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.

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.

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.

A Pause

I hope the season of light in extension has found my readers warm, safe, well-fed and able to make merry.

We will pick up our discussion again next week. Ecological disaster records are being broken weekly as the ongoing, relentless devastation accelerates, ripping through formerly stable systems one after the other from oceans to sky. In the senate the thieves have come. In the marketplace hungry ghosts are everywhere feasting, passing the planet through the cash register without rhyme or reason. In the church the abomination stands exposed.

We will learn to dance in the midst of the collapse. We really will.

Magical Christianity, an Oxymoron

“In the wider Middle East, it undermines and weakens America’s partners, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and others who have worked with the U.S. on issues relating to Iran, but also were hopeful that there would be a peace plan they could be part of. It weakens and undermines them.
The ones perhaps who are happiest, other than the Israeli government itself, which certainly is very happy, are Iran and its allies and Russia’s President Putin. We saw President Putin immediately take a victory lap, visiting Syria, Egypt, and Turkey all in one day, denouncing the Jerusalem decision, while also declaring victory in Syria and other places.”
The Long Term Global Consequences of Trump’s Jerusalem Move, PBS News

 

The failure of Homo Colossus as laid out in Limits to Growth is evident on every hand.

So what gives? Why is this blog, ostensibly interested in ecology and meditation, spending so much time on Christian teachings, to the point of quoting chapter and verse last week? It is because my studied opinion is that the fault line for the collapse of the Western Consensus runs through the Church. The 1970s saw more than just the publication of Limits to Growth, it also saw the publication of The Late Great Planet Earth and with that, the whole view of magical Christianity began to increase its influence on the culture of the United States.

Mindful Ecology leads each of us where it will. I believe ecology is, if I may put it this way, the current message of the Holy Spirit. That is, it is the communication to the human psyche, both individually and collectively, about what is the most urgent “revelation” for our day. The ecological crisis is a communication coming directly from the earth itself, what theology named the creation. It is a revelation of its creator-ways, or what we today call its molecular laws. There is a place for god-talk if it reminds us that what we are talking about, the earth ecological systems, are so much larger than we puny humans. There is a place for god-talk if it engenders respect.

The relocation of the United States embassy in Israel is an important move for the true believers. I worry that because the Christian message was abused by so many for so long, today many people who call themselves Christian wouldn’t know the actual, historic, mystical Christianity if it jumped up and bit them on the nose. The publishing industry phenomenon The Left Behind series is a good example of the popularity of the doomsday message, the Christian message gone haywire. “They can’t get enough of that doomsday stuff, they can’t get enough of it all,” sang Bowie in the The Next Day. Magical Christianity seeks a real world Armageddon in the Middle East, unable to differentiate wisdom teachings in symbols from rational discourse. The current earthquake changes around the geopolitical balance in the Middle East, the source of the neo-liberal system’s key oil supplies, are not happening in a vacuum. Geology is having a say as the largest oil field in on the planet, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, quietly peaks behind the headlines. This is the truth that must not be spoken. Peak Oil was banished from our public discourse at just the time when the use of reason requires addressing it. We have been whistling past the graveyard since the 1970s made clear our position, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. It is not as if we never heard from Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Clinton, and Obama or the report from our own armed forces insisting the United States has a serious oil dependency problem. But culturally we made different choices, and now there are consequences.

We are being offered religious packaging over the fundamental ecological problem. On this score, if I am reading the tea leaves right, the manipulation of public relations have only just begun. I think the Tillerson – Pence – Trump team have plans for the Middle East. When those plans are in full swing I expect they will be delivered to the public in a package of fundamentalist Christian faith. The ‘Crusades’ are already justified and meaningful for many folks within such traditional spiritual interpretations of the daily headlines.

In every religion throughout the long ages of the human story there has always been a tension between those who seek the mystical truth of spiritual things, and those who seek the magical power of spooky things. The mystic and the fundamentalist have never seen eye to eye, and from the looks of things, never will. As one of the mystical camp, a person who strongly believes in the value of contemplation and silent meditation, I offer a warning to those singing Onward Christian Soldiers. Things may not work out the way you expect them to, wrapped up in your flag and cross of self-righteousness.

If you were born with Christianity in your mother’s milk, you need to understand what that mythological constellation of symbols is really all about because it does concern you, whether you want it to or not. As it is said, Jesus would have come to earth to save you, and you alone. Christian mythology is the teaching of how the human conscience has an element of the shared collective or social world in it. In our most intimate inner sanctum we find the touch of other hands. Here we find the interests of other sentient beings equal to ours and thereby laying upon us an obligation. The obligation is to respect the life given even to “the least of these.”

What this means is that unscrupulous people can use this feature of the Christian mythology to manipulate others. The encounter with conscience holds a surprise for all people that were raised around the Christian stories. They are talking about, as pointed out last week, your body, your mind etc. Our culture has a practical understanding about this aspect of its symbol-rich inheritance and deals with it fairly well in Christian camps for adolescents and such. The problem comes when the wondrous vulnerability of love, so clearly on display in the Gospel story, is rejected. Then people have no alternatives but to go fishing around for things creature-reason cannot deliver. In the murky waters of a hunt for god-like power, the temptation is ever present to use the most powerful concept of all, namely god. But it is not right to use people, and god, so the Christian story teaches, includes personhood from all eternity. This means god is the ultimate person not to be used. It provokes righteous anger, as it must if any sort of justice and fairness is to exist.

What is revealed in this mythology is the very heart of the “one true god,” the inescapable ground of our being which is “closer to us than we are to ourselves.” The loving kindness human beings share with one another is real, because we really are free to choose otherwise. It is in that freedom that our love is made real. How could it be otherwise? Puppets cannot love one another. Love shows how that which created us, respects us as persons. It is astonishingly good news that love comes directly from the “maker of heaven and earth.” This is what is witnessed by the true man taken up into the true god. The man who is real and honest with himself, particularly his own experiences of emotion that so deeply move us in both our flesh and psyche equally, is the true man, the authentic human being. These wellsprings of consciousness that move us so powerfully and so deeply, they are the witness to us of the mystery of reality. The reality is that the grandeur of the cosmos with its endless galaxies, the starry nurseries, and the explosive creation of black-holes, all of it is also our nursery and the grandeur resides in our chests.

Everyone on this path of ecological awakening arrives at the silence in which conscience speaks. Here the stars, those ancient watchers who record everything that really happens, are not mute. Mystics, like scientists, have long understood that, after a fashion, the stars are on the inside.

Suffer the little child to come to the Christ. This is the innocent one within you that still lives inside the memory of your nervous system. It is the spark of personhood before and after the terrifying abuse children suffer at the hands of those few evil adults that seek them out. The inner child, flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone, is silent when at peace. They are at peace when the adult they have become understands and respects who they are and the truth of what they have experienced. An adult that accepts their creature status finds in Jesus their protector, the one who will plead your case before those who would falsely accuse you. It is he that would, as we say, go to the carpet for you, or in this case, the cross. The old Christmas hymn O Holy Night states that with Jesus “the soul felt its worth.” Finding yourself as the latest generation in a history of countless ancestors, finding yourself as one individual in a world full of people, and finding yourself a victim of evil abuse, this is all a bit overwhelming. Allowing the little child to come to the Christ is, symbolically, how you come to know that your life matters. Jesus would have come to earth to share the teaching of the kingdom and the loving father with you if you were the only human being ever to exist throughout all the ages, to compassionately suffer your pain with you so you would not be alone if yours was the only human pain this universe would ever know, and would come to carry your bruised and broken heart when love dies in the dark night even if your heart were the only one to ever be broken. There is an encounter here with a very real psychological, biological, and social truth about the human condition. Call it what you will, this encounter with the higher should result in a healthy adult pride, one capable of sustaining a person through the trials and challenges of seeing their dreams come true through hard work and a good dose of faith, hope, and love.

Basically real faith is able to quite the mind when it becomes too anxious, and it is able to quite the body when it becomes too fearful. The witness of martyrs self-control is the classical example of faith and it is exactly this. A deep enough belief in a good god becomes a pervasive enough conviction, that persons can withstand assaults far beyond what the ego as a lone individual could endure. We see the same thing in the self-emulation of the Tibetan Buddhist monks in a non-theist framework. Those who mess around with this Christian symbolism in their unscrupulous fundamentalism are messing around with this biological control system in people. Hence so many abused by religion end up with substance abuse issues. They need additional help to maintain the faith.

The mystical teaching is that the human race is one body after a fashion, that we share in the experiences of being one flesh. Any injury or insult to human dignity is a direct assault on us all. The teachings ask only how we treat the poor, in the end there is nothing else. The poor and outcasts we discarded in our selfishness hold the hidden gold we desperately need to find as a species. In our hearts of hearts we judge ourselves by how we treat “the least of these,” not how well we treat the most wealthy and powerful. Now, with the crashing of Homo Colossus, the rich are being made poor. It is both an opportunity and a danger. Whether the lack of loving kindness that touches you with the cold finger of poverty is economic, emotional, intellectual, sexual, or spiritual, they all leave torture’s scars on the body. Our tears do not sleep and then, in our hurt and anger, we become twisted and confused and in need of healing. That this healing does in fact come to individuals, untangling lies and providing the courage to speak the truth, sustains a rational hope that it can also come to our communities. We can swing the tenor of the collective conversation towards real-world issues if enough of us insist on it.

Contemplation is the birthright of everyone, the sweetest gift life has to offer, a love-making with the cosmos and a resting in the arms of creation’s gifts. It pierces the darkness of our lives and finds meaning in their events, often painful and sorrowful but real and lasting and true. Learning to be still in body and mind allows us to sit openly listening to our hearts. Our hearts know what we are. They know our worth.