Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Survival & Love from EcoMagic
(a small piece of a long essay)

Old Ideals for New Realities
"For centuries, there have been those who devote attention to philosophical, religious, or mystical contemplation aimed at extending human experience beyond the sensate, material realm of everyday life. Some such people, termed moral philosophers, undertake a search for the "good". In their explorations, they inevitably consider the positive and negative qualities of various attitudes and behaviors towards other people, and frequently they speculate on the nature of loving. Within both the secular and religious philosophical traditions of East and West, are exultations of a loving "oneness" tantamount to complete identity of self and others. Both Christ and Buddha taught such loving as a path to personal realization, happiness, and enlightenment.

The seeming incompatibility of such a sense of self with the day-to-day behaviors by which some of us cling to luxuries while allowing others to perish has long been a source of conflict for thinking people. How often do the actions which promote our own welfare and those which protect and nourish others seem to lie on divergent paths? The compartmentalization of charity is evidence of our failure to reconcile these two goals. Despite the proliferation of service organizations, most of us continue to devote the majority of our life and other resources to insuring our own survival, admitting and even touting our gains at the expense of others.


Failure of Narrow Self-Interest
The actions by which we express fear are often the same as those by which we elicit it from others. They range from design and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction to isolated murders, from buying food away from the lands of the starving to burning gasoline for pleasure trips while the peasants of the Himalayan foothills deforest a subcontinent in search of cooking fuel. So long as we persist in our collective failure to make the security of all the goal of all, can any of us escape fear or find enlightenment?

By devoting resources to maintaining unequal access to satisfaction and survival, we reduce the amount of need-fulfilling goods and services which we collectively share. By our refusal to live as equals, we unnecessarily deplete all that can satisfy our needs. With our stubborn persistence in old ways we waste human life, land, minerals, and energy. Those of us who insist that we are entitled to something more than 1/nth of the world's resources (where n is the world population) are left to enforce our claim with threat and violence.

Survival and Love
Some ask, "Can humans be different?" North Americans have long recognized the common interest in providing through government for the basic needs of the indigent. Private groups like corporations, unions, mutual insurance companies, and cooperatives may offer even more comprehensive benefits to members limited in capacity by illness, injury, or old age. Some families, communal groups, and monastic orders extend such protection to its practical limit, sharing resources on the basis of need and contributing to group welfare on the basis of ability. In this they are much like a number of non-Western, non-industrialized cultures which have existed in the past and endure in remote areas even today."

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