Sunday, 2 January 2011

Positive Vision No. 5: Living Harmless

Everyone is tapping into their inner strength to lick the habit of harming themselves and radiating harm from themselves.

My affirmation to use while meditating on this positive vision is: Everything's fine.

Hypothetically speaking, does it matter to me -
If my brother smokes a pack of cigarettes a day?
And my sister is an alcoholic?
And my cousin is bulimic?
And my uncle is an industrial farmer (who handles pesticides and artificial fertilizers)?
And my aunt is obese?
And my mother takes Valium and all sorts of other legal drugs?
And my father smokes marihuana every day?
(that is, all are involved in activities that cause harm to themselves, but are not out of the ordinary in today’s society).

Using some of the ideas that came to me during my Retreat, I will explain why it does matter to me that my hypothetical relatives do as mentioned above. In fact, it matters to me if anyone does these things. Since I believe we have a duty to ourselves to point out danger that is in essence what I’m doing in this article and on my Blog generally.

The idea that I can go to heaven if I’m good and do certain things while others are bound for hell does not fit in with the tenant that we are all part of one whole which is not just the ecosphere on this planet, but includes everything in the universe. It also doesn't fit in with my belief that the only heaven and hell possible are what is in this present moment.  The whole includes the linear material world as well as the ethereal invisible one. I think there is a good argument for our being part of one whole and the present moment being the only one that matters.

“Try as we might, we cannot separate any aspect of the world from the whole, and see it as having an independent existence” (Fontana, 2007, p 106). “Thus the harm that we do to other beings, to the environment, to the air we breathe, to the ground under our feet and the water we drink, we do to ourselves” (Fontana, 2007, p 139)... and we do to the whole.

There is an old saying, ‘you’re only hurting yourself.’ But are you? This thought was expressed in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:

“Generally, wickedness does no harm at all to the universe and particularly, the wickedness [of one man] does no harm to another. It is only harmful to him who has it in his power to be released from it, as soon as he shall choose” (VIII, 55).

But he also wrote that we should “[c]onstantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul...” (IV, 40). And in addition, “[f]or we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature...” (II, 1). Isn’t that what harm is, that which is contrary to nature? And anything that is contrary to nature is going to have a negative effect on the whole, at least from a human perspective.

However, Aurelius also makes the valid observation that no one can harm ‘thy ruling faculty’. We are each responsible for our own body and soul and the immediate result of harm that we cause to ourselves may seem to have a result on us alone. But the bigger picture shows that this is not so.

“So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature and her will” (M. Aurelius, V, 1). And you would also love the nature of the world of which your nature is a part.

The first conclusion that I would draw from all this is that the best thing for each person in the world to do at any given moment is simply to avoid causing harm to himself or herself. This in itself is a big challenge as the behaviour of my hypothetical relatives indicates, and that is relatively mild compared to what many other people do.  Even doing nothing is better than doing harm.  Take smoking cigarettes for an example.  Instead of smoking, my suggestion would be to do nothing every time there is an urge to smoke until it passes.  The urge would soon pass because another one would soon take its place, such as an urge to go to sleep.  This is a challenge because in our society, we are expected to be busy all the time, especially if 'on the job'.  Rather than sticking to the proverb 'idle hands are the devil's workshop', which is tied in with the 'work ethic', I propose a new 'relax ethic' proverb -- 'a moment in mediation will keep you out of the devil's workshop'.

The second point is that there is no doubt that by harming our food supply, that is, doing things to our food that are contrary to nature, we are harming the whole of life on earth. However, doing what is necessary to live a simple and natural life will not cause harm even though it requires some intervention with other life forms because we are at the top of a food chain. When I speak of harming our food supply, I am referring to industrial farming including GMOs, cloning, and the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and drugs, and highly processed foods with supplements, artificial ingredients and unnatural components.

Religions, as far as I know, leave me short. It seems to me that one form of ego is replaced by another when the view is that some people can detach themselves from the whole and attain a ‘higher’ level of existence than others. This entails a form of superior attitude, which I will discuss in my sixth positive vision. There is a possibility that worship of nature and mother earth could come close to a realisation of the connectedness of everything, but these come up short too. Many people today, such as Eckhart Tolle, are moving ahead with new spiritual ideas and combining knowledge from all faiths, which is good. But it is unfortunate that there are still many people who do not know of their own inner strength and are deluded through fear and ignorance into believing that there is something greater in life and death than being a part of nature and being a part (even if only miniscule) of the whole of the universe at this very moment with each moment being caught up in a continuum.

At this time of the year when lots of people rushed around, burned extra oil, bought gifts (many of which were unwanted or soon will be), got into debt (or more in debt), got stressed out (or more stressed out!) and celebrated by eating too much, especially too much sugar and drinking alcohol, I might come across as a bit of a scrooge for pointing this out. But the root of the problem of the destruction of our food, the environment and biodiversity and the lack of wellbeing of most people goes deep and spans many years (from a human perspective).

People are so busy...busy making money, having children, leading important lives, making discoveries, producing, achieving and consuming. But as Fukuoka, (1978) said, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is the fact that you exist. No ability to tape record the alert or dreaming mind will shed any further light on this. No amount of reading, meditation, technological advances, travelling to outer space, further understanding of molecules and nano-particles will change the simple reality of being here now...being here now as part of a shared whole in this shape and form.

You only get one go at life. I don’t believe in reincarnation for the simple reason that nothing stays the same. I was pleased to read after writing this that Marcus Aurelius spoke in a similar vein -

“If souls continue to exist, how does the air contain them from eternity?—But how does the earth contain the bodies of those who have been buried from time so remote? For as here the mutation of these bodies after a certain continuance, whatever it may be, and their dissolution make room for other dead bodies; so the souls which are removed into the air after subsisting for some time are transmuted and diffused, and assume a fiery nature by being received into the seminal intelligence of the universe, and in this way make room for the fresh souls which come to dwell there” (IV, 21). And I would add that souls would be transmuted and diffused much more quickly than the body because that is the nature of it.  This is not to say that anything is lost, it is simply changed.  Our singular knowledge of being is changed to something else of which we cannot have knowledge because that is the nature of that.  “Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are and to make new things like them” (IV, 36).

The basic necessities of our lives are that we all need to breathe, eat and drink water. That’s our undeniable, physical connection to nature and to the whole. But we have been destroying our air, food and drinking water; destroying the elements of nature that keep us alive. Going back to the above quote from Fontana, since there is no independent existence from the whole, it would follow that by destroying nature, our present shape and form will simply evolve into something else. In a way, it’s like a foetus cutting its own umbilical cord while it’s still in the womb. It’s a form of self-harm, even suicide. Maybe before this happens, we will evolve into some sort of machines that do not need the elements of nature to survive, in a barren world and universe, but I do not think most people would choose this type of existence.

When the warning on cigarette packs that “Smoking Kills” doesn’t seem to faze lots of people, this new message that “Disconnecting from Nature Kills” may be an even greater challenge to get across. This is what I mean when I say that the problem is deep.

What will happen then? Where does a man who gets lung cancer from smoking and dies go? Is his soul rotting in hell? Or does he come back as some lesser life form on earth to repent having knowingly engaged in a habit that harmed his health? Or is this not counted as a sin or his other good deeds absolve him and he goes to heaven anyway because life is just a game and God keeps score?

What will happen to humanity when the life support system on this planet is destroyed? There won’t even be a choice of reincarnation for those of you who believe in it since biological life on this planet will no longer exist. And how can there be heaven or hell without any humans to imagine it?  Is life but a dream?

Could it be that nothing will happen? That’s it. A big void connected to the rest of the big void in space. What if this is the only place in the universe that life as we know it exists and the only place even in our wildest dreams where we could exist in our human form with our present consciousness?  What will everyone's big accomplishments, status, history, power, etc mean then?  Absolutely nothing.

If we’re so smart and so important, why can’t we just stop harming and destroying the only life we know? No amount of money will fix it once it’s gone. And no amount of money will solve the mystery of life. Each one of us will die in our own time, but we have to learn to live in a harmless manner or we will soon smother life on earth altogether as that is the direction we have been heading in for thousands of years. Has the force of velocity in this direction become too great or do we still have the power to finally reverse away from further harming life on earth? We can only but try.

mmm .......... everything's fine

Photo credit: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Emperor of Rome from A.D. 161 to 180.