Sunday, July 28, 2013

Going and Coming

Growing up, life was simpler and didn’t require thinking too much about my place, or my country’s place in the world. That was a long time ago and much has changed. Now life is not so simple and requires much thinking about both matters. Nothing should be assumed anymore, not even the nature of our existence.

I tend to see things through a philosophical lens and want to understand how disparate pieces fit together. What I’m about to write about now follows that tendency and starts very, very small and simple but gets quite big, and important (at least to me). I’ll wax on, seemingly to nowhere important, and then state some obvious and important matters to consider.

When I look out upon the universe (very big) I, and everyone else, can perceive and understand things due to a simple construction, which we call discrimination—the ability to discern differences. We can only know and understand anything because of this. Up and down define one another. Same thing for In and Out, Light and Dark, one person compared to another person; a piece of steak vs. a hamburger. If there were no differences (say just a void and endless space) nobody could discern or understand anything at all: first of all because we wouldn’t exist and secondly because we must have contrast and difference to make sense of anything and everything.

If you wanted to sum up this matter you could do so with two very simple concepts: context and contents and then this principle called dependent origination. The first of these demands that everything (contents) exists within a context. Both can, and do, change all the time. As you travel in your car from point A to point B you are moving through space/time. Mr. Einstein helped us to see that space and time are locked together as a single thing, rather than two separate things: space/time. As we move toward point A the scenery is changing and so is the car. Maybe you don’t notice the car changing at the moment but I assure you if you compared your now car to your same, yet future car 20 years from now, you’d see the changes clearly. All of us experience the same thing. If you have any doubts about that try going to your 50th High School Reunion. Everything (all contents) is changing constantly but we presume that nothing is different. So that spells out the matters of contents and context.

The second of these: dependent origination, points out how things relate to one another and this happens in two distinct ways. The first is not so obvious but nevertheless important because it underscores connections. The very moment that we introduce the notion of “up”, “down” automatically comes into existence. Same thing for chickens/eggs, good/evil, or anything else. These, apparent opposites come and go as pairs. The second dimension of dependent origination concerns sequential feedback loops, which are everywhere without limit. For example consider the water cycle. Heat from the sun warms bodies of water, which vaporize and rise, becoming clouds, containing water vapor. When the water vapor is sufficiently cooled it condenses and falls back to earth as rain or snow, which then melts and the cycles keeps on repeating endlessly. This principle is everywhere in our world, from an interior level to interpersonal relationships to international ones and we talk about this as “What goes around comes around”. Doing good, comes back good (And the opposite).

So much for the waxing. Now let’s get practical. The implication of combining of these two, has profound meaning for how we live together. So far we’ve chosen to pit ourselves against our fellow human beings apparently persuaded that we are superior to others and they are incidental to our prosperity. But wait: how is it possible to logically claim self-sufficient independence? We may indeed work harder, be more intelligent, manage our money better, but how could we have done that without the support of others? Did we build our own bridges? Construct our own roads? Establish necessary infrastructures? Teach our own children? Create our own healthcare systems? Mine our own raw materials? Establish and maintain a viable political system (which is looking less viable daily) that supports stability and economic prosperity? Such things are not possible. And to pretend that we can deny these contributions without appropriate compensation is just plain ignorant, and ultimately the same as shooting ourselves in the foot.

How about the bubble we all live in together (otherwise called The Environment)—The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat? What kind of insanity leads us to believe that we can pollute it all with GMOs, pesticides, herbicides (and whatever other kind of “cides” imaginable, which of course means to kill something, us included), airborne toxins that poison our environment and assume that our children and we will not only survive but also prosper? All in the name of earning more financial profit? This is madness and if not changed will surely kill us all regardless of socio-economic conditions. What goes around comes around. Small beginnings lead to big, yet quiet endings. 

Many years ago T.S. Elliot, in his poem The Hollow Men suggested that: “...This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. And it ends that way because of apathy. It takes work and continuous vigilance to keep abreast of changes in our world that affect our collective wellbeing. No longer can we go about our business as I did as a child. Our human culture has passed the age of innocence, never to return. And when we become aware of changes that are detrimental it wont do to remain silent for fear we might upset someone’s bliss of ignorance. “...THAT is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. 
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