Vote for Life: whatever your political inclinations.

The Twenty First Century Human Being is facing the biggest challenge and potential catastrophe of human history. Although many may be in subconscious denial, and others are clearly in conscious denial, our collective blindness will cost us all.

The cost, it is clear, will not be paid only by human beings. It will be paid by all forms of life on this planet, by every species known and unknown, vegetable, animal, reptile or insect. This is a cost unquantifiable. A cost that should make you sick to the marrow of your bones to know that you will not only pay this cost, but have incurred it.

We can look for scapegoats, and we will find them. Yet in doing so we will once again be deluding ourselves and pushing possible solutions further into the domain of unlikelihood. We have, we are, and we will all continue to contribute to the problem. Even as some of us look honestly for solutions. Even as others find and implement them.

There is no bad guy here. If blame is appropriate, we are all to blame. If you are inclined to quantify and apportion that blame then you are further compounding the problem.

We are all equally guilty. We are all equally innocent.

Not one of us chose to be born. Not one of us chose our parents, our race, our gender, our birth nationality. Not one of us chose the comparative size of our footprint and the amount of damage it does.

Yet many of us have the privilege and the power to respond immediately and definitively to our common crisis. Especially those of us who live in a democracy.

It may well be true that democracy is an inefficient and unjust political system. It may also be that contemporary democracies are breaking under the weight of inequality, austerity, population displacement and all the other consequences of exploitative economics.

Even so, there is some life, some purchase available in democracy. Just as some can be made by individual consumer choices. Every little counts. Not least in transforming our habits and thinking from that of a careless consumer to that of a careful caretaker. Like wise we can reconsider our voting habits and intentions in the light of what is undeniably the biggest issue facing each and every one of us: runaway ecological catastrophe.

It is happening now: more and faster than you think.

Democratic elections are also happening all the time across the globe. And even though the old patterns and loyalties are shifting the same options and aspirations remain. All of the conventional options, and their underlying aspiration of economic security, improvement and growth are deeply embedded in the roots of our common crisis.

By voting along, or even against, traditional political fault lines we are voting for the continuation of exploitative and destructive economic systems of competition, accumulation, consumption and waste.

No traditional political party, nor their populist mutations, would even dare to present a manifesto of reduced growth, reduced income, reduced consumption. Nor to prioritise caring for the ‘other’ over caring for self. Yet that is what we need if life on this planet is not once again to be reduced to a fragile shadow of its present, though rapidly fading, magnificence.

It may well be that voting for a ‘Green’ party dedicated primarily to environmentally sound social and economic policies will not bring them into power. This does not mean that it is meaningless or useless.

We have to begin somewhere. We have to see the problem clearly, and our parts in it. Not just our consumerist habits and (unconsciously) exploitative aspirations. We also have to see that while reducing our ecological footprint with our consumer choices may have little impact. It will have some.

Likewise voting for environmental policies may not yet elect environmental parties. Nor will it remove the deep economic and political constraints within which they function. Yet it will make a difference. It will make a statement. It will affect the politcal landscape. We can not know for certain how much.

Are you willing to allow cynicism to determine the fate of this planet?

If a people get the government that they deserve, or if they don’t, you are a human being. This means you have the power to act, the power to choose, the power to push back, even if only a little, against the forces of destruction.

Not doing so can only guarantee catastrophe. Doing so will at worst delay it, and perhaps even prevent it.

Of course, nobody, no institution, no political party, no NGO knows exactly what is required. Nobody ever will unless everyone begins to take whatever action they can.

However, action taken out of fear and anger tends only to muddy the waters. We need to change our behaviour, but to change our behaviour we need to change our attitudes. To change our attitudes we need to examime the assumptions underlying them. In fact we need to challenge them. Not only with our minds but also with our hearts.

To save the world we have to change the world: radically, fundamentally. Yet how the world changes is determined by human beings: by our actions, by our desires, by our fears, by our beliefs.

A different world requires a different human being. We can’t change our DNA. We can learn to change our behaviour. To do so we must learn to change our attitudes and beliefs.

We must take less, consume less,  use less, and we must complain less. We must give more, as much as we can: to nature, to others, to the future. We must substitute the anxiety and doubt that creates greed and agression with generosity and trust.

This is definitely possible. We are exploitative because we dont’ feel safe, satisfied, fulfilled. We dont’t feel those things because we look to the ‘other’ to provide them for us. This is not only stupid, but it is the root cause of our destructiveness.

The only way that we can feel safe enough to stop exploiting is to recognise how powerful we are: both as individuals and collectively. The power that has brought this catastrophe upon us is the same power that can resist it. The power to think, choose and act that flows through all human beings.

Yet it has to flow more deeply than it has.

Human beings do not understand themselves. In our ignorance we seek satisfaction where it can not be found. Without ever finding more than brief moments of limited satisfaction, we are destroying that which we use to provide our satisfaction: nature.

Nature is not only the source of all the products, gadgets, distractions with which we seek to alleviate our anxieties. It is also the source of life, of our life, and also of our nature.

It is because we are out of touch with our own nature that we are destroying Mother Nature. Only by becoming deeply intimate with your own nature will you be able to fully relinquish the need to get, take, accumulate and consume. This you can do by taking the time to become intimate with your own presence, and with the presence of others.

Until then: Vote Green.

The Spectrum of Natural Consciousness

 

Whatever else you may be, you are, like me, a human being. Being human may come with great gifts and privileges. Nevertheless it also comes with unprecedented challenges and tribulations. Many of these tribulations and challenges arise from ignorance. We are perhaps most tellingly ignorant about human nature itself.

Our understanding of human nature, of ourselves, is deeply prejudiced. It is prejudiced by the nature of our individual and collective experience. More deeply it is prejudiced by our chemistry, biology, neurology. Yet if we do not throw off these prejudices, as far as we can, our gifts and privileges may soon come to nothing.

We have been led to believe that nature is a warzone where individuals and species fight “tooth and claw” for survival. Of course there is a food chain within nature, and it is easier for some indivduals than others to access it. Yet there is much more to nature than fighting for survival.

Likewise we have been led to believe that human nature is selfish, greedy, aggressive. We are told that human beings must learn to be kind, decent and honest. This may not actually be the case. The fact that human selfishness, greed and aggression is everywhere evident perhaps says little about our nature and speaks rather of our behaviour.

One thing we do know for sure about human nature is that we can learn. In fact we have to learn. We have to learn to walk. We have to learn to talk. We have to learn the manners agreed upon by our society. We learn very young how to play the social game played by our parents and theirs before them. In a world where dishonesty is rewarded and greed is admired of course we learn to play that way too.

This does not mean that it is our nature to play that way, only to learn.

I will not try to persuade you. Rather i would only invite you to be your own researcher, your own scientist.

Your own nature, your unique expression of human nature is here, exactly where you are: now and always. You don’t need a degree, nor even a teacher to study and understand human nature. You don’t need much. You need curiosity about human nature and its possibilities.  You need a willingness to be unsure, uncertain. You need the time and space to look within: deeply and consistently enough to encounter the full depths of your nature, of human nature.

As you look within you will no doubt encounter both body and mind. Body will be generating sensations. Mind will be telling its stories. Perhaps about some of those sensations. Perhaps about other things altogether.

Collectively we know a lot about the human body. Our anatomical, phsyiological, neurological knowledge is impressive, and freely available. We don’t know so much about the human mind. We know some, but not as much as we know about the body.

Most, if not all, of what we know about how the body works we know through the work of others. We do not know it from direct experience. Even though the roots of the mind run deep there is still a lot that we can learn about it from examining our own experience.

One thing that it can really help to learn is that perception is always prejudiced: by culture, experience, neurology, biology, chemistry. The mind is not really a truth teller, though it can extend itself to that in some domains. Rather it is a story teller.

I invite you to turn the story telling genius of your own mind upon its source. What is it that allows you to know? What is is that allows you to experience? What is it that reveals both body and mind?

Conscious awareness is the ground of human experience. Without conscious awareness there are no stories, no sensations, no experience. Conscious awareness is the root of human experience. Conscious awareness is the source of human experience.

Now, conscious awareness is not the sum total of human consciousness. Far from it. It is only the tip of the iceberg. It is not even the same thing as the conscious mind. A cat is aware of your presence, even if it can not identify your profession.

Your conscious mind is where you think. Conscious awareness is where you experience, where you feel, look, listen, smell and taste. What you taste, smell, hear, see and feel is determined by your mind. While most of this determination is subconscious, its significance becomes part of your conscious experience, even when you don’t think about it.

When you think about it you experience your conscious mind. When you don’t need to think about it you experience conscious awareness.

Have you ever been woken from deep sleep by a loud bang, a violent vibration? On waking perhaps you were afraid, uncertain about what was happening. Your conscious mind will have tried to establish reassurance by determining what it was that created that sound, that vibration.

Yet, when the sound or vibration took place you were asleep. You were unconscious. Yet awareness was present. You woke up because vibrations of one kind or another came into your sleeping body. Then they woke you up. You were asleep, but subconscious awareness was present. Otherwise you would not, could not have awoken.

A cat, a dog, a rabbit or a chicken would have awoken also. In fact they might have been awakened by more subtle vibrations than you can detect. The fact that other species can not talk might well mean that they do not think like we do. It does not mean that they do not have consciousness.

Of course they do. They know when they are hungry. They know that you are dangerous. They may not tell fascinating stories about that hunger and danger, but they know of it nonetheless. They even communicate it to each other. Not with words and sentences perhaps, but with their own more simple languages. All mamallian species can signal danger, and much more.

Consciousness is a spectrum of intelligence, of the ability to distinguish, to know. That spectrum includes the conscious mind of human story telling. It includes conscious and subconscious awareness that we share with other species. Yet that sharing goes deeper than nervous systems and sexual reproduction.

Ask yourself what consciousness is. What characterises it? It is not the ability to differentiate and respond, a thermometer does that

One more characteristic is required: the ability to learn, to remember.

It is not just human beings that can learn, remarkable though we may be at it. It is not just mammals that can learn. Learning is the very heart of life. Actually it is the engine of life, the ability to learn.

Your DNA, which is very similar to mine, and not so different to that of a  mouse, is a record of millions, billions of years of learning. A learning that began billions of years ago when life was unicellular. A learning that has been so prodigious, so remarkable that it has generated you. That took a lot of learning, a lot of intelligence.

That took the presence of consciousness.

The story telling genius of the human mind may well be the rich fruit of evolution encoded in our remarkable neurology. Consciousness is not. Consciousness, in itself, is not only the deep root, the source of the conscious mind. It is also, clearly, the driver, the source of evolution, of nature.

At the heart of both Human Nature and Mother Nature is Consciousness.