Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Holistic World View...

... For a Planetary Civilization

This is it, Bush. I promised you big thoughts. Here we go. Take a deep breath.

For my birthday this month, my sister sent me a subscription to a British magazine called Caduceus. I cracked it open for the first time yesterday and came to an article that blew me away. Written by Ervin Laszlo, it was called "A holistic world view for a planetary civilization," and it so perfectly expressed what I take to be the basic thinking that lies behind the pages of this journal that I had to include some significant mention of it today. (I would give you a link, Bush, if I could, or simply copy the whole piece verbatim on this page, but "Caduceus" seems not to allow of this possibility, so you'll have to make do with my inadequate resume--or subscribe to this very worthy publication. Lots of quotations, instead.)

Okay, Laszlo starts from the premise that "our world has become economically, socially and ecologically unsustainable." A Chinese proverb, he tells us, warns that "If we do not change directions, we are likely to end up exactly where we are headed." (A nice irony, Bush, no?) "Applied to contemporary humanity," Laszlo writes, "this would be disastrous. Without a change in direction we are on the way to a world of increasing population pressure and poverty; growing potential for social and political conflict; escalating maverick and organized warfare, accelerating climate change; food, water, and energy shortages; worsening industrial, urban, and agricultural pollution; further destruction of the ozone layer; accelerating reduction of biodiversity; and continued loss of atmospheric ozygen."

Well, that about says it, doesn't it? So much for the bleak view of our present direction. There is another way, however. "Seizing the better alternative," writes Laszlo, "calls for new thinking, [...] more holistic thinking, encompassing all the factors." "The universe," he continues, is not "a lifeless, soulless aggregate of inert chunks of matter", as the old thinking would have us believe, but resembles, rather, "a living organism." He posits two kinds of growth: "extensive growth", which "conquers ever more territories, colonizes ever more people and imposes the will of the dominant layers on ever more layers of the population." "Intensive growth," on the other hand, "centres (British magazine, Bush!) on the development of individuals and the communities in which they live." (Rings a bell: I have a good friend who is working on this concept of "sacred lifeboats".)

The purpose of extensive growth "can be encapsulated in three 'Cs': conquest, colonization and consumption." Intensive growth "can be grasped under three other 'Cs': connection, communication and consciousness." We look around everywhere in the world and we see the disastrous consequences of those "extensive" three 'Cs' that represent the old thinking. It is precisely here, Bush, that I see you to be stuck, along with your neocon cronies. For you, I deduce from your actions, it's all about making the world safe for business. It's about control of the many, and the stimulation of consumption on their part for the profit of the few.

But philosophers, scientists and economists alike have a new view of the universe. "Matter," as Laszlo writes, "is vanishing as a fundamental feature of reality, retreating before energy; and continuous fields are replacing discrete particles as the basic elements of an energy-based universe. The universe is a seamless whole, evolving over eons of cosmic time and producing conditions where life and then mind and consciousness can emerge. The emerging scientific view is holistic and it can inspire the incipient holism of people as they search for more integral ways of living, eating, healing and consuming." (I warned you, Bush, this is Big Stuff!)

Connection, then: "One of the great myths of the Industrial Age has been the separation of individuals--skin-enclosed--from each other and the disjunction of the interests of others [...] But the contemporary sciences not longer support this view. Now every quantum is known to be subtly connected with every other quantum and every organism with other organisms in the ecosystem. In turn, economists know that there is a decisive connection between the interests of individuals... and the workings of the global system." Connection is not only desirable, it is what is!

The second 'C', communication: "First of all, "writes Laszlo, "we need to communicate with ourselves, caring for and cultivating our consciousness and personality. People who are 'in touch with themselves' are better balanced and more able to communicate with the world around them." And he extends this need for intimate communication to family, friends, business. (This resonates for me, Bush, with the teaching of our Buddhist teacher, who instructs us, in meditation, to start out with the practice of goodwill first to ourselves, our family and friends, and work ever outward in concentric circles to include, finally, to even those we dislike, and our enemies.)

Communication, then "calls for a high level of consciousness" to lift "the outdated ego-centered thinking to the urgently needed community, ecology and planet-centered dimension." Laszlo quotes Vaclav Havel, former President of Czechoslovakia: "Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness," said Havel, "nothing will change for the better... and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed--the ecological, social, demographic, or general breakdown of civilization--will be unavoidable."

But this, argues Laszlo, "is not a reason for despair... Human consciousness can evolve. At the innovative margins of society" (California, maybe?!) "it is already evolving. A holistic view is taking shape, one that sees the human being as an organic whole, embedded in the socio- and culture-sphere, embedded in turn in the wholeness of the biosphere." And he stresses that this "cultural mutation can be purposefully launched and oriented. The purposeful orientation of humanity's next cultural mutation depends on how well and how rapidly people evolve their consciousness. The spread of a new, more evolved consciousness is now a precondition of our collective survival. And it starts at home--with you and me."

There, Bush, I couldn't have said it better myself. My apologies to Ervin Laszlo for having used his words so liberally. I only hope that, in abbreviating, I have not misrepresented them. When people ask me why I keep writing these pages, the most frequent answer I have is that I wish to remain conscious, and that writing is the best way I know how to do it. It's my hope, too, that in communicating this desire to remain conscious myself, I might connect with others who wish to do the same. I'm grateful to Ervin Laszlo for his brilliant article, and I believe this triumvirate of 'Cs' to be the last best hope for humankind.


GringoWithoutBorders said...

Mmmmm, actually sit down connect, talk and empathize with another, hopefully other living creatures outside of humans as well. Not sure if USA can lead humanity in intensive growth. My observation is that USA lives by the sword and will die by the sword. Maybe, the Native Americans or the Aborigines or the South American Forest people can help us?? ooops they are primitive native heathens that are better dead or colonized. Although I do like their view of nature/society.

Sadly, appears to be at the complete opposite end of the spectrum regarding how we indoctrinate USA citizens concerning an individuals responsibility to society: Currently, Americans are taught that one should look only after themselves, since what is best for society is when individuals act in their own self interest. Kinda what democracy and capitalism (or some would say Satanic theologies) have at their foundations. me me me me me, now now now now.

I agree this is short sighted but not sure one could get a mass of people to act on some distant utopian goal. I guess the Egyptions did but not sure about the materialistic modern americans. May have to wait for USA and others to fall on its sword before you can take away the weapons of big business or organized religious theology for that matter.

Fred said...

Thanks for the summation of a very thoughtful, dead-on piece.