Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It’s a beautiful morning and it’s supposed to get up near 80 degrees today. I’m planning to double-dig the garden once it warms up a bit, and spend as much time outside as I can.

For now though I’m sitting at my desk at the front window, looking out at the bright green grass, blue skies, and sunshine. It’s already 44 degrees at 7:30.

I just came across a quote I had copied down from the book, Beyond Beef, which talks about eating as a way of connecting with nature. I must have unconsciously absorbed the message without realizing it:

Eating, more than any other single experience, brings us into a full relationship to the natural world. The act itself calls forth the full embodiment of our senses—taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight. We know nature largely by the various ways we consume it. Eating establishes the most primordial of all human bonds with the environment, and that is why in most cultures the experience is celebrated as a sacred act and a communion as well as an act of survival and replenishment. Eating, then, is the bridge that connects culture with nature, the social order with the natural order.

I’m starting to read a book called The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, by Karen Armstrong. I think her general thesis is going to be that we have never evolved beyond the religious traditions that began thousands of years ago and there is much that they can say to us in these desperate times.

It does make sense that we have not taken to heart the core messages of the great traditions, because we’re still in the egoic age. But we are on the cusp of a new age, so of course these great teachings are extremely relevant today.

I’m still trying to gain a more in-depth understanding of the rise of ego. This book is perhaps delivering a few more clues. As with Jared Diamond, the author points to the domestication of the horse as being a pivotal moment (along with the development of bronze weaponry).

Before horses, tribes were relatively isolated, peaceful pastoralists. But horses brought mobility which brought strangers into contact, and the combination of horses and weapons gave rise to looting, raiding, and the acquisition of “stuff”. The horsemen had power and by looting they had wealth. They developed a belief system that only the wealthy and powerful would have eternal life. In a sense they were becoming gods themselves as they commanded more resources and became more and more powerful and dominant.

The horse artificially gave individuals a boost up—from nobodies to persons of wealth and wicked power. Obviously, as individuals they were no more special than anyone else, but by using things outside of themselves (horses and weapons) they made themselves look bigger than they really were.

And in a nutshell, isn’t that what ego is? Simply making yourself look bigger than you really are? It starts to seem ridiculous that after all these thousands of years we’re still doing the same childish thing. I guess in the whole sweeping span of our evolution, a few thousand years is nothing, though. So long as we’re not stuck here forever! And there does seem to be more and more evidence of our readiness for the next paradigm.

I read something in a newspaper the other day about scientific estimates of the fate of the earth. I think it said the sun will become a red giant in another seven-point-something billion years, but in only a billion more years the earth will no longer be habitable because of the sun’s rising temperature. Material life is so temporary, no matter if you look at it in planetary terms or in terms of an individual’s lifespan. How comical it seems that we still cling to the material when it is the ultimate illusion. The paradox is that as wispy spiritual beings we are actually far more real and durable than matter and ego.

In the material world, what are the ways we assert our egos? By boasting about our achievements—actions taken on the physical plane for the most part; by boasting about or flaunting our acquisitions—money, things, trophy wives, landholdings, etc; by gaining status—that is, by gaining the consensus of others that our interactions with the material world have been more persuasive or of greater value than other people’s interactions; and by gaining power, which requires that other people value ego in order for that to be conferred on us.

Where I’m heading with this I don’t know. I’m groping around since there’s something here I’m trying to understand….

So all of these ways we assert ego—they’re all artificial extensions of the self. Self plus fast horse plus bronze weapons equals ego. We’re not the horse, or its speed, we’re not the weapon or its honed edge, but we expand our egos to encompass those things as if we could take credit for them. As if they were parts of ourselves. So we childishly think we’re bigger. We allow these external things to define who we are.

And these external things are not us, unless you look at it all spiritually and then everything is us, but that makes us all one being, all equally powerful. And then there’s no point in egotism because who are you going to boast to, and about what?

What keeps coming to mind is my vision a few weeks back of the man who was calling up the weather. In that moment he was egoless, fused with the Divine. He was one with Nature, or Gaia, or the Universe, or God—however you want to look at it. Self has to completely recede in order to so merge with nature that the rain clouds will roil and churn towards you.

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