The Blank Slate (Proton Book 1)

Protasco starting on a clean slate
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The full text of this article hosted at iucr. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Book Editor s : J. Pitts Jr. George S. The old eugenicists thought government should steer the future course of human evolution. The interview is with one S. As he puts it,. The reason is, cat eyes see nearly as well as human eyes during the day, but much better at night. Maybe even by a shocking percentage. They might, for example, have a marked tendency to buy much larger cars, eat large quantities of red meat to enhance their growth unless given especially large doses of nausea inducing drugs, or, as in the cases of Napoleon and Joseph Stalin, their tastes might run to things that are even more harmful for the environment.

The rest of the article contains more similar great ideas, and I will leave the interested reader to peruse them on his own. Mercifully, Prof. The most likely outcome will be that they and their cat-eyed offspring will go extinct, reducing their carbon footprint to zero, to the great relief of Mother Gaia. I note in passing that, as is usually the case with the tribe of experts in ethics currently plying their trade in our academies of higher learning, the assumption implicit in all of Prof. Get a clue, my dear Prof. All those noble sentiments of right and justice that seem so real to you, so independent of your own mind, do not exist outside of your own mind.

No matter, let us be charitable to Prof. According to Google Scholar he has published a sufficient number of papers to be at least respectable, and has a tolerable if not imposing record of citation. Barnum and Bailey will love you for it. Freedom of religion in the United States has always been a matter of freedom for me, but not for thee. True, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, two of the most influential of our founding fathers, favored the complete separation of church and state, but they belonged to a minority.

Most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were hardly in favor of full religious liberty. They favored the First Amendment prohibition, not because of an altruistic desire to proclaim complete liberty of conscience as a human right, but of the great diversity of Protestant sects in the country at the time, and their desire to insure that there would be no interference with the one they happened to favor.

As may be seen in the records of both the Great Convention and the state ratifying conventions, the clause was accepted with mixed feelings. Several of them actually had State religions at the time the Constitution was ratified. There also existed support of the clergy by general taxation, provision for religious instruction, religious tests for office, and all the other traditional accompaniments of an established religion. As one might expect from their strong religious tradition, Protestant Christianity was established in practically every one of the New England states.

In most States they were incompetent to testify until the last decade of the 19th century. But an atheist is without any religion, true or false. The disbelief in the existence of any God is not a religious but an anti-religious sentiment. Today we might say that, by so doing, they would publicly proclaim their adherence to an outgroup, deliberately inviting the hostility of the Christian ingroup.

As noted in an article in The Atlantic ,. So the American Humanist Association has mounted a state constitutional challenge to the pledge in Massachusetts state court. On behalf of an anonymous Godless couple Jane and John Doe and their three children, the AHA argues that mentioning God in the pledge violates guarantees of religious equality in the state constitution. It started when Wilson posted an article on his website entitled When Richard Dawkins is not an Evolutionist.

Yes, genes are replicators, but no, Dawkins never claimed that their status as selfish replicators somehow rules out group selection. What he claimed, in The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype , was that successful replicators must share the same vehicle if they are to be successful in the future. Usually that vehicle is the body of an individual organism, which is used by the replicators to propagate themselves.

Here, Wilson is right. In fact, Dawkins rejected group selection root and branch. For example, quoting from the book in the context of a discussion of the importance of selfishness and altruism,. They got it wrong because they misunderstood how evolution works. They made the erroneous assumption that the important thing in evolution is the good of the species or the group rather than the good of the individual or the gene.

This particular quote has an interesting history, by the way. It was used by Steven Pinker in his book, The Blank Slate , to dismiss the entire intellectual legacy of Robert Ardrey root and branch, in a single sentence, even though group selection was never more than a sidelight in his work. In other words, Pinker was capable of writing a thick tome purporting to be about the Blank Slate while managing to ignore the role of the most significant opponent of Blank Slate orthodoxy in its heyday in all but a single sentence.

Certainly a virtuoso performance. For example, from an essay in the book by Geoffrey Gorer,. Almost without question, Robert Ardrey is today the most influential writer in English dealing with the innate or instinctive attributes of human nature, and the most skilled populariser or the findings of paleo-anthropologists, ethologists, and biological experimenters. But I digress. To put it in a slightly more respectable way, a group, such as a species or a population within a species, whose individual members are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the welfare of the group, may be less likely to go extinct than a rival group whose individual members place their own selfish interests first.

Therefore the world becomes populated mainly by groups consisting of self-sacrificing individuals. Not much wiggle room there, either, is there, unless Dawkins meant to inform his readers that he is not familiar with the details of evolutionary theory? He clearly sees man as a species that has strayed from the path of animal righteousness. Ardrey at least did his homework. His decision to disagree with orthodox theory was a conscious one, and for this he deserves credit. Is veganism, or vegetarianism raised to the level of an ideology, if you will, good or evil?

The vegans themselves would certainly insist on the latter. For example, from the website of one vegan organization we learn,. Veganism, the natural extension of vegetarianism, is an integral component of a cruelty-free lifestyle.

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Molding Minds School is the cheapest police. Core77's Design Directory. In theory, I can get away with it. Or will it be Ghostbusters II again? An outstanding science fiction novella from an entirely different perspective - an African future. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.

Another informs us of an interesting variation on the human predisposition to apply different moral rules to ingroups and outgroups; speciesism. There are different ways of looking at speciesism. It can be viewed as an individually held prejudice, an individual action discrimination or a system of oppression. It can also be seen as an ideology that works on a much more fundamental level to create what we see as reality. Sociologist David Nibert describes speciesism as a system of shared beliefs that give rise to and reinforce prejudice and discrimination against nonhuman animals.

We only perceive them as objects because Mother Nature rightly concluded that these categories would be quite useless to creatures of our limited intelligence unless we did preceive them in that way. Morality is a human behavioral trait. Unless one accepts the mathematically impossible conclusion that its existence is a mere coincidence, it is an evolved trait, and it evolved because it promoted our survival. Does veganism promote our survival? Of course not! In other words, while it is certainly natural enough to consider veganism good for a species as intellectually limited as our own, it really stands morality on its head.

Instead of promoting our survival, it achieves the opposite. Heaven forefend that I should ever attempt to concoct some new objective good. To the extent that they promote our destruction rather than our survival, they are a sickness, and the thought that my species is sick does not please me. In , the famous Marxist Rosa Luxemburg wrote,. Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party — though they are quite numerous — is no freedom at all.

Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. I would hope the people that run it see just how offensive this is and drop it on their own volition. I think that is probably an issue that should be left to the folks that run that network. Gee, thanks Carl! No doubt tears of gratitude should be running down our cheeks. It was obvious enough almost years ago, and to a Marxist, no less, but apparently Levin is a slow learner.

And what of Limbaugh? Why does it matter? Because, whether you like his politics or not, Limbaugh has probably done more for genuine freedom of speech than anyone else in this country since H. Mencken resigned as editor of the American Mercury. Before Limbaugh came along, individuals could say pretty much whatever they wanted. Limbaugh was the first to succeed in making a genuine crack in that monopoly. His lead was followed by numerous other conservative talk show hosts, and, eventually, Foxnews.

The country is better off for it. Thanks to Limbaugh and others like him, freedom of speech really means something in this country. Consider Germany, for example. It is a nature in which competition is the rule, in which the deepest purpose of life, the deepest motivation of behavior, is to survive and reproduce, and in which cooperation is an occasional, coincidental product of an alignment of interests.

Cooperation is okay, but it is even better to trick other organisms into helping you while you refrain from expending any energy helping them. This includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and different species. In this view, from the unicellular stage to the present, successful organisms are those that are better able to look after their own interests at the expense of their rivals, a rival being defined as anything competing for the same resources.

Any organism programmed by its genes to enact behaviors that diminish its chances of surviving and reproducing—for example sharing resources when there may not be enough for itself—is less likely to reproduce, and those genes will die out of the gene pool. In other words, we are programmed—life is programmed—to profit at the expense of other beings.

Misc | Blank Slate

Selfishness being our nature, of course we need laws, morals, and self-control to rein in that selfishness and become civil beings. Thus, mainstream science and mainstream religion agree that we are. Let us add to this agreement economics, which holds as a central axiom that people are driven to maximize self-interest. If science, religion, and economics all agree, the doctrine of innate badness must have deep roots indeed.

It is no accident that it is orthodoxy in both the scientific and religious realms. The ideology of our civilization—progress, ascent—depends on it. It is therefore built into many of our reflexive assumptions of what is true. It is also built into our money system, thus generating the very same behavior that we mistake as fundamental.

Because it is imbued so deeply into our mythology, our ideology, our culture, and our economy, the doctrine of Original Sin is actually correct— correct insofar as we are immersed in our culture. It is correct given our ideological infrastructure and the motivations built in to our cultural institutions. Hobbes wrote Leviathan long before Darwin ever conceived of evolution via natural selection and long before the theory of the selfish gene was ever invented.

It is implicit in dualism itself, which finds its origins in the so-called Neolithic Revolution if not before, even if its full articulation was not to come until the Scientific Revolution. Dualism is the idea that the universe is divided into two parts, which go by the names of matter and spirit, God and creation, human and nature or, most fundamentally, self and other.

These two parts are by no means symmetrical: self is more important, other less. In religion, soul is self, body is other. The soul is important, while the flesh is at best irrelevant and at worst an impediment to the life of the spirit. Either way, we identify with our minds and not our bodies, not other life forms, not the world at large. Even if we try hard to cultivate compassion, a narrow identity with an illusory separate self is built in to our deepest worldview. No wonder we are so out of touch with our bodies and suffer such chronically poor health.

No wonder we treat our bodies and our material planet so cavalierly. No wonder we visit such violence on these unimportant others—other religions, other nations, other races, other species. On a collective level, dualism manifests as a distinction between man and nature, again dividing the universe into two parts, one of which is Self, and therefore important, and the other of which is Other, and thus only important to the extent that it affects Self.

Rainforests are to be preserved because—who knows? And just imagine the economic losses from topsoil erosion! Such arguments are counterproductive because they end up reinforcing the very mindset that is at the root of the problem to begin with: that the world is an Other, here for our use. The logical conclusion of dualism—that Other is important only to the extent it affects Self—is a hidden abscess constantly leaking poison into the body of our civilization.

It is really no different. Must we be scared into being good? Must we exercise self-control, knowing that we are foregoing our natural self-interest that we could maximize by being ruthless to the world? Is eternal struggle the only alternative to depravity? Why should I, as an individual, do anything for anyone else? Class: You might poison your own environment. Me: Okay, I will only pollute to the extent that the benefits outweigh the risks. No one will ever know. Class: But if everyone did that you would be doomed.

Me: True. In other words, what does the rest of the world matter? The discrete and isolated self of Descartes implies a discrete and separate universe outside that self.

Steven Pinker on Human Nature

As long as I can insulate myself from the world out there—possible in principle precisely because it is separate—I can do anything I want to. The only limits are pragmatic ones. On a case-by-case basis, I can judge whether each action maximizes my benefit. Let me calculate the costs and benefits. So I steal it. It seems absurd, but this is the kind of logic behind a legal system based on deterrence. Without a penalty of some sort, stealing would be in our rational self-interest.

Let us pursue this line of inquiry a little further. The decision has been automated through the moral training of our childhood. They provide an incentive for niceness that makes it no longer irrational but actually in line with selfishness.

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Eventually we internalize these incentives in the form of guilt, conscience, and habit. Our natural selves are selfish, ruthless, and depraved, requiring a long period of training to subdue nature and foster morals, ethics, and decent behavior.

Book Club: Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony, 1, are humans unique?

Here we see an inextricable link between dualism and control. Bereft of an organic indwelling spirit, the material world that science presents us—indifferent, purposeless, and ruthlessly competitive—cries out for. Ruled by bestial or sinful drives, the physical body living in that world similarly calls out for the control we impose through moral training, education, and culture. In science we seek to control variables, in engineering to account for every conceivable force with our equations.

Always, the response to such accidents is to extend control to them too, to make the system failsafe. Yet after thousands of years, no matter how hard we try, infinity keeps creeping back in. The Winners and the Losers Under the sway of dualism, we have essentially sought to divide the world into two parts, one infinite and the other finite, and then to live wholly in the latter which, because it is finite, is amenable to control. We are like the frog who jumped into a well and, unable to see anything else or remember the vast world beyond, declared himself suzerain of all the universe.

This reduction comes in many guises and goes by many names. It is the domestication of the wild; it is the measuring and quantification of nature; it is the conversion of cultural, natural, social, and spiritual wealth into money. Because it is a reduction of life, violence is its inevitable accompaniment I can think of no better definition of violence than the reduction of life ; hence the rising crescendo of violence that has bled our civilization for thousands of years and approaches its feverish apogee as we conclude the present wholesale destruction of entire species, oceans, ecosystems, languages, cultures, and peoples.

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. Violence is a. Moreover, the objectification of other beings, species, people, and the earth itself enables and legitimizes violence toward them. Violence seems not to be violence when it is only a weed, only an animal, only a savage, only an enemy, only a thing. Dehumanization of the victim is a well-known enabling device for torture and genocide, but dehumanization—turning human into object—is just a special case of our offseparation from the rest of the world.

To the extent that this is an artificial, illusory separation, the root cause of violence becomes clear.

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

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It is simply the result of an ignorance of the very deepest kind—that we know not who we are. Thus it was that the great avatars of peace in human history counseled not more self-control, not an intensification of the effort to be nice, but rather a surrender into our true selves, which are not the separate, discrete selves of present-day science and religion.

I am what? Everything and nothing. When you take us apart, that special part of us we call self soul, spirit, mind, consciousness is not there. Thus we are nothing. When you separate us from any other part of the universe, we are less. Thus we are everything. Because our demarcation of self and other is a false one, the violence we commit upon the other is actually committed upon ourselves.

Here again we find a warning in some of our most venerable spiritual teachings. The doctrine of karma states that the effects of our actions are inescapable, that what we do to others we do to ourselves. Originally, both the doctrine of karma and the Golden Rule were mere statements of fact based on a different conception of self. Instead of a rule, we might construe it as a simple statement of fact: As you love your neighbor, so do you love yourself.

Self and neighbor are not actually separate. Jesus was not going around uttering simple moral platitudes. However, as he was speaking to people immersed in the myth of the separate self, it is no wonder that his teachings were immediately misinterpreted and written down in their current form. When you and your neighbor are fundamentally separate, then there is no intrinsic reason why what you do unto your neighbor should necessarily come back to affect yourself—especially if you take sufficient precautions.

An omniscient God is needed to bring those consequences to you. The idea of God as a separate power external to nature who enforces morality is therefore a crutch for the mind lost in the myth of separateness, a means of understanding the consequences of our treatment of Others. As such the idea of a supernal God might have a salutary effect in the short term, but runs the risk of reinforcing the illusion of separation. In theory, I can get away with it. We can go ahead and clearcut the forests. This leads again to a world under control.

We can do unto the world whatever we like with impunity, as long as we are clever enough. This all changes with the understanding that self and world, man and nature, are not truly separate. For then there is no escape; then, any effort at control can only postpone the inevitable. The idea of a separate, omniscient, judging, rewarding and. It leads us, in other words, right back to the regime of control.

By creating an artificial cleavage between self and other, the dualism that divides the world into two parts severs us from part of ourselves. It leaves us partial beings. To fill up the incompleteness we add more and more to ourselves, more property, more material and spiritual baggage, more ego, more self-importance: an expanding territory of self that seeks to subordinate the whole world by bringing it under control. However, by seeking to own as much of the world as possible, we only exacerbate the alienation from the rest of the universe, whose infinity dwarfs us into insignificance no matter how much we acquire.

The interior wound—the loss of our inner connection to nature—is never healed by the accretion of more and more self on the outside. The root of the world crisis is not inherent selfishness or greed that must be overcome. The solution is not to make do with less, sacrifice our best interests, or impose limits on ourselves. These solutions spring from a mentality of scarcity, and it is precisely the mentality of scarcity which is implicit in the quantization and propertization of the world that makes the infinite finite that motivates us to hoard and accumulate, possess and own, keep and guard, fence and control.

There is plenty for everyone. My needs are abundantly provided. Indigenous hunter-gatherer societies amazed their initial visitors with their guileless, open-handed generosity. Of anything they possess, if it be asked of them, they never say no; on the contrary, they invite you to share it and show as much love as if their hearts went with it I doubt it.

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Intuitively, we describe their behavior as childish, innocent, or guileless—adjectives that suggest that theirs is the original state of the unspoiled human being. Fully immersed in the reality and the mentality of abundance, sharing came naturally. Characteristically, some modern anthropologists try to explain away primitive generosity and gift relationships in the terms of economics: costs and benefits to the separate self.

Marcel Mauss set the tone in the early 20th century when he tried to analyze gifts as a competitive means to put other under obligation 10, an idea echoed by modern theorists such as Richard Posner. While such motives undoubtedly exist, to see them as primary is to project our own cultural biases.

From the perspective of the discrete and separate self, altruism simply does not make sense unless some transactional model can reduce it to selfishness in disguise. The social forms of aggressive cultures, on the other hand, reward actions that emphasize individual gain, even or especially when that gain harms others in the community. Universal mechanisms of sharing, for instance, obviously make the hoarding of possessions irrational. In any event, we cannot hope to produce, ex. We have become confused. Our selfish behavior is only superficially so; actually it conflicts with our true best interests.

Chief among such behavior is that which ruthlessly maximizes the perceived benefits of the skin-encapsulated ego. Limiting our destructiveness is not a matter of reining in our natural selfish impulses; it is a matter of understanding who we really are. When we do not know who we are, of course our selfishness cannot benefit our true selves. Hence, the endemic misery in our society among its winners and losers alike. It would be one thing if, indeed, the world were essentially a competitive arena destined to have winners and losers.

We would then be justified in making every effort to be among the winners. The sad truth, though, is that in our society, the winners are among the biggest losers of all. Now, that is a bold statement indeed. Reading it, you may suspect I am deficient in knowledge or compassion. Surely I must be oblivious to the true magnitude of the horror. Who can blame someone for being good to themselves? In such a world, an appropriate ethical system would have the winners be as nice as possible to the losers, offering safety nets to the poor, remediation to the environment, limits on how big a winner you can be.

This, in essence, is political liberalism, which does not question any fundamental assumptions. Of course, unless you actually are a saint, this selfsacrificial mentality eventually generates resentment at those who decide. But all of this assumes that the winners really are winners. And that is a deception! Do not waste your energy being angry at the rich and powerful.

As the Bolsheviks unwittingly demonstrated, nothing much changes even if the rich and powerful are overthrown. Moreover, that anger is in fact counterproductive. Those who rely on guilt or shame to persuade us to limit our participation in the destruction of the planet and its people are, in a very subtle way, perpetuating some of the deep axioms that drive the destruction in the first place. They are resorting to a form of control, control over an iniquitous human nature.

In a subtle way, they reenact and reinforce the same war of conquest that has left the planet in tatters.

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Another hidden assumption is that the good life, whether we unabashedly pursue it or nobly sacrifice it, is actually a good life. It is not. We are chasing a mirage. The clearest indication of the fraud comes when the program of control temporarily succeeds. Even when all the bases are covered, every eventuality anticipated, even at the very pinnacle of health, wealth, and power—even then an enervating ennui creeps into life, starting with the empty crevices, the moments of boredom, and ultimately spreading to engulf the entirety of existence.

Initially deniable, perhaps, by intensifying the success, the power, the stimulation, it comes back stronger and stronger until it holds every waking moment in merciless thrall. Desperate, he appealed to his counselors for some relief from his boredom; and one of them put forth a classic suggestion: that he fill a boat with thinly veiled, almost naked girls, who would paddle over the water and sing songs for him. And in Ecclesiastes we read, … I gathered me also silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and of. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.

The depredations of our culture in the name of security, ease, and control have created untold misery in this world, and for no good reason. Not only is life at the pinnacle of success infamously devoid of intimacy, community, authenticity, and meaning, but even the security and control to which these have been sacrificed is a sham. For the sake of security we have shut off real living, and in return have received not even security but only a temporary semblance of it.

Imagine how fatuous our attempts at security will seem, when one day the multiple crises engendered by the regime of objectification and control converge to engulf us. All the more for the collective, global calamities that are already written into our future. To reverse the tide of destruction that has engulfed our living planet, our society, our communities, and our psyches, it will not be enough to try harder to be nice. Religions have enjoined us to that attempt for thousands of years. If that were the only solution, it would be bad news indeed, and the despair of so many activists would be justified.

Even if trying harder succeeded, we would be consigned to an eternity of trying, of struggle. Is peace, sustainability, and goodness, individually or for the world, only possible through unending struggle against ourselves? This book proposes another way: a shift of consciousness that will expand our sense of self and thereby change our selfishness into a force for healing. The problem is not selfishness, it is that we misconceive the self.

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We need not expend superhuman efforts to build a tower to the sky. The sky is all around us already. Life, Death, and Struggle From the standpoint of the separate self, the ultimate victory of the Technological Program would be to triumph over death itself. In one form or another, this goal drives all of our efforts to dominate, accumulate, and control. It exists in dilute form in the pursuit of security; it is written into our ideology of competition and survival of the fittest. Yet, despite propaganda to the contrary, millennia of intensifying control have done nothing to hold death at bay.

The predominant causes of death have changed, but not its inevitability and not nearly as much as we would like to think the human lifespan. In polite company we deny it with euphemisms. We hide away our sick and dying in hospital intensive care units as we go through frantic medical rituals to preserve just a few more hours of life at whatever cost.

We buy packaged food that obscures the fact that an animal or plant had to die. In our religion we deny death through various conceptions of an afterlife. And in our scientific fantasies, we imagine that someday we can transcend death through nanotechnology, genetic engineering, cyborg technology, or computers. So successful are we at hiding death that many people grow up having never seen a dead person, surely an unprecedented phenomenon on planet earth.

Thanks to our pusillanimous storybooks, polite euphemisms, and hiding of corpses, from the perspective of the child it is as if death did not exist at all. It is an impression strangely consistent with the ubiquitous violence of television cartoons, in which characters survive a ten-ton safe or a bomb falling on them with no permanent ill effects.

It is also strangely consistent with the graphic and deadly violence of adult television and movies, in which the killing of legions of bad guys is shorn of nearly everything that makes death death. The deep reason why our culture finds it necessary to deny death is. Contemplation and integrated awareness of death reveals the unreality, or the conditional reality, of the discrete and separate self. Along with it, the dualism of self and environment is unreal as well.

It is no accident that many spiritual traditions have practices consisting of the contemplation of death. Because it accompanies the denial of our true selves, our denial of death is equally a denial of life, and separation from death is separation from life. Death punctures the illusion of the self as we conceive it and on a psychological level rends the fabric of the modern world; hence the cultural necessity of denial.

When will we cease denying death? Probably only when we no longer can, when it invades our lives so forcefully that the old illusions cannot stand. As the social, ecological, and physiological underpinnings of health accelerate their decay, this invasion is gathering in force and ubiquity. On the personal level, it comes as the realization that the lives we had been living simply do not make sense and cannot go on.

Just as a person often has to become very, very sick or experience a close brush with death in order to wake up to life, so it may also be necessary for the same thing to happen on the planetary level before we as a species wake up to the fraudulence of our dualistic conception of ourselves as separate from nature.

When our collective survival is imminently, dramatically, and undeniably in danger, and only then, our present collective behaviors and relationships to the rest of life will cease to make sense. Cultures less enslaved to the myth of separateness feared death less, seeing it not as an ending but a return. Our fear of death is a product of the same linear thinking that underlies interest-money and all the other. It would not occur to someone immersed in the cyclic worldview that underlies the economy of the gift. By virtue of being born, we are all sojourners in the play of separation, but few before us have wandered in so deeply as to forget the wholeness from whence we came.

We have not really forgotten—can never forget—what we are; it remains as a stirring in the heart, enduring forever until the world under control, the world of the separate self, cannot hold. Our interbeingness, banished from waking experience, manifests as a longing, an empathy for other living beings and even inanimate objects.

Characteristically, psychologists consider it a mild pathology to project human attributes onto inanimate objects; even animals and plants we invest with a lesser degree of being than ourselves. Far from mental illness, I see these tugs of identification with the other to be glimpses of an underlying truth; it is only because they deny our presumed separateness that we dismiss them as irrational. Of course, according to the same premise, falling in love is irrational too. What reason is there to care for anyone else? Love and any form of compassion crumbles the walls of separation.

However we may explain it away according to some biological imperative, anyone who has been in love knows there is more to it than a procreative urge or an unconscious bargain for mutual aid. The ecstasy and bliss that suffuses lovers in full flush is an outcropping of the underlying joy inherent in our true state of union. Love, breaking down the barriers between me and thee, connects us to that state. It is our lifeline to sanity, to the wholeness of what we are.

That is also a pretty good definition of Christ, an identity the early Church fathers recognized in their more lucid moments. Love saves us from our limited ego-selves, breaches the fortress of our separation, rescues us from the inevitable Hell that our addiction to control creates. As many poets and mystics have perceived, love and death are intimately related.

Both involve a dissolution of the ordinary boundaries of self. Another way to view the shift of consciousness that this book heralds is that we will fall back in love with the world. Their value is conditional. We feel we can preserve some and destroy others, as long as we calculate the effects carefully enough, the costs and benefits.

In contrast, the understanding of ecological karma tells us that we can never manage or avoid the effects of our actions; that any marring of the health and beauty of the planet diminishes our own health and the beauty of our own lives as well, inescapably.

It tells us as well that the laws of nature make no exception for human beings. The new conception of self, personal and collective, that will be born from the collapse of the present one will bring with it a very different kind of technology, economy, medicine, and way of life that seek to create beauty and that model themselves on the processes of nature. Of course, nature has never left us; everything we are is in some sense natural.

It is only because we have convinced ourselves otherwise that life has drifted so far out of balance. Our present efforts to deny death, to conquer death, and to artificially prolong life by mechanical means at any cost only increase our fear of death and reinforce our delusions of separateness. They pretend that nature might excuse human beings from her laws, that we might be exempt from the cycles of birth, death, and decay.

And fear of death, in turn, really equates to a fear of life, which is about growth, change, and transformation, a continual dying of the old and birth of the new, season to season and moment to moment. To deny death is to deny life. Think of the godlike ideals to which we aspire, the eternal youth, beauty, leisure, and supernatural power of the Olympian gods. Eternal youth is a kind of eternal death, a stasis more akin to an embalmed Egyptian mummy than to a living being Egyptian embalming, after all, was directed at preserving the eternal life of Pharaoh.

Control, in essence, is a struggle against the world. Medical interventions triumph over nature when they interrupt and deny the natural process of death, as does housecleaning when it reverses the migration of dirt—which is quite literally the world—into our houses. The perfect mastery of nature embodied in the aforementioned Olympian ideal is life-denying even in its more practical incarnation as the secure, ordered life of the modern adult.

Thomas Hanna puts it like this: One of the myths of aging is that we cannot do all the things that we once could. But the actual fact about aging is that we cease to do all the things that we once did. As the possibilities in our life are sorted through, discarded, and finally edited down to a daily routine of actualities, our living functions become limited and specialized. Everyone senses on some level that our management of life is little more than a pretense by which we delude ourselves into believing in the permanence and stability of that which is neither.

Do you ever get the feeling that you are a child playing grown-up? When we act the roles of responsible, right-thinking, civilized adults, we. Take heart: it cannot last forever. All of us will one day experience real life smashing through the seemingly secure structures of our lives and selves.

This is the true calamity, and not only because of the agony of regret at finding, in old age, that we have not truly lived. From the very beginning, there is the feeling of living a life that someone else has planned out, a life that is not truly our own. Of course their parents are powerless to stop them, but by now they have internalized the voice of authority, so that what is unacceptable to their parents has become unacceptable to themselves.

Adding energy to the system

They are thus fully socialized, fully domesticated, except for a submerged longing, a caged and fenced wildness that can and will explode out in the form of violence—longing denied—whenever selfcontrol lapses or when exceptional outside conditions offer temporary release. Aversion to death and aversion to uncertainty in life arise from the same basic worldview. Indeed, if uncertainty is the demise of the familiar, then death is the greatest uncertainty any of us have faced since we left the womb.

Both involve letting go of previously fixed categories by which we define who we are. A new job, a new relationship, a new life. We can adopt stringent safeguards to avert such happenings, clinging desperately to the familiar—life and self—but only at an increasing cost. To maintain any system in a state removed from the wild requires a constant expenditure of effort. In The Yoga of Eating I use the metaphor of a parking lot: Not just the body but all natural things, when left undisturbed, move naturally toward beauty and wholeness.

Your body is the same way. It happens sooner than you think. Why else is rest so healing? Have you ever noticed how beautiful a sleeping person looks? The opposite of control is to just let things go, let nature take its course. In suburbia, we maintain control by applying dandelion killer, mowing lawns, weeding flower beds, and pruning shrubs so that our lawns remain neat and orderly. Cease any of these activities and the land steadily reverts to its wild state.

Miscellaneous comments and hypotheses

To maintain the manicured lawn considered beautiful requires effort, which is why a person with an unkempt lawn is considered lazy. A similar effort is required to maintain a clean house by literally keeping the world out. If you want to hold your body away from its natural odor, you must bathe frequently and apply various perfumes and antiperspirants. If you let yourself sleep as late as you want, you miss work. In none of these areas does a civilized person relinquish control. Culture tells us that to do so would lead to disaster, a rapid unraveling of the fabric of our secure, comfortable modern lives.

The world must be kept under control. Modern life, predicated on the ever-increasing control of the world that defines technology, demands an ever-increasing effort to maintain control—increasingly fine scheduling of time, less rest, more multitasking, more reliance on technological assistants such as cell phones and planners to make us more efficient. The successful person has it all under control.


She manages her time and juggles her responsibilities. She has it all together. The more powerful the control, the greater the effort required to maintain it. Think of the iron discipline of the anorexic, the incessant hand-washing of the germ-phobic, the daily scrubbing and polishing of the clean freak. As is well known, the anorexic or the clean freak is compensating in a safely controllable area of life for a loss of autonomy somewhere else. We ordinary denizens of civilized society are little different. Underlying our superficial structures of control is the same loss of autonomy: a semi-conscious feeling that our lives are not our own.

It is a dread, a foreboding, a sense that the most important thing in life—and. In the pursuit of security we have traded the infinite—the limitless possibilities of life—for the finite: the predictable and safe. This is the same reduction of life inherent in symbolic culture and domestication, the labeling and numbering of the world, the standardization of the Machine, and the reductionist program of the Scientific Revolution.

The end result could be none other than the vigorous application of the Technological Program to all aspects of existence. The ascent of control is a response to the reduction of self to a separate ego, alone and afraid. Taking many guises, it is a fear of death that motivates the effort to control the world and expand the domain of me and mine. When we begin to view life as other than a zero-sum game where my gain is your loss, then the struggle against the world loses motivation and instead of trying to control life, we let it in. The logic is quite simple: when the other is not an other, then to be good to another is to be good to yourself.

A corollary is that the world is not fundamentally hostile. A child, not yet acculturated, is not afraid to get dirty. To civilize children, to enlist them in the world of control that we live in, it is therefore necessary to disconnect them from the vastness of their total being and make them afraid. What needs to happen to domesticate our inborn wilderness? How has my wholeness been damaged? Yes and No Economics, Darwinian biology, and dualistic religion all agree that the only hope for a livable world is if we all try really hard to be nice.

Such a view sees civilization as a fundamental good, for it overlays the bestial inclinations of nature with conditioned behaviors that run counter to nature—counter to its win-at-all-costs, eat-or-be-eaten truths.