Bare Bones Biology 133B – World Community

Last week I described, in a very general way, how I imagine the human brain processes information. The primary take-away message is that our brains are not universal. We are one species out of billions that are required to operate the functions of the living earth — just as any one cell of our brain is only one out of billions that are required to operate our amazing human brain. Secondly, there are levels of function of the human brain that we do not control – they control us. They control the basic functions of our bodies, and the basic nature of our emotions.

However, we also have higher levels of function in our brains that can adapt to our environment in a conscious way. One of these qualities is how we are learning all the time. Another is our intellect, that we can use to evaluate ourselves and our surroundings. If we try, we can figure out the difference between our perceptions — that is what our reality feels like according to our world view – and what the world really is according to facts that we study in physics, chemistry and biology. For example, we can measure the speed of light using tools designed by our intellect, but according to our perceptions, we would not know about the speed of light. We wouldn’t know that light is energy. We wouldn’t understand energy and would not have learned how to control fire, for example, during the millennia of our origins.

In all those millenia, the problems we faced had to do with how to interact with an overwhelming environment. For example, I was very touched by the last story in the most recent National Geographic. It is the story of an interaction between today and a primitive tribal culture. I won’t tell you the end of the story, but for me it was a heart-wrenching illustration of the choices we must make if we are to survive within the requirements of our environment. (National Geographic, February, 2012, Cave People of Papua, New Guinea.)

Today, we no long live sheltered in the broad green arms of our ecological home. I think that’s one reason why we experience the levels of discomfort, dis-ease and discontent that we do in our culture, but that’s not something we can deal with now. We have already destroyed that long-distant Garden of Eden. We can’t go back and change the mistakes of yesterday. You younger folk don’t realize that yet probably, but it can be demonstrated using, that intellect of ours, that the earth has modified herself to our needs about as much as she can. Our choice now is whether to push the environment even more. If we do, it’s likely to change so much that it can no longer support our needs for air, water, shelter, earth and human companionship.

We can do this, I know our brain is capable of understanding the problems that we face, and we can join together communally to deal with them. However, we cannot face these challenges using only our inborn instincts. If we are to succeed, it will require our intellect in two ways. First, we must educate ourselves about the ecosystem, how it functions and what it needs from us in order to sustain itself; second we must use our intellect to grow a new culture, based in what we know about basic instincts, and on what previous cultures have taught us, and incorporating our scientific knowledge and changing our attitude toward technology.

We now must decide together whether we, as a culture of the world, want to continue using technology to dominate and to make money – or if we will choose to, find a better way, based on a better goal-set than winner/loser. We do know there are better and more satisfying ways for humans to live, and the first thing we need to understand — we are not God. We do not understand the infinite meaning of life, nor can we control it. Our need to control, our ego, our desire to grow life in our image, whether the image be evil or even if it is a good image – that is the source and cause of our man-made disasters.

Lynn Lamoreux
Photo by Lynn, Lucky B Bison

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 http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_133_-_World_Community.mp3

Recommended Action/Question for Discussion: Identify the source, and the path from source to table, of each item of food that is part of your Thanksgiving meal. In countries without a day of Thanksgiving (or with one), give thanks for your food at every meal and remember that it comes from the living earth. What, I wonder, is the difference between our living earth, and your God? Or mine?

Recommended References
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook, free, no strings – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/
On the right side of the page click on the link under “Chapters” to download the PDF.

National Geographic, February, 2012, Cave People of Papua, New Guinea, by Mark Jenkins, Photos by Amy Toensing.

Advertisements

Bare Bones Biology 117 – Los Alamos

Santa Fe is an excellent place to get lost in, because it is so illogical in the beginning and such an accomplishment in the end. Learning by getting lost, around the small issues, is something we need to do more of, if we want ever to grow a population of people who can think around the big issues. First you go to one place that turns out not to be where you thought it was, then another place, then another, until eventually your brain makes a leap of understanding of its own and realizes that all the places are connected with each other in a pattern that does make sense.

I went to the meeting last night, of a coalition of organizations that are working together to recognize the use of nuclear weapons in WWII, here, where the weapons were created. I’m not sure who spearheaded this action, but it was an excellent meeting, very well attended, that walked an admirable line between organization and self-expression. I did not express myself, but if I had — I would have said:

“People are looking to help people without regard to helping the ecosystem that brings us our air, water, earth and fire. Helping people is good, but only if we remember that EVERYTHING is connected to the ecosystem, so we can at the same time be working to avoid human impoverishment by helping the ecosystem to function normally, or at least not getting in the way.”

The action will be launched on Monday, July 16, with a hunger strike to protest continued development of weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

On August 3, the weekend activities will begin with an art exhibit at El Mseo in Santa Fe, and a workshop on non-violent action. On Saturday the several sponsoring groups, which range from Quakers to Occupy, have lined up an impressive array of speakers, from politicians to those with personal experiences, to speak at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. I hope they will record these talks for people who can’t come. Maybe the new independent radio station, KCEI that is opening in Taos will be able to put up some podcasts for us. I’ll let you know if they become available.

On Sunday, August 5th, the activity moves to Ashley Pond Park in Los Alamos, with teach-ins, speakers and an audio link to the sounding of the Peace Bell in Hiroshima to recognize the anniversary of the American atom bombs dropped on Japan.

I remember one of these anniversaries, about 8 years ago, when I was staying in a Japanese youth hostel on Sado Island. One morning, the residents were all sitting around watching TV, of course in Japanese, so I asked what was on. When they told me –

But I think I’ll finish that story some other time, because you know, unlike most Americans (or Japanese), I remember these events and they are not nearly as simplistic as we now make them out to be.

That’s why we need people who understand that everything is connected and are willing to discuss the connections rather than only debate the simplistic interpretations. Also it’s another reason to not do it again — and especially to not privatize nuclear weaponry. Imagine Blackwater Nuclear. Or you might want to watch the best war movie ever made – one of the best movies of any kind ever made – Grave of the Fireflies. It’s available at the Peach Clubhouse and on Amazon.

I bow to my Japanese friends, and I’m all for serious non-violent actions around human values. As many as possible. And I will be there with camera in hand, reminding people we also need a viable ecosystem.

Then on Monday, August 6th, there will be a full day of non-violent demonstrations in Los Alamos . Bitsy and I possibly might stay over on Saturday night, and photograph the events. In fact, I think this might be a fine opportunity to make a little picture book on the subject, if I had the money, the energy, the time and a collaborator. (hint)

And oh yes, after the meeting I found I had gotten lost again. I drove about 16 miles to find the meeting, and in the end discovered I was less than a mile away from “home.”

Everything is connected in the living earth. Wisdom never forgets this fact.

Bare Bones Biology 117 – Los Alamos
Podcast may be downloaded here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.org

Recommended References:
Nukefreenow.org – http://nukefreenow.org
Los Alamos National Laboratory – http://www.lanl.gov/
El Museo – http://www.elmuseocultural.org/
CCA – http://www.ccasantafe.org/
KCEI – http://culturalenergy.org
Green Village Youth Hostel – http://hotels.lonelyplanet.com/japan/sado-ga-shima-r1973959/green-village-youth-hostel-p1002920/
Grave of the Fireflies – http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Grave_of_the_Fireflies

Bare Bones Biology 081 – Compassion

Last week
we talked about Karen Armstrong
and her Charter for Compassion. Here she is, speaking at Peace Week on The Shift Network

“The idea always is to start to change people’s mind sets, so that instead of compassion being a word that we don’t understand, we don’t know what it means, or we think it means pity, it’s something we think about . . .”

Ms. Armstrong also talks about the Golden Rule, and I agree with her. It’s just good common sense, and I’m saying that practical compassion is just good common sense.

I remember when someone wrote a book about “win-win” negotiation. It caught my fancy strongly and now, when I am negotiating something, I try to imagine a way that the result might be a win for everyone involved, except I no longer like to think of the world as something we can “win.” But the idea is there. Try to think of a solution that will give the most positive result for the most people. It’s certainly better than running scared, and for example your considerate interaction with other drivers generally does not end in a road rage incident. That’s practical compassion. The other driver doesn’t have to subject his heart to the rage and you don’t have to bother with it.

But it’s only compassion if you take the trouble to find out what the other person really does need and not what you think she ought to need if she were the kind of person you think she should be. That latter interaction would probably end with severe aggravation for someone, and probably everyone, because imposing so-called “good works” that people don’t want or need is not compassionate. So compassion is a bit more complicated than the Karen Armstrong quote might suggest. I like to think of compassion as three types.

First there is fake compassion. Of course fake compassion is not compassion, but that’s why I mention it – we want to avoid fake compassion. Karen Armstrong’s example of pity would be one type of fake compassion. Another example would be making excuses to justify bad behavior. Excuses are an easy out for everyone, and they appear compassionate, but the long-term result is harm to everyone. Sometimes people create problems so they can appear to compassionately resolve them. Real compassion cares about the welfare of the other.

The second type of compassion that I think of is free-floating compassion. The feeling of compassion is an important human instinct, everybody feels it sometimes, and some people feel it a lot, and usually it’s a very nice feeling, and it grows positive community. It’s a good thing to spread around. But to be focused practical compassion, we need more than our instinctual emotions. We need to combine our instinctual desire to nurture with our learned understanding of the universal law of cause and effect. While free-floating compassion draws from our inherent human instincts, practical compassion draws from both our instinct and our learned knowledge of how the world works, and especially about the universal law of cause and effect, or what comes around goes around, or karma, or whatever we call it. We all recognize that people are responsible for their own behaviors precisely because our behaviors have consequences that can cause harm to others.

For this reason, practical compassion doesn’t just rush out in a thoughtless action that might impoverish another person or the community or the ecosystem. Practical compassion educates itself: What will be the short-term effect of this action? What are the most likely long-term effects? Will the action benefit the individuals involved? The community? The whole living earth? Or will the action, no matter how elegant or heroic, cause more harm than good?

Usually, it’s some of both – and then the hard work of compassion begins. But any person who sincerely wants to imagine a better future, must begin with the hard work of imagining the most likely long-term and short-term effects of her actions, on herself, on the community and on the whole earth ecosystem.

Bare Bones Biology 081 – Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Audio will be posted later at
WWW.BareBonesBiology.com

Reality is an Upper

“I think the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of reality, because illusion never leaves us ultimately happy.  Flip out into too much reality and you get corrosive cynicism. . . flip out into too much possibility and you get irrelevant idealism, which sounds very different, but . . . both take us out of the action.”  Because neither addresses the reality of our problems.

That last bit is a paraphrase of the rest of the quote by Parker Palmer on the Bill Moyers program February 20.  You can download this from http://www.PBS.org, the Bill Moyers blog.  Interesting thoughts.
_dsc9147s

It made me wonder where did we ever get the notion that it is more fun to beat up on other people than it is to learn from them.  Watch the three-year-old who sees her first kitten; look at the 8 year old who has learned to read and opens up his first grand mental adventure; rejoice with the teenager who has discovered the power of her choices, minute to minute, to mold a future filled with possibilities.

The joy of accomplishing really good things is the joy of learning how things really work.