Friday, March 30, 2012

The Desire to Understand Life

A curious mind is constantly exploring the world with the desire to know Life, and to understand Life.  It is only when you can understand life that you can make rational decisions with conscious control over your behavior.  Let me give you an example. 

You might spend the evening behind a tv or computer screen, but you will benefit if you stand up and try this exercise.  With your palm on one hand facing down in front of you and all your fingers together pointing in a forward direction, try to draw a perfect circle in the air.  Now try to draw that same exact circle perfectly at half speed.

If this is your first time trying this, your first circle was probably fairly decent, and you did it at a moderately fast speed that you are naturally comfortable with.  The second circle you drew was not nearly a perfect circle, and it was hard to control your speed to go so slowly.  This demonstrates that you do not have very much physical control of your body.  It can be learned however by drawing the slow circle many times until you can go even slower. 

If your mind does not have good control over your body, how can it have good control of your will.  This too can be practiced by resting the mind.  So, take a deep breathe to relax, and try the exercise above with the circles, because you will develop both your physical precison, and your mental willpower.

 You have just explored an aspect of life that helps you to understand Life.  Doing these types of activities (and 1000's of other similar activities) you begin to understand Life.  While you may never get to a true enlightenment, you make constant progress to getting closer to Life's meaning.  Approaching this understaning of Life, you begin to think clearly and can make more rational decisions while exercising your will.

There are those who don't want to understand life.  They are content to not know, and do not want to explore to get further answers or enlightenment.    It is simple enough to be led by the physical pleasures in life.  It is much more of an accomplishment to explore beyond the physical pleasures, and to be led by your sheer will.  So how do you get control of your own will?

Really this is a path that only you can go down, as the answer is different for everybody.  You need to explore life and figure that part out.  I can't tell you how to control your own will, but I can give you suggestions for things that have worked for me to understand life:

  • Put yourself in an uncomfortable position and relax in it everyday.  I mean this both physically through stretching or lifting or doing some difficult exercise, and I also mean this in the other context of taking actions to expand your mental awareness.  Go somewhere you don't know the language, talk to a stranger, give somebody $100 out of the blue, go skydiving, etc.  
  • Observe how nature works.  Nature is a complex entity, much more complex than our most advanced technology, and it works incredibly efficiently and resilliantly.  Go somewhere you can find a relatively undisturbed natural place and sit quietly while observing the interactions.  The longer you stay the better, whether its sitting quietly for an hour or for 3 days.  Observe how nature works and adopt its patterns into your life.
  • Do opposites to acheive balance.  If you just lifted somehting heavy, lift somehting light.  If you were just angry, practice being calm.  If you've been calm all day, work on getting excited about something.  If you've been working for 70 hours, take a vacation. 

These are just a few of the exercises you can do, and the list is virtually limitless.  Be creative with your time as you only live once.  Please share a comment with the things that you do in your life to explore Life, because it can only lead to enlightenment.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Meaning of Sustainability

The term 'sustainable' is lightly tossed around in conversations about the environment, food, energy, and even the economy, to demonstrate that we as a civilization are in trouble if we continue on our current trajectory.  It has become a buzz word that triggers euphoria in hippies and nausea in conservatives.  From my personal experience, I have approached the word with great concern and interest, especially when presented with compelling data, but have grown callous to it with over exposure.  This has triggered me to reflect on the true meaning of the word, and how it relates to the way we live our lives.

Without consulting a dictionary, I would define something as sustainable if it can be continued indefinitely.  A sustainable system is one in which the inputs feed the outputs and the outputs feed the inputs, leading to a closed cycle which is balanced.  I have seen this imagery in the form of an ouroborus, and Aristotle described the universe as the mythical snake eating its own tail and constantly regenerating.  If we care about self preservation, it is worth caring about whether we are living sustainably, that is in a way in which we can preserve our collective quality of life or improve it indefinitely. 

It became clear with the economic collapse, that our system was not sustainable, and it needed a large boost to stay afloat.  Its questionable if that boost has put it on track to be sustainable from this point on or if it was merely a band aid on a much larger wound.  Looking at the world economy would lead one to believe it was just a band aid.  And if our economy is not sustainable, it is not likely that other parts of our lives are sustainable either.  We're running out of things.  Quickly.  While I could write a list of things that we can never get back, its better said that we are running out of the ability to continue doing what we are doing.

I'm not here to argue about conserving fossil fuels, or conserving water, or conserving soil, or conserving the environment.  I think those are all important things, but they don't really matter.  They don't matter because we are currently not living sustainably and this means that we either change our ways or we perish.  What matters is that we, as a species, as a civilization are able to continue to thrive.  And this ability is currently being threatened by our current lifestyles. 

I'm not here to argue about the right way to live your life, or that you should bike more often than drive, or that you should eat local organic foods because I do not have the answers, and I'm not sure our best actions could solve the current system of unsustainability.  It is estimated that the world can only support 1-2 billion people, and I'm not eager to see how that goes down.  But I do find it believable that life has value and it is important to preserve our world, our quality of lives for our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and neighbors if we value our existence and the ability for civilization to thrive.   It seems people want to take everything they can before its all gone and leave nothing for the future (either for themselves or the next generations).  We are destroying instead of building, consuming instead generating. 

 Nature will correct itself as it always has and always will.  This means we can begin to live sustainably either by choice through consciously changing our ways, or by force through an unstable environment, government, and economy.  I do not fear continuing on the current path because I know it cannot happen as it is by definition not sustainable.  Sustainable is the only thing that can persevere and is the natural order of things.  The only question is what will the future to get to sustainability look like and how do we make it the least painful?  Make your changes now so you won't be forced to do so later.  Cleaning up the mess begins with the individual cleaning up his or her own life.