There is that which happens and there is the story we tell.
A pine tree far off in the mountain wilderness knows nothing of the human story. Does it have a story at all or does it exist and change with a consciousness so different from human consciousness that no story is possible for the pine tree? How does it mark the passage of time, the coming and going of the seasons, the clamoring of the squirrels up and down its trunk?
Society evolves. We live within biological reality yet there is great leeway. The laws of life allow for incredible personal and social range and creativity.
Who are we really? Without our imagination, without our cultural position and self definition what is the baseline reality of being human?
Is it reducible to undeniable physical properties? Digestion, respiration, circulation? Input, transformation, output? Are relationships such as mother and child an inescapable reality or are they just a memory so deeply imprinted in our imagination as to be nearly but not finally escapable? How about our relationship with our father who is crucial to our existence but need only be present for a few minutes to do his part?
Does our cultural imagination influence the real changes that occur in our society or are these changes, social and cultural evolutionary or devolutionary processes so deeply fundamental as to be beyond the realm of conscious control?
The balance between fate and choice has been hotly debated since at least the earliest writings if not since the first humans lay out under the stars, marveling at the immensity of it all. The thoughtful consensus holds that for individuals we are primarily acting out of habit, therefore fate predominates. As a result of our unconscious habitual actions circling out through natural law back to us, we create our fate without knowing it.
Society being primarily, almost exclusively composed of individuals acting out of habit, is even more deeply entrenched in non conscious patterns.
To wake up to one's own habitual feelings, thoughts and actions is hard enough. To awaken to the roots of these in habitual world views, precognitive emotional patterns and cultural assumptions is rare indeed. As such the force of fate runs deep, even for individual humans struggling to cultivate self awareness within cultural context. For society as a whole it can seem near impossible to break the force of habit.
This dynamic between fate and awareness is why the ancient meditators escaped society to live alone in the mountain caves. To even begin the process of developing the self awareness needed to break free of habit energy these meditators had to cut all ties with those they were in these habitual relationships with. To liberate themselves from the entire matrix of constructed social reality they severed these bonds and headed into the mountains to sit quietly with the rocks and the trees, day after day, year after year without end. The hope was they would allow the layers of habit consciousness to fade away until the roots that fed them, the deepest conditioning of their individual, familial, social and cultural mind were exposed. Once these layers faded away they could begin to see themselves clearly. The pure ground of being would become clear and deeper spiritual practice could commence.
These are today referred to as the spiritualists. While consumer pop culture offers all manner of experience packaged with the word spiritual, if words are to have meaning beyond marketing phrases to be spiritual has meant over the years that one turns away from the world of material gain, from society itself, and dedicates their life to this deepening self awareness. To be spiritual has meant to seek to free oneself from habitual consciousness and the feelings, thoughts and actions that grow out of it.
The paradox of this process is that as cultivation deepens one significant component of this awareness is the clear and undeniable experience of intimate unity with all that is at the deepest levels of our being, even if with normal consciousness we experience separateness.
In contrast to this awareness the dominant thread of conversation in modern pop spirituality is that each individual creates their own reality. On its surface this is clearly an unjustifiable position. We live in a vast universe in a solar system larger than we can conceive of on a planet the most widely traveled will only ever see an insignificant fraction of amidst oceans, continents, mountains, rivers, forests and an atmosphere that we are born into. Even the human society we are born into is the result of thousands of years of development by billions of people. The idea that I somehow created all of this is patently ridiculous. The idea that I can live outside of this context likewise. There is no way I create my own reality. Even language itself is a structure we are given. It binds our minds. While it can give shape to experiences and thoughts, the study of multiple languages quickly exposes us to the limits of any single language, pointing to the possibility of all that lies beyond words and sentences. Without language how does the old pine tree experience itself, its relationships, the passage of time? How much of our personal and collective experience is beyond language? Beyond the possibility of language, beyond the intellect itself?
If we look deeper into the pop spirituality idea of self empowerment we do see a truth of great importance. I do not create my reality. You do not create yours. Together, however, within the context of that beyond our power, in relationship with each other and our context, we create our reality. The job you've spent years preparing for only exists because of other people. The house you just bought only exists because of other people. Because of trees and roads and nitrogen and oxygen and aggregate human desire built upon thousands of years.
But this is only our external reality. We also have an internal reality, and it relates to our external one. It is true that we have more say in the nature of our internal reality, but even then, we are not isolated, unaffected. We live with billions of people on a planet of limited size. They all affect us. Some more immediately, such as our mother, or our coworker. If my mother takes ill, I feel some bad feeling. If my coworker gives me a gift, or just smiles at me and asks how my day is, I have some good feeling. My mother created me in her womb. Together with my coworkers we create something that changes the world in some small way. Others have a less direct yet equally important effect. I only can drive a car because millions of others drive cars, work the mines, ship the ore, cast the parts, man the gas stations, etc. Even if I worked hard to earn my fancy car, all that work only pays off in my ability to drive fast on beautiful, winding roads because of the work of millions of others over centuries. Not just the road builders and car manufacturers but everybody who has played a role in developing the technology and culture that generates cars and roads they can drive on. To try and parse all the relationships between our inner and outer realities and our material and spiritual ones is beyond the scope of this book. The point is that we are all in this together. What others do not only affects me on some small level like changing my mood for a moment or two. What others do creates the very society and constructed world in which I live. And what others have done for thousands of years. Likewise I participate in the creation of reality for every other living being.
How does this awareness change me? Us? How does it affect our feelings? The way we perceive the world? How does it help me and us see the world more clearly, make better choices, act out of some motive other than non conscious habit?
As an individual attempting to transform and transcend my conditioning, my habitual pre conscious emotional patterns, world views and actions, I can only go so far alone. The ancient meditators fled to the purity of the mountain streams. Now these streams are polluted at best, deadly at worst. There is no longer individual escape from the destructive nature of collective non conscious habit. Oceans are full of growing dead zones. Ninety percent of our forests are gone. All that has ever been burned is in the air, the water and the soil. They are even finding pharmaceutical drugs in active doses in bays and rivers. There is no longer a place one can go to avoid the results of our collective precognitive emotional patterns, conditioned world views and habitual actions. What one creates all must live with. Or die because of.
Even if I join the sovereignty movement, renege on my birth certificate and remove the postal address numbers from my land, the wood of my house came from somewhere. The oil in my car only reached me through the labor of millions. Even if I pump my own water from the aquifer by hand or collect the rain as it falls, that water contains the effluent of other people's lives. There is nowhere else to go. For countless ages humanity has worn out its welcome and moved on, allowing the places they trashed to recover. Now, there is nowhere else to go. Even if I exile myself completely from human society and walk naked into the wilderness that wilderness is not free of human influence, of the toxic sludge we have created.
Now, humanity lives and dies together and there is no escape for any individual from the collective future we are creating through our unconscious social and cultural habits.
Every time we kill a forest to build a road we have chosen death over life. Every bomb we drop, every pesticide we spray, every metal we inject is a choice for death over life. How many times can we make that choice before it becomes final? Death is eternal and inescapable. One might say death is absolute while life is relative. Yet within the constant of death life perpetuates itself. Which side of the scales are we putting our thumb on? Are we aware we are making the choice or is it the result of collective unconscious habit?
We are now poisoning our planet. We are poisoning our children. We are creating such a toxic soup in our soil, our water and our atmosphere, even in our own blood and the genes of our children that our survival as a species is now in question. Already we are seeing significant degeneration of key components of human health. Our genes are deteriorating. Our brains are damaged. Our endocrine systems are confused to the point of making us ill, even to the point of fatality in many cases. Our digestion, respiration and circulation are fighting for survival. The entire human biome is overwhelmed with toxicity and the toxic load grows every day.
Even as many of us around the world are taking note, doing what little we feel is in our individual power to address this toxic load and the attendant die off, the problem worsens. It seems as if this process will simply run its course. Collective non conscious habit appears to be unstoppable. The vast bulk of people seem oblivious. Even those of us who speak as if we get it continue to live fundamentally toxic lives. We still drive our cars on asphalt roads, fly in planes, eat food from far away, burn natural gas in our homes, buy diamonds and gold, remodel our houses and otherwise engage in all the activities that are creating this toxic soup. We easily justify each of our actions as some kind of necessity, but no amount of justification changes the results.
What will come of all this toxic destruction of the life carrying capacity of the planet? Will we finally succeed and make the earth uninhabitable? Will we destroy the human genome and eradicate ourselves first? It currently appears to be a close race between these two possibilities. It may end in a tie.
Thank you for considering these ideas with me. In other essays I am working on uncovering exactly what the habitual patterns are and considering more life affirming and sustaining alternatives. Obviously this is not an easy thing to do. Many before have come up with plans and visions yet here we are. I am contemplating causes and effects, how to come to awareness, how to break habits and how to scale up. I am also contemplating how to proceed personally or in small groups in the absence of any large scale liberation from the habitual patterns we are now playing out. Nature follows sin waves. Population growth appears to be approaching a peak, meaning the population will begin to decline, possibly in our lifetimes. Who goes first? How do we respond?
All this is part of what you pay me for. Thank you. Please share this essay with others if you feel so called, and please encourage them to support my work. It may be futile. It may be depressing. It may just be a madman talking to the worms. Or it may be useful. Either way, I can't do it without your support. Thank you a million times over.