Sunday, January 6, 2008

I finished a book the other day about the Kalahari Bushmen (The Old Way, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas). It has left me sadder than ever about the current state of affairs here on earth. The author lived among the Bushmen with her family in the 1950’s, when they were still purely living the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, in the same way they had for thirty-five thousand years. The last section of the book showed how all of that has changed in the mere fifty years since the author first visited.

The “Old Way” is how we all once lived, as full, integrated participants in the local ecosystem. It was beautiful in the book to see how the people had co-evolved with all the other creatures in the ecosystem and therefore filled a vital but intimately interconnected niche. Her description of the co-evolution of the humans and lions was particularly interesting. Because they evolved together, humans were not typically prey for the lions. Only with the advent of farming was that balance destroyed, and then with a vengeance. Then, humans killed lions, and lions became man-eaters.

The exquisiteness of a balanced ecosystem is what moved me, especially because I had never seen an example of a balanced ecosystem that included humans. Once upon a time we all lived in that kind of harmony, fully integrated into the natural world. But not anymore.

Everything has gone downhill since we stepped outside of our niche and began to dominate and control everything. Is culture a blessing or a curse? At this point I’d have to call it a curse since unbelievable damage and desecration has occurred as a result. Maybe ultimately there will be a bigger picture and this will just have been a necessary evil to get us to some enlightened way of being. But I have some serious doubts.

Maybe the development of culture is ultimately a blind alley—an evolutionary dead-end. I find our survival as a species less and less probable these days. I truly think we’re headed towards a very massive die-off.

Again I reach the question—does our survival matter? Really I doubt that it does.

I’ve already reached the conclusion that my own life, personally, doesn’t matter. Whether I live or die is insignificant. It’s just an extension of that thinking to conclude that the survival of our species doesn’t matter.

Some months back I was doing a little mental exercise pertaining to the end-of-oil scenario. If society collapsed, what would I do? I had come across a prophecy given by a Native American elder to Tom Brown, Jr. about the collapse of civilization. It said that when the sky turns blood red you’ll have one year to flee to the wilderness, and once there you must stay for ten years before coming out again. If you came out any sooner you would die. In the course of that time society would largely be destroyed.

I imagined myself fleeing to the wilderness and surviving there. I asked myself, if I were threatened by other humans, would I defend myself? Would I kill other people simply to ensure my own survival? Why would my survival matter, and how could my life possibly have more value than anyone else’s? I’m not going to have any more children, so I don’t need to survive to propagate the species or carry on my bloodline. So, why would my survival matter?

I concluded it just wouldn’t. I would want to survive because it sounds like an adventure, an interesting test, but it wouldn’t matter.

Why do we fight so desperately for survival? That’s something I will never quite understand. I know it’s instinctive, maybe even the will of the species to survive that manifests through us. But man killing man can never make any sense, especially with modern weapons, since the weak genetically can kill the strong and it’s not a matter of the fittest of the species surviving necessarily.

The rules of the physical world say dog-eat-dog. I for one would rather be eaten. As Spirit we live on forever. So why does this world matter? It’s a manifestation of the Divine, but when we’ve so defiled and diminished it, it’s lost so much of its glory.

My survival doesn’t matter. When I leave this world—today, tomorrow, next Wednesday, in fifty years—it doesn’t make a difference. But while I’m here my duty is to honor the Divine and the natural world and to maybe fight for it, to protect what is still intact and to try to re-awaken others.

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