Bare Bones Biology 134 – Community and Ego

I had a dream last night about human ego, whatever that is, I will not try to define. In the dream, some guy was driving the bus and I was picking up the pieces. Literally, I mean, I was picking the pieces of newspaper and trash, old egg shells, gum and plastic wrappings — out from under the gas pedal — as they kept rolling back in there — while two other people sat behind, telling me what I was doing wrong, and the trash kept piling higher and deeper.

You will never guess what this dream was trying to tell me, because I didn’t until I started to write it down, and immediately came to mind my persistent question: “Why did The Creator give us our ego in the first place?” The thing causes so much pain and suffering to us and our communities, convincing us that our own belief system, our own need to be more right, is more real than reality. It isn’t, you know. Nobody is “right,” because nobody understands everything. And if we believe that our mind, emotions, intellect (reference), or our world view (reference), are more powerful than the biological reality. Well, that’s a pretty good definition of pain and suffering, now or later.

Pain is life enhancing. It guides our choice of behaviors so that we avoid drowning in the river when its currents are swirling in flood, or burning our little hands on the stove. Because we were formed within the biological community – our response to pain is biologically life enhancing.

To understand why we were given an ego is more difficult. What good is the blasted thing, if the use of it causes us emotional pain and suffering, but it doesn’t tell us what the danger is? Well, of course, that’s one function of community – to help us avoid emotional suffering by passing down the wisdom teachings of the ages. The harm caused by our ego-trips is well and often explained in all the wisdom teachings, and better behaviors described.

Maybe that’s what the ego is meant to do. Maybe our ego suffering is meant to enhance the welfare of the community by passing on some wisdom from now to benefit the future. I hope so, because our age is growing new problems faster than any before, and with these new problems, we must learn new lessons (or apply the old ones) about what not to do if we don’t want to suffer.

Our origins designed us genetically and behaviorally to live in a biosystem that functions to support life, but our human culture now has grown an artificial corposystem that functions to make money. And the power of this corposystem seems to lie mostly in our human ego needs.

So many people so filled with the fear of not being better than other people. Is that our ego? Why do we feel that we must be better than someone else? We can’t discuss the important issues, because someone might go into a one-up or one-down tizzy, or just turn their backs and walk away for fear that we might know something they don’t know. But isn’t that the point of discussion, that everyone knows more than only one? Don’t we WANT to deal with the problems? We keep saying that we do, and then the next thing you know we are debating irrelevant questions for no better reason than to satisfy our never-ending need to win. Even though the floods of climate change (climate change series Bare Bones Biology 092 through 100) are already tickling our toes – even though everyone really does know the end result of these ego trips, in our modern times, will be disaster.

So now my question is: how can we be aware of our ego, and all the negative, painful behaviors that it generates — how can we use that knowledge to grow a more positive, life-supporting human community?

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

Recommended Action/Question for Discussion: I’m tempted to suggest that you start an argument and consider what methods you use to win. And what are the results. But in fact I doubt that you need to know more about how to argue. So instead I suggest you find a person with whom to discuss an issue and see how long you can keep it going without either of you having an obvious emotional reaction (because this will be a serious subject.) Maybe you could try this one – http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/26/why_birth_control_is_still_a_big_idea
“In the United States, especially this year, any occasion when contraceptives and public policy overlap seems to be an excuse to fight about other issues.”

Bare Bones Biology 122 – Human Hands

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that is playing this week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. A podcast can be downloaded later this week at:http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/BBB122-Human_HandsFinal4.mp3

Hold up your hand flat open with your palm facing me. As though you were a policeman trying to stop an onrushing disaster.

Your four fingers and your thumb are all pointing in different directions.

Now let’s think of your four fingers and your thumb as problems or “actions” that you and other socially conscious people are promoting — spending your time, energy and money, using your life to benefit your family, the community and humankind in general. Every person using his/her best skills to address one or other of the major actions, trying to relieve the problems faced by humankind today.

Let’s say your first finger represents hunger, and all the people trying to reduce world hunger. The second finger can represent global warming. The third finger can represent conflict, for example war, politics, genocide, modern economics. And the fourth finger represents religion and spirituality. Your thumb represents overpopulation.

What I notice about this hand is that all five of the digits are pointing off toward different and separate goals. If you added together the five different problems, and the people who are working to address these problems. Well, they are not working together for a common goal – they are going off in five different directions. Often they fight or argue with each other or they simply ignore each other, rather than discussing common goals. For this reason the work of one group often cancels out the gains of one or more of the other groups.

For example, one group is working for compassion in the belief that a compassionate community will not fight. Another group tries to win because they believe that will solve all our problems. The climate change group, after a few hundred years of evidence, is finally beginning to recognize its problem is real and is trying to decide whether to adapt or deal with the root cause of climate change. The hunger group can’t possibly accomplish its goal in the face of climate change and excessive population growth. And the overpopulation group believes that no positive goals can be achieved by continuing the destructive path that caused these problems in the first place.

We imagine if all the groups accomplished their goals they would all add up to a successful community. The reality, however, looks more like a mish-mash of confusing goals and conflicting interests.

Efficient and effective problem solving does not jump out into the world in five different directions at once, with the different parts of itself fighting among themselves. Modern business practice has made many serious mistakes, but at least one good concept has come out of it, and that is goal setting. Good business defines its goals, sets its guidelines, and informs all parties involved.

Our basic human goal is to live in a community that is sustainable into the future. Surely it must be, and if it’s not we should ask each other why not, because we aren’t acting as though it were. We have all these five problems, and more, dashing off in all directions at the same time. Don’t you agree that we could organize ourselves in some way that would at least have a chance of growing a positive future? I think such a future is possible.

If our primary goal really is the common welfare, then we can align our four fingers to represent of our commitment to the common goal of human sustainability on this earth, in good health, at least through the lifetimes of our grandchildren. If my genuine stated goal is the same as the stated goals of people working in different disciplines – then we will cease to be all working for different outcomes.

Next, we can recognize the physical facts: (1) that nobody can accomplish anything if there is not enough food for them to eat, (2) that all our food comes from the earth, and (3) the earth now has more people than it can feed. If you don’t believe these are real facts, then you have an obligation to the hungry humans in the world to fact-check your belief system.

So we then fold our thumb under at the roots of the four fingers, to represent represent the facts: (1) that overpopulation is at the root of all of the other problems. Yes we have had these problems in the past and we did not solve them before. Blame your heritage. Now is now and now we cannot solve them if a large part of the earth’s population is desperately struggling to make a living, and ; (2) therefore, that no other compassionate goal can be accomplished when there are more people than the earth can feed; and (3) therefore, the four other goals cannot be solved in the presence of overpopulation.

Therefore, if we genuinely want to accomplish our goals. If we want our behavior to reflect our commitment to the real goal, and regardless of our personal expertise or our primary interest — hunger, global warming, conflict resolution (community) or spirituality – then it is our obligation to spend a portion of our effort, every day, to help compassionately reverse human overpopulation, first informing ourselves about why it is a problem, and then addressing that problem as it relates to our own special skills and projects. I tend to judge people’s compassion by their behavior. When I see anyone brush off this obligation with a platitude or a blank look — we all do really know how important it is. Then I wonder why they don’t really want to know. Can it be they don’t want to help carry the burden of responsibility that goes with knowledge?

And then – we all work together to accomplish both the root goal and the individual goals by enclosing all of life on earth within the fully informed, goal-oriented, responsible, compassionate hand of human kind.

And then, you ask. (Everyone does.): “But it is such a big problem, what can I do?” The answer is – in this sequence:

1-You can recognize that this is not about “me.” It’s not about who does what at the level of individual decision making. Do not promote the fake debate (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/another-fake-debate-pro-life/) over family planning, which is corposystem propaganda meant prevent us from growing our personal and community power (http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/About)within the ecosystem. Instead study the real overpopulation threat, which is about human suffering at the level of the population, and at the level of survival of the whole living earth.

2-Do not waste time blaming anyone; it will not accomplish our common goal. Instead educate yourself and others about the suffering of populations of humans who do not have access to family planning because our corposystem is withholding that resource from them.

3-Education yourself about how the ecosystem functions to maintain its balance and therefore it’s welfare and its life (you could start with the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook downloadable from the right side of this blog site).

4-Discuss all three “sides” of the issue with family and friends. The “sides” minimally can be described as the conflicting needs of individual persons, families, communities, and the whole earth ecosystem.

5-What we need most right now is the political will to make family planning available compassionately to everyone on earth who wants it and needs it for their health and well being. Work as a citizen to bring this to the people who need and want it.

Bare Bones Biology 122 – Human Hands

Bare Bones Biology 111 – Ritual II

What we all require from our rituals is guidance about “what we should do and what we should not do.” (As Thich Nhat Hanh says in Touching Peace)

We need to understand who we are and how to fit our lives into the big Life without causing harm to ourselves or to it. At the Peach Clubhouse we will have a copy of Joanna Macy’s very fine talk at The Economics of Happiness conference. She started out saying “We are really blessed by the straight talk here.” That got my attention. Or keep watching all the good talks at http://vimeo.com/channels/262024 where it will eventually be posted.

Understanding how to fit our lives into the big Life without causing harm is a complicated task for which well-tested knowledge and positive rituals will help us a great deal more than any other kind of power. We are not more powerful than the big Life that is all life, and our attempts to provide for ourselves by destroying that Life will fail because our modern corposystem rituals are built in the sand of denial and based on the myth of omnipotence.

Ritual is a method of communication within and between populations. If the conditions are right, the rituals of a culture evolve with the needs of the culture. In our so-called modern cultures we have so many unmet needs, and so many ritualistic heritages, that they tend to be confused and misused by intent or by ignorance. That does not mean that rituals are wrong. If your language means nothing to me, then your rituals probably will also not inform me very well because there is no way for me to understand our common roots. That does not mean that you are fundamentally different from me or that your new discoveries are new to me. Yes, you have rituals that are special to you. We all do. Some of these are more useful than others. All of them can be misused.

So let’s not permit our favored rituals to lead us away from our deep reverence for the Source of everything that we need to stay alive and well. You’ve been studying your discipline for 10, 20, 30, even 40 years. I can top that, but why bother? At the root of the Source there is no metaphor, but only pure reality that cannot be denied, no matter how powerful our technology – no matter how bright we are.

Let’s stop growing cultures of denial in which the positive rituals of others cannot bear fruit: a) because we are not listening, so we don’t understand; or b) because we believe our own way is “special.” Maybe our way is not so very different, only we have different rituals and metaphors for the same old human problems. Maybe there are some better answers than what we know today.

Let’s not continue to ritualize our fears into the aggressive or passive-aggressive expressions of the need to win, or to be “right,” or to know more than others about how we proceed to the next evolutionary step in our human lives. We do not know how the earth will evolve. Evolution has way too many variables for us to predict. But we do have something previous generations did not have. In addition to the ritual warnings, we also have fact-based warnings about what we should not do as humans who love life.

For only one example, NASA Director James Hansen and other climatologists predicted climate change more than 50 years ago, based on over-growth of human technologies and population. We weren’t listening. That was a mistake.

If we choose to study only one source or sort of information about what we should do — or not do – our work tends to cancel the efforts of the other at a time when we could be doubling our impact by listening to authoritative sources of both sorts of information .

When I was involuntarily working for women’s liberation, I had no vision or image of women learning to be more powerful than they already were. I imagined women and men growing the rituals for our sustainable future, based in the subtler, more effective “Powers of the Weak” so that we together could grow a subtler, more effective more enduring and sustainable culture for human kind.

Maybe I succeeded and it took a couple of generations. Maybe that is what’s happening now. If so, I wish we would call it for what it is and work it for its full potential so that fully informed people of various traditions, rather than always trying to “teach” the other, are willing to listen hard and well together, and together discuss viable solutions.

For that to succeed, we must include valid scientific data in all our deliberations. Good basic biological science (not technology but holistic science) tells us a lot about what we should not try to do. Actually, so do most of the technologies we are using in our fatal effort to subdue the earth.

Bare Bones Biology 111 – Ritual II
KEOS 98.1 FM
The audio podcast can be downloaded here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References
Thich Nhat Hahn – http://www.parallax.org/
Elizabeth Janeway – Powers of the Weak
Joanna Macy – http://www.tricycle.com/feature/allegiance-life
James Hansen – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html
Paul Woodruff – Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue

Play to Win

Our culture is a fascinating imitation of reality:

Fake love/compassion of the hero-winner who must rescue the victim, in order to believe that he is doing something worthwhile;

Fake victims, must espouse (or truly have) some kind of malaise, so the hero-winners will have someone to rescue;

Even – God help us – fake villains to make sure the hero/victim game keeps on cycling and recycling so that the majority of people will continue distracted with their communal malaise — while the villains gather in the fruits of everyone else’s (fake) emotional energy.

It’s the co-dependence game played out at level two (the community/cultural level) and formalized at level three (the corposystem).

Down here at level one (the individual) it’s not easy to see how to lead a successful life without getting tangled up in all the fake games. Especially because the players get real upset with non-players. But the first step might be to look to the future instead of to one’s own self, and try to image and now live the kind of culture that we say we are trying to build. This helps to clear away the clouds of fake conflicts enough that we can then look at how all these games feed our own egos but do not build real community.

Everyone gets to pretend she is better than some one of the others. Heroes are better than villains and victims, villains are better than heroes and victims. The victim lifestyle feeds the infinitely voracious egos of the villains and the heroes. And we spend all our lives either doing something “worthwhile” or making someone else feel “worthwhile.” And we never get wherever we thought we were going, but only pass this lifestyle of suffering on to the next generation.

Look around you – whoever you are! The nicer we are the more suffering we are causing, and we are all spinning that wheel harder and harder and harder, like a bunch of little mice all running in the same direction in our self-enforced categories on the wheel of our culture – sacrificing our personal power on the altar of our co-dependent culture.

It’s time to wake up and look at the reality of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and the pain it causes us and each other. Certainly we are not changing anything about the future that we claim to be working for. We are working like hell to reinforce the system that we claim to fight against, and in so doing we are causing yet more suffering for future generations.

But it’s really hard to opt out. The Heroes won’t like you and the villains will try to extinguish the flame of your personal power.

Whoever wins this game – loses, because we cannot stop the game by playing the game. Nor can we find love or compassion in a life-style that is so focused on ourselves. Because everyone else is also focused on themselves, and none of them really cares about a compassionate whole. They think they do — but love is NOT a game, and it is not about focusing on ourselves, whether we are victims – or heroes – or even villains.

What Did You Say?

What is the biggest problem that I have communicating my ideas to people who appear to be listening? They don’t hear what I say (or they don’t hear what I wrote).

We are training the young to know how to win. They want to win. They often don’t hear ideas that do not involve winning. Like. In my previous post (below) how many times did I say that Permaculture is a fine idea that is needed in this world? So is the locavore movement. And also so is the social healing and compassion movement. These are wonderful things.

Did you hear me say anything bad about them? No, the only problem with any of these is that they can not ‘WIN’ single-handedly. Members of a win/lose culture don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to stop a minute and investigate what they can do to make their work more successful. They want to win. Either to save the world or get the hero badge or at least know that they would have won if someone hadn’t said they couldn’t win all by themselves alone. (That’s what a hero is — isn’t it – an admired loner.) Does anyone stop to examine that compulsion to “win” might be our biggest problem when it comes to trying to solve our biggest problems? And it is incompatible with compassion.

What I said in my recent blog about permaculture is that it is a wonderful idea, badly needed, and we should do as much of it as possible. But it won’t save us from overpopulation or lack of compassion for the whole living system. So any person who really wants to win, must factor at least those two problems into their thinking. That’s really hard to do when you were raised on only one thought at a time — what does it take to win, and do that as hard as you can and you will win. Not true in the long term.

But we can all think about these things, and then get together and succeed at growing a culture we can be really proud of. A culture that doesn’t any more care about winning, but about growing food and compassion for the whole system and maintaining the sustainability of the system at a level that provides a reasonable quality of life for anyone who wants it. The results will be very much more satisfying. At least in the long term. That’s my life goal; learning how to do that.

But people get upset with me when I try to learn how to do it by examining all of their good ideas — if I don’t agree that their movement is perfect. And then the next day they tell me I am anti-locavore (or anti-permaculture, or anti-compassion, or whatever good thing they are doing).

Oh, you say I do that too? When people don’t hear what I am saying – I get upset with them? Ummmm — maybe so, but I’m not trying to win, and that’s where the worldview disconnect creates misunderstanding. I don’t believe in winning; they do. I’m trying to find the whole answer – they are trying to impose their answer.

I’m trying to help them to succeed by examining the downside of their efforts. EVERYTHING –every idea, every movement, every success — everything has a down side. We are far more likely to succeed at whatever we are doing if we are willing to address the down side with as much vigor and thoughtfulness as we pursue the up side.

Bare Bones Biology #025. Problem Solving II

Last time, we were talking about problem solving skills, and the first one I mentioned was the idea that each person should do whatever they are good at as hard and as fast as they can and keep doing it. According to the American Myth, if we try hard enough, we will succeed. By which we mean, we’ll “win”.

There is actually a lot of truth to that. Fun to think about. Pretty much it’s fun to do if you like competition and if you actually end up winning. But there is a big question of whether or not winning is a good problem-solving skill. We can agree that you won, but did you succeed in solving more problems than you generated. By succeeding, I mean solving a real problem in a way that’s sustainable into the future.

In order to win you have to beat someone. I know some people claim that everybody is a winner, and to them I say it’s better to deal honestly with situations than to make up fairy tales about them. Most people don’t like to be beat. They will wait generations for their revenge, if necessary, a fact that is easy to prove with examples from around the world, including our own civil war. So war, that is, the attempt to win, and that’s at any level from silent disapproval to physical battle, should be a last resort, not the first line of flag-waving. The more times you win, the more enemies you end up with until finally everyone is afraid of everyone else. Eventually, you’re afraid of anyone who is not your supporter and you have cut yourself off from the people who are the most useful for solving problems – that is, people who have ideas that are different from your own. So in trying to solve problems with the win/lose approach, you cut yourself off from the people you need the most.

Furthermore, you have cut yourself off from most of the good solutions, because winning and losing are only two of the available options. No problem is so simplistic as all that; there are always at least three possible solutions, even to the most simple problems, and usually many more. And while we’re killing ourselves trying to win, or not to lose, there are hundreds of other possible solutions we just don’t care to hear about because they don’t involve winning. Or we’re too busy. Even though they very likely might succeed in resolving the problem.

And then, there is another difficulty with the win/lose option, and that is you probably might lose instead of winning, and end up a bitter and lonely old man with no friends. I probably don’t need to explain why that’s not desirable.

So, what to do? Try this one. Whenever you get the idea that “the end justifies the means,” stop yourself. Or, if you think, “that’s the right way to do it.” Stop right there. Sit with yourself for half an hour at least, and ask very seriously if you believe the proposed action really does justify the method you plan to use. Will it really help solve your problem or will it just cause more problems later on? Is it maybe somebody else’s idea of how to solve a problem and doesn’t apply to your own problem. So that takes a little practice.

After you can do that, try this one. Go out and find somebody who disagrees with you and of course somebody who can talk rationally at the same time as disagreeing. First establish what is your common goal with this other person. There’s always a common goal. Just figure out what it is. And talk. Talk about the problem. Talk nice. If both sides genuinely want to solve the problem, you might succeed. And without all the bother and chaos of trying to win something. Or. You might not.

There are all kinds of twists to the win/lose method of problem solving, as well as any other method. For example, as Ann Garrin said recently with regard to senatorial problem solving: “They’d rather have the issue than the victory.” In other words, they’re not interested in solving problems. But that doesn’t change the fact that winning always causes more problems than it fixes.

Autobiography

When I was growing up, it seemed like anyone could be my friend if they liked me or if there was stuff we enjoyed doing together, or both. Some of my friends were horses and cats and dogs, some were girls, and some were boys.

Then I learned that women are emotional and compassionate; and men are intellectual, but they are driven by a need to dominate that is all mixed up with sex. Horses, cats and dogs are things, like technologies and trees, that we must learn to control.

This turned out to be fairly much true, and I began to have fewer and fewer male friends because: a) they figured out they were not smarter than me, even though I tried to be dumb; and b) I craved friendship, not domination.

But it was OK because I had some women friends, some books, some trees, a camera and a horse.

Then I came to #$%^ University, where the women faculty you could count on your fingers without using your toes, and it seemed that most of the males who were in power were dominant ass-grabbers and student fuckers. And I remember one of the wives with two very black eyes. This did not seem like friendship, so I chose to not participate. When they could not dominate me, they tried to get rid of me. When they found themselves intellectually challenged, they tried to get rid of my by doing some things that were illegal, which was even more dumb, because it allowed me to win the case at law.

And the dumbest thing of all, the case never was about dominance, except in the sense of self-defense, and they never even knew it. They could have easily gotten whatever it was they wanted if they hadn’t tried to dominate it out of me. The case was about the rule of law, equal rights, and The American Way that I had been taught to believe. I thought I was bringing civil rights and the compassionate feminine values to @#$%^ University.

Was I wrong? Of course I was wrong. This win was — a win. Dominance. It was nice for me. Better than spending the rest of my life working as a secretary, but as far as any other goal — apparently everyone else believed that my win was all about permitting women to be intellectual and dominant. Just like those marvelous men that “all women wanted so desperately to emulate.” Huh?

I guess they really did, but I still don’t get it. Why are we so hung up on dominant? It’s not that much fun, because it only makes everyone mad, and it is an extremely inefficient way to work toward common goals. Because it makes everyone mad, and they all want to be dominant too. And, if you make them mad enough, they will be, and then you can spend the rest of your life finding unimportant things to fight about that you might be able to win — instead of doing something worthwhile. And what’s the big deal anyhow? Is there some law against intellectual and compassionate? Or compassionate and unemotional? Or emotional and intellectual?

It makes no sense at all, but apparently I was not, as I believed, bringing the feminine values to !@#$ University. Instead I was only helping to create an environment where men were permitted to be “feminine,” while women had the option to be “masculine.” Given only those choices, of course, it is better not to be dominated, so most people at least tried to choose intellectual and dominant and went looking for some weakling to throw sand in their face.

And me? After all that work, I still have exactly the same two choices I started with. I can be:

Intellectual and dominant. OR
Emotional and compassionate.

It is essentially impossible to secede from this American game. As an American you are required to be a winner (or a loser) at something (anything, whether or not it makes sense or does good or harm to others). Otherwise, you don’t exist at all, you are a cipher, a null, invisible, and it is better to fly yourself into the IRS building in Austin than to not exist at all. Is this progress? This is not progress. It is not even change. It is further empowerment of the same restrictive cultural imperative that I grew up with. The restrictive cultural imperative that was not good then and is not good now.

I am not interested in gender, race or all those other things that we fight over to try to gain a sense of dominance, or at least not be dominated. None of these battles will change anything, so long as we continue to battle. The battle IS THE GAME. What is more important — because it could change something — I am equally not interested in dominating anyone (unless I am again forced to defend myself, so don’t get any ideas), because domination is the evil offspring of our supposedly liberating social ethic.

So what did I really help to accomplish with my defeat of !@#$ University?

Now, instead of the male half of the population designated as intellectual and driven by the need to dominate, almost everyone chooses or aspires to that lifestyle. Compassion has been abandoned in favor of winning. And everyone I like, and even that guy I don’t like, they all see the world (and me) through a window smeared with the need to win, muddied by sex-as-power, and perverted by the belief that there is no other way but winning (or losing), and that dogs and horses and the ecosystem are only things that we can and should bring to heel.

So there is almost nothing that we can enjoy doing together.

So I guess they won after all.

But. The Mockingbird keeps on singing in our Post Oak tree.