-theistic Buddhists have hells in their teachings.

Homo Colossus is crashing. What Mindful Ecology insists on is that this is mostly an inner phenomenon involving the modern psyche. That is what remains for us to discuss, this idea that there is a world-soul in which the good and evil we each commit has nowhere to hide because it is all around us everyday. It is in the birdsong, in the pure mountain stream, in the laughter of happy good times – and in the screams of those we torture.

Watch over your soul, or as we say it today, your psyche. The contemplative traditions understand something which I believe we ignore at our own peril in our headlong rush into next quarter’s profits. Just remember using “god” is not a good plan. We do not like to be used by one another, expect the same. Those temptations of the Christ are like soul mirrors showing us ourselves. We want to use “god” to get on Santa’s good list. We want to use “god” to give us what we lack in our vulnerable egos and bodies. It is just the normal way of being homo sapiens. We are tempted to use “god” to gain political power, or as a path to wealth, or, perhaps most insidiously, as a means of becoming workers of miracles filled with magical powers. All these things deeply misunderstand the nature of our nature as creatures. Come to “god” with a contrite heart and indeed miraculous healing can be yours. History testifies that this is true. The difficulty is that in coming to that light, you will necessarily also encounter in your heart your own hidden agendas. Turn the stones to bread, have the nations fall at your feet, or throw yourself off the heights and be sure angels will catch you; one or all of these will be hiding there, corrupting your search for true spirituality. That too is normal. The good news is that these things are not capable of diverting us from the truth if we are willing to discipline our unruly hearts in the school of love, charity, and compassion. That which is in us seeking our fulfillment is greater than that which seeks our destruction. Lead with your heart.

The joy we celebrate together and the tears we shed together, these are sacred. The persons and personalities we encounter are not to be used and abused.

Speaking of, in an earlier post I played with a crude mathematical model to try and shake us from our complacency. It looked at how many pounds of burnt human flesh each citizen in the United States might be karmically responsible for if this country were to again use our nuclear weapons. With this week’s event there is another opportunity to reach into some meaningful work of compassion. We need to imagine that we were one of the citizens that received the message that the bombs were coming. We need to place ourselves in their shoes, try and feel what they felt, think what they thought, smell, taste, touch, hear, and see what they did.

For roughly half an hour some people on our earth were sure nuclear holocaust was going to be the end fate of their lives and, for many, the lives of those they loved. What would you have done that Saturday morning? Would you have run to find your children or parents or beloved partner? Would you have entered the schools and workplaces where they were, and done so at any cost, to be with them? Would you have dropped to your knees? Cut your throat? Would you have dared to look at the Man in the Mirror? Breathe with them in their moments of terror. How many people, people just like you and I and our friends, have now been traumatized and will carry those scars of trauma until the day they die? Does this exercise strike you as silly, pointless, or stupid? Or does it strike you as too hard, without worth, meaningless? Do you understand a crime has been committed? A crime against humanity, our basic, shared human decency which should have the right to live without the constant and continual fear of nuclear war being unleashed by irresponsible leaders with profound psychological problems?

What questions come up in your own heart? This is not a time for filling ourselves with our certainties, our stories that make everything alright and let us get on with our hyper-consumerism unbothered. This is a time to sit with the darkness. Let’s do it before the mass graves are dug this time. The unknowing that brings fear and doubt and sorrow is the guide to trust. When a monkey looks in the mirror, no god looks back out.

Religion Or . . .

“The god of economic growth has displaced the traditional Creator, in practice if not in mythology, along with the divinities of indigenous and predominant cultures across the world. The economic priesthood that dictates the worship of the god of growth can only be overthrown with the aid of science, which tells us that there cannot be infinite growth on a finite planet.
No god will fix the ecological mess we – all of us – are making. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote, ‘We are one among millions of species, stewards of nothing…Nature does not exist for us, had no idea we were coming, and doesn’t give a damn about us.’ That, in a nutshell, is the scientific view, which some may characterize as antagonistic to spirituality. But a scientific understanding of nature should not diminish an appreciation of it, nor fail to teach us the humble lesson that humans need to move from stewardship to ‘studentship’ to better learn the ways of the Earth. As biologist Neil K. Dawe observed, ‘It is not the planet or its ecosystems that need stewarding, it is us.’”
Tim Murray, Seeking an Ecological Rescue: Do We Need a Spiritual Awakening—or a Scientific Understanding?

“Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls. Religion will always remain a powerful force in the history of our species. To me, the meaning of progress in religion is simply this, that as we move from the past to the future the good works inspired by religion should more and more prevail over the evil.”
Freeman Dyson, The Progress of Religion

“They also said the children were given ‘very strict’ home-schooling and they had to memorise long passages of the Bible. Some of the children were aiming to learn it in its entirety, they said. Despite this, the school listed at their address is on public records as ‘non-religious’.”
BBC, Turpins: The ‘happy family’ at centre of torture allegations

“Where do you go when what you believe in lets you down? When the ‘One’ who will always be there, never shows up. When you are desperately waiting on a power, which will bring you out of the hell you are experiencing. When you come to the realization that you have been waiting so long for this type of encounter you feel like a stalker. . . The way I knew God was dangerous. The way I operated in church was crippling. The way I saw religion and what is required of me and others is suicidal. I Quit!
Losing religion and finding God has changed me and I am glad. I no longer fear where I will spend eternity; it just doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am no longer persuaded to do good because heaven is a dangling carrot in front of my face. Nor am I dissuaded from doing bad because hell is a cruel task master with a whip poised to strike my ass. I choose to do good because I am in love. Whether I am in heaven or hell, my God will be there. Even in the grave, my God will be there. Even if I am crazy enough to get back into church again, my God will be there.”
Van Roberts, Rescue Me: Confessions of an Ex-evangelical

“A year before Pearl Harbor, when I was nine years old, newsreels of the London Blitz impressed me with the incomprehensible cruelty of the Nazis. The demolition and burning of cities filled with people of all ages seemed to express their demonic character.”
Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.”
John 14.27


Ecology is the study of biological organisms in their non-biological environments. Humankind’s built up environments have taken on gigantic proportions in the modern world and we, the inhabitants and creators of it, have become Homo Colossus. To study ourselves in our environment we need to recognize we have become a new type of species than that which we had been for many hundreds of thousands of years. This giantism has been made possible by the confluence of numerous features in our social evolution. The ability of our mathematics to provide engineering with certainty in building is perhaps foremost intellectually. The use of the scientific method to investigate the biological and non-biological features of earth has provided the evidence based reasoning by which both the maths and the engineering laid for themselves firm foundations. This too is an intellectual achievement of the first order. We can rightly pride ourselves on the great mercies these skills have brought to the lives of billions of human beings.

However, this revolution in mankind’s relationship with the earth did not take place solely due to intellectual achievements. The ecological study of relationships between organisms and their environments points to another element, equally necessary. It is only because humankind harnessed the unique thermodynamic properties of oil that Homo Colossus came to be. Without this uniquely energy dense resource the world as we have come to know it over the last few centuries would simply not exist. Oil is relatively easily harvested, transformed, and transported. The design of machines capable of work using it are also relatively simple. After all, the complexity of the combustion engine is a number of degrees less than that of a tree seed or the erosion process of a river.

I want to whisper something. There is no such thing as religion. It is a modern conception that a particular set of behaviors and dispositions can be encircled and set aside from the rest of life, set aside as holy and virtuous, laudable but wholly impractical. The modern conception that we can have religion on Sunday and war on Monday is a profound misunderstanding of the interdependent truth of things. The psyche, your psyche, does not honor these arbitrary divisions.

Truth – this is what is now being spat upon in the public square. The manipulation of the public mind by those who know what is best for it started with the invention of public relations by Edward Bernays. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and was quick to apply his research into the dynamics of the unconscious mind to public persuasion, creating what we recognize today as PR. In the time of the previous World Wars it was not hard to hope that by using emotional manipulations to unconsciously trigger and guide people’s desires, a means would be found to keep the beast hiding in the heart of the masses under control. Democracy, people like Bernays thought, needed the guiding hand of the educated, better classes if it was to resits the temptations of totalitarian systems and populist revolutionaries. What began as a quest for social stability became the protection of the status quo at all costs. Along the way a new religion was born, the monotheism of money.

Today those who know what is best for us have become holy warriors. They have secrets about nuclear arsenals, secrets about listening in on every phone call, in fact there are secrets about so many things that it is hard to know where to draw the line. Once again we are confronted with knowledge characterized by ambiguity and unknowns where the best we can rationally hope for is some educated probabilities. There have always been state secrets, some of which were justified and others which were not. The very special inheritance given the United States in its constitution and the balance of powers has always been less than ideal in practice. In spite of the lauded freedom of the press, there have been times of corruption in the history of the world’s most celebrated melting pot that bring tears to the eyes of anyone who cares about human decency. The current conditions of our politics is not as strange as we might like to think. On the other hand, it is not within the bands of historical normal either. Long decades of the elites believing wealth bestows god’s grace, that because someone is rich they must also be wise, that status and dignity in one’s community only depends on the size of one’s bank account, all these changes to the traditional Christian mores have taken their toll. Today very few of my fellow citizens seem to recall that there could be a type of decency unrelated to money at all. One that depends on values other than ruthless competition in the marketplace and always getting the better of anyone you deal with. Though we give lip service to those motivated by charity, we do not allow such considerations to affect policy.

Frankly the leaders of the so-called free world, who have at their beck and call the most destructive forces ever amassed in the history of our species, are troublingly fundamentalist in their approach to the problems of the world. Discussions of human values outside of economic considerations is simply verboten. Though the link between climate change and oil use could not be clearer, it cannot be spoken aloud. Not its full implications anyway, those that would demand that we change our ways. Nor, under the new set of EPA directives, can the link between oil use and climate change be used as a guide to policy decisions. Indeed, large changes in regulation have opened ocean exploration and so much more. We will not talk seriously about it and we will not change our behavior. We have doubled down on our bet that all the ecologists must be mistaken. Welcome to the war between the economists and the ecologists. It is a war of ideas in the interpersonal space of our social lives, though it is a war of facts on the ground. Both parties cannot be right. It is a war for what is going to be understood as real and true by you and me and all of our neighbors. Note, I do not say it is a war for what will be real and true, only the hubris born of Homo Colossus makes that mistake. What is real is not ours to dictate.

If we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four, calling a tail a leg does not make it one.

To be as clear as possible I fear money’s true believers have become holy warriors and that the holy warriors have embraced the holy lie. The United States citizens, and the rest of the world that is affected by the decisions made in the worlds largest economy, are all being gaslighted by the abuser in chief. The president will speak an untruth, insist on it vehemently, and continue to repeat it as many times as he might wish with all the sincerity of a true believer. Keep this up day after day and the targets of these mental manipulations will soon begin to question their own sense of reality. How quickly these non-normal politics became normal will likely amaze historians, much like the ecological crisis that has seen climate disasters breaking previous records week after week quickly became the new normal. We simply are not well served by news departments turned into profit centers disseminating public relations for their corporate owners. The twisted thing about this gas-lighting mental incapacitation is that it is not recognized as such by those victimized by it. An uncomfortable feeling spreads, as if we were living in a dream or a cartoon, blanketing everything with a foggy sense that whatever craziness we find ourselves doing doesn’t really matter. You know you are infected when horrors no longer horrify and what was important last week gets lost in a wave of this week’s trivia. While in the United States the national conversation all too often devolves to a level of pleasure grunts and terror threats, very few individuals are able to withstand the torrent of language debasement. Language is the primary tool by which we are able to share our view of the world with one another. In that sharing we arrive, slowly but steadily, at a consensus around what is real and what is not. It is this concusses that reveals to us what seems to be very important and what does not. This is not something individuals decide for themselves alone, it requires feedback from the environment in which they find themselves and as social primates, for us humans, it is always the other people in our environments that matter most.

Historians of war are often lead to wonder how whole countries can be swept up into madness. The witnesses of debased atrocities taken as normal in the times of the World Wars never ceased to speak out against the madness they had endured. The neighbors we see around us today, how odd it is that under the right circumstances they can be made to do things to other people that are unspeakably horrifying. (Who taught the Turpins their religion?) How this descent into the demonic happens is related to this ability of leaders to create webs of deception in the public mind. Totalitarian manipulation of news and information is done to disseminate the lies the leaders need to be believed, lies always given to the populous for a higher cause, for their own good. The holy lie amounts to a means of creating temporary psychosis in the masses and a manipulation of their grasp on reality itself.

Today, I believe, our reality is defined by our ecological ignorance more than anything else. Nothing holds the threat to all that is good and decent in this world more than that of the ongoing destruction of earth’s habitats and inhabitants does. It is a science we are discussing, not a philosophy. It is based in mathematics and models, not ad campaigns and graphic arts. In ecology the old saw about “follow the money” is updated, today we need to “follow the oil.”

It is far later on our journey across the trends first pointed out in the Limits to Growth study than most of the people I talk with seem to realize. The truth our ecological researchers are investigating is one that deals with cycles and patterns that have now become identifiable trends. Where those trends lead is not really up for debate. It is not in the power of humankind to decide that since they do not like what these sciences have to say about the costs of our worship of economic growth, that we can simply ignore them so that they will not hurt us. We can decide to ignore them, as we are today with seemingly every new EPA ruling, but we cannot make the earth itself conform to our wishes. We cannot cause the harm not to fall on our heads. That is where dangerous magical thinking come in; ignoring bad news about reality does not change reality. Today, however, we have gone further. We have taken it upon ourselves to drown in our hubris, to reach beyond repression of the truth by denial. Today we succumb to the ever present temptation to dictate to reality what it must be. Following Goebbels’ lead we have decided that black is white, that increasing oil supplies and oil use is the answer to all earth’s problems with economic growth. We parade our new found faith as if it is the most liberating thing humankind has ever hit upon.

If instead of following the leader’s lies into cognitive dissonance individuals insist on thinking for themselves, they are able to withstand even the most horrendous historical injustices. By taking one’s seat, by knowing what is real and what is not for oneself to the best of one’s ability, it is possible to create a prophylactic shield against the social diseases we are discussing. It is my contention that ecology plays a central role in this process today. Ecology is where the Holy Spirit is moving in our times, to use the older way of talking. Ecological ethics is where the truth that is most existentially meaningful for people alive today is to be found, to use a more modern philosophic means of saying the same thing.

Understanding the role of oil in the modern world is absolutely critical for understanding the modern world at all. How else are we to comprehend the fact that while we know burning fossil fuels is the cause of climate change, and that climate change brings risks that are unacceptably high, policy makers are powerless to slow its worldwide use? How else are we to understand why future generations, the immediate next generation or two, are so easily thrown under the bus? The size of our technology coupled with our money monotheism exceeds our capacity to control. Homo Colossus is incapable of dismantling itself because it entails a complete reversal of our religious belief, our unquestioned and unquestionable faith in greed. The revelation of emptiness, the revelation of silence from our gods, has never been an easy one for us to grasp.

Understanding the role of peak oil comes in second place as the most crucial ecological concept required to make any sense of our modern world. The finite resource on which most all human infrastructures rely is no longer at the beck and call of humankind. The inevitable turn to dirty oil sources is just the start of expected peak oil implications. The oil wars come next. A simple list of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves pretty much spells out what we can expect. The true believers in the monotheism of money first, money last, and money only as the real guide to all decision making and the real measure of all human dignity are blind leaders. Even those who claim some ecological concern are disingenuously infatuated with alternative fuels as the answer to all earth’s woes. Wind and wave, solar and hydrogen, fusion and fairy dust, these will not allow business as usual to continue. To insist they can is to behave as if the laws of thermodynamics were nothing more than suggestions. A factual grasp of thermodynamic limitations on efficiency conversions involved in getting work from these sources and the fact that all these alternatives rely on fossil fueled infrastructures (not to mention quickly peaking rare earth metals) are key to understanding that they will never allow humankind to continue with its existing arrangements. The prophets and priests of the neoliberal order will prove to be false prophets of the worst kind. When their promises of a future for you and I under their reign lies in tatters, there will be little comfort in “I told you so.” Even if decades from now people shoot the users of fossil fuels on sight and hang the lying leaders from the lampposts, it will do nothing to return to humankind the predictable weather patterns needed for predictable harvests. When the grey technologies have poisoned the green technologies beyond repair we will watch our children die.

The third most critical insight from the ecological sciences that is critical for understanding the modern world is the foundational concept of interdependence. This is an idea that had mostly been talked about in terms of religion and philosophy in the past. As the worship of money has no quarter for any of those old fashion sources of wisdom, this too has been dismissed as impractical, unreal, unworkable, and as the ultimate insult, mystical. Interdependence is the idea that everything is connected to everything else. Some of the connections are course, some are fine. Some of the connections are between things seen, many more are between things unseen. All these connections cause one thing to depend on other things – this is what interdependence means. It applies as a scientific concept across a wide range of scales from how members of a species interact with one another and other species, to how living things interact with the non-living environment. At the largest scale that should concern us it applies to the whole biosphere of earth, the whole planet with its biological and non-biological processes each inseparably inter-meshed with one another (including human beings and their use of oil). At the smallest scale that should concern us it applies to each and every economic interaction in which resources are taken from the water, ground, and sky and put to use producing wealth and enlarging Homo Colossus so that that wealth may continue to grow.

The role of oil, the implications of peak oil, and the science of interdependence – these are ecology’s most important scientific contributions to the store of human knowledge for our times. They were true in the past, are true now, and will remain true tomorrow morning when we wake up to yet another day in which our societies will deny they are heading headlong into a shit storm.

It does not need to be this way. It is possible to speak the truth, talk about these things honestly and refuse the greedy warmongering leading us to disaster. It is, in fact, fairly easy to align one’s own heart and soul to the meaning of these things and from there watch your own life become an adventure. You and I are not responsible for what the rich and powerful choose to do or not do. We are responsible for how we will react to the times we find ourselves in. We can live as men and women with dignity, recognizing that the good in this world is worth fighting for. Or we can join the fog of foolishness, hoping against hope that some magic will save us in the end from the results of our own craziness. This later approach never works out well. That is what all the initiates of all the ages have been at pains to try and communicate since the wise first started putting teachings together. On one hand is reality, on the other hand is delusion. Sometimes the moral choices we need to make really are that simple. Choose your god carefully.

People Or. . .

I have tried to share the best that I have learned from my teachers through my own experience. This multi-year discipline of weekly essays has done what I set out to do. I started them because it was not hard to sense a dark time was heading our way. It laid a burden on me to speak out against its madness while there was time. I’ve had my say and now I will be taking my first break since they began. Posts will no longer be every Wednesday. A Mindful Ecology book will be available shortly.

It is with a grateful heart that, looking back, the work is not too discordant with my convictions and manages to say what was important for me to share – with you. The number of readers and subscribers grew far beyond my expectations. I did no marketing, this grew by word of mouth or the fortuitous click. Some of you have been with me from very early on and traveled the whole way, it is for your benefit these essays were structured as they were. I still suggest they should be read from the beginning. Many of you picked us up along the way, drawn perhaps to a particular subject of interest, and for you I hope the context proved interesting as well. The other group I watched arrive came as the discussion turned to issues of child abuse. While these essays were written Oscar nominated movies touching on child abuse moved from Spotlight to Three Billboards, the dark child is indeed having its say.

To each and every one of you, however you happened to make it to Mindful Ecology, thank you. Thank you for your time; these essays have been challenging, some quite long for the world dominated by the Internet, tweeting twinkle text, and smart-phones. Thank you for your attention; rational words are the means by which humans communicate to share experience and knowledge directly with one another. By reading we share our spirits, communing within one another in conversations unbound by time and space. This is the context we will live in all our days so it makes very good sense to seek out the best reading. I am honored that you have let me be a small part of your conversation with the ideas of our times. Above all this though, Thank You for caring enough about the state of the earth to be willing to contemplate it reverently, even when it hurts. Contemplation, meditation, sitting extremely still in the silence, thinking like a mountain, listening – this is the supreme gift.

A mind attuned to reality, giving it a long, loving look, is a mind at prayer.

The wrinkles on my hand remind me to say thank you. The smile on those around me whom I love reminds me to say yes. This life we people have, it really is something special. It is possible to live with a set of values that are not related to the money monotheism that is all the rage today. Look and See what is really right in front of you; do it and you will find the infinite value of each individual. This is where the infinite and the finite kiss. Normally we suffer vertigo because the beauty is so overwhelming. But we can train in compassion and thereby honor our own heart, the one and only one we were given directly. As we honor our heart, our emotionally rational conscience, the light of faith, hope, and love is en-kindled. This light is the One light, born of our creation in this vast, ancient evolution by which reality unfolds, “all that is, seen and unseen.” No place for horns on a rabbit. No place for superstition. Look and See the true value of the person right in front of you; how the vast cosmos is aware of itself in his or her eyes. In the Other you are confronted with a consciousness traveling its own path through life’s joys and sorrows, one every bit as real and precious to them as yours is to you. Here we tread on sacred ground.

The mystery that made my multi-dimensional existence is one I will trust. That same profundity we encounter most directly through our emotions, that we exist at all, that we exist in bodies that love strawberries and give us fields of flesh by which we intimately explore our love, that profundity that is capable of creating the stars, oceans, and most amazingly for me, my beloved – that one mystery I find trustworthy beyond anything human or mortal. We can discipline ourselves to the real, become its students, become its adult children. This is to love life. This is to know the mystery that made us really does have our best interests at heart, even though we were born vulnerable, mortal, and prone to such horrific evil. Religion is not supernatural in the sense of something unconnected to anything I am. It is not outside the only loves I have ever known. And those loves have always and everywhere been relationships with individuals, very particular people. Some I meet only in my mind’s eye but for all of them, when I am most in my right point of view, my heart sighs.

Traumatize the individual, torture the individual, deceive the individual, and you will suffer the consequences. It is how we are made. Both the victim and perpetrator will leave the incident with wounds for life. We want security but have freedom instead, as the Grand Inquisitor understood. Our pursuit of power and wealth cannot deliver the security those beholden to them think they will. Our true freedom is a choice that takes place in the will. It is most profoundly real in the interpersonal interactions we have with one another. Other hands gave us our birth, other hands will bury us. Our conscience is formed, in part, by the work of other hands and we, if we are wise, will learn to answer to it. How can we escape who we are?

The alternative to money monotheism is to put people first. The economy should serve man, not man the economy. As long as there remains a large population excluded from the fruits of the earth, their cry in the night will give us no peace. Why is it we sit sipping our coffee and clicking away on our iPhones, while a few thousand miles away children are knee deep in our high-tech toxic waste, pulling apart circuit boards, screens, and keyboards? You don’t need me to tell you what injustice looks like. Another laundry list is not going to do a damn bit of good. We know what putting people first would mean. We know that it is simply wrong to expect magic from our religions, yet here we are again. Whether it is the the magic money religion or the magic religion religion, these magicians are not to be trusted. The bible made subservient to the flag, desecrates both. The work of human hands turned against the living earth, desecrates both.

This is a wonderful creation we have the opportunity to participate in. Not a particularly long opportunity at eighty or ninety years if we are lucky, but long enough because there is time enough for love, to crib science fiction. But to speak the truth with no fiction at all is simple: the body is the temple; the heart is the living holy of holies; the god with which we have to do is the god of the living, not the dead. These are the inner secrets revealed for all the world to see a long, long time ago, even before Egypt’s first tales of the ancient war. The God who loved us into existence does not need our human sacrifices, but we do. Be careful out there.