Living in Peace and Wisdom on our Planet

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Working together helps all involvedOne problem faced by many of us who are awakening to the parlous state of the world is how to deal with the sense of dread that is an almost instinctive response to the gravity of the crisis facing humanity. Comprehending the crisis in all its awful majesty can unleash a despair that bubbles up like a mud volcano from the depths of the soul. For many it blots out the sun, obliterating any possibility of hope.

The saving realization, which often comes from a combination of diligent thought and a stroke of grace, is that all people, all life, indeed every element of the universe, is profoundly and inextricably interconnected. Nothing can exist without everything else. There are no islands in this universe.

With that awareness comes the question of how to respond to these two apparently antithetical understandings, since the underlying reasons for the dread don't simply evaporate in the light of hope. After all, the fish are still gone, the planet still has a fever, the soil and water are still contaminated.

There are those who awaken to the dread but cannot find the hope, and so join what I call the "canned food and ammo crowd".  They act decisively to shield themselves from the risks, by moving to secluded locations and stockpiling goods so that they can minimize the need to connect with the world around them. In the 1950s they built bomb shelters, today they hoard drums of rice and beans in the basement. They have always made me uncomfortable.

Like so many, I live with both an apprehension of inevitable doom and an awareness of infinite promise, each of which exists in its own orthogonal domain. I feel an atavistic urge to hide from the coming changes and the people who may be the vector of so much misery. At the same time I feel a progressive urge to find my tribe and continue my development, while remaining in some way independent of the herd.

As I walk my path, I am coming to understand my distinct lack of enthusiasm for physically separating myself from the herd. I have found that I want to stay embedded within the mass of humanity for a couple of reasons.

The main reason is that if we who are awakening are in fact humanity's "imaginal cells", spreading our awareness and influence through viral infection of our neighbours, then separating ourselves from them defeats that possibility.  If we and all of our billions of our brothers and sisters are to have any hope at all, it can only come from transforming that mass of humanity, not in running from it.  Cultural evolution is only possible through participation.  It is obvious (to me at least) that those of us who feel called to be vision keepers cannot communicate our vision by shouting through walls of our own construction.  We must stand inside our audience, taking our place as co-creating members of it, so that as we whisper gently to those around us we do it as a part of humanity, not apart from it.

The second reason is more pragmatic than philosophical.  In a world of 6.7 billion people, there simply is no "away" any more. The tide of humanity has lapped into every nook and cranny of the planet.  Any attempt to isolate ourselves will be doomed from the outset.  If we cannot escape the madding crowd, we are much better off making a virtue of necessity by using this inescapable interaction as an opportunity for connection.

As I travel on my journey I will try to limit the influence of the mainstream masses – carrying as they do the messages of our guardian institutions – on my psychological and spiritual development.   However, I will deliberately make no such effort to shield my physical being. That, as I understand it, is the way of the bodhisattva – and we are all bodhisattvas now.

Related reading:
  Copenhagen? More Like Hopenhagen (Dec-14-2009)
  Beyond Hope (Jul-30-2009)
  From Despair to Hope (Nov-15-2008)

Click one tag to see readings related specifically to that tag; click "Tags" to see all related readings
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Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Jun-20-2009)   
I see some truth in all of these comments. There is value to peaceful action/inaction; there are nuts with guns and nuts without guns; there are people with guns who are not nuts and there are people without guns who are not nuts.
There are systems of peace and systems of violence. The survival skill necessary is understanding the basic truths to any system: how it works, where it gets resources, and who keeps it (or allows it) in power. Gandhi had a unique situation where peace was the best solution because his people were the backbone of the enforcement system. The British had very few Anglo people running a tiered system of locals, many of whom were trained in Britain about government and were part of the Civil Servant system. Dr. King had the element of surprise and ignorance of white people to who black people were and the whites' fears of riots.
What we are looking at for the future is the collision of two worlds: the local-cooperative, self-useful community coming up; creating its own resources in the process, and the global consumptive-competitive world coming down and eating everything in its path.
The consumptive world is no smarter than yeast, and will continue to consume its way to self-destruction. There will be some defectors to the other side as they realize it is a survival option, but in general, the 'normal' system has to fail before changing.
On the local-useful side, it's like I've said before: give everyone a gun and let them shoot whoever they please. Everyone will either be a better neighbor or a better shot. Metaphorically speaking, a 'peaceful' movement of a large number of people can be used in the same way: refuse to give food to the roving zombies and 'circle the wagons' without firing a shot and let the zombies starve to the point of cooperation or death. Peaceful activities will have little or no effect on the consumptive thought process because consumption is a non-thought process.
The gun isn't the source of killing nor power. It is merely a tool. Guns are what allow a few to exploit the many or the one to defend themselves against stronger or more numerous threats. Money does the same thing if you let it be 'created' by a few banks. Information: ditto.
There are two things that equalize people across class lines: knowledge and weapons (which are technically just a subset of science). I just happen to choose both as part of my skill set.
Knowledge and weapons take training and practice to employ them properly. Peaceful demonstration weapons involve training and drilling a lot more people. Sure, anyone can sit down in a street or on a lawn, but will they sit in the right street or in front of the right tank at the right time and will they STAY there, and who is going to back them up or follow through or take steps to change inside the system?
The other part is whether the stimuli we see are real or false. Is it sensible to go off fully cocked against climate-damaging fossil fuels if it turns out the PTB have buried clean energy technologies which were less 'profitable' than fossil fuels? Maybe we just have to get the costs of fossil fuels higher and higher until they decide it's profitable to allow us to use something else. Is it sensible to demonstrate against a war that was based on a false premise to start with? How many people demonstrate against the killing and the war but don't go to demonstrations about getting to the truth of the story in the first place?
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Jun-20-2009)   Web site

Hello again, Kathy. I should probably have responded a while ago, but it seems to have slipped through the sustainable fishing net.

One distinction I think that continues is the effort to cling to peace vs preparation for violence, and Paul may have been referring to that distinction. Even when their groups were attacked, Dr. King and Gandhi refused to advocate violence. A spiritual i.e. wiser answer to difficulties may be the only one that preserves a society worth preserving, when times are bad.
Comment by: kathypeak (Kathy McMahon) (May-27-2009)   Web site


In your article you wrote:

"There are those who awaken to the dread but cannot find the hope, and so join what I call the "canned food and ammo crowd". They act decisively to shield themselves from the risks, by moving to secluded locations and stockpiling goods so that they can minimize the need to connect with the world around them. In the 1950s they built bomb shelters, today they hoard drums of rice and beans in the basement. They have always made me uncomfortable."

I have heard this stereotype many times, but it doesn't line up with my experience of people who store food or keep guns. My experience of true survivalists is that they recognize, as you say, that no one can live in isolation. No one. They don't live without hope, and in fact, it is a truism that people CANNOT live without hope, even within this community.

So what I was objecting to is not your advocating community, which seems like a truism to me, but instead your stereotyping. I agree with you that many people initially react with fear, and a desire to "run away." I've gotten that reaction from many people who write me at Peak Oil Blues. This is often an initial reaction. But those who make lifestyle choices, and would identify themselves as survivalists (beans and ammo crowd, as you call them) are not identical to those who have this initial reaction.

Whether fear is "useful" or not, it is an emotion that people have. It is a stage, as is despair. There are legitimate reasons for them to grieve and be frightened, but as you point out, to remain there indefinitely isn't helpful to them.

I'm not sure what you refer to as "stockpiling", but if you mean having enough of "everything" that you don't need other people, I agree. And I think those who aim for that goal quickly discover it, too. It can't be done. But, I think it can be a useful process, to go there, and realize how futile it is. It is useful because it gets a person thinking just what they truly "need" to get by on. It becomes for many a "peeling away" of consumer goods. It often results in simplifying their needs and separating out "needs" from "wants."

Also, sometimes a "loss of hope" can be a good thing. People suddenly realize that it isn't enough just to "hope" someone else, a President, a CEO, an inventor, is going to rescue them. They have to do it themselves. Instead of "hoping" things will be different, they may be spurred on to take action for themselves, and in doing so, they realize that they really CAN'T do it alone.

So perhaps, fear is just an emotion to move through and losing hope has a positive side, if it gets people to realize that they are responsible for the change they want to see in the world.

And I also think that saying "I have no hope" is another way of withdrawing from the responsibility to act on your own behalf. It's like saying "Nothing I do will make a difference, so I won't do anything." So acting on one's own behalf is acting, and that's a good first step, don't you think?


As far as the bible, I do remember a vision that saw a shortage of wheat in Egypt so TPTB "stockpiled" wheat. That's not what the US is doing. We're working down our storage of wheat until there's pitifully little. It's The Parable Of The Tribes problem. Cooperation is essential, particularly in the face of threats of violence. We shouldn't ignore our aggressive instincts nor celebrate them. And we shouldn't pretend that other people will share our spirit of cooperation just because we want them to. The most lasting peace has come in a time of plenty. With time and resources we can certainly learn to get along, and have.

There is a balance that we need to strike. " If I'm not for myself, who will be? But if I'm only for myself, what am I?"

I envision a world where people prepare for the worst and hope for the best. They are neither only for themselves nor are they only invested in a "community" to take care of their needs. We have to be careful that we don't create a false dichotomy between "being for yourself" and "being for your community." When you do the necessary steps you assess are important for your own survival, my experience is that it reduces worries and fears and frees up energies to invest more energy into your community. So I welcome those who embrace both a survivalist position and those who work closely with their community. I want to send the message that both are a valued part of the group, and both have things to contribute.

I don't want to stereotype any emotions as "useful" or "not useful." They are emotions, and they come from the heart, not the head. The path each of us takes in response to this unimaginable future should be ours to explore and self-correct.

And if people who live in my community make me uncomfortable, then perhaps I need to sit down with them and have a conversation. They might turn out to be 'everyday people,' and nothing like the stereotype I had in my mind.

These are strong feelings, but not hostile ones. ;-)
Comment by:  chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) (May-27-2009)   Web site


You're reacting very strongly to words I never said in the original piece. Yes, guns are just tools. Yes, the urge to live in isolation is legitimate, and those who choose that path may become valuable repositories of reclaimed knowledge.

However, my point was that I consider community more valuable than isolation, and see more chance of survival together than apart. I think the urge to run comes from fear and loss of hope, and I strongly believe that fear is not useful and loss of hope is not necessary.

I also think that the stockpiling mentality is foolish under the circumstances we face -- it's a short-term strategy to cope with short-term disruptions, and that's probably not what many of us will experience. Learning how to garden and can and putting up enough food to make it through next winter is a different kettle of salted fish.

It could be that the survivalists will, in fact, survive. If enough people go that route it's inevitable that some will, no matter what happens. Each of us has to work toward the kind of world we find personally rewarding, though, and that's not my vision. Humanity has lived in communities of one size or another for hundreds of thousands of years. It's a strategy with a proven track record for physical survival as well as psychological, emotional and spiritual health. That's the option I wish to champion.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (May-27-2009)   Web site

Kathy, since you mentioned church attendance, I wonder "what Jesus would do". Would he have stockpiled weapons and ammunition in anticipation of hunger? Probably not... but canned food or other durable foods, yes. Perhaps Paul's / Bodhisantra's point is that an effort to support open community and peaceful cooperation beyond one's immediate group, even under severe stress, should be a first reflex, while survivalism should not be. Some would agree with former approach, and others with the latter approach. It seems a distinction in approach can be drawn. I am not sure I would categorize Paul's approach as condemnation, but it seems, if I interpret him correctly, that he has a preference for those who aspire to live on the peaceful, non-defensive side over those who anticipate a struggle and survival of the fittest.
Comment by: kathypeak (Kathy McMahon) (May-27-2009)   Web site

Well, here's the thing, Paul. If you say "They are not the whole of the canned food and ammo crowd" you are still creating a hostile stereotype. Why not just say "people who awaken to the dread but cannot find the hope" or "those in whom fear and loss of hope is a primary driver and they isolate themselves." When you say "canned food and ammo crowd" It's like saying "Those Germans" when you mean "Nazis."

As far as having a gun "for defense against human predators" I'm not sure whether you object to their having a gun or their imagining the possibility that someone might want to "steal their stuff." People riot and loot under all kinds of disaster situations. Is it bad to imagine that such a thing can happen? Is your argument that imagining makes it so?

Is it possible that having a gun is just another in the list of supplies to have "just in case" like the ax that could have come in handy for people who lived in New Orleans (used to get out onto their roofs)?

What you call "stockpiling goods" used to be considered just good common sense for our ancestors. This fall, in fact, the CDC has prepared a commercial to be played in case this swine flu is as bad as they fear it is going to be. They want you to "stockpile" two weeks of food and probably will suggest minimizing the need to interact or connect with other people if the epidemic picks up.

My point is, stereotyping survivalists is not helpful to anyone's goal of uniting people. Imagining that bad things can happen isn't the same as "imagining that ONLY bad things can happen." Survivalists not only learn to defend themselves and grow and store their own food, they also learn "lost arts." They don't have a single "political agenda" or stance toward people. Some of them are down-right people-hating, but others, as remote as they are, are active in their churches or agricultural groups.

Let's drop straw dogs and "bad people," and instead talk about the traits we are referring to, and not stereotype anyone who stores food or keeps weapons and ammo.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (May-27-2009)   

Geez, I thought I was done with this thread..
Thanks for the offer, Kathy ..;-) xxoo zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Perhaps the fear that the ammo stocking crowd has is totally justified. I know that the 'huggers' and 'close-talkers' scare me more than the shifty-eyed guy with a gun. The guy with the gun isn't going to send me an invoice for cutting off my leg like the health 'care' people do. The real problem with the social animal is that the social doesn't understand that other humans are not 'just like them' all of the time, and the lack of accommodation for individuality is the source of the fear on both sides. The herd hangs together because they feel that as long as they are numerous, then statistically, any one of them isn't a target. The individuals (hunters) don't like being trampled in the name of 'safety' or 'love'.
Groups provide lots of benefits: the bill of rights for one. "We agree not to eat the individuals who agree not to attack the group."-That's the basic "right to life": issued by the social group: not from God.
The main problem I see is that groups start forcing individuals to join, rather than appreciating that becoming socialized is a free choice and returning benefits accordingly. The canned food and ammo of modern make comes from willing interaction with some group (factory) who manufactures and sells it.
We'll know when a real division between people occurs when the canned food and ammo crowd becomes the "shadows who make their own weapons."
I told Kunstler that I'm thinking of taking up sword forging. Swords don't run out of bullets. Progress isn't all it's cracked up to be. Ask any polar bear. Come to think of it, you could ask the polar bear the same thing about societies.
Comment by:  chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) (May-26-2009)   Web site


The people I identify with the "canned food and ammo" sobriquet are not concerned simply with withdrawing from society. The ammo isn't just for hunting the last few rabbits on Earth, it's for defense against human predators. That speaks to the fear that is implicit in that response, and is why I describe them as "those who awaken to the dread but cannot find the hope." They are not the whole of the canned food and ammo crowd, but that fear and loss of hope is a primary driver for many who isolate themselves. That sort of withdrawal and isolation is not a value-neutral choice, and that's why I see engagement as a "better" path.

I distinguish this response from a simple "back to the land" decision, which is essentially positive. Such a decision does not come out of a failure to find hope -- it's a fundamentally hopeful choice. While there may be guns on a such a farm, their primary purpose is not to defend against the gummint or to protect the hoard from the hordes.
Comment by: kathypeak (Kathy McMahon) (May-26-2009)   Web site


I want to marry you and have your babies...Oh. Um, no, forget that babies part...

But I do think you have a good point. Humans do just appear to put themselves into the center of everything, as a patella response, when we think of the Earth becoming unlivable to us, by our own design.

The painful truth is that the Earth can live quite well without us, and probably will, before we know it. We are on a crash course.


With that as a given, if you want to enjoy your time deep in the thick of it with other people, that's your choice. Why do you have to make that a morally superior position? Why insult anyone, especially the "canned food and ammo crowd" as you disparagingly call them? If they choose to pick a few fav humans to hang out with, surrounded by wilderness, and wild beasts or domesticated animals, why isn't that just an "everything is beautiful in its own way" choice, as any other choice? You advocate a "toward people" position. They advocate an "away from people" orientation. It isn't automatically an "against people" orientation, now, is it, unless some other human attempts to run up and steal their stuff? They are just "away." That can be okay, can't it?

You aren't enthusiastic about being away from people. O'tay. Others are VERY enthusiastic about it. Some of us are going to spend our time answering blog posts, and others will spend our time writing these posts. Some won't use any electricity at all, and will farm instead. Will any of these things change the direction of things? Nah, but some of them feel better to the humans doing them than others.

Now, if I understand AuntieGrav correctly, the suggestion is that humans are managing to wreck quite a few other living creatures on the way down, at least the ones they haven't already killed off. And perhaps, just perhaps, there is something more to it than the three choices I've mentioned: toward people, away from people, against people. Perhaps when we put the word "people" in those choices, we are blinding ourselves to other things.

Auntie, Jon IS a "people lover." After all, frogs won't donate to the movie or go see it. But then again, frogs didn't put us in this position. The movie is very very funny, and it is a good way to spend your time...laughing that is.

Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (May-25-2009)   Web site

The comment was from the poem "Howl", not a Dennis Hopper script. The rest, I can't comment on at this time -- sleep calls.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (May-25-2009)   

What the heck was that? Some Dennis Hopper script?
No, you misinterpret me. I don't care about the best minds of my generation. They didn't care about me, and I WAS the best mind of my generation. I still am. The problem is not that there aren't enough solutions, but that nobody wants to solve problems. They just want to talk about them and create yet more systems of systems to turn into a cushy 'green' job.
If it's a job, it isn't green.
John here:
says that "the Earth isn't in real danger, people are".
That statement makes the assumption, overall, that people are important somehow and that we should be worried.
I'm not worried as much anymore because I've realized that humans are just one of many hominids that could have evolved, but didn't. Everything we are being told from the green or the brown or the left or the right is told to us to sell us on the idea that people are somehow significant. They are only significant to other people. The universe couldn't care less about our petty imaginations.
Well, that said, it is quite too much. Enjoy the air while it lasts, you guys, eh?
Oh, and what I meant about being Canadian was that you are just being too nice. I used to say "Any true environmentalist would commit suicide." I now realize that he would have to do better than that. Humans are producing new environmentalists faster than the real ones can take themselves out.
Comment by:  chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) (May-25-2009)   Web site

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,

...or have I misinterpreted you?
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (May-25-2009)   Web site

On May 25th (fill in the date) we are ALL Canadian.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (May-25-2009)   

Your Canadian-ness is showing. Stop it.
Everything is not interconnected except that it all comes from randomness. Some things are connected. Some are not. The spirituality has not worked in the past except to sell things.
Though I agree we cannot separate ourselves from humanity's mess, we also cannot 'fix' it. Most of the choices we have are not actually choices. If you ask someone if they like to drive, they say "yes". If you ask them if they like to destroy the planet and poison their children's air, they say "of course not". But they continue to do both and come up with reasons afterward.
"Oh, but we can't just stop the machinery!"
Yes, we can. But we won't. We won't face the truth about how unimportant human desires really are, how life is not sacred, and how we allow ourselves to be so easily led to self-destruction by a kind word or a big show or a new gadget.
I will keep growing food to feed my neighbors, and I will keep stockpiling ammo to shoot the 'zombies'. I will love my children as they will probably die along with the rest of us in a few short years of climate inferno. Meanwhile, I am cutting back on the number of touchy-feely things I read and put up with. Memorial Day reminds me of my military service to civilization, and how the unnecessary always warrants a parade to justify incompetence of leadership that gets us into wars while the people who die growing food don't get parades or uniforms or even decent leadership to fight for themselves. Those who die doing necessary things don't cause any Big Guilt to be assuaged, so no memorials or parades are put up for the farmer that dies under a tractor or loses an arm in a combine.
Screw humanity while it screws you.

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About author/contributor Member: chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka)
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Member: chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) I am a Canadian ecologist with a passionate interest in outside the box responses to the converging crisis of industrial civilization.

The crisis of civilization is not simply a convergence of technical, environmental and organizational problems.  These are symptoms that are themselves being driven by a philosophical and perceptual disconnection so deep that it is best understood as a spiritual breakdown.  The disconnection goes by the name of Separation.

Our sense of separation is what allows us to see ourselves as different from and superior to the rest of the apparently non-rational universe we live in.  In this worldview the complex mutual interdependence of all the elements of the universe is replaced by a simple dualistic categorization:  there are human beings, and everything else in the universe—without exception—is a resource for us to use.

The only way to keep this planet, our one and only home in the universe, from being ultimately ravaged and devastated is to change our worldview and heal our sense of separateness.  Unless we can manage that breathtaking feat all the careful application of technology, all the well-intentioned regulations, all the unbridled cleverness of which we are so proud will do little to delay the final outcome, and nothing whatever to prevent it.

My desire is to find ways to heal that sense of separation, with the goal of helping us prepare for ecological adulthood.

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