Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Fiscal Cliff ?

Reading the news you would think we were all about to tumble over some steep precipice down into a ravine never to be seen or heard from again — the dreaded Fiscal Cliff. Well I just got gas, a cup of pretty good coffee for 89¢, looked out the window at the road ahead and it looks pretty smooth and flat.

There's a different perspective when you are driving a bus and living in a smaller world. Now if you raise the rates of camp sites, double the price of rice and beans, or if there are three straight days of rain I might complain.

But let's face it, folks, a few percentage points increase in SSI and taxes is not a catastrophe. Suck it up, America! You've been there before. Remember the 1990s ?  Not so bad !

As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears. -- Rumi.
So, what are folks so upset about? The image of a cliff is telling. What we as a nation seemed to be obsessed by are end-of-the-world, doomsday scenarios. The Mayan calendar thing. Global warming. Economic collapse. Social upheaval.

Maybe with good reason.

The complex world that the majority of us live in seems increasingly scary and morphing beyond our ability to control. Will I have a job tomorrow? Will the cost of living double? Will a  medical disaster strike?

Life was not always so complicated nor did we see ourselves as part of a large machine that seems to be becoming  increasingly unstable.

I close the door, turn the key, music kicks on floating above the sounds of the engine and the tires on the road.

Up ahead the sky is blue and flecked with December clouds and the mountains have been where they have always been.

Fiscal cliff? Not that I see, or in the rear view mirror either. In a simpler world you don't go over a cliff.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review — The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein

I have just come from reading on line The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein. The online version I read was completed in 2006, therefore before the fiscal crisis of 2007 and much of what was to follow. It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Eisenstein will have made in the final published version due out in February, available from Amazon.

The book is big both in scope and size — 600 pages. It is uneven but perhaps it could not have been otherwise given the vast landscape the author attempts to cover, and the destination he has in his sights — namely a new and enlightened world and humanity, but only after the old order collapses.

Charles Eisenstein
We have been living, says Eisenstein, since the dawn of agriculture in a linear world of cause and effect; of separation of from ourselves, each other and nature; of yours and mine; and marching to the drumbeat of a technological view of the world. Much has been achieved, but at great cost and ultimate peril to the planet and to ourselves.

Lost, he argues, is the instinctive recognition that all is sacred. That life is a holy web. And that we are, in our finest moments, all connected — not pawns in a dog-eat-dog capitalist/Darwinian jungle struggling for survival.

How do we get out of the mess we are in and onto higher ground?

Eisenstein gives no guarantees but argues it will happen. The foundations on which the industrial/ technological worlds have been built–material, economic, social and political–are unsustainable and failing. From the ashes of the old will arise the new. This is a big leap, an act of courage as much as an act of faith.

He points to small but important green shoots, of ecology, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, spiritual searching, not as answers themselves to our plight but as pointers to what my lie ahead and grow — a new world of beauty and plenty when we cease its destruction and share in its bounty.

There is defiant optimism afoot here. Rewarding insights into many of our foibles. And some fresh thinking.

"The process (of our confusion and separation from the world) started eons ago with the development of symbolic culture, which mediated direct perception of reality with an abstract map of reality. Since then," says the author, "the fall from wholeness has accelerated."

In other words, says Eisenstein, when we put a label on a tree and call it a tree we no longer see it as a unique and sacred thing. We have defined it, labeled it, and now can clear cut a forest without remorse.

Violence is at the heart of  a world we try to control. "From the weeding of a strawberry bed to the coercion of a child to the elimination of enemies in the name of national security, the cultivation and control of the world inherently requires violence," he writes.

We need not control the world or ourselves. We need to see it whole again and ourselves not separate from it or each other.

It is a book that when you put it down you wish the author were there so that you might ask: "Well, Charles, all well and good, but how do we bring 7 billion souls and thousands of years of history around to a new way of seeing things?"