Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion

A few days ago I heard Ray, at a Dharma talk at Upaya Zen Center, read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, entitled “Kindness.” If you are reading this on the blog, I suggest you might want to go to the bottom of this page to download the original Bare Bones Biology podcast and listen to Ray’s beautiful rendering:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Well, I’m ashamed to say, as an American, that I never understood kindness until I had spent six months in Japan – I mean kindness as a way of life for its own sake. No strings attached. And that experience is one reason you have the opportunity to hear my thoughts about how we might be able to deal with this crisis that we are in.

I think it’s primarily a crisis of biology; I know it’s primarily a crisis of biology, because I’m a biologist, and that’s why I keep telling you various aspects of how humans interact with the ecosystem. Because the basic problem is not complicated; you can understand it as well as I can. But the solutions are not simple. Unless we want to ride this merry-go-round another time – well I don’t think we have another time for this merry-go-round because, all the other times around – war/peace/war/peace/war/peace/war/peace – all the other times around, the earth was able to provide us with what we needed to try to stay alive and try to solve our problems.

This is no longer true. This crisis is unique, and we cannot solve it by winning a war, or three wars or eight wars or however many wars we are doing right now. In fact I’m inclined to believe that these wars are mostly being staged by the corposystem to prevent we-the-people from understanding that we really are facing a crisis that will require us to hunker down to responsibilities that are very much more heroic than staging wars. We can’t solve it by growing another war.

Neither can we solve it by a concerted effort to teach compassion to everyone without regard to the fact that this is a biological crisis. At the root, it’s a biological crisis. We have never been here before, to the place where knowledgeable people have stated that, in 2007, we used 150% of the earth’s capacity to provide what we need to survive.

You might want to listen to the report on ecology to His Holiness The Dalai Lama, delivered by Diana Liverman from University of Arizona. Begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes into the video ). The powerpoint presentation that accompanied her report, will be linked to this blog under the heading Planetary Stewardship

In Texas or New Mexico, or in any city, you may not notice the devastating changes caused by our rape of the mother earth, because every generation believes their time of birth is normal, and because the damage is being mostly accomplished by destruction of other organisms and other peoples. But we cannot continue to survive by destroying other organisms. It is other organisms that generate air, water, earth and food energy on this planet. We might as well eat ourselves as destroy them, and that is essentially what we are doing.

So that’s why I began Bare Bones Biology. To help us find a way to combine our kindness – our compassion for the welfare of future generations – with basic fact-based knowledge about what the ecosystem requires to stay alive, and we must do this with a rule of law and an educational system that can maintain it.

Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1, Bryan, TX
A podcast of this message can be obtained here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References:
http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/news/articles/111021dalailama.php
http://www.Upaya.org
http://youtu.be/OjMWC1Bz2xA (begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes in, or ask me for a copy of the podcast).
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/2012_lpr/
http://Godlas.myweb.uga.edu/shihabnye.html

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change

I try not to be one of those snobby scientists. I know they exist. That’s why I try not to be one, and what do I get for it? Some of the politically active people who aren’t scientists try to prove that they know more about biology than I do. Perhaps I should think about them as snobby non-scientists. However, a knowledge of biology among non-scientists or other powerful people is really important. Likely it will make the difference between whether or not we humans have a future on this earth. And I’m speaking literally. But that’s not why I continue to try to make the information available. Extinction of the species is not such a big deal. I mean, who cares as long as I’m OK. The reason I keep writing these things is not about extinction. It’s about the amount of suffering that we are causing to ourselves and to others. We do not have the right to cause suffering for others.

So I gave him a book. If you want one, you can download it free on my website.

OK, I admit it, right now I’m thinking about one particular extremely snobby non-scientist, and you don’t know him, so I’m using him for an example of how to not solve problems. He didn’t understand a word of the book. That’s OK, nobody understands everything. Or more likely he didn’t try to understand it, and he also did not ask any questions about it; it wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. What he wanted was to kindly explain to me all of this biology stuff is only my personal opinion, and there is a debate about whether or not I am right about climate change. What debate? Me and Rush? Certainly no debate between me and other basic biologists. Some discussion, sure; no debate, and at least I read all that stuff about biology and understood most of it.

I mildly suggested to this fellow that he check the facts. Mine and his. I mean, it’s all there on the internet and in books and scientific papers, with the evidences. And his response? I quote: “I’m trying to teach you (that would be him trying to teach me) to THINK!” In all capital letters. He wants me to waste my time thinking about fake debates among people who have not even tried to read the evidences. Maybe he believes the ecosystem was put here on this earth to serve our needs and it never changes.

Look around you folks. It changes all the time, but only in response to physical cause- and-effect realities that are on the ground. The earth ecosystem does not care about anyone’s opinion. Opinions do not change anything except your mind. Sometimes. That’s why the facts are so important.

The ecosystem we live inside of was not put here on the earth. The ecosystem IS the living earth and all its parts. It is alive. That’s a definition of life. The ability to change in response to changing conditions. When it’s cold we shiver, because we are alive. When the living earth changes over time, the name for that change is evolution, and climate change is all about evolution.

Climate change is about life — biology, because this earth would not exist – but maybe I should define biology. I just realized you might be thinking about technology, or medicine, or physics, or physiology or biochemistry or even sociology or politics. Nuhuh. Biology is the study of life and how it stays alive. Biology is not physiology, which is primarily the study of humans, nor is it sociology, which is primarily the study of humans. All of those things we study are primarily the study of humans, as is anthropology and – well almost every study we do is primarily about humans and that is NOT ABOUT LIFE ITSELF. Because humans, contrary to the common perception, are not the center of life.

For about 500 years we have known that the earth is not the center of the solar system.

And neither are we.

These are two facts that will not change regardless of how anyone learns to think, or what anyone believes.

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook free download on the lower right side of my blog.

Bare Bones Biology 089 – What Can We Do?

So we evolved (or if you want to know more about that see BBB 010 through 019 and 088). What’s that got to do with what we can do for the future of humans on this earth? (check out New Dimensions – Creating the New Dream http://www.newdimensions.org/creating-the-new-dream-and-the-future-of-the-earth/

The answer is, we can and DO affect the welfare of future generations by our behaviors now. We can improve the human condition, if we put our faith in the reality of our obligation to the future, and change our lifestyles according to the needs of the ecosystem to maintain its health and ours. Some people make small changes, others make big changes, depending on our situation. But we all can place our faith in the heart of the process that created a Jesus and a Gandhi and a number of Buddhas and a Mohammed, and you and me. And stop placing our faith in humans and human works. For the simple reason that the whole of the process and system and creation that is the living earth – it is too much for humans to understand. There are too many interacting parts. That’s why it sounds so complicated, it is. And we should not be tinkering with the most basic components of something we don’t understand, and believe me, those guys who say they do understand, they don’t understand either. Nobody does.

Many people believe that all scientists have faith in technology. This is too bad, because I don’t know any good basic scientist whose faith is centered in their technology. Technologies are intensely human, and a good basic scientist would look at the world, examine the cause and effect of the devastation that has been wrought by human technologies. Technologies are invented with the specific purpose of trying to force an end-run around the reality of the system and the process of nature.

A good scientist would see in our current devastation a failure of human technologies. A good basic scientist has faith in the process. She would not try to tinker with the very thing that gives her life. She would not experiment with the welfare of the grandchildren when we already know what they need. They, and we, need clean water, clean air, good rich living soil, and food energy that is generated by healthy growing plants. And we know it is the earth itself that creates these things for us. The very complexity of the earth. The earth can do this work of creation if it is healthy, and our job is to stop tinkering and help the earth to be healthy. The very reason that a basic scientist loves the ecosystem is because it is a way to study the process and the systems of the living earth that are NOT controlled by human fallibility.

The corposystem, on the contrary, was designed by humans who do not understand the system or the process. I know they don’t/didn’t understand either the system or the process of how the universe evolved from subatomic to solid and from solid to alive and from alive to human. I know they don’t understand this because nobody does. Because the creation cannot fully understand its creator. A lot of the ills of the corposystem are caused by its reverence for human technological power. Human technological power, or even human compassion or spirituality are not enough because there is no way humans can change the natural laws that permit the system to survive.

The creator is not human. Humans are not God. That’s why humans require faith, and that’s why we cannot enjoy a sustainable presence on this earth unless our faith is placed in the basic laws of the process and system that permitted the creation in the first place. That’s the natural laws, the laws of nature. Regardless of who created them and how.

What we can do is to believe in this fact and learn to understand how we are causing harm. There is nothing on earth that we can do to change this very moment. What we can do is give the gift of life, the gift of fitness, to the future by living inside the belief and understanding of the reality of what the earth needs to be healthy.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – What can we do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com