“Now, consciousness. That’s a fun thing, isn’t it? Product of an arms race between predators and prey. If you watch a cat creeping up on a mouse, you’ll be able to impute to the cat intentions that are most easily explained by the cat having a theory of mind concerning the mouse—an internal simulation of the mouse’s likely behavior when it notices the predator. Which way to run, for example. And the cat will use its theory of mind to optimize its attack strategy. Meanwhile, prey species that are complex enough to have a theory of mind are at a defensive advantage if they can anticipate a predator’s actions. Eventually this very mammalian arms race gave us a species of social ape that used its theory of mind to facilitate signaling—so the tribe could work collectively—and then reflexively, to simulate the individual’s own inner states. Put the two things together, signaling and introspective simulation, and you’ve got human-level consciousness, with language thrown in as a bonus—signaling that transmits information about internal states, not just crude signals such as ‘predator here’ or ‘food there.’”
The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn't very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind.
To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.
When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life form—or a species—will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.
It is believed that the lifeforms on this planet first evolved in the sea. When there were no animals yet to be found on land, the sea was already teeming with life. Then at some point, one of the sea creatures must have started to venture onto dry land. It would perhaps crawl a few inches at first, then exhausted by the enormous gravitational pull of the planet, it would return to the water, where gravity is almost nonexistent and where it could live with much greater ease. And then it tried again and again and again, and much later would adapt to life on land, grow feet instead of fins, develop lungs instead of gills. It seems unlikely that a species would venture into such an alien environment and undergo an evolutionary transformation unless it was compelled to do so by some crisis situation. There may have been a large sea area that got cut off from the main ocean where the water gradually receded over thousands of years, forcing fish to leave their habitat and evolve.
Responding to a radical crisis that threatens our very survival—this is humanity’s challenge now. The dysfunction of the egoic human mind, recognized already more than 2,500 years ago by the ancient wisdom teachers and now magnified through science and technology, is for the first time threatening the survival of the planet. Until very recently, the transformation of human consciousness—also pointed to by the ancient teachers—was no more than a possibility, realized by a few rare individuals here and there, irrespective of cultural or religious background. A widespread flowering of human consciousness did not happen because it was not yet imperative.
A significant portion of the earth’s population will soon recognize, if they haven’t already done so, that humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die. A still relatively small but rapidly growing percentage of humanity is already experiencing within themselves the breakup of the old egoic mind patterns and the emergence of a new dimension of consciousness.
What is arising now is not a new belief system, a new religion, spiritual ideology, or mythology. We are coming to the end not only of mythologies but also of ideologies and belief systems. The change goes deeper than the content of your mind, deeper than your thoughts. In fact, at the heart of the new consciousness is the transcendence of thought, the newfound ability of rising above thought, of realizing a dimension within yourself that is infinitely more vast than thought. You then no longer derive your identity, your sense of who you are, from the incessant stream of thinking that in the old consciousness you take to be yourself. What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that. The awareness that is prior to thought, the space in which the thought—or the emotion, or sense perception—happens.
This concept of evil, even the very word ‘evil,’ can be problematic. As we have discussed before, it seems like in the West sometimes there is a tendency to see things in absolute terms, to see things as black or white, all or nothing. On top of that, under the influence of mental states such as anger, this tendency becomes even stronger. A kind of distortion of one’s thinking, one’s perception, takes place. So, as I mentioned, when you think of such events, you immediately seek a target, looking for an individual or group to blame, something concrete that you can direct all your anger and outrage at. And in that state you see things in terms of all good or all bad, see people as good or evil. So from that perspective, you might view a person as purely evil.
But from a Buddhist perspective, we have no concept of absolute evil, in the sense of evil as something which exists independently—something that is not caused by other factors, that cannot be affected by other factors, and cannot be changed or modified by other conditions. ‘Absolute’ evil has a sense of permanence. So, we do not accept the idea of evil people, in the sense that a particular person’s intrinsic nature is one hundred percent evil, and they will remain that way because it is their fundamental unchanging nature.
Now, within the Buddhist perspective we do have the concept of a person acting in an evil way, doing evil things, under the influence of negative emotions and bad motivation and so on—but we see this evil behavior arising as a result of certain causes and conditions. We feel such events can be explainable without invoking a metaphysical force like evil.
So, basically, if a person commits a very destructive act, you can say that act is evil. No question. And you should always oppose that act, as an evil act. You must take a very strong stand. And let’s say that the person’s motivation for the act was hatred. Then you can say that both the motivation, and the action that it leads to, are evil because of their destructive nature. But we still cannot view that individual as “an evil person,” intrinsically and permanently evil, because there is always the potential or possibility that a new set of conditions will come into play and that very same person may no longer engage in the evil behavior.
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. As I write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and Dumber. Beavis and Butthead remains popular (and influential) with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning—not just of science, but of anything—are avoidable, even undesirable.
We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements—transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting—profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
A Candle in the Dark is the title of a courageous, largely Biblically based, book by Thomas Ady, published in London in 1656, attacking the witch-hunts then in progress as a scam ‘to delude the people’. Any illness or storm, anything out of the ordinary, was popularly attributed to witchcraft. Witches must exist, Ady quoted the ‘witchmongers’ as arguing, ‘else how should these things be, or come to pass?’ For much of our history, we were so fearful of the outside world, with its unpredictable dangers, that we gladly embraced anything that promised to soften or explain away the terror. Science is an attempt, largely successful, to understand the world, to get a grip on things, to get hold of ourselves, to steer a safe course. Microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death.
Ady also warned of the danger that ‘the Nations [will] perish for lack of knowledge’. Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves. I worry that, especially as the millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us—then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.
The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.
One facet of this argument that goes largely undiscussed is that it is bad for an imperfect government to be able to predict all crime. Some of the greatest steps forward in human history were only made possible by people being able to hide information from their government. If the church had access to Galileo's research journals and notes we could be hundreds of years behind in our scientific growth. If the government had unlimited access to the networks of civil dissidents, then African Americans may have never fought off Jim Crow. If King George would have had perfect information America would never have been a country. There is no government on Earth that is perfect, and therefore there is no government on Earth that can act responsibly with unlimited access to information. A government is unlikely to be able to distinguish between a negative and positive disruption to its social order and laws, and it therefore follows that an unlimited spying program can only hinder the next great social step forward. Don't fear the surveillance state because you might have or be doing something illegal, fear the surveillance state because it is a tremendous institutional barrier to meaningful societal progress.
This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?
Anthropocenic depression should be an official term. Watching your own race systematically destroy everything that exists only to create and further the empty shell of consumerism, to poison the minds of the poor and rich to perpetuate this behavior; to ravage the land in search of every possible resource, only to waste it (water and soil), or to create absolutely unnecessary artifacts; to have them cause suffering and death for billions of other living and sentient beings, only to devour them in a constant lust for pleasure; finally, watching this
fucking beautiful piece of rock in the middle of the galaxy being burnt to the ground and knowing that no matter how hard you try to change—to be better, to be less of a disease’it simply won’t be enough; that nothing is, in fact, is the most daunting thought of all, and it would wreak havoc on any sane individuals mind.
I ask everyone here, is there a reason to be happy? The middle class and above owes their leisure time, their banal pursuits of self-realization, to the poorest of the poor: to the slaves that pay tribute to the first world nations with their blood and sweat and ecosystems. The richest ones dedicate their lives to hide these facts and everyone just concedes their freedom for the illusion of independence, of comfort, of family, of God. Once you take any of those goggles off, you watch a grey, sterile wound growing at exponential rates, predating everything that once mattered, and replacing it with something trivial, then they teach you to enjoy it or else you’ll be rejected. I see no reason at all to be anywhere remotely close to content. I live everyday in shame, really, and I cannot wait for this
fucking nightmare to end.
Right now billions of people are living in a rat race. Everything comes down to money, and people will do any old
shit for money. China sends millions of tons of crap to the West every year. Crap toys, crap electronics, crap that people use a few times and then throw in the garbage.
No one questions this. We are just running around doing stuff, without thinking about whether we should be doing it at all. Because we need the money.
We have to break away from this precarious system of financial growth if we want to save the environment. We have to accept that there won’t be a new iPhone every year. We have to learn how to fix things instead of buying new every single time. New stuff has to justify itself, and the majority of the stuff we buy doesn’t justify itself; it’s just more crap.
And we have to encourage people to leave the economic system by giving them money to exist in a carbon-neutral way. The less crap people produce, the better, but under the current system, people are forced to take part and make things worse.
We have to get a grip on this, because we’re
fucked if we don’t.
In spying-and-hiding transactions, worry leads to more worry and suspicion leads to more suspicion. The very act of participating, however unwillingly, in the secret police game—even as victim, or citizen being monitored—will eventually produce all the classic symptoms of clinical paranoia.
The agent knows who he is spying on, but he never knows who is spying on him. Could it be his wife, his mistress, his secretary, the newsboy, the Good Humor man?
If there is a secret police at all, in any nation, every branch and department of government, and institutions which are not even admitted to be parts of government, becomes suspect in the eves of cautious and intelligent people as a possible front for, or tunnel to, the secret police. That is, the more shrewd will recognize that something bearing the label of HEW or even International Silicon and Pencil might actually be the CIA or NSA in disguise.
In such a deception network, conspiracy theories proliferate. Rumor is necessary, it has been found, when people cannot find “official” news sources that can be trusted to tell them what is really going on. The present author, having worked in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the legalize-pot movement and other dissident causes, has repeatedly been approached by friend A with dire warnings that friend B is almost certainly a secret police agent, only to be told later and independently by friend C that friend A is a secret police agent. It requires delicate neurological know-how to keep one's sense of humor in the secret police matrix.
The more omnipresent the secret police, the more likely it is that intelligent men and women will regard the government with fear and loathing.
The government, on discovering that growing numbers of citizens regard it with fear and loathing, will increase the size and powers of the secret police, to protect itself.
The infinite regress again appears.
The pain you feel is capitalism falling apart. The pain you feel is the weight of 7.5 billion people living off the combustion of a one-time endowment of ancient carbon energy; from the factory-farmed produce you eat to the petroleum-based medical supplies that keep you alive. What we call “renewable energies” are nothing more than ‘fossil fuel extenders’ still wedded to fossil-fueled extraction processes for the production and maintenance of these technologies. It's a shell game of sorts. Industrialized countries will say their carbon footprint has gone down without telling you they've moved their dirty industrial operations to Third World countries. Developing countries will make promises of “green growth” while their state-owned banks and companies expand fossil fuel production overseas. We've been fooling ourselves for a very long time about what is truly sustainable and will continue to do so as the system falls apart, geoengineering fixes are applied, interstellar space colonization fantasies are dreamed up, and wars are fought for what remains. Humans have constructed a reality incompatible with the well-being of the natural world and the stability of the biosphere, but we won't be able to escape the rules of physics, chemistry, and biology. Time is not on our side.
It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings. But not in this sense—that you are a part, a piece, of an eternal, infinite being, an aspect or modification of it, as in Spinoza's pantheism. For we should have the same baffling question: which part, which aspect are you? What, objectively, differentiates it from the others? No, but inconceivable as it seems to ordinary reason, you—and all other conscious beings as such—are all in all. Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance.
Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering. And not merely ‘some day:’ now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.
The world cannot be analyzed correctly into distinct parts; instead, it must be regarded as an indivisible unit in which separate parts appear as valid approximations only in the classical (i.e., Newtonian) limit [...]. Thus, at the quantum level of accuracy, an object does not have any “intrinsic” properties (for instance, wave or particle) belonging to itself alone; instead, it shares all its properties mutually and indivisibly with the systems with which it interacts. Moreover, because a given object, such as an electron, interacts at different times with different systems that bring out different potentialities, it undergoes [...] continual transformation between the various forms (for instance, wave or particle form) in which it can manifest itself.
Although such fluidity and dependence of form on the environment have not been found, before the advent of quantum theory, at the level of elementary particles in physics, they are not uncommon [...] in fields, such as biology, which deal with complex systems. Thus, under suitable environmetnal conditions, a bacterium can develop into a spore stage, which is completely different in structure, and vice versa.
The sole means now for the saving of the beings of the planet Earth would be to implant again into their presences a new organ, an organ like Kundabuffer, but this time of such properties that every one of these unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as the death of every one upon whom his eyes or attention rests.
Only such a sensation and such a cognizance can now destroy the egoism completely crystallized in them that has swallowed up the whole of their Essence and also that tendency to hate others which flows from it—the tendency, namely, which engenders all those mutual relationships existing there, which serve as the chief cause of all their abnormalities unbecoming to three-brained beings and maleficent for them themselves and for the whole of the Universe.
The only way to grow personally is through adversity. If nothing comes to challenge us, then there is nothing we need to develop to meet those challenges. Curling a 70-pound weight seems daunting; almost impossible—but through enough strain and adversity, the muscles become stronger and are able to lift more weight. The same applies for morality and personal inner strength. If there isn't anything challenging our morality or inner strength, then we don't become stronger.
The show Arrested Development is about a whole family who have lost touch with reality; they lack common moral precepts, and they often find themselves in ridiculous troubles because of their lack of development. And it's all because the parents of the show, who both lived adversity-free lives with all the money they needed, and provided the same for their children. Justin Bieber can be said to be in arrested development, as he was handed safely away from adversity at a young age. Crews of people tending to his whims, making sure he was adversity free, resulting in a degenerate of a person. Nelson Mandela faced a lot of adversity, and took his adversity as a means of growth, resulting in one of the greatest humanitarians ever.
Those privileged with the silver spoon, the trust fund, with the family connections, with a free ride through life, are under-privileged in the amount of adversity they receive, resulting in a degree of arrested development. Things like morality, character, humanity, compassion, humility, grace, and empathy, are lacking in those who have not been presented the conditions for growth. Those who have to face adversity are presented the conditions for personal development. They have the chance to become stronger, fortified, moralistic, compassionate, and their threshold for tolerance becomes much higher.
It gets to the point where the politician who lived a life in safety is the pragmatic sociopath, who cares solely about themselves. And the hard working farm boy, grows up to being a morally upstanding pillar of their community. Those who have faced adversity are superior to those who have not. It is an objective truth that most people are superior in every way to George W. Bush, to George Soros, to Hillary Clinton, to Bernie Madoff, or Dick Cheney. All these people are degenerates on the inside, professional on the outside, so the image they give off is a deception.
Adversity is a badge of honor, it pushes people past their threshold and pushes what they are capable of. Do not envy those without adversity, because it becomes clear that their lack of adversity has translated into a lack of personal development.
Now, don’t think you have me in a bind today. I’m not talking about communism. What I’m talking about is far beyond communism... I read Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital a long time ago, and I saw that maybe Marx didn’t follow Hegel enough. He took his dialectics, but he left out his idealism and his spiritualism. And he went over to a German philosopher by the name of Feuerbach, and took his materialism and made it into a system that he called dialectical materialism. I have to reject that.
What I’m saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
That's the thing about modern society. Labor is divided across so many areas that you can't possibly imagine what it really took to get a burger on your plate. When you start adding in oil, trucks, people to build trucks, people to mine ore to build trucks; same thing for tractors, ovens, knives, and on and on.
The idea of going off into the woods and living off the land without any benefit from society is nearly impossible. If you bring a shovel with you, you are bringing micro-contributions from a thousand people with you. If you bring a plastic bucket with you, or a pair of gloves, or a pocket knife, or a saw blade... you are relying on society. It's so, so incredibly interconnected.
An investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The man replied, “only a little while.” The banker then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisher said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The banker then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, spend time with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life.” The banker scoffed, “I am a university graduate and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the big city, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the banker replied, “15 to 20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the fisherman.
The banker laughed and said, “That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
The banker said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, spend time with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”
Buddhism isn't one of those heaven religions. It's totally different. There is no happy ever after. Wherever you go, you'll have happiness and suffering. You can't have one without the other. You can't have night without day. You can't have youth without old age. You cannot have pleasure without suffering. In fact, all happiness ever is, is a pause between two moments of suffering. All suffering is, is a pause between moments of happiness. No more. Check it out.
So the only way there can be real peace, real happiness, is the ending of all this—stopping. That's when you understand what suffering truly is. Suffering is not having hay fever, or having a sore tummy, or not getting the food you like when you have lunch in a few minutes. Suffering is not sort of being argued with, or is not saying, 'I don't agree with this;' that's not real suffering. The real suffering is being. To be is to suffer. To be or not to be, that is the question. It's not a question; the Buddha answered it a long time ago. Think about it: do you ought to continue being? If you do, you will have to endure suffering. To be is to suffer. It's called Bhava Tanha, 'the craving to be'—the last and most powerful of cravings. You'd rather be, and suffer, than not be at all.
That is the jewel in the heart of the lotus: there's nothing there! So: are you ready to open the lotus? “No. No, thank you. I'm out of here. I won't be coming to these retreats anymore; this is freaky. I want to be! I want to... suffer...”
These are the three characteristics—anicca, dukkha, anattā. Now, I don't expect you to agree with this. If you did, enlightenment wouldn't be profound. If you could understand it, then everybody would become enlightened. That's why this is an incredibly deep and powerful thing. It just gets to you. And I say this to you because—yeah, you'll think, “This is a load of rubbish, I don't agree with that. I have all the counterarguments for this.” But there's something about this teaching that gets right inside of you, irrespecitve of all your logical arguments against it. In spite of the fact that I don't like this, I want to be. In spite of all of that, it has the taste of freedom. It smells of truth, even though you don't like it. And that's the problem, for you. Once you hear it—I'm sorry—it's too late. You shouldn't've come here. It gets inside of you and you can't get rid of it. That is why you will become enlightened. You'll struggle and squirm. You'll reject it and say, “no, not me.” I'm sorry, it's not up to you anymore. Sorry.
—Ajahn Brahm, Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, who graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in theoretical physics before becoming a Theravada Buddhist monk in 1974.
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage.
A bird can just be a bird. When the sun rises it isn't accompanied by a feeling of dread. Its daily tasks are solely comprised of being a bird and being a bird still.
Humans are a problem. There's no place for us. I cant just go out into the woods and be a human. But then again, I have a taste of the finer things and I'm an enlightened person who doesn't care to live in the woods anyway. So I have a job, I put in my 40+ hours a week, I pay someone for the privilege of having a roof, I drive 15 miles a day, and I take care of a dog. This lifestyle has cost me friends. It has cost me relationships. I cannot visit my family without it being rubbed in my face that I merely live like a king. That's right—a king.
The fact of the matter is that I have a steel pod that lets me travel 65mph and traverse hundreds of miles. I have clean air, water, unspoiled food that I didn't have to even make. I have a bicycle for my mind that lets me express myself in ways man was unable to for most of recorded history and an audience of thousands subscribed to see what I make. On a daily basis I get to watch cinematic productions that cost millions of dollars to produce. I can role-play with millions of people across the globe in virtual realities. I can, at a moment's notice anywhere in the world, talk to people I know, wherever they are. I will likely live to see 90.
Kings never lived like this. Presidents never lived like this. Yet I am apparently barely scraping by. I could work harder and get a better steel pod. A faster mind-bicycle. A bigger castle. But in the end, if I can't be happy with the amazing life I have right now, what hope is there that any of that is going to help. If my peers could get off my back I think I'd be okay.
This is what breaks my heart, it feels like we have all the pieces required to live sustainably, but we've chosen not to. Maybe one of the missing pieces is the desire to do so. But as you've said before, that would require us to collectively wake up to, and transcend, our biological and neurological drives.
I like to think about it like a traffic jam. When you're stuck in gridlock, it should be possible for everyone to simultaneously start driving 60mph, and then everyone would just be... driving 60mph. No more gridlock. Humans on their own are unable to manage the complexity, but a computer-driven car could facilitate it. The other option, of course, is to take some of the cars off the road.
The problem is not the end goal, it's the transition to that end state. At a certain level of complexity, there is too much built-in infrastructure, both in the physical environment and in the minds of the people living in that environment, to make the transition. It's like bad software. The system may “work,” but it's so broken in its basic structure, that in order to transition to something better the entire program needs to be scrapped and rewritten from the ground up. Eighty story buildings, single passenger vehicles, and suburbs are just not ever going to be a sustainable pattern.
Social complexity creates niches where people with violent, selfish, sociopathic, etc. psychology can operate beyond accountability. They corrupt the functioning of institutions and such institutions become symbiotic with one another. This is why complex society can never work. The good news is that the resources required for complexity will run out someday, so such parasites will have to live closer to decent people, which means their behavior will be more in check.
This is what results from a world where competition between individuals is celebrated over unity with them. Capitalism is based on pitting everyone against each other with no limits to growth, allowing kings in their castles to rule over the serfs. It sounds nice, anyone can make money, anyone can start a business, anyone can blah blah... But what it really means is whoever does it the best can destroy the rest. We celebrate companies growing larger and larger, merging and buying others, always growing, until a company is essentially a nation, swearing allegiances to a company becomes the norm, idolizing CEOs becomes the norm, and again feudal society is created globally. The rich are playing a game of castles and cattle, we are the cattle. We are simply animals, all deserve to live freely, love freely, speak freely, but life has always been about consuming others to survive, and humanity has not risen from that darkness entirely just yet.
You can't feed a society exaggeration, hyperbole and propaganda for over a decade, and then claim surprise when people don't seem to be making rational decisions on the basis of well established truth. There's a cost associated with not telling the truth. There's a cost associated with polarized, adversarial public discourse. There's a cost associated with media more concerned with profits than the public interest. It is, apparently, time to pay the piper.
In the past decade I've watched public discourse on social and political issues collapse into violence, hateful rhetoric and idiocy on all ends of the spectrum and it just doesn't seem to be ending. People just keep getting angrier and less rational and more divisive.