Most of us, even if we enjoy large parts of our lives, see the world around us and see that there is much that causes pain, both to others and ourselves. There are warped political and financial structures, a plethora of individual pains and dysfunctions, family and relationship issues, addictions, and on and on. Sometimes the thought of how much it would take to fix even half of these issues seems like too much, and we to just accept the world as it is, do some small personal improvements, and live with the pain.
However there is a path that leads to a different and better world. It requires a holistic approach, addressing both the individual and the community, both the deeply internal and the physical and practical. But it does not require us to fix 1000’s of issues. By addressing a few root ideas and structures that ripple out into all of our lives, it creates a real path for different experience, and a different vibrant community, now. And although we need to make changes on multiple levels, this path does not need the government or even the greater financial system to change at all. We can do this change with what is in front of us right now.
In this series I will lay out my ideas for one of the paths we can take. And in this article I will begin by addressing the problems, what are we really facing?
As I mentioned above, many of us see and are touched by the problems in living in world and culture we live in. Some may seem totally lost in these problems. Many of us have recognized these issues and have been working to our lives, and in some cases the structures around us, but with very mixed results, and maybe in a way that we feel like a bee-bee fighting the ocean.
I know that most of us have read laundry lists of all the reasons the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. And if you’re like me, you’re pretty tired of it. All that seems to lead to is a state of overwhelm and depression, and rarely any useful action. What has been useful to me is to look at the patterns underneath all the individual and community wide problems. I have a noticed that a few structures and ideas are at the bottom of most of the problems we face. If we change those, positive results will naturally ripple into our lives and our community. Often these roots are things that are so much a part of our consciousness, of the world around us, that we never even see them, much less question them, they are simply the way life is. Here are some of the key roots that I see:
I see people around me, and sometimes myself, experiencing a sense of lack, sometimes it is a lack of connection, a lack of meaning, or even just a core sense that something is missing. And then acting to try to alleviate this pain in ways that just cause more pain and disconnection. Maybe by trying to soothe the pain without addressing the root causes (cocaine, alcohol, anti anxiety and depressions drugs, addictive overeating, overwork, etc.) . And maybe by trying to replace our needs with symbols or poor replacements, chocolate for love, money for a feeling of accomplishment, porn for intimacy, etc.
I think the root of the unaddressed need is a belief and an experience of separation. We feel separate from our each other, from the earth and nature around us, from our own minds and especially our bodies, and from the very flow of life itself.
This creates a hunger within us that almost all of us avoid, in may different ways, We we may want to become complete, by owning enough pieces of a world we feel disconnected from. We may want to control others to make sure they won’t go away, We may join an extreme cause, because it gives us a sense of being something larger. This starts with a belief that we are ares separate beings, that are often in competition with each other, with nature, maybe even with life itself. And that belief is reinforced by so many life experiences.
One way I see this played out in our psyches is judgment. We all carry this experience that something isn’t right, and in a culture of separation, we want to find out whose fault this is. Some of us torture ourselves with hateful self judgements. Other spend much of our life energy judging each others. Most of us do both. And what this does is make our sense of separation even more painful.
And this belief in separation is invisible to most of us, we don’t even realize there is an alternative. Many non-Western cultures do not see the self, as ending at the edge of the skin. They perceived us a part. as one with nature, they were individuals, but also they WERE the tribe, they were the land they lived on, They were a part of great spirit.
This belief, and the experience of it really fills that hole. In part 2 we will talk about this more.
This culture of separation has spawned the culture of finance and interest. We have been told that our economic system will meet human needs through following self-interest, and yet it is not just OK, not bad, but a spectacular failure. We have time of recession where there are people who have great skills and extra goods, and people who need those very things, but we can not make the exchange because we do not have money to give us permission to make the exchange. We have an efficient system of production that should provide us all the opportunity of working 20 hours a week, and yet it seems that we have work harder than ever before. It regularly seems that things that are destructive and life sucking pay the most.
Without going to all the economic details, ( I recommend Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics for those who are interested) Money has become anything but a neutral means of exchange, because of interest, which literally means we keep needing more and more; because of money not decaying like most parts of the physical world, but gaining interest, which encourages hoarding; and because the true costs of things, like destruction to the environment, are not included in monetary costs, the current monetary system encourages us to the worst angels of our nature, to manipulate, to compromise our deepest ideals, and to be practical rather than follow our dreams. In another system, following our dreams WOULD be practical.
The third core idea/system I will mention is a the economic separation of individuals/nuclear families. We believe and we act as though we are supposed to be individual, and meet all our needs alone or with our little unit. This is wildly inefficient. Four families on one block have a parent staying home with one or two children, each struggling with the loss of income, overwhelmed by the lack of adult contact, when they could be sharing this task.
Each house needs 2-3 cars, TV’s, tools, lawn mowers, etc. etc. when these things could be shared.
Instead we do it all ourselves or feel we have to pay others for the smallest things. No wonder it hard to find money/work balance in our lives, it is hard to be an individual, and maybe even harder to be a family with children. And yet people just suffer with this. Some just fall a part, others just rationalize their sacrifices as part of being an adult.
If we learned how to connect and share, we could cut the amount of physical objects we need by 2/3, and the amount of work and services we need by 1/2 without giving up one shred of prosperity.
And these are the roots. If we learn to remember, and feel our connection with the earth, our bodies, nature, and life; if we create structures so we can give and receive from one another without money, if we begin living as real communities, instead of separate economic entities. We will truly live in a new world