Out of a living silence

A contemplative shares thoughts that emerge in moments of quiet reflection


with one comment

What are we doing to ensure adequate water, food, shelter, education and respect for those who do not have ready access to these blessings? Are we informed about the effects of our lifestyle on the global economy and the environment? (Faith and Practice. Intermountain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 2009, p. 139.)

For the vast majority of Americans—I cannot speak for the people of other countries—the answer to the second question in this Quaker query is No. No, we are not informed about the effects of our lifestyle on the global economy and the environment. I would like to think that if we were informed, we would choose to live different lifestyles.

I have a hunch there are a lot of people who know that people would choose to live differently if they were better informed. How else can we account for the millions, even billions, of dollars that are spent every year to make sure that most people are misinformed? Just to cite one example, it is impossible to know for sure how many people are lured into believing that America’s economic future depends on finding and extracting petroleum, coal and natural gas in the United States and Canada, and that these extracting industries will create millions of jobs for Americans right here at home, and that the principal obstacles to America’s energy security and independence are regulations aimed at protecting the environment. Given, however, that Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has said that one of his first acts as president would be to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency so that Americans could get back to work and become energy-self-sufficient, and given that Herman Cain according to USA Today is today the leading Republican candidate in Iowa polls, there seem to be people (at least in Iowa) who buy into the persistent efforts of such organizations as America’s Power to persuade Internet users and television viewers that deregulation and increased energy production is the only sure path to America’s economic recovery and future prosperity.

There are some questions that Herman Cain and his supporters are not asking but should be asking.

  • What impact will it have on the health and wellbeing of Americans if we continue to burn coal to generate electricity?
  • What impact will it have on the health and wellbeing of Americans if we continue burning oil to propel automobiles, airplanes, trucks, trains and ships over great distances?
  • What impact will it have on the health of wellbeing of America’s closest neighbors and America’s more distant neighbors if we continue to consume energy at current levels?
  • What impact is the way human beings are now living having on animals and plants?
  • What will the planet be like twenty-five years from now, when today’s toddlers are young adults? What will it be like in fifty years, when today’s toddlers are middle-aged? How many of today’s toddlers will live to be seventy-five? What kind of future will there be for those who must live in the world to which the current generations are laying waste through our collective reliance on energy produced by something other than our own muscles?

America’s economy is fueled entirely by dissatisfaction. To some extent, dissatisfaction is natural for human beings; philosophers have been pointing out for millennia that being dissatisfied is one of the things we do best. But much of today’s dissatisfaction is carefully cultivated and manufactured. Every time, for example, that Apple produces a new operating system for its computers and mobile devices, the Apple Corporation extends an invitation to all users of Apple products to be dissatisfied with the toys and tools they already have. This year’s line of apparel is an invitation to be dissatisfied with what is already in our clothes closets. If people were to become satisfied with what they already have, quite a lot of the economy would collapse. Civilization as we know it would come to an end.

There are few things that I am more eager to see in my lifetime than the end of civilization as we know it, and the collapse of an economy based not on the provision of the necessities of life but on the creation of desires for goods and services we could all very easily live without, and without most of which we would in fact be much more content.

It is long past time for a revolution that brings capitalism to its knees and that utterly destroys the monstrous American culture of selfishness and greed that has grown like a cancer on this once-beautiful continent. The beginning of that revolution is not going to be the firing of shots or the planting of bombs, nor is it going to be the gathering of crowds shouting slogans and carrying banners. The next American revolution can begin only with a blossoming of individual personal contentment. Contentment with plain, nutritious, locally grown food. Contentment with plain clothing, sufficient to offer protection from the elements. Contentment with conversation and with singing with our own voices and dancing on our own legs. Contentment with watching birds and insects and plants being born and living and dying. Contentment with using our own bodies as our only vehicles. Contentment with talking to friends in the house next door. Contentment with our own breathing and the beat of our own hearts. Contentment with the laughter of children. Contentment with dogs and cats.

If a radical contentment with what is within our own bodies and right under own very noses would seize us all, we could give up our craving for laptops and mobile devices with their highly toxic lithium batteries. A joy with encountering reality would quickly replace our craving for virtual reality. If a content with moving at the speed of living organisms were to overtake us, we would quickly lose our craving for automobiles and airplane flight.

America has been conquered by barbarians driven by greed, who have enslaved us with their unnecessary toxic environment-destroying energy-consuming products. We are the barbarians who have conquered us. There is a way to get the country back. Stop buying their products. Start resisting their lies. Begin by taking a deep breath and looking around and noticing how much of what you have you could easily do without. Be free.

Ask: why did the author of this blog posting use a poisoned Apple MacBook laptop computer to send a message on the energy-wasting Internet to encourage people to consider simplifying their lives?

Written by Richard P. Hayes (Dayāmati Dharmacārin)

Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 16:36

Posted in Faith and practice

One Response

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  1. Dear Richard sir,
    I stumbled on your blog while searching for some philosophical topics on the internet. I totally agree with your thoughts and would like to comment with my 2 cents, wherever appropriate. I hope I am not intruding.

    What you have expressed in this post is what people in many countries feel today. I live in a bustling metropolis in the south of India and as I travel to work everyday, I see crowds stepping on to each other – there is a feeling of urgency everywhere and it feels like people dont believe in hoping for another day and there is no belief in living a simple life in touch with the basic joys of nature. I used to ponder on exactly the points that you mentioned – on things like breathing the cool air and watching the rise of the sun in the morning rather than running a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym while watching music videos on TV.

    I had written a small post on it and welcome to have your audience on it – http://vicky-pedia.blogspot.com/2010/05/when-invention-is-mother-of-necessity.html

    I dont know if the values that you spoke about can be percolated down into the minds of people. Our people have now experienced higher pleasures and would they be ready to move back to the basics? In India, whenever I tried to debate these points with people, nearly all my friends spoke in favor of science and technology and saw going back to nature as mere regression.

    My regards and thanks for writing such beautiful posts. I shall visit back to read more..
    ~Vikas Prabhu.


    Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 07:41

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