Bare Bones Biology 245 – Dancing Inside of Life

As stated in my blog last week, I’m beginning a series of opinion pieces (my opinions) in response to the opinion pieces of others. This week I respond to Paul Kingsworth, writing at http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/witness. I had so much to say that it was impossible to put in the KEOS podcast version. Below is the full version, with the parts in green indicating what was omitted from the podcast.

Much of our confusion about climate change is caused by our current cultural rejection of science in favor of human emotional solutions to nonhuman non-emotional realities. However, the realities are not so complicated, and if we are truly looking for answers, reality-based answers are not hard to understand.

Our current generations seem often to image science as a destructive demon, rather than as a tool that we are using to understand the reality of natural law. This demonic image does not relate to the reality that basic science (defined as the effort to understand reality using the scientific method) is not technology (defined as the use of natural laws to serve the needs and desires of humans), and basic science is neither destructive nor constructive. It is the human hand that makes good or bad use of our knowledge; and the Biosystem simply accommodates itself to whatever happens.

We humans don’t like this. And so we throw our little tantrums trying, in effect, to blame Life for being what it is, and use our tools to force it to our will, rather than using science and technology to flourish within the limitations imposed by the nature of the Biosystem.

Many of us, including the author of the Tricycle article to which this post is a response (http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/witness, by Paul Kingsnorth), have learned that our human desire to dominate does not work, when applied to the Life System known as Earth. Therefore, many of us are trying to explain this in our different ways. Below is my response upon reading the above article. This is not a criticism; it is a conversational response from my perspective.

1) We cannot solve prob140825-sunrise-ASC_0993slems outside of or beyond ourselves by trying to control them. God and Nature are well beyond the levels of human control.

2) It is a misrepresentation to say that the nature of Nature changes. The nature of Nature does not change, and that is a good thing: first it means that Life is possible; second it means that we can understand what to expect from nature. The more we know about the unchangeable Laws of Life, the better we can plan our human cultures, actions, and other behaviors so that they nurture rather than damage the current manifestation of the Life of Earth.

However — and I am not nit-picking here, because it is very important that we understand the difference between the nature of nature, that is natural law, and the particular manifestation of natural Law that is Life. It is true that the most basic (and unchanging) Fact of Life is that it can and does constantly change in a responsive dance with and within its environment. Thus we can count on change and we can learn (that’s what basic science is good for) what the Biosystem requires of us, if we are to avoid generating life-threatening changes such as climate change or worse.

3) Life does change, to save itself from death, whenever that is possible. That is one definition of Life. And the unavoidable implication is that death is a necessary component of the nature of Life. That does not mean that extinctions are the endings of Life. On the contrary, they are an extreme form of the ongoing rebalancing of Life.

We cannot change the nature of Life, or the fact that Life requires death in order to continue balancing itself in changing environmental conditions. But we certainly could nurture the maintenance of a balanced environment, so as to reduce the need for changes in the Life of the Biosystem, as we do for individual human lives every day. And we absolutely should consider doing so in our efforts to understand the holistic meaning of compassion. If only because we are human and that’s what humans do.

4) As humans, we also must achieve a dynamic balance among the things we choose to do and believe. If we want to survive, save our communities, our species, then we must modify our behaviors. That is what living things do to avoid death. Indeed it is the most basic nature of Life. The idea that we can change how Life functions to stay alive (that is that we can change the nature of Life) is pure human ego. We cannot. Nor can we change our basic human makeup. What we can do, because humans can learn and understand, is learn to change our behaviors so as to avoid threatening the current manifestation of the Life of the Biosystem.

5) To maintain itself as a living entity, the Earth has “started over” several times to rebalance itself from the bottom up. We refer to these events as mass extinctions. Earth is an unimaginably complex system, but obviously is capable of reaching a dynamic balance that can sustain itself — because that is what it is doing when subunits of the Life system crash in the extinctions. However, given an environment that does not threaten its existence, it’s not usually necessary to crash the whole system in order to rebalance it; rebalancing is happening all the time. It’s what Life is. (An excellent background reference for this systems function of Life is The Great Courses, A New History of Life.)

6) All that above DOES NOT MEAN THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT OUR PLIGHT. The previous extinction events occurred at times when the creatures did not have human brains capable of studying the nature of Life and figuring out what behaviors we are doing that cause death or unbalance.

Because we DO KNOW, through the good basic science – if we are willing to study the known facts of Life and not only contemplate our own human navel – that we can change our destiny at any time, by changing our individual and communal behaviors that are specifically threatening to the Life of Earth.

We can develop our intellectual brain. Instead of trying to be heroes, we can work humbly to learn how to better understand the factual needs of the Biosystem for its own healthy balance, sustainability and resilience.

At the same time, we can develop our compassionate brain/body. If we are to practice true compassion, we must, when there is a conflict between human life and the Life of Earth, we must find a way, or look for ways to nurture the Life of Earth, even over “human rights” and avoid knee-jerk responses that further threaten the balance of Life.

This is not a passive acceptance of reality. Not at all. It is learning as much as we possibly can about the reality of Life that contains the reality of humans. And learning how to participate positively, rather than negatively in our dance with Life.

7) We humans have been “gifted” with brains that are capable of figuring out what we could be doing to nurture ourselves, not by trying to change an unchangeable system but by fitting ourselves into the balancing act that is necessary to maintain our lives as part of the Life of Earth, because we cannot live without the Life of Earth, and it is our behaviors that are changing the environment, and the changing environment requires the Earth to change itself in order to keep itself alive. The bottom line is that the Life of Earth will not choose our welfare over its own. And it is bigger and more powerful, in a million ways, than we are.

The point here is – if we decide to educate ourselves sufficiently to understand the real problem – we can start thinking and talking together about real practical solutions rather than continue trying to dominate the unchangeable nature of nature. Which can’t be dominated.

And while sitting, we could wonder why we seem to have such a need to dominate;

2013-01-13 Cannon River2RFsand learn to recognize that “need” when we see it in ourselves and others.

8) We know and have known, at least during all of my long life, that what we are doing wrong is called overpopulation. Overpopulation is defined as generating more organisms of a species than there are resources available for its survival within the normal environment.

The resources are all those other species that we are destroying, and we are destroying them primarily by taking their food (and other things they need), because we are using all the earth to provide food (and other forms of energy) for ourselves, because there are not enough energy resources on earth to feed all of us humans, as well as the other species. I wrote that sentence as a cycle intentionally.

Overpopulation is normal and has been studied, and because we have the brain and the science and the technology we can do (or could be doing) what other species cannot. We ccould decide to save ourselves before the Earth saves itself by eliminating us. We could voluntarily change our normal behaviors in order to cut the cycle of overpopulation and live within our means.

Cycles can be changed, but we cannot avoid paying for our hubris, and nothing can change overnight. In other words, we can’t “win” any battle against the normal functions of the Biosystem, but we could cooperate in the rebalancing.

And while sitting we can wonder why we believe that it is our obligation to win?
And learn to recognize that compulsion when we feel it.

9) Communally we have chosen to use technologies for domination, rather than cooperation. We have many reasons/excuses for this, and they all make good sense humanly. But nature is not human and doesn’t care about our reasons, our egos, or our human emotions or aspirations or who is to blame for what — unless those traits threaten the Life of Earth. At that point, nature responds (and is now responding) by protecting its own life.

Instead of continuing this losing fight to the death, we can dedicate our genius to understand the fact-based, nonhuman needs of nature and helping to fulfill them. If you haven’t read Eaarth (Bill McKibben) you could start there, with the hard copy book so you can follow up on his references cited.

And while sitting we can wonder why we would rather fight than collaborate.

We are what we are; It is what It is.
Shed some tears.
Carry on working for the welfare of all sentient beings.
Intelligently, compassionately, and without regard for the outcome.

10) If we ever decide we care more about the community of humans within the Life of Earth, more than we care about our own egos, rationalizations, hopes, aspirations and emotions, then we can readily (though not easily) bring our behaviors under our own control, because we already know very precisely what the primary problem is. It is overpopulation, overgrowth, and a bushel-full of other sins that arise directly therefrom.

“When threatened
by fear and desire
let ego go.”
(A Joseph Campbell Companion, Diane Osbon, page 144)

To me, most of basic science (not technology used to dominate, but basic science that is used to understand) seems a recognition of natural law that has many parallels in Buddhist teachings, which are after all, in large part also based in natural law.
As is the Biosystem.
And human beings.

Dr. M. Lynn Lamoreux

A copy of the podcast can be obtained at:

References:

http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/witness
The Great Courses, A New History of Life
Eaarth by Bill McKibben
A Joseph Campbell Companion, Diane Osbon

Photographs

Winter Picture courtesy of: vairochanafarm.wordpress.com/
Mountain Picture – © Photos by Lynn

140726 – Morning Meditation

140724-morningmeditation-ASC_0404RLSss copyI rather like the below from Tricycle, except for one thing. No deer would be so stupid, and that being the case, parable or no parable, I really despair of even Buddhism making any kind of direct contact with real Life. The human brain – yes. But I do not want to lose myself in someone else’s idea of he human brain, because there can be no human brain without a human body and there can be no human body without a real, functional Biosystem that is composed of interacting processes that are, truly, ever-fluxing, but they are not mirages. Our metaphors deny the realities with which our youth must conform if we are to save our species. That is not the function of a metaphore. The function of a metaphor is to illuminate the humanly incomprehensible realities of Life itself. So long as we train up our youth in happily inaccurate metaphors, they cannot nurture Life, but only a homocentric vision of what we wish were true.

To the extent that Buddhism pursues the Western homocentric ideal, it can only cause more harm than good in the system(s) of Life, for the very simple reason that humans are NOT the center of the universe. There is no center to the universe, and there is no CENTER to Life. The entire elegant mechanism of the Law of Life consists of fail-safes that function to maintain a viable (Life-giving) Balance that can be sustained.

140723-morning-ASC_0465RLSss copy Personally, I have a great need to know the PURPOSE of Life, so I can fulfill my responsibility to it. But I don’t know and have never read or heard of anyone who understands the purpose of Life better than I do, which makes it difficult to move toward the reality. I suspect the author of the below knows a great deal less about REALITY than would a real deer. Or even my dog. Bitsy has today – after trying for a year or so — caught and killed a gopher. Perhaps it really is just that simple.


    Like a Mirage

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

http://www.tricycle.com/brief-teachings/mirage

http://www.tricycle.com/donate
Home › Magazine › Summer 2014 › Like a Mirage
Filed in Mindfulness (sati), Theravada
• brief teachings

• Distorted perceptions are like a mirage. Deceived by a mirage, a deer runs quickly toward what it perceives as water. As he runs, he sees that the water-like mirage is still far ahead of him. So he keeps running toward it to drink. When he is even more tired and thirsty, he stops and looks back. Then he sees that he has gone past the water. When he runs back, he perceives that the water is ahead of him. So he runs back and forth until he is exhausted and falls to the ground.
Distorted perception is like that for us. Pulled by our own attachments, we are always chasing phantoms. Terrified, we run away from monsters created from our own aversions. So long as perception is distorted, we are unable to see the true nature of what is in front of us—nothing but an ever-changing collection of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts or concepts. Moreover, nothing that we perceive has a self or soul; and nothing can bring us permanent happiness or unhappiness.
In essence, when perception is distorted, we perceive impermanence as permanence, suffering as happiness, something neither beautiful nor ugly as beautiful or ugly, or something not self as self.

From Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate, by Bhante Gunaratana © 2014 Wisdom Publications. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Illustration by Roberto La Forgia

From England to Texas

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What we have here is the American way of exploitation. Way out on Rabbit Lane in Bryan an oil well pops up. Somewhere back on another country road, an oil well comes down. I bet it is a big relief to the folks who live a few hundred feet away. Next there will be one over on the other side of town. Looks like we only have one oil well, right? Sure enough it looks like it, but what we have in reality is several oil wells a week coming in and staying in.

It is perhaps time we asked ourselves whether our homes and the air we breath and the water we drink are more or less important than the money. If we want to have a livable community we need to find some way to balance the power. And the oil companies are still sending out requests for information about land not already leased. Trying to buy it all up before we catch on.

Which is more important? Or do we care about the epidemics of asthma, Alzheimers, and many other unnamed illnesses that were relatively rare 30 years ago.

120509-IMG_0877-oil well Cynthia

Hungering for justice at Guantanamo John Dear S.J. | Apr. 16, 2013

http://ncronline.org/node/49786/

Reposting this week’s comments by Father John Dear

Compassionate Earth Walk

Walk route as of April

Check it out! A smallish group of Americans and I think Canadians and Native North Americans is walking this summer, in protest and with an educational goal, along the northern part of the route of the Tar Sands Pipeline. I’m posting the route here, but be sure to go to the web site of the Compassionate Earth Walk at:
http://www.compassionateearthwalk.org/blog/

Bitsy can’t wait!

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Bare Bones Biology 151 – May You be Happy

130408-Niko-ASC_3004LSs“May you be free from danger
May you have mental happiness
May you have physical happiness
May you have ease of well-being”

If that’s what you really want more than anything else.

That is a mantra that has been translated from Buddhist texts into our American culture, which must have been quite a shock to the Buddhist texts. At least it sounds to me like a very inadequate translation from wisdom toward trivia. But it is useful.

Driving long distances, surrounded by giant boxes moving at 75 miles per hour can be stressful, and so, on my way from northern New Mexico to southern Texas, I fell back on that mantra about one o’clock in the afternoon. By two o’clock it was getting wearisome. Because if happiness is really what you want it should be pretty easy to come by in this rich country, but it’s not really what I want, in fact I suspect it’s an Americanized sales pitch, and so I should not be repeating that mantra, hour after hour.

Happiness is a word without meaning;
In a world that has grown much more complicated.

Then I remembered Tony Hillerman’s novels that are based in the Navaho area of modern Arizona. He tells us about Navajo ideas of community – a community in which you want to be connected together, rather than everyone competing to see who can be “best.” Tony Hillerman’s character, Joe Leaphorn, says/thinks “’We have a curing ceremony to heal us when we start getting vengeful or greedy or, what to you call it, getting ahead of the Joneses.’ . . (He was) remembering how Navaho kids are conditioned to be part of the community . . . in harmony.“

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On the contrary, I think many other of our American cultures are based in the belief that I can be “happy” if ever I can prove that I’m better than you are — or at least not worse. I think Leaphorn is more realistic. If we truly want community, it doesn’t make sense that we should try to prove we are better than the people around us. Why would I like you better because you can prove that you are better than I am? I think that is NOT a way to build a positive communal experience for anyone. In fact I’m sure it’s not, because I have seen how people react when they think they aren’t as good. If it continues, it’s the beginning of violence.

In harmony. I really like that concept. Harmony sounds like balance, not better or worse or winners and losers. Balanced acceptance of, and participation in, the reality of how Life functions.

Harmony, I said. Harmony is what I want. Happiness is just another homo-centric, us over them, ego-trip. But HARMONY, what I really need, what everyone needs to survive in peace, is a balance among all the parts in this physiological teeter-totter of mind and body, that I know couldn’t happen without the vibrant realities of the human and biological communities (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/), all of which operate by balancing the factual laws of nature.

So I decided to substitute the word Harmony in my mantra

Within less than a mile – I swear this is true, on April 6, 2013 – I saw a big green sign by the side of the highway pointing to “Harmony Road.”

Should I have followed the road? Or –

Maybe I am.

May I live in harmony in my mind.
In a viable, vibrant balance: love balancing anger; fear balancing hubris, wisdom and factual knowledge balancing foolish ignorance;

May I live in harmony with my body.
Tending tenderly to its needs;

May I live in harmony with my neighbors.
In kindness, based upon truth and honor, with everyone I meet.

May I live in harmony with the reality of my community.
No matter how badly it sometimes behaves.

May I live in harmony with the factual laws of the creation and the creator;
Sharing in the commons without greed or grasping.
Recognizing that the processes of Life are not anthropocentric,
But must be shared universally.
Or not at all.

Happiness is a word with no meaning; harmony, something I can try to achieve. Even though it’s not easy to live in harmony with toxicity, at least I have a place to go to.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a weekly production of FactFictionFancy.com, and KEOS radio, in Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded at:


Recommended References

Tony Hillerman, The Shape Shifter – good read; easy to find on line or in the library.

Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness, the revolutionary art of kindness. Shambala Classics
(Not so revolutionary after all, is it? Originated 2500 years ago or maybe a long, long time before that, judging by similarity with the Navajo concept for only one. And is pretty much just good common sense community behavior, but – the first time I’ve seen it outlined so clearly.)

Pema Chodron, The Four Limitless Quantities. Audiobook. Omega Mediaworks.

Bare Bones Biology 150 – What Can I Do?

While you pursue your human goals
Believing that you help the suffering,
The butterflies are dying in your own back yard.

You can blame it on karma,
Or God’s will,
Or some evil influence,
And all of that is true.

But the slaughter continues because of the human ego
that can walk across a field of death and destruction
And only see itself.

I wrote this poem last week while watching a fine blazing sunrise that reminded me of a quote from Psalm 89.

“The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours;
everything in the world is yours—you created it all.”

130315-sunrise-ASC_2765FsNot thinking about the consequences, I immediately emailed my poem, without commentary, to several friends. Of course the moment I punched the “send” button I realized each of these people probably will assume I was writing about them personally. So then I followed up to explain what I really meant. One friend wrote back the following:

“If people think that it is about them, then maybe it is.

“But what SHOULD I do?” they will ask.
And your answer may seem nearly as difficult to them as the one that went, ‘Sell what you have, and give to the poor.’ Your answer is,

“Change your value system.
Stop listening to advertisements.
Stop feeding your emotions with STUFF; just get what you need, or genuinely want.
Get out, find some natural landscape somewhere. Breathe the air. Notice the rest of life besides humanity.
Discover what that other life needs. As a major item it needs less humans, so your main aim will be to have a small family if any, 1-2 children, and to persuade your friends and relations to do that too.
Your second aim will be to consume less goods (especially from distant places) and less energy, also less meat. There are many ways to do that.
The end.”

Yes indeed, but my answer to the question of what we can do might not seem as daunting as her answer. Mine would be:

Watch the sun rise up and move across the sky as it greens the living earth. Meditate about the laws of nature that God created to generate and maintain Life, the whole earth ecosystem.

As the sun moves down every evening, consider that no opinion or no action of yourself or any other person created Life, and no opinion or no action of yourself or any other person can change how God’s laws of nature function to maintain Life of earth.

301815_318718714859423_146189222112374_876076_1786453066_nStop wasting your time arguing over opinions and debating fake advertising propaganda that is designed by the corposystem to spread death and destruction to the living earth. Learn to know the difference between opinions, and the created facts of life. Feed your emotions by learning how God’s created natural laws actually do function to maintain Life. Specifically, how does Life stay alive? Without this knowledge, how can you function to protect Life?

Discuss these things as often as possible with other people, including people who are genuine experts. Learn to recognize expertise. (Hint, reporters’ expertise is reporting things, not evaluating them. Technologists expertise is making things and selling them to make money — that is a corposystem value, Life’s value is not to make money. Life’s value is to maintain Life. Genuine experts study how things work.)

And then understand that wise compassion is not that soft-fuzzy feeling that makes us believe we are doing good for other people whenever WE feel good. Real wise compassion is the genuine heartfelt wish and obligation of every human to provide for the welfare of Life “unto the seventh generation” or beyond. It’s our only value on earth, to protect God’s creation, the Life-System, against the evils of human ego and the human corpo-system that deals in death and destruction in the name of fake compassion.

When you do as I suggest, then I trust your good judgment. You will automatically do as my friend suggests. If you do as she suggests, then you already understand much of what I suggest. Keep doing it.

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:

For the people who read my blog, here’s a quote from The Dalai Lama.
“The model of turning the other cheek or of having an overriding compassion for all beings, however they treat you, is about the elimination of self-centeredness and the cultivation of qualities that – in a theistic tradition – bring the practitioner ever closer to the Creatior, making him or her ever more similar to God, so that life may be lived in the image of God. In a nontheistic tradition like Buddhism, compassion brings its practitioner ever closer to freedom from clinging to the narrow confines of a self-centered way of being and opens a space for the interconnectedness with all beings.”


Suggested References:

Lynn Lamoreux: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook available free under Chapters on right side of blog
The Dalai Lama: Toward a True Kinship of Faiths
The Eagle: Butterflies
http://www.theeagle.com/news/local/article_b2c60ec6-9f82-52c6-9d50-1fd4305da04b.html