Yes, in 1994 Dick Cheney stated that invading Iraq would create a Quagmire. I guess he was right.
It’s a long time, and a long path, since the invention of the printing press. Much has happened since then, many more technologies have come along to make our life easier, and in the last 100 years or so, we have harnessed our technological prowess to serve our thirst for entertainment. Perhaps this is because we lack the energy and discipline to put this surplus wealth, which affords our lavish pursuit of trivia, to the common good.
When I was in high school in the ‘80s I learned in our socio-economic class that a UN study said the world had at that time enough food-growing capacity to feed 1&1/2 times the global population and that by the year 2000 the population would be between 6 & 7 billion. Since that time the population has risen by almost 50% (from around 4.5 billion to around 6.7 billion – check out the worls pop here and here). So we are now at the point where the planet could produce enough food to feed it’s entire population. It is clear that over the last two decades we have not achieved, as if it were ever our aim, planetwide freedom from hunger; it remains an unrealized potential – but not for long.
Our population continues to grow at a geometric rate and, if it has not already done so, will soon outstrip the planet’s capacity to feed it.
The capacity has been there up until now. Now we are at, or near, the turning point. This should not alarm anyone – we’ve never shown ourselves interested in fulfilling the potential offered by the planet’s food growing capacity. All that’s changing is our ‘option’ to fulfill the potential.
When I say ‘we have never shown’ an interest, I mean as a species, a collective. Individuals have, but they have not been the ones elected to governmental rule. From our wealth we have developed technologies to serve our needs and those needs are not, it would seem, to be of service to others; our wealth has been achieved by the exploitation of others, especially of the weaker societies and those most needing our help. Our preferred goals for our technologies seem to be the gathering of more wealth, comfort, entertainment and….
I do not say this to give you, or myself, a guilt trip. It is merely to highlight our capacity to ignore or put into the background of our consciousness the deepest needs of others, especially if they are outside our immediate environment. Our governments do not campaign to their electorates on promises of tackling world hunger (why?); for the same reason, few would have the gall to honor their committed portion of GNP as aid to global poverty, currently around 1%, let alone to raise it to 10%. It is left up to individuals to decide what, if anything, they’ll do to address the big issues of the planet, how much of a ‘sacrifice’ is acceptable to us.
I believe that we will only have inner peace when we allow these issues into our consciousness and address them in someway, according to our capacity; when we lighten up a bit and do not take ourselves and our whims so seriously, and allow ourselves to be more human; when we are able to include the weakest among us in our thoughtfulness and concerns. From a disposition, and a position, of helpfulness, our internal and external peace, and happiness, will grow.
“Few seem to realize how many of the evils from which we suffer are wholly unnecessary, and that they could be abolished by a united effort within a few years. If a majority in every civilized country so desired, we could, within twenty years, abolish all abject poverty, quite half the illness in the world, the whole economic slavery which binds down nine tenths of our population; we could fill the world with beauty and joy, and secure the reign of universal peace. It is only because imagination is sluggish, and what always has been is regarded as what always must be. With good-will, generosity, intelligence, these things could be brought about.”
From Nobel Prize Winner Bertrand Russell’s Political Ideals.
Help – for your consideration – The Smile Train.
Listening to one of my faves (Leonard Cohen) on my laptop I am continuously drawn into the screen by the ever changing, morphing beauty of the ‘visualiser’ patterns. Just as my visual field has shrunk to the size of the screen, or the screen has ‘expanded’ to fill my visual field, my audio field has also shrunk to be filled by the low amped sound from the ‘top, the sound and vision from the little unit filling most of my consciousness. Briefly my thoughts go back to the Rose Garden where I did T’ai Chi this morning and contrasts the experiences. They seem so different: the synthesized audio-visual world in front of me compared to the organic world of this morning, with its sights, sounds and smells, of trees, birds, trickling water, running squirrels and people; the morning splinters of sunlight playing on spider-webs and the occasional falling of rose petals as I did my little chi dance in a gentle trance. I am reminded of something that happened about ten years ago.
Having gotten the Golden Gate bus from San Francisco to Tam Junction I stood on Shoreline Hwy in the warm midday sun hitching a ride to Green Gulch Farm (http://www.sfzc.org/ggf) where I was living at the time. The two women who stopped, Jessie & Coco, told me they’d been to a party on Muir Beach near Green Gulch a week or so ago, and one of them, Coco, had fallen asleep on the beach, to awake at dawn to the sound of crashing waves…she said ‘it was just like listening to a tape, only real’. I smiled at the juxtaposition….up to now I had thought of tapes as mimicking ‘reality’, but here the tape was more ‘real’ and the morning beach reminding Coco of the tape. They turned off the highway and drove down into Green Gulch to get a better look of the temple they had up to now only seen in passing from above.
Which ‘reality’ do we live in most, which do we prefer? My feeling is that we can experience peace in either or both, but for me there is a much deeper sense of completeness and at-one-ness (atonement?) in the ‘organic’ type, perhaps because we belong more fully to it. Maybe this difference will be attenuated over time, maybe even reversed.
It is wonderful to hear wisdom where you don’t expect it. One example is the Broadway musical Avenue Q. For those who have not seen the show, Avenue Q uses actors with puppets to tell the story of a group of people living in a, well let’s just say, inexpensive part of New York.
The show deals with regular life subjects such as homelessness, despare, heartbreak, desire, and disappointment. If you don’t want me to spoil the end, stop reading now.
But, at the end of this wonderful production is a number simply named “For Now”. For now is a very simple song about how everything changes, and however you feel, or whatever situation you are in good or bad is temporary, so there is no reason to hold on to it to tightly.
It occurred to me recently that a lot of the fighting in the world could be attached to a resistance to change. People worried about the ‘evil’ people taking resources away from ‘us’. Maybe if we can spread the ‘for now’ wisdom, there would be less pain and suffering in the world.
“For Now” with a cartoon video
Before you think from my description the show is a downer. Here is a wonderful performance at the Tony Awards of “It sucks to be me”.
This is one of my favorite quotes. This is an example of something the Dalai Lama has called wise selfishness.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
— His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
Originally inspired by Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked for peace for 28 years, director Tara Golden concieved of the idea of a film that would combine a narrative story line and a documentary journey. The idea was to mix the powerful story of a man who does a peace walk with the real life adventure of walking every step of way through Scotland and England. The plan was to meet interesting local charactors along the 1100 mile hike and to integrate them into the story, and it worked up until a point.
The hike started well in John O’Groats on June 5th but along the way we faced conflict, creative differences and a car accident. Two crew members decided not to go on further than Glasgow. With only two of us left we found that we were not able to make the film as planned and restructured the film as a documentary.
Additional clips from the film can be found on our channel and each adds to our story.. They are presented to you here in a collage form but will be interwined in the final film.
Note from Tara: You can see an improved version of this edit on my channel. You can get the book on peacepilrgim for free from peacepilgrim.org