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Reflections on Traditions Cafe

Sun, Mar 9, 2014

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by Bud Nye

At a Saturday evening meeting following Guy’s Traditions Cafe presentation in Olympia, Washington, a very bright and thought-full young woman asked with great concern and sadness, “If we are all going to die soon, what is the point?” It strikes me that to ask this question implies also asking, “If we will all soon die, what is the point to ANY life (on Earth or anywhere else)?” I think these questions come mainly from beliefs our culture has taught us, especially related to the idea that we are, presumably, different from the other species in important and fundamental ways. They come from the idea that we are, supposedly, “special”, “superior”, and presumably living at the top of a hierarchy of life, a “Great Chain of Being”, and not really animals. The questions grow directly out of our disconnection and alienation from the real, biological world of life here on Earth.

But, one might claim, “The other species (supposedly!) do not have any conscious awareness; they do not know any better.” In that case, perhaps we need to stop “knowing better”! It seems clear to me that no “point” exists beyond our constructing that point—or our accepting some other person’s construction of it. So three critical questions arise: “What point do I want to construct for life on Earth?”, “What point do I want to construct for human life on Earth?”, and “What point do I want to construct for my life on Earth?”

From what I have seen over the decades, most people by far in this American society use one or a combination of two tactics for answering these questions: (1) Accept the constructions of people in the ancient past in the form of various religions, especially Christianity, while denying that humans did the meaning construction and disowning any personal responsibility by insisting that “God did it”, or “God wants it”. (2) Philosophically insisting that humans ARE “special”, “superior”, and “fundamentally different” from the other animals, and this alleged special superiority produces “the point” of our existence. Thus, if we all die—which these people usually discount as impossible because of our alleged specialness and superiority—then, indeed, no point exists.

Regarding the three critical questions, what “points” do I construct? I have taken a different route from most others. For a number of years my answers have looked something like this: (1) The “point” of life (and death!) on Earth involves using the energy from the sun and Earth’s core to make maximum use of that energy to self-organize to the greatest level of complexity possible. (2) The “point” of human life (and death!) involves playing its role in the infinitely complex network of life and death processes on Earth, just as all other life does: all other animals, and plants. And (3) The “point” of my life (and death!) involves supporting all other life on Earth to the greatest extent possible.

In response to my third construction, one might then ask, “Well, if humans are killing the planet, then why don’t you commit suicide in order to help the other species?” My answer: Because it seems clear to me that life wants to live and does its utmost to do that. Thus I want to live, and I wish to hang on for as long as possible to do that—just as all other animals, and plants, do. Besides that, I came extremely close to killing myself almost 40 years ago, and I have felt very thankful many times over the years that I did not do it.

__________

Two tidbits from McPherson:

7 March 2014 The Good Men Project, And Thoreau Shakes His Head at America.

8 March 2014 radio interview on CKUW news broadcast conducted 7 February 2014
__________

Wednesday, 9 April 2014, Location to be announced, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, “Climate Chaos”

The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 7-day seminar, 24-31 May 2014, Moho Creek, Belize, Central America.

The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 14-day seminar, 12-25 June 2014, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

__________

Trailer-A Man Named Guy from Pauline Schneider on Vimeo.

Support the making of Pauline Schneider’s film here

__________

Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power and by more than 20 readers at Amazon.

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48 Responses to “Reflections on Traditions Cafe”

  1. BenjaminTheDonkey Says:

    No Point

    I’ve stopped trying to let people know:
    It won’t help, and just makes them feel low;
    They’ll find out soon enough
    When the going gets rough,
    But we all said “D’oh!” long ago.

    H/T: Gail

  2. Landbeyond Says:

    If ‘It seems clear to me that no “point” [to ANY life (on Earth or anywhere else)] exists beyond our constructing that point” then it seems clear that there is no reason to attach significance to the survival of any species or of any form of life following human extinction. The “point” of life dies with the last human brain.

  3. Martin Says:

    The answers to your points are far from adequate. They are too abstract and represent a further departure from the place at which you pose the questions, in language terms at least. Your second answer, that the point of life “involves playing its role in the infinitely complex network of life and death processes on Earth” is especially problematic. It is a case of the cart before the horse, an example of how life can be apprehended after is has been lived. Life can be understood backwards, said Jung, but it must be lived forwards. It is not possible to live life, and especially not tightly controlled social life and its many demands, with what you have written as some kind of mantra kept uppermost in mind. It will leave you alienated if not borderline schizoid.

    You began with words like “animal” and “social.” I suggest this is a better point of departure.

  4. Robin Datta Says:

    If we are all going to die soon, what is the point?

    There never was any point. Not for an amoeba, nor for an empire. It’s all the ongoing interactions of matter & energy in space & time. On a speck approximating less than a thin layer on a dust particle in the scale of galactic clusters.

    Narratives, whether cultural/religious or scientific, are a way to mentally sort out and categorise some part of the universe, imposing a mental order on it. “Points” can be and are worked into the narrative to suit one’s convenience.

    Encouraging persons to seek narratives that best comfort them is not perceived as kind when it is pointed out at the same time that the narratives are in fact narratives. Indeed wars have been fomented over them.

  5. Jackie, PWS Says:

    Re: “Accept the constructions of people in the ancient past in the form of various religions, especially Christianity, while denying that humans did the meaning construction and disowning any personal responsibility by insisting that “God did it”, or “God wants it”

    A recent visit with a priestly friend indicated to me that they believe their role is to assist the individual in their preparation of inevitable death through acceptance that Jesus died because of our sins. However, this acceptance of life after death hinges on the belief that Jesus was the son of god. It was an interesting discussion. He stressed that matter is neither created or destroyed – it merely changes form. Likewise with our spirit. I can buy into the latter, but certainly not the former about Jesus’ lineage, etc. But, he’s a nice man and listened intently when I proposed the idea of near term human extinction. One thing we could both agree on is there is great evil in the world today. At no point did he suggest that this was god’s plan, in fact, quite the opposite. It was something that evil needed to be fought with all our being. However, I’m certain he doesn’t speak for all Catholic clerics. And, many more fundamental religions do indeed propagate the notion of “gods plan”. Thanks.

  6. Apneaman Says:

    When I was 6 years old.

  7. Joe Clarkson Says:

    Since “there’s no accounting for taste” I can be certain of my assessment of “the point” in aesthetic terms. Ruining the ecosphere and causing the extinction of many species, perhaps including ourselves, is just plain ugly.

  8. BenjaminTheDonkey Says:

    Bud Nye says: “what is the point?”

    No Point

    I’ve stopped trying to let people know:
    It won’t help, and just makes them feel low;
    They’ll find out soon enough
    When the going gets rough,
    But we here said “D’oh!” long ago.

    H/T: Gail @ Wit’s End

  9. Lidia Says:

    Joe, it works. …until it doesn’t. “Ugly” doesn’t matter. When a wasp lays an egg inside a caterpillar that eats it alive from the inside, that’s ugly, too. It works until it doesn’t.

  10. Robin Datta Says:

    matter is neither created or destroyed – it merely changes form. Likewise with our spirit.

    The gent could be informed about the Big Bang. And that in the Kabbalah, a tradition that derives from the Bible (not the New Testament), there is no “our” spirit; the nearest applicable descriptor would be “we” spirit.

    At no point did he suggest that this was god’s plan,

    That god is a finite god. There really is no god “out there”. Any god is a part of the “not-I”. No “not I”, because there is no “I”.

  11. roger ellis Says:

    …it works. …until it doesn’t, banker mafioso think this way too.

  12. roger ellis Says:
  13. logspirit Says:

    Once, I went for a walk on the Mountain. There, a question that had long bothered while cogitating elsewhere, emptied… “Mountain, why are you?” There, Mountain’s answer was evident… “Can’t you see how much bigger than that I am, how I reach far beyond that horizon’s limit? That question is puny here, meaningless upon my massive body.” So I didn’t ask Sky a similar question I had held so long. Or the third similar question, the one I had held for myself all through the years of my life. They were clinging to existence as erroneous mental echoes. When I painted my nagging questions on that vast canvas, they vanished instantly. I opened my mind, barely a crack, and they vanished away. I watched Mountain breathe the wind while it carried me easily, unburdened. I watched embossed back lit clouds racing across the moon framed in billowing dead white branches – the whole scene had the feeling of looking in a mirror. Those branches hold the fire of my cremation. It will be among many fires on the Mountain.

  14. Tom Says:

    And here I thought the ozone hole was healing all this time. Nope, wrong again.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/09/ozone-hole-antarctica-chemicals

    New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere

    Mysterious compounds undermining recovery of giant ozone hole over Antarctica, scientists warn

    • Newly discovered greenhouse gas ’7,000 times more powerful than CO2′

    Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed.

    The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed “ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story.”

    Until now, a total of 13 CFCs and HCFCs were known to destroy ozone and are controlled by the Montreal protocol, widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental law. But scientists have now identified and measured four previously unknown compounds and warned of the existence of many more.

    “There are definitely more out there,” said Dr Johannes Laube, at the University of East Anglia. “We have already picked up dozens more. They might well add up to dangerous levels, especially if we keep finding more.” Laube and his colleagues are in the process of fully analysing the dozens of new compounds, but the work completed on the four new chemicals shows them to be very powerful destroyers of ozone.

    Laube is particularly concerned that the atmospheric concentrations of two of the new compounds, while low now, are actually accelerating. “They are completely unimpressed by the Montreal protocol,” Laube told the Guardian. “There are quite a few loopholes in the protocol and we hope some of these are tightened. But the good news is that we have picked up these [four] early.” The chemicals take decades to break down in the atmosphere, meaning their impact on ozone and climate change is long-lived.

    [read the rest of this short article]

  15. Jeff Campbell Says:

    As “human beings” are we not unique (special) in the sense that we can and should distinguish between ethical and unethical, moral and immoral behavior? Perhaps this unique ability is the “point” of our being here in this place at this time.

  16. Godofredo Aravena Says:

    Bud
    Your words show me that we are getting to what we have to start doing now, to devise the basis for a new society, able to thrive within the limits of biosphere, to become as durable as biosphere.
    I totally agree with you about the three points. We are much less important than we want to be, we have to go as far as possible using only the energy of the sun, we have a (big) responsibility with the other creatures and the biosphere.
    As I have written in several of my posts, our life is not for us, is for the future generations, we have to try lo legate a system as pristine as it was when we were born. In the meantime (our own life), we can enjoy the magic of life, and the wonders of the biosphere.
    I would add to the previous that, as we are intelligent and able to create and build artifacts, we have a second purpose, and that is to create totally green artifacts, to serve a totally green community.
    There is a lot yet to cover on this topic, the purpose of our life (as individuals), and the purpose of our specie and how we fit in this vast and complex system.

  17. Robert Callaghan Says:

    Existentialism is fine for 50 year olds. The rest of us have to get on.
    My father was Irish, born on St. Patrick’s Day, meaning he was prone to bullshit. My rule of thumb was to divide everything he said in half to qualify the veracity of what he said. When Guy talks of the many feedbacks, he is obviously overlapping many of them. The only problem is that he his still right. So what if mass extinction is 50 years later than his. Yes, we will destroy life on earth. But, some will survive. They may have to live underground creating their own oxygen, but they will be alive. They may be the descendants of billionaires, but they will be alive. We may not like them, but they will probably not like us. The bad and the good is that things never work the way you expect. I am an egotistical asshole in my 50′s contemplating my own mortality. When I die, the whole world dies. Doesn’t it?

  18. RE Says:

    A better question might be what is the point of Sentience? The purpose of Life is just to Live, Reproduce and use energy gradients to sustain itself.

    When you talk about Sentience though, you talk about the ability to be self-reflexive about the whole thing, looking for meaning as it were.

    If you believe that Sentience is only possible as an artifact of the physical world, then you believe Sentience dies with the last living sentient organism, which insofar as we know is just Homo Sapiens, though there are indications some other creatures like Dolphins and Chimpanzees have some form of Sapience also. Even if they do though, likelihood is they are unaware of the Impending Doom of their species.

    I personally don’t think Sentience ends with the corporeal organism. Where we live here now provides an environment in which sentience can express itself in a corporeal form, but sentience always exists whether expressed or not in this way.

    Put it this way. Forever is a very long time, it goes past the length of time the Universe itself can exist, much less the Earth as a harbor for Carbon Based life forms. As a sentient being, you have to find the way to connect to Forever. If you don’t, your Sentience passes into the Great Beyond, it no longer exists in Forever.

    Meanwhile, between now and Forever, generally speaking you follow the operatives of Life itself, which is just to keep living as long as you can. No sense in Quitting until the Fat Lady Sings for you.

    RE

  19. Artleads Says:

    Robert Callaghan

    Refreshing post. Especially when it comes to dividing bullshit in two. Or maybe it’s just dividing bullshit-laden speech in two so you get less of it?

  20. Lidia Says:

    @artleads, unfortunately, if you keep dividing bullshit in half, you just get infinite bullshit. ;-)

  21. Kirk Hamilton Says:

    RE says, “As a sentient being, you have to find the way to connect to Forever.”

    EXACTLY! THANK YOU!

  22. Robin Datta Says:

    As “human beings” are we not unique (special) in the sense that we can and should distinguish between ethical and unethical, moral and immoral behavior?

    Many animals recognise and remember others’ behaviour and respond with tit for tat. Looked at from sociological perspectives, those behaviours can be labelled “ethical” and “unethical”.

    Ethical and unethical are categories to enhance survival of the community. There are tribes where it is perfectly okay to swap or trade marriage partners, and quite a heinous crime take away a morsel of food. Population control through infanticide was once okay in many societies and communities; propitiating the gods by sacrificing virgins was okay at one time to some cultures, while the same with regard to goats, sheep, cattle, horses, camels, etc. is still considered okay by many today.

    And today one person’s terrorist and another person’s freedom fighter can be the same suicide bomber. Which one is correct?

    we have to go as far as possible using only the energy of the sun,

    There are two forms of energy available to us: atomic fusion as in solar, which includes fossil fuels, wind, tide, dams, and direct conversion from insolation as in photosynthesis, photovoltaics and solar-thermal,
    and
    atomic fission, as in radioactive nuclear decay of heavy elements produced by the compressive forces in the cores of collapsing stars that then distributed them far and wide by becoming long-past supernovae in deep time.

    These heavy elements include thorium in the earth’s interior, producing geothermal energy through radioactive nuclear decay, and uranium & plutonium of bombs & reactors.

    we have to start doing now, to devise the basis for a new society,

    Arising perhaps through the evolutionary radiation from some rat or other air- breathing vertebrate lineage. Invertebrates do not have an efficient and scalable gas-exchange mechanism, nor an efficient oxygen transport system like circulating blood with corpuscular haemoglobin. (Earthworms have free haemoglobin but in low concentrations, as it increases viscosity greatly when not confined in corpuscles).

    And let us hope gust they can avoid societies altogether and have communities instead.

    When I die, the whole world dies. Doesn’t it?

    Nothing changes. What happens when one wakes from a dream?

    A better question might be what is the point of Sentience?

    Similar to the point of “pot-ness” to the clay in a clay pot.

    When you talk about Sentience though, you talk about the ability to be self-reflexive about the whole thing,

    Conflating “awareness” & “of” in “awareness of”. The basis of the ignorance that is banished in realisation.

    I personally don’t think Sentience ends with the corporeal organism. Where we live here now provides an environment in which sentience can express itself in a corporeal form, but sentience always exists whether expressed or not in this way.

    Sentience ends because the “of” part in the “awareness of” ends. What remains is Sunyata (the Void, in Buddhism) or Ain Sof (Limitless Emptiness, in Kabbalah). An Awareness that is Self-Aware though completely empty. There is no such thing as “always” for it, since it is not bounded by or definable within time-space. How many metres is a kilogram? How many hours is a kilometre?

    As a sentient being, you have to find the way to connect to Forever.

    Not in the least. The pot does not have to find a way to connect with the clay in a clay pot. This is a manifestation of the same ignorance that conflates the “awareness” and the “of” in “awareness of”.

    But there is no short-cut. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”.

  23. Bob S. Says:

    “As a sentient being, you have to find the way to connect to Forever.”

    Drink a quart of Jim Beam and piss in a light socket?

  24. OzMan Says:

    New report out from the ‘Climate Council’ on the past very hot dry summer in Afraidian for 2014 – titled ‘The Angry Summer’:

    http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/angry-summer

    The PDF:

    http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/ff37af7492b4b698420c1aebdaed54a0.pdf

    The key graphic:

    http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/ba9e755e8d612a34ae915d28114d8f1f.jpg

    The neat picture even a child can read :)

    BTW
    It seems obvious,(after all the study and gut wringing acceptance), now that Industrial Civilisation is an efficient machine-org for delivering basic needs at great distances to ‘tribal’ interests. By ‘tribal’ I mean those who wear the same paint, use the same competitive currency and like to see themselves as different-but the ‘usses’. I say ‘efficient’ also, not as a way of praising the ecological destruction that is absolutely necessary now to supply those needs to the ‘tribe’. There may be other methods, less destructive that supply basic needs, but they are not always the most efficient, so may not be supported by tribal capital.

    Now there is also the issue of all the excess and sheer waste, above and beyond basic needs. For some idea of the proportion of waste we emit, in plastic alone, see:

    Charles Moore – Plastic Ocean

    Captain Charles Moore estimates that 50% of plastic created per year is used in packaging for transport of goods.

    All this is to supply needs and wants, even middle class, upper class wants, not to mention the uber wants. This devolves in econo-speak as ‘Standard of Living’. So what happens when income distribution is on the unequal distribution ? Social safety and consumption of non essential goods increase.
    In whos interest is it to have crime and bling on the front page or screen everyday?
    Clearly not the planets.
    In his book ‘Not in His Image’, John Lamb Lash points out that St Augustine contributed, with others, to the tree hating ideology because they were warring with the Gnostics for market share of cosmology tickets,(my euphemism not his), by decreeing that all the places the Gnostic goddess was worshiped be destroyed. This was typically, but not exclusively Tree groves where She was celebrated.
    He expands the idea to develop the argument that Judeo-Christians were/are anti (Earth)life.
    That is interesting.
    So destruction of the living entities originates from more than one motivation.
    I will only add this.
    Not a proof mind you, just throwing it out there…

    Australian Aborigines, a diverse grouping of many tribal peoples, appear not to have engaged in 1. Technology superseding stone axes etc, 2) not dug in the ground to plant agriculture, though were openly seeding plants, 3) did not mine metals and ores, though did use deep cave systems, and took ochers,(pigments from rock surfaces and clays).
    The only reason I can find for this, and it may not be universal across the Australian Continent,(anyone know?)is that the Earth was considered the Mother, and you don’t dig and act violently to the Mother. So a deeply held Spiritual Understanding along with great cultural wisdom of what the land could support(human pop), did not lead to agriculture, metallurgy, and weapons beyond local skirmish scale.
    I recently attended a wedding of a local couple where a local Wirradjiri man, a friend, sang a welcome to his country song, both in English and in his local language. The words were very profound.
    They said welcome, here you will find good places to gather food, good water to drink and safe lands for your children to play, welcome. be with us, be together. Stay.

    Fucking tears your heart out when you see what we have lost…no, violently destroyed.
    So Industrial Civilisation is still an extension of the tribal drives to supply needs(and excess wants), but without wisdom, without any reflection on the Earth, the Mother, from which all terrestrial forms arise.

    Read the signs, and live fully, no matter what the circumstances.

  25. Artleads Says:

    @ Lidia

    Thanks for the chuckle. Hope you’re doing well.

  26. D Says:

    Careful now RE, all this talk about sentience, and someone might confuse you with navel gazing.

  27. RE Says:

    “There is no such thing as “always” for it, since it is not bounded by or definable within time-space. How many metres is a kilogram? How many hours is a kilometre?”-RD

    Meters are a measure of Distance. Kilograms are a measure of Mass. Hours are a measure of Time. You obviously do not measure one in terms of the other, they are independent variables at the scale of corporeal existence.

    “Always” or “Forever” is no more a measurable quantity than Infinity is. Despite the fact you cannot measure it though, it exists conceptually. Long as it exists conceptually, it exists.

    You don’t need a whole lot of Buddhist Jargon to grasp this fact, it is pretty self-evident to me. The only question really is whether there is sentience or sapience beyond the corporeal form, which nobody can ever prove and of course becomes Navel Gazing when you pursue this sort of chat very long. Trust me I know, I gotta read through the stuff Ka posts up on this topic all the time. LOL. Bottom Line though,you either believe there is a Forever/Infinite beyond the Corporeal form or you do not.

    If you do believe there is one, then you have to find a way to connect with it before your corporeal shell goes Extinct. People have different ways of doing this, and I don’t think any given one is right or wrong, if it works for you it is right for you.

    I personally have no worries in this regard, I got God on Speed Dial on my Phablet. Advice from God to me is not to QUIT until the Fat Lady Sings for me. :)

    Your mileage may vary.

    RE

  28. Robin Datta Says:

    Despite the fact you cannot measure it though, it exists conceptually.

    Concepts are in the realm of the “of” of “awareness of”. They are dependent on the brain and mind. The first step to awareness is the discernment of the difference between “awareness” and “of”. With that, all further discussion is unnecessary. Without that, all discussion is pointless.

    you have to find a way to connect with it

    The “you” that has “to find a way” is a mirage, an apparition, a phantasm. The problem is the clinging to it.

  29. RE Says:

    “The “you” that has “to find a way” is a mirage, an apparition, a phantasm. The problem is the clinging to it.”-RD

    That is a postulate. You can’t prove it, you just believe it to be so. It is how you model the world around you. It is not universal, and certainly not how God informs me the world works on Speed Dial. ;)

    On a more grounded level here, it is SHOWTIME in the Chinese Credit Markets. :)

    RE

  30. Tom Says:

    http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/climate-change/new-study-yanks-away-glimmer-of-hope-on-climate-change.html

    New Study Yanks Away Glimmer of Hope on Climate Change

    A September paper by the world’s leading body of scientists studying the effects of human activity on the world’s climate suggested there was a slim chance that greenhouse gas emissions would force global warming to a smaller degree than previously suspected. But a new study yanks the rug out from under that slight bit of optimism.

    The new study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that the amount of increase in global temperature for each ton of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere may be higher than had been hoped. Climate scientists refer to this relationship as “climate sensitivity.”

    A report put out in September by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that it was possible that the actual amount of warming for each ton of CO2 emitted might be very low. If that were true, it would give global society a bit more time to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases before catastrophe ensued. But according to Sunday’s paper, the September IPCC report failed to account for the effect of “aerosols” such as smog and fine dust, which reflect sunlight and can cause temporarily lower temperatures in parts of the world with polluted air. [read the rest]

  31. Robin Datta Says:

    how God informs me the world works on Speed Dial.

    That is a postulate. You can’t prove it, you just believe it to be so.

    No one can prove that they are not a biological automaton, a meat-robot.

    Why We Believe in Gods – Andy Thomson – American Atheists 09

  32. RE Says:

    “No one can prove that they are not a biological automaton, a meat-robot.”-RD

    No one can prove people ARE biological automatons either. This also is a postulate. If I am not an Apple, it doesn’t make me an Orange. I could be a Banana. This actually is more nebulous, because you don’t even have enough information to distinguish between Apples and Oranges. They appear to have the same qualities in the corporeal world.

    RE

  33. EtyerePetyere Says:

    And Thoreau Shakes His Head at America. IS NOT WORKING

  34. D Says:

    beautiful prose log spirit

  35. OzMan Says:

    oops,
    That should have been…

    ‘So what happens when income distribution is on the unequal distribution ? Feeling social unsafe, and consumption of non essential goods increase.’

    Sorry folks.

  36. logspirit Says:

    @ D
    Thank you for noticing my post, and for the compliment, and for giving me something to think about.

    It is not the mountain that is ‘beautiful’, or the sunset, or a pretty girl. Beauty is wholly experienced in emotion, only within an emotional response initiated by sensation. Beauty does not exist independently. It is a particular kind of emotional response. A particular emotional relationship occurring in the universe. Without that emotion, there isn’t any beauty, nothing is beautiful. Deep depression often occludes beauty, and sometimes acceptance of a single ray begins its cure.

    To be beautiful a thing must arouse an emotional response in a sentient being. Sentience is simply to feel, to sense… and sometimes sensations are powerful enough to cause an emotional reaction such as pain or anger or joy… and its obvious, if you know them, that sentient beings like pigs and cats and monkeys experience such emotions. Perhaps they also experience beauty.

    Beauty will cease on Earth with the extinction of sentience. Beauty is a feeling. Feel it while you can.

  37. RE Says:

    From the parallel thread on the Diner:

    But on to question of Truth. You (and WHD) are all for each person to follow his own path. Ashvin and I, on the other hand, think that many paths lead nowhere, or worse. Further, we think that philosophical work is required to winnow out the good paths from the bad. But even Ashvin and I have major disagreements, and you are quick to point out that philosophers have been chasing their tails without apparently getting anywhere.

    I don’t disagree with this.  Most Roads do NOT lead to Rome.  Most are dead ends.

    At the same time, there is not only ONE Road to Rome.  In my work, we have a saying, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”.  Basically meaning you can get the same end result out of a variety of pathways.  There are however many more pathways which do not lead to the result you are looking for.

    It also doesn’t come easily most of the time to find the right pathway.  There’s a lot of distraction out there to be sure.  So I do not disagree that you need to ponder on it quite a bit, nor do I think reading the ideas of others like Barfield is a bad thing, for some folks this is a helpful way of finding the path that works for them.  It’s not my methodology, but if it works for you, that is fine too.

    Far as their being just One Truth with a capital T, I don’t think that is necessarily True (sic) either.  There could be more than one Forever, though probably not more than one Eternity, so those aren’t precisely the same concept either, I agree there too.

    In any event, I think for anyone to say their way is the ONLY way is hubris of the first order.  The likelihood to me is that if you say your way is the only way, then you are probably on a Dead End to Nowhere, not on the Road to Forever.

    RE

  38. Tony Says:

    “I think these questions come mainly from beliefs our culture has taught us, especially related to the idea that we are, presumably, different from the other species in important and fundamental ways.”

    I’m not sure why you think such questions arise from those beliefs. Isn’t it much simpler? If you, your children, your grandchildren and your great grandchildren will be dead within a few decades, no matter what you do, then why do anything other than what you’re doing? If that is polluting and consuming, why not carry on doing that? Aside from that list of human generations that will come to an end, you can add current and future generations of just about all other species too (and not just animals and plants). If I accepted what Guy posits, then I think I would also think there was no point in trying to conserve and re-connect with nature.

  39. Robin Datta Says:

    If you do believe there is one, then you have to find a way to connect with it before your corporeal shell goes Extinct.

    Anything and everything with a beginning has an ending. Even connection. Any connection that has a beginning also has an end. It is within the bounds of time.

    No one can prove people ARE biological automatons either.

    However, it violates Occam’s razor. And it is magical thinking, no different from postulating a deity: it an aspect of magical thinking overlooked by atheists. There is no need to prove that people are biological automatons. All their functions are based on interactions of matter & energy in accordance with physical laws. This has been pointed out since Vedic times, millennia ago. There is no need to invoke “awareness”. (The one exception: I directly experience awareness. 8-) No one else has awareness; all their bloviation to the contrary is merely the programming in wetware.)

    Occam’s razor should not be ignored. Unless you can share your awareness with another (not a description, nor awareness “of”) the presumption of others’ awareness is a presumption that violates Occam’s razor.

  40. Martin Says:

    Most Roads do NOT lead to Rome. Most are dead ends.

    Yes, but who should you tell? Should you tell anyone?

    The US anarchist Murray Bookchin, in his Re-enchanting Humanity, a screed against mysticism, among other things, stated flatly, “All intuitive systems are a dead end.”

    More carts before horses.

    If such a dismissal should reach the ears of a young person, it does them a disservice. Each youngster should be free to pursue what reveals itself as life is lived. They don’t need to hear a grouchy old hippy tell them the drugs don’t work.

  41. Guy McPherson Says:

    With thanks to Bud Nye, I’ve posted an essay written by Eamon Farelly. It’s here.

  42. Lidia Says:

    “There is no need to prove that people are biological automatons. All their functions are based on interactions of matter & energy in accordance with physical laws.”

    Finally Robin says something straightforward! ;-)

  43. Godofredo Aravena Says:

    I guess that after what we are seeing, the collapse of our culture, it is the moment to question the basis.
    One of them is “our purpose”, considering that if all the rest (living creatures) have a purpose, we should have one too.
    The other question is if we were created. Something I do believe in. If we were created, then comes the question by whom, and then with what purpose.
    I believe that there is a logic behind the origin of everything, but just to have an answer about the logic behind the living creatures (us included), is a big task to acomplish.
    As I have said many times, our selfishness keeps on blocking our capacity to face the possibility of us being just part of an experiment (life on earth). Our specie under test. Can we survive? Probably whne we were created, we wer supposed to be smart enough to learn to handle our unique power, and learn from our mistakes, and correct the wrong paths.
    Do I believe in God (religion)? No.
    Do I believe that we are special (more important)? No
    Can we do whatever we want? No.
    Do I believe in free will? No.
    Do I believe in luck? Yes.
    Do I believe that we can be/do better? Yes. But outside the circle. With another culture, based in the respect to the laws of nature.
    What is the basic law that rules our biosphere? The survival of the system.
    What seems to me the basic rule of nature? Logic. Only logic activities lead to a durable system. This logic must be seen as what is needed to keep the system working properly.
    Do we as humans act in a logic way (related to the system)? No.

    This matters are of personal belief, but I belive that only what is sustained in a true logic, will prevail. To me, the truth is composed only by logic concepts/reasons/activities. A logic pointing to keep the system running.

    About beauty, I agree that is a personal feeling. It is not an absolute concept. It is one of the ways we can be rewarded by just living. Living for the system has some rewards, and beauty is one of them. It is a powerful reason to stay alive one more day.

    About biological automatons, I guess the rest of the living creatures are automatons, it has to be that way, the system requires it. But we are not, because we can think, and create new things, concepts an so on. We are the only creature on earth capable of becoming God (the creator). We are the only creature with his (its) capacities. In this case God being a fuzzy concept certainly, but mainly an entity able to create things.

    In this dark moments, we have to question the basis of our culture, because, evidence clearly shows that what we have been doing for centuries is wrong.

  44. ulvfugl Says:

    @ Lidia

    “There is no need to prove that people are biological automatons. All their functions are based on interactions of matter & energy in accordance with physical laws.”

    Finally Robin says something straightforward! ;-)

    Hmm.

    Except that there’s a problem, because, your own, and most people’s, including most scientists, conception of what those laws are, and what they mean, is completely outdated and obsolete.

  45. Ram Samudrala Says:

    It’s not clear that your original question is what the question you actually answered should map to. It’s one interpretation, granted, but it could simply not mean any assumptions about superiority and specialness. I actually don’t see this in the average person I encounter, and I mean your average person on the street. I see more of a “we’re all god’s children” attitude (not a religious one, but an egalitarian one).

    Though this perception I have is based on their views which I come to understand from talking to them, not necessarily based on their actions. As a society and species we’ve definitely acted as though we own the universe, and perhaps our individual thoughts are actually irrelevant when confronted with our collective action. The very issue, that we have been able drive things to get to this point where we may be a party to our own extinction, implies a “special” nature to our abilities.

    An infant that soils its pants (or diapers) and plays with excrement not knowing its implications is what I see humanity as being. Is an infant not special simply because it has not learnt control over its excretionary systems? An infant learns to use a match (or lighter) and causes a fire that burns down the house it lives in not special (and even superior) in some way?

    Anyways, one of the interesting things about all this is that we get to really resolve the technological debate within the next few decades, i.e., whether technology will be our salvation. Will be able to use the remainder of our fossil fuel credit wisely enough to stave off utter extinction is a question that will be empirically resolved.

  46. ulvfugl Says:

    @ Ram S.

    Will be able to use the remainder of our fossil fuel credit..

    I wonder where you got this idea that we have been given some credit allowance ? By whom ? To do what ?

    In any case, if you read recent posts by Diogenes on RC, and if you’ve been paying attention to people like Hansen and Kevin Anderson, and, dare I say it, even Guy Mcpherson, we are already WAY PAST any limit.

    ‘WE’ are BANKRUPT. You are living in a fantasy, planning your holiday, thinking of buying tickets, booking your hotel, dreaming about cocktails on the beach watching the sunset. It’s not going to happen because, if you have a look at your accounts, there is NO MONEY, everything is RED…

    Look, the warming we have NOW, is from 40 years ago.

    Get it ?

    What’s happened since then ? What’s happening NOW ?

  47. Ram Samudrala Says:

    ulvfugl, we’re repeating the discussion but since it’s in different threads, I’ll summarise here: the quota/credit I’m referring to (doesn’t mean I really believe in it) comes from what’s considered “acceptable” to stay below the 2 degree warming limit. The salient issues are addressed here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoiding_dangerous_climate_change

    As I also said there, I understand we’re now dealing with the consequences of emissions from decades ago, but we’re not at the 2 degree limit yet (again, if you accept it – if you don’t then we may well agree, but I’m talking about a situation with a certain set of assumptions).

    So, IF we accept that the 2 degree limit will stave off utter extinction of humanity, and that we can do whatever’s necessary to stay under the 2 degree limit, then a certain amount of fossil fuels need to be expended and then a certain amount somehow dealt with in different ways (adaptation, sequestering, etc.). Can humanity do this is a question for which we will have an empirical answer to. Right now, no matter what you may think, the answer is not known, in that it hasn’t been tried and tested.

    My point simply was that this situation will be a way to test what would normally be a philosophical discussion about the role of technology. It will really illustrate whether humanity can use technology to its benefit or die out, and we’ll have the answer shortly. You may feel you already have the answer, but I don’t think the outcome is 100% certain. I think in 15 years, it will be.

    Of course, people like Hansen say that the 2 degree limit is already too high (for what?). That may well be, but that’s not the scenario I’m talking about. If you wish to debate the wisdom of the 2 degree limit, then you need to tell me what global temperature think is the maximum limit that earth can warm without resulting in the complete extinction of humanity (and this is also another part of that scenario) and we can go from there.

    The ultimate outcome I’m referring to is indeed the “complete extinction of humanity” as in the most recent glade of the phylogenetic tree of life disappears entirely when an analysis of what’s left is done. Not 95% of humanity, not 99%, but whatever it is that will result in the human species entirely disappearing from this planet. If the species can survive, then the temperature (whatever it is) is acceptable. I’m not saying this would be a good thing or passing any other kind of value judgement, just stating that this is the scenario I’m talking about when I say there is a credit/quota. I am operating under the 2 degree C limit assumption but if you don’t like that you need to tell me what is the maximum temperature the earth can warm and still support humanity.


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