(originally written in 2011)
Although some may consider it peculiar or perhaps even unlikely, my time in the busy life in the vacation-land of South Padre Island or the incredibly busy traffic of Detroit or Houston has inspired me to write some words that may help me establish a belief of sorts. Although I use an outdated but modern marvel of man’s ingenuity and technology to write this (a laptop computer), I must say that is but the tool I have at hand.
If I were to say I was a naturalist, this would be closer than saying I was a practicing Christian, Buddhist or member of the Anglican Church. However, by labeling my beliefs, I am somewhat restricting my development and being close-minded.
I do enjoy the benefits of our “advancements”, if this is what they may be called. I do use our technology and am excited by our “progress”. However, this point of view or appreciation is in direct opposition to what my heart feels. I don’t propose that I can live without our modern conveniences. I do know that I do not require nor desire to be caught in the trap of never being satisfied with my wealth of possessions, as I realize that nothing but bad can come from this unending craving for more. Man will never achieve anything more exquisite nor simple nor complex than what nature provides easily and in a myriad of forms. No amount of technology will ever produce those things that nature provides and which are taken for granted each and every day.
Just to try and understand a bit better what I am getting at, I will have to organize the scraps of thoughts that I have so far in a very crude manner.
If we remove the technology from our lives, what does this do to modern society. The newest and highest impact technology that the world has today is our extensive and far-reaching communication. This is seen in television, the Internet, telephone and any number of new devices that promise to expand our world beyond previous limits. This allows us to be knowledgeable about many things not heretofore possible and allows us to understand more of our world and the beings living in it. It allows us to communicate with loved ones afar, to feedback to society, to be consumers from afar and to be afflicted with the need (not only the desire) to be in contact with other human beings and machines the world afar. This is not as great as it sounds. Not only are we serving our devices now but we are constantly at their beck and call, removing the possibility of being at peace for any time at all. I do not own a cell phone*, even though I have complained that it would be so very handy or useful to have in times of need.
The invention of modern transportation has been a marvel and a curse. By giving us the ability to move around more than we could by horse and carriage, we have been able to expand our horizons to every corner of the inhabitable places on earth. Those of us who would be content to live and grow within smaller areas are now able to move on to other places and in fact just visit other places. In those places that we would like to live where the resources to live do not exist, we can import what we need (food, water, power, etc.), using even more resources to do that. Does this make much sense? Why not live in an hospitable area that provides most of what we need?
Nature (non-human) regulates population in harsh ways – by not providing food or water, by “natural” disasters (e.g., floods and droughts), by survival of the fittest. This ensures a strong or healthy remaining population and eliminates the weak. Man has the ability to overcome these problems, at least in the short term, but with the ultimate grief of human overpopulation. We are intelligent enough to put a man on the moon but not smart enough to figure out the overpopulation problem.
Many questions can be answered by understanding for what it is that each of us strives. Can it be as simple as accumulating as much “stuff” as we can before we die? Or is it realizing that we already have all that we need to live a full life? The time that each of us have here alive will likely be 100 years or less and this time passes so quickly that we need to understand early on what it is that we have by being alive in a world filled with wonder and amazement. With our medical research, we strive to keep ourselves alive and healthy even a few more years, and it is easy to understand why we fool ourselves into this way of thinking. Yet, the poisons and pollutants we are ingesting and breathing and the unknown damage that we are doing to ourselves and the planet do not justify the extensions in life that we are achieving. I believe that as we age, more of us can understand what matters in life.
We work feverishly during our lives to achieve a better life for ourselves and our loved ones when all that really matters is enjoying the time that we have here and sharing it with the people that we are close to.
I am not impressed by our busy-ness. Neither am I impressed by our structures and shallow approach to life – our facade of beauty. Man cannot construct anything so beautiful as a flower or as beneficial as a tree. In our mad rush to create, we destroy those things that are perfect to begin with. When we look around ourselves, it is those natural things that are the most perfect, not those made by man. Man-made things are a poor substitute for those of natural function.
Our explanations and reasonings that tell us how things work and how things are constructed are approximations of reality, our theories based on our understanding and knowledge. If instead, we were to concentrate our efforts, although this is not exactly the way to put it, on fitting in with nature as much as we can, then there is little that needs to be explained and little that needs to be understood, explained and indeed, worked on. Better the way that allows us to enjoy the world as it exists than to try (in our futile way) to manipulate it into some form supposedly more suitable for human life.
Those aspects of life that I appreciate most would include the present joy of being a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and a husband, and the past joys of being a son, and a grandson, and a relative and friend of those wonderful people with whom I am acquainted and interact. This requires no effort, no work (so to speak), no money, no achievement, no striving. It is. The wonders of nature that are available to everyone and anyone – such as the stars in the sky, the sun that shines, the rain that falls, the wind that blows, the flowers that bloom, the birds that sing, myriad others – these are all free to be appreciated and require no effort to enjoy, and are available to most, if not all, right now. We don’t need to understand each and every detail of structure and the reasons why and how these things work. We need only to know that we can see, feel, hear, taste and smell them. They are.
Now for the tough part. Okay, so now we are all living in a paradise without the need to work and without the need for all of the sciences. How do we live and survive given the existing world? How do we adjust in the world we have made for ourselves where 7 billion of us try to survive. Well, since we cannot rely on natural law to take out the weak (we would never allow it) and wars will not reduce the population explosion, we must find a way to enjoy what we have rather than desire more. This is the best we can do. We must find a life that makes the most of what we already have. Those that have must not want more and must find ways to help others to live happily. Obviously we cannot expect to continue to populate the world without restriction. If we believe that we are intelligent beings and can affect the world, as we so blindly appear to, then we must find a way to restrict our growth. There are limits to the number of humans that this world can support. Perhaps it is many more than we imagine. More likely it is no more (or fewer) than presently exist.
Is education the answer? Being of a scientific mind and not so much an artistic type, I find I am somewhat at odds with myself. I need to give up much of my drive to understand the world and replace it with a desire to accept, and enjoy. Education seems pointed at technology, mathematics, science, medicine and the like, although this somehow seems misdirected. More than this, or instead of this, we need to teach ourselves why we like being alive. That is, what is it that makes living worthwhile? Ultimately, we need to know what are we constantly striving for, seriously. When all is said and done, what is it that we wish that we had achieved in our lives. More than that, we should consider what we had been given and what we did with it. Did we squander our time on fruitless efforts to acquire “things”? Or did we become appreciators of life? If we fit the latter of these, then it seems likely that we have not wasted our time here but allowed ourselves to be filled with the endless bounty that the natural world had to offer.
If we follow such a life from the early years, then there is little requirement for oneupmanship. This is a difficult concept to let go of and is striven for by followers of various religions (such as Buddhism).
*(2015-12-20: since writing this piece, I have acquired and use a smart cellphone)