The Meaning of Life to an Armadillo

by Geoffrey Chia

The genesis for this ancient essay arose during internet discussions with the “meaning of life and everything society” or MOLES chat group under the pseudonym Gandalf. Many years later his essay was published in the Australian Rationalist journal (whose old web archives have unfortunately not been maintained). This article may be of some philosophical interest to NBL readers.

Full essay is here, in pdf.


McPherson’s latest essay for Transition Voice was posted 13 January 2014: Only geo-engineering can reverse climate change — too bad it won’t work (permalinked at Transition Network)

Please limit yourself to two posts daily. Additional comments are welcome at the NBL Forum.


Please join me in supporting our friend OzMan as he literally walks away. Click here for more information.


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

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.


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 several readers at Amazon. An excerpt follows.

Among the consequences of taking down a few hundred species each day: at some point, we are the species we take into the abyss. The vanishing point draws nearer every day. Our response, in the industrialized world: Bring on the toys. Burn all fossil fuels. Harvest the rain forests and stripmine the soil. Pollute the water, eat the seed bank. Foul the air.

And, most importantly, figure out how we can make a few bucks as the world burns.


A modified classified ad hit the top of that page yesterday, and is posted below.

SEEKING like-minded folks in St. Louis, Missouri.

My wife and I are both 38 years old and civil engineers by profession. In the last decade, our world view has profoundly shifted from the conventional “you are born, go to school, work, work, work, retire and die” to life is meant to be lived NOW and not deferred to the future.

Not being born in wealthy families, we have had to work to build a small nest egg. I work as an environmental engineer (Note: my job has nothing to do with protecting the environment, only abusing it more while filling out paperwork appropriately) while my wife is a stay-at-home mom, having worked as a structural engineer for 6 years.

We have a 5-year-old daughter to whom we do not want to pass on the cultural messages we were exposed to growing up. Rather, we want her to grow up in as close to our prehistorical ancestral setting as is possible.

We have (more so I than my wife) come to believe that the only truly sustainable way of life is what we arrogantly and derogatorily call the “stone age”. But for various pragmatic reasons, including the fact that we are vegetarians and essentially have no wilderness survival skills, we are trying to find balance in voluntary simplicity and living as close to the land as possible.

We firmly believe in the healing powers of nature and the company of other like-minded people.

We find joy in natural parenting (non-coercive, co-sleeping, extended in-arms phase) and watching our daughter growing up into a happy, quasi-wild child and desperately seek for her the social nurturing that can only come from living with a varied group of people of all ages.

My wife and I are originally from India where we spent the first 22+ years of our life and have mixed feelings about the manner in which we were raised. While we grew up in the typical informal social setting widespread in India, we do not have extensive experience in communal living.

We are big believers of our experiences and have no patience for politics, sky-god(s), sin, reincarnation and the like. If forced to label our views, would call ourselves agnostic-animists.

We believe that health is wealth and consider organic/whole foods a wise investment.

We are getting very dispirited by the apathy and willful ignorance around and within us.

If you are interested in an alliance, please email us at

Comments 44

  • There is no escape from Industrial Civilization – even for the wealthy – only degrees of comfort as we slide into chaos. You can see the degrees all around you as the Lexus sits at a light with the homeless people standing outside with their cardboard signs. The only equalizer will be if the Collapse comes quickly and if it is widespread.

    Most of the world’s population lives in poverty and it has been so since the beginning of Civilization. No way to live “in harmony” with Nature within any civilized society.

    Civilization killed us. Industrial Civilization and cheap energy just made it a quicker death – and pretty much made sure that no other living thing will survive either. Great.

    Industrial Civilization leads to climate chaos which leads to economic collapse and die-off.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthansia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • Chat room exchange: the meaning of life to an armadillo
    The following is an exchange that Geoffrey Chia was involved in, in the ‘Meaning of Life and Everything Society’ or ‘MOLES’ chat room, which raises issues of interest to our readers…
    Here’s a poem whose author I forget:
    The ancient armadillo
    is as simple as the rain,
    He’s an armour plated pillow
    with a microscopic brain,
    He’s thoroughly disinterested
    in what the world has wrought,
    But spends his time in contemplative Armadyllic thought.
    What is the meaning of life to an armadillo?
    If our hypothetical armadillo could speak, what contemplative armadyllic thoughts would he reveal to us? I bet he’d describe things from the point of view of an armadillo: how delicious and succulent fresh juicy ants can be, the feeling of wet blades of grass against his belly as he scurries through the under- growth, the joy of bringing up baby armadillos. He may wonder if there is a Divine Armadillo that created the universe (and all armadillos in its like- ness) for the sake of the Armadyllic Race. He would ponder the question of what happens after armadil- los die. The thought of complete annihilation may be just so awful and unacceptable that surely, he would think, there must be such a thing as an armadillo soul and armadillo heaven, where all good armadillos go as a reward for living by the proper armadillo code (whatever that may be, eg thou shalt not stick thine proboscis into another armadillo’s
    He would also tell stories of horrid evil monsters,
    some of which prey on armadillos or destroy armadillo habitats. In particular, there is this one big ugly hairless ape that walks on two legs and cuts
    down and clears away forests and poisons the air and water and some- times captures armadillos for fiendish experiments on leprosy.
    ‘Rubbish! Nonsense!’ says the human beast. Armadillos are nothing more than a curious product of evo-
    Dr Geoffrey Chia is a cardiologist in private practice in Brisbane, with interests in aviation, sustainable energy and environmental, philosophical and humanistic issues.
    lution occupying a particular ecological niche. Their individual lives mean nothing, ie the question of ‘the meaning of life’ from the point of view of an armadillo is in itself meaningless. They are thus because they have evolved thus; there is no intrinsic purpose to their existence. The reason they pursue their point- less existence is because they are selected by evolu- tion to do so. Any armadillos that lost the drive to eat, drink and reproduce would have naturally died out in the past (and with them, these non-survival traits), so only those possessing these drives have sur- vived. Do not mistake ‘drive’ for ‘purposefulness’ or ‘meaning’. Whether or not the armadillos survive as a species will be a matter of random chance depend- ing on their adaptation to the environment, which in itself may change.
    Furthermore, everyone knows that the universe was created by God for man (who was fashioned in his likeness). This is based on the fact that human beings are at the top of the food chain, thus every- thing must surely have been created for our benefit, QED.
    When we ask ourselves ‘What is the meaning of life?’ I would assert that what we really mean is, ‘What is the meaning of life from the point of view of human beings?’ This latter qualification is uncon- sciously and implicitly assumed, but nevertheless I feel should be stated overtly, because by doing so I think it puts the question into its proper context.
    Is the human viewpoint more valid than the armadillo viewpoint? Does being at the top of the food chain make us the ‘chosen species’?
    The point is that, evolution being the way it is, one
    species or another is bound to be at the top of the food chain. In the sea it may be those creatures that happen to have no natural predators, eg sharks or killer whales. If they could contemplate their navels (if they had navels) then surely they would consider them- selves to be the chosen species because they seem to get their way all the time and do not live in fear of other species.
    But wait (you may argue), what about our supe- rior intelligence? What about our reasoning and tool- making abilities, which enable us to alter our surroundings and conquer other environments, even the sea? Surely these unique characteristics mean that we are divinely chosen.
    Intelligence and tool-making are not any better an argument for us being divinely chosen than, say, having longer canines or a prehensile tail would be. They are merely random by-products of evolution which have enabled us to cope more successfully with our environment, just as the development of wings have enabled birds to fly. They are experiments of nature which could even prove to be deviant, aber- rant evolutionary mistakes if the end result turned out to be self-extinction from nuclear annihilation.
    William Paley was an eighteenth-century theolo- gian. Here is the gist of his ‘divine watchmaker’ argu- ment for the existence of God:
    A man is walking along the pavement when he comes across a gold pocket watch lying on the ground. He picks it up and notices its beautiful sym- metrical form, its shiny finish, the intricacy
    of its escape mechanism, gears, springs and jewels. He sees the measured movement of its hands as it regularly marks out time. He con- cludes that such a device cannot have spontaneously arisen from nothing- ness, that there must be an intelli- gent force behind the creation of
    this artifact; a watchmaker. Sim-
    ilarly, man is a wondrous cre-
    ation. We have a grand design
    with intricacy and complexity
    far exceeding that of the most finely engi- neered timepiece. Surely, therefore, man must have a creator, and we call that creator God.
    A convincing argument for the simpleminded, which breaks down under the slightest scrutiny.
    So, a watchmaker must have created the complex and intricately designed watch. Indeed, the watch- maker himself must be far more complex and intri- cately designed than the watch itself in order to create the watch, and he in turn must have been created by God. But surely, therefore, God must be far more complex and intricately designed than the watch-
    maker and could not have arisen out of nothing. Surely God must have been created by a SuperGod, which in turn must be even more complex and intri- cately designed than God himself. And who created SuperGod? SuperSuperGod? And who created SuperSuperGod?
    It is a never ending conundrum and explains nothing.
    Some would argue that the laws of physics are deli- cately and precisely balanced: had the mass of a proton been a tiny shade more or less than it is, had the charge of an electron been a minuscule fraction more or less than what it is, had the spin of a neutrino
    been a wee smidgen more or less than what it is, then atoms and molecules and the chemical reactions we know could not exist — the universe would be a swirling chaotic cauldron.
    Surely it is more than blind coincidence that all these physical laws have come together to enable the formation of a stable universe and, with it, the for- mation of life.
    This is the weak anthropic principle or WAP.
    But wait! There’s more! Surely the purpose of all these finely balanced physical and chemical laws of the universe came together not
    just to enable the formation of life,
    but also the formation of sentient, intelligent life.
    This is the strong anthropic principle or SAP.
    And, of course, the ultimate representation of sentient and intelligent life is humanity. Thus the entire purpose for the exis- tence of the universe must have been the creation of mankind.
    This is the completely ridicu- lous anthropic principle or CRAP. It is the divine watchmaker
    argument in another guise.
    This much is true — if the laws of physics and chemistry did not
    apply, then life and the universe could not have formed, nor continue to exist, and we would not be around to ask these silly questions. The existence of these inviolate and consistent laws are an indis- pensable prerequisite — a given — for us to be here, for me to write this essay and for you to read it.
    Quantum theory postulates the existence of par- allel universes. There may well be several trillion other parallel universes in existence, where no consistent laws of nature apply or where their own particular laws are not conducive to the formation of elaborate systems. In these universes it may not be possible for matter to form or remain stable, it may not be pos- sible for chemical reactions to occur, it may not be possible for life to form or for sentient beings to evolve. Thus the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ does not arise in those universes in the first place. Our universe may represent just one tiny drop in the vast ocean of possible universes. Among an infinite possibility of universes, it is inevitable that one will happen to have natural laws finely balanced enough to allow life to exist.
    The one-in-a-trillion universe containing creatures able to ask these bothersome questions must, by def- inition, also contain beautiful, mathematically-con- sistent laws for such creatures to exist in the first place.
    The existence of a beautiful mathematical consis- tency to the universe is no argument for the existence of a God. The appearance of a grand purposeful design is a vast illusion arising from the self-organ- ising nature of Nature.
    Are we the ‘chosen species’ for whom the universe was created?
    We see the arbitrariness and complete indifference of nature all around us, from cataclysmic cosmic events such as supernovae and galactic collisions, to the ruthless struggle for survival among animals, such
    as the way the ichneumon wasp uses a living caterpillar as a food store for its larvae, which consume it from the inside out.
    Modern humans have proba- bly been around for about 150,000 years. For more than 145,000 of those years, human life and death were completely arbitrary and indiscriminate. Even during the past 5,000 years since the advent of agriculture, metallurgy and writing, death could still strike with complete indifference from famine, pestilence or natural disaster.
    Only over the past 400 years or so, since the development of the scientific method, have we been able to protect our- selves to any significant degree from lethal onslaughts such as infectious diseases or crop failures. Histori- cally, human life has been, as Thomas Hobbes so aptly put it, ‘nasty, brutish and short’. Even now it remains so for billions of people who have had the misfortune of being born into disadvantaged circumstances. Earthquakes and floods still kill thousands of people
    indiscriminately each year.
    It is a sad fact that the practice of warfare and geno-
    cide seems to be an intrinsic trait of humanity. For many Jews in the Second World War, life or death, from day to day, were completely random events, as though determined by the toss of dice. Things were the same for the slaughter victims in Rwanda or Kosovo. True, these events were perpetrated by other humans and were not natural disasters. But these other humans, no matter how vile, were themselves products of nature. It was up to still other human beings to oppose such atrocities, not up to divine intervention. Similar genocidal behaviour has been observed by Jane Goodall in chimpanzees, the species closest to us, who share 98.4 per cent of our DNA.
    Religion, far from being the saviour of mankind, has consistently been used as justification for mass murder, the farcical Crusades of the Middle Ages
    ❛Cocooning ourselves in deceptive security and predictability does not alter the fact that nature is completely indifferent to us.❜
    being one example. As Kurt Vonnegut, the German- American author, observed, Hitler’s armies, tanks and planes bore the markings of the cross because the Nazis considered themselves to be a Christian army.
    We are fortunate in our present ability to insulate ourselves from a sometimes hostile environment, but cocooning ourselves in deceptive security and pre- dictability does not alter the fact that nature is com- pletely indifferent to us. The offshore yachtsman or Himalayan mountaineer will be able to attest to this, but very few of us seek or savour their experiences. Think of the most distinguished, talented, capable, accomplished, respected person you know. If he/she went swimming in the Coral Sea tomorrow, they
    Their individual lives mean nothing, ie the question of ‘the meaning of life’ from the point of view of a human is in itself meaningless. They are thus because they have evolved thus; there is no intrin- sic purpose to their existence. The reason they pursue their pointless existence is that they are selected by evolution to do so. Any humans who lost the drive to eat, drink and reproduce would have naturally died out in the past (and with them, these non-survival traits), so only those possessing these drives have sur- vived. Do not mistake ‘drive’ for ‘purposefulness’ or ‘meaning’. Whether or not they survive as a species will be a matter of random chance depending on their adaptation to the environment, which in itself may
    A nihilistic philosophy? Perhaps.
    Uncomfortable and close to the bone? Certainly. But, to my mind, honest and true. Certainly far more likely to be true than any supernatural wishful thinking fabricated by our forbears, or the three bears (with or without Goldilocks), or L Ron Hubbard.
    Here’s my philosophy: it’s up to us to create meaning in our own lives. It’s up to us to make things better (or not). This life is the only one we’ve got and will ever have. We should be good not because we fear God or because we fear hell. We should be good because it promotes our well- being and the wellbeing of others and reduces general suffering.
    Religious views as to the true nature of the universe have been thor- oughly discredited, but nevertheless have been vindictively defended his- torically. The church’s insistence on a
    geocentric universe (and persecution of Galileo) was one example.
    We can, however, derive useful lessons from some religious philosophies of human interaction. The concept and practice of empathy seem to be univer- sally valued between cultures throughout history. One common feature of many ancient religions is the golden rule, originally stated as ‘do not do unto others as you would not have others do unto you’ (analects of Confucius) and, centuries later, as ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’ (some guy from Nazareth).
    Funnily enough, verification of this wisdom of the ages has been demonstrated as the best interactive strategy from computer simulations of the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ scenario.
    One difference between us and other animals is that
    would be just so much shark bait, no different from slabs of beef.
    There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that humans are not the raison d’être for the universe. (What an arrogant thought!) Everything we now know indicates that we are just insignificant little specks of self-preoccupied matter on the wafer-thin film of organic scum which coats this minuscule world, which revolves around one average star among a hundred billion in this galaxy, which itself is but one galaxy among perhaps another hundred billion.
    Now let me repeat a previous paragraph, substi- tuting ‘humans’ for ‘armadillos’. It will make no greater or lesser sense than the original paragraph:
    Humans are nothing more then a curious product of evolution occupying a particular ecological niche.
    we have more choices. That doesn’t apply to all humans — for instance, the starving infant in Somalia probably doesn’t have any more choices than the average armadillo.
    But the rest of us ought to make use of what good fortune we have.
    At 03:56 PM 19/05/97 +1000, ML wrote:
    This is not such a convincing argument against the existence of God as it may appear. It may be well argued that intrinsic in the notion of God is the notion that God exists through Him/Her
    self. Therefore God needs no cause, just being God is the cause of God. This elements [sic]the infinite regress. Further you are looking on the world in a linier [sic] way which is very much a product of Western thought and in [sic] not a given at all. I don’t think that it is this easy to eliminate God from the big picture.
    Thank you ML. I was not trying to disprove the existence of God, but merely indicate that the notion of God is not necessary to explain the existence of the universe.
    I am arguing absence of proof rather than proof of absence.
    You must know, of course, that
    it is impossible to prove a negative. We can never ‘prove’ the absence of God, particularly if you insist that God is essentially undetectable — a convenient situation for religious advocates.
    How easy it is for me to fabricate some hypothetical substance or entity, the existence of which you cannot disprove. Let me call this substance ‘Bollokks’. I claim that Bollokks permeates our entire universe, has neither mass nor energy and cannot be detected by any known measuring instrument. I also claim that Bollokks is the necessary glue which holds the uni- verse together, without which nothing could exist. Can you prove to me that Bollokks does not exist? Certainly not. The fact that we exist must mean that Bollokks must exist! Of course, you would probably say I am just talking Bollokks, and you would be right.
    The notion of God is a personal thing and no more or less valid than the notion of Siva or Vishnu or Zeus or the Great Plains Spirit. If a Hindu asks me to dis- prove the existence of Siva I will be the first to admit that I cannot. This is not the same as proving that Siva exists.
    Is there a way to apply non-linear thought to these
    concepts? Will it make any difference?
    At 12:42 AM 20/05/97 +1100, JP wrote:
    G’s message was a pleasant read, but I have to confess at times I did not know what he was trying to argue. I’m glad he clarified it later with the ‘absence of proof rather than proof of absence’ comment. I would agree that we are not intrinsically better than armadillos, but rather than replace humans in his argument, I would say that it is entirely possible armadillos behave in this way. I didn’t fully agree with conclusions about his other examples, but suspect this will come down to a matter of opinion so I won’t debate the issue, except for his multiple
    universes account.
    Science has produced many
    theories of this type, some quite respectable, like the Big Crunch theory. In essence, these other universes, whatever or wherever they be, are completely separate from our universe by definition, and thus there is no way we can ascertain what happens there or even if they exist. This is remark- ably similar to that belief despite lack of evidence most people complain about in Christians.
    Also (and despite my earlier comment about not debating the issue, it seems I am about to…) God didn’t need to be created by something else, as ML said, because if God created the uni-
    verse, as is generally believed by most people who accept his existence, then he is of necessity outside it. If he is not part of the physical universe, he is not subject to time, and therefore not subject to cause and effect as we are.
    Personally, I agree that the notion of God is not necessary to explain the universe, I just think it’s more likely.
    Thank you JP. I hope I haven’t misled you into think- ing that the ‘multiple universes’ idea was my pre- ferred theory. It is based on quantum mechanics. The basis is mathematical rather than proven (although the same could have been said for the general theory of relativity before experimentation demonstrated its validity). I used the idea as an illustration to get a point across, which even now I struggle to express clearly.
    Here’s the idea again. Let’s use the ‘Oscillating Uni- verse’ (Big Bang and Big Crunch) theory, which you consider to be more respectable, as an example instead:
    Some would argue that the existence of mathe- matically inviolate constant physical laws working
    ❛I was not trying to disprove the existence of God, but merely indicate that the notion of God is not necessary to explain the existence of the universe.❜
    beautifully together just so, to enable the formation of solar systems, planets, organic matter and complex life forms, must indicate the presence of a grand design and a creator. Let us conceive of a universe or universes where such laws do not apply. Perhaps ‘prior’ to our own Big Bang there were a trillion uni- verses with no such laws, and after our own Big Crunch there will be a trillion others. In none of these universes would it be
    possible for matter and/or energy to form and/or interact in a con- sistent fashion to produce life capable of pondering on the nature of the universe. In our own universe these laws have happened to come together, but this may purely be due to the one in a trillion odd circumstance and not through any design.
    It may well be impos-
    sible to prove or dis-
    prove the parallel
    universe or the oscillat-
    ing universe theories.
    No matter. I have no
    emotional investment in
    such theories and only use them to illustrate a point.
    Even if our universe were the only one in existence, what of it? Just because puny humans with grandiose delusions imbibe meaning into the clockwork mech- anism of the universe does not in itself mean any- thing. The idea is as laughable as armadillos which consider themselves to be the focal point of creation.
    If we feel the need to explain the design, then surely we should feel the need to explain the designer, whether or not he is inside or outside our own time
    and space. To say that the creation of God needs no explanation because he is outside our space and time is a copout, pure and simple. It is a contrived ploy to evade the issue.
    If you say the designer does not need explanation, then why not simplify and say that the design does not need explanation?
    Here’s a thought: many of the Judeo-Christian or Islamic persuasion would argue that monotheism represents a superior world view as compared to polythe- ism — far better and simpler to dispense with a whole bunch of unnec- essary gods in favour of
    one God.
    If so, what would be
    a superior world view as compared to mono- theism?
    Ockham’s razor states that the most straight- forward, least compli- cated explanation is the most likely to be true. That is why we accept as truth that the earth and planets revolve around
    the sun, and not the idea that everything revolves around the earth in complex loopy inexplicable paths, even though the latter appears to be the case from our frame of reference. The geocentric universe is a powerful illusion, just as the appearance of design among living creatures is a powerful illusion. They have no factual basis.
    Simply wishing that there exists a supernatural being who gives a toss about our lives and deaths does not make it true.

  • Hubby just shared this joke with me: Problem-solving from a dog’s POV—If you can’t eat it or fuck it, piss on it and walk away.

  • Both sharks and whales have umbilical cords (a shark’s isn’t exactly like a whale’s or other mammal’s, though).

  • @Geoffrey Chia

    Bollokks indeed. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson Luckenbach Texas Back to the Basics of Love

    A dog’s tail never lies.

  • Tennis and Death

    Awesome, heart of the matter quote:

    “Of course there were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match,” Tim Wood, the tournament’s chief medical officer, said in a statement published in the Guardian.

    I want to make sure that sport can continue even as the flames rise higher and higher.

  • @ Pat

    A musical accompaniment: Everything Crash

    Wha’ gaan bad a maanin
    Cyan go good a evenin


    What’s gone bad in the morning
    Can’t come (go?) good in the evening

    Sorry if this is obscure. But when you point out that civilization was the killer from the start, it made me think of that phrase in the song.

  • “‘When we ask ourselves, what is the meaning of life?”

    Don’t you mean when men ask, what is the meaning of life?

    Because lets face it, some really messed up men ended up dominating and naming all dynamics they felt were really important and only really messed up men and the women serving them would ask ‘what is the meaning of life?’ Totally sacreligious, taking the original meaning of ‘religion’ in to account. That which binds back together. We just keep breaking down and down and what happens when that cycle gets rolling can’t be stopped and it’s all downhill from here? NTE? Are we there yet? What mattered with humans, our original beingness when we were part of nature is all but extinct anyway. NTEOWMA -Near Term Extinction Of What Matters Anyway. Thus the question. I keep feeling ‘it will all be over soon’, but what? The birth or the death of humanity? I am working on the midwives team, midwife for rebirth of a new original humanity. I can only work my guts out for that good till I can’t work no more.

  • ‘Heatwave brings fires, blackouts, health dangers as Adelaide becomes world’s hottest city’

    “Adelaide was confirmed as the hottest city in the world soon after midday and its temperature peaked at 44.2C this afternoon, short of the forecast 46C….

    Melbourne is facing its longest run of 40C days since 1908, when there were five straight.”

    Must be a one off eh?

  • @ Lidia

    Good joke, but I think that’s a male dog’s POV, my female dog has a very different outlook. She seems to think that main risk is that there are probably some lions, or is it a rival wolf pack ? that want to invade our territory, so she needs to appear very loud and fierce, so they will be terrified and keep away from our cave. Next major concern is helping, but as she only has one primary tool to apply, teeth, it’s not always very helpful.

    @ TIAA

    Are you reading the Forum threads ?

    Treading Water, A Shoreless Sea…

  • @ TIAA
    I totally agree: “religare” to reconnect, bind back together, where religion, as people have practised it for a long time, only divides. Radical feminists call that a typical patriarchal reversal. That’s, of course from the hag’s POV. Your analysis is spot-on. When you’re really connected, you can easily cut through the BS and meaning becomes perfectly clear. But if you’re not, destruction, rather than creativity is the result. Human “progress” in a nutshell!

    I loved the joke too, and so did my hubby.

    Thanks for sharing that about your female dog. She seems very lovable and a perfect companion.

    @Robin Datta
    What exactly do you mean with your mystifying/mistifying post? Please enlighten me. A straight answer please.

  • Thanks, Geoffrey, for posting this exchange, which should provoke a lot of good discussion. As ulvfugl mentioned on one of the forum threads, the question at hand is what it means to be a human being at the time of NTE. A number of us seem to think we should keep fighting to get people to stop doing all the things that have led us to this point, even though there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that it will change anything. The infinitesimal number of people who are even considering this question are not going to create a new breed of humans who are capable of living in harmony with the Earth, even if it were possible for Earth to recover enough to be able to support human life.

    Some say we have no other choice; the alternative is just despair and giving in to all the madness. Here’s another point of view that might be useful. What if, as some people claim, each human has a spirit that comes to ‘Earth school’ to learn spiritual lessons? What if we make agreements with each other before coming here, to teach each other the lessons that we came here to learn? What if we don’t remember any of this, and we do things for reasons we don’t understand, that seem to hurt the people and things we love? Mightn’t that imply that nothing any of us does here is ‘wrong,’ or a ‘mistake?’ Mightn’t that imply that, when faced with what appears to be criminal behavior, our task may be to find the spiritual lesson in it rather than to fight it? In other words, might the saying ‘what you resist persists’ be correct?

    At the very least, we can begin to forgive those we believe to be wrong. Bearing in mind that every human action that has harmed the Earth can be traced back to pre-historic times, do we make a mistake in thinking that every person who has ever participated in any of those actions (which includes each and every person on this site) really had a choice?

    Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote about this a while back:

    In these troubled times it may be harder to remember
    That every one of us who lives on Earth must die.
    So you can leave in May or stay on through December;
    The only thing that matters is that you don’t live a lie.

    One day we’ll all remember
    There’s nothing to forgive here;
    That’s what creation’s all about.
    Each of us is trying hard to do the best we can,
    And judging him has never changed a man.

    So start with a friend, your mother or your lover,
    Just don’t forget that every man on Earth’s your brother.
    We’re all here learning how to love whatever comes our way.
    Why don’t we start today?

    One day we’ll all remember
    There’s nothing to forgive here;
    That’s what creation’s all about.
    Each of us is trying hard to do the best we can,
    And only love has ever changed a man.

    When we fill the world with love there’ll be no room for hating;
    There’s someplace deep in every heart that knows it’s true.
    So why pretend that it makes sense to go on waiting;
    The only peace you’ll find on Earth begins in you.

    Somewhere deep inside your heart you know it’s true:
    The only peace on Earth begins and ends in you.

  • Deb
    Some keen ideas there about forgiveness and responsibility.

    Human responsibility….
    Only a few, literally a few, ever differentiate beyond the herd in a generation. Not simply in terms of ideas, but in a complete sense- actions, speech, thoughts, interactions, responses,etc.

    In the herd state individual responsibility is limited, and moot as to weather egregious acts against ‘Nature’ and life forms by the dominant culture can be put onto the individual in the herd.

    We become responsible for ourselves as we take responsibility, as we differentiate from the herd, and live differently.
    If you have ever been fortunate enough to meet an individual operating in this fashion, or even the writings of one, then you will be aware of the power of what is communicated, and passed on to others, and the lasting effects these individuals can have, if we take those difficult steps beyond the herd.

    Individual responsibility is gained when we take it. No other way it seems to me.
    Could be wrong, but just sayin…

  • Not dead yet. Just testing out posting on a hotel computer, as my travel computer is crashing every 5 to 15 minutes, so writing something is the last thing I want to do. Eamonn’s essay was great, and especially the commentary beneath it, and I expect this one from Geoffrey is as well, if I can get back on for another turn to read it.

    Pat’s post reminds me of that analogy we’re supposed to NEVER use, the other N-word, but we really are like the docile citizens of Germany during that time of extermination, most of whom could not have known the extent of what was being done by their rulers — and by their own sons and brothers.

    But, we NBLers pretty much know 100% about the extermination taking place, at least in its broad outlines, and we are re-living — no, PRE-living — the guilt that must be borne at a crime of such extremity, in all of its shocking, and numbing, effects.

    The burden of KNOWING — that is what we early arrivers share together. And all of our conversations devolve from that strange position we are in.

    …see if this posts… can’t even save a file anywhere just in case I need to repeat.

  • What exactly do you mean with your mystifying/mistifying post? Please enlighten me. A straight answer please.

    Since a link to a *.pdf file constituted the post, the text of the six pages was copied and pasted to a *.txt file. Could have used a but of editing, since copying & pasting whole pages jumbled some sections in individual pages with the change of format.

    What if, as some people claim, each human has a spirit that comes to ‘Earth school’ to learn spiritual lessons?

    They are welcome to make that claim. A clay pot does not need to “go to school” to “learn” how to be clayey. It does not need to transcend its “pot-ness” to be clay. It is already clay, albeit “potty” clay. The “pot” happens to be a form with a name.

    So too each mind-body complex is a form with a name, in effect a meat-robot. The illumining Consciousness – the Self of all apparent selves – illumines the prime thought, the “I”, which then seems to be conscious in its own light just as the moon seems to shine on its own. This is the source of the misidentification of the meat robot as a self. The mind-body complex, like the moon, has no light of its own: yet the meat-robot assumes the status of a “conscious human being”.

    Now imbeciles may mistake this metaphor to imply that the human mind-body complex is in effect no better than a clay pot, just as they may take the metaphor of all paths up a mountain meeting at the summit of realisation to suggest that all paths to realisation must be up mountains. But then these teaching methodologies are not intended for imbeciles.

    The only peace on Earth begins and ends in you.

    That “you” is still a part of the meat-robot, since it has a beginning and an ending. The moon may go through phases, but the sun does not stop shining. (Again, not for imbeciles.)

    travel computer is crashing every 5 to 15 minutes

    Type into a text file such as Notepad in Windows, and “save” frequently.

    can’t even save a file anywhere just in case I need to repeat.

    Try Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, SecureSafe, iCloud, SkyDrive, EverNote etc. All these storage sites are free and offer between 2Gb and 15 Gb storage for free. All are accessible from multiple platforms. Remembering one master password to KeepPass will allow cross-platform accessibility to its security features, and its encrypted database of passwords can be stored in any of thees storage sites.

    Too bad the NSA is not likely to provide similar useful services to the rest of us with its more than ample storage. If you’ve lost something, YOU’VE lost it, but the NSA still has it – yet it won’t give you a copy.

  • Dear Ulvfugl, I am reading this thread, yes. Your question has me stumped unless you mean the forum threads, if so, no, not really. Why?

    Dear Sabine, thank you oh beautiful hag for your no bs reply to me. Cuts to the quick of the heart and matter, fast ball style. :-)

    Dear Deb, your song is incredible! Perfect for where my life is. Thank you for sharing. My heart grew with your words.

  • Henry:

    Do not implicate all “docile” Germans (by virtue of your statement about sons and brothers) for what occurred in the camps. During the war years, the vast majority of Germans were occupied with survival and their war time duties.

    Should I assume that your predecessor family was complicit in the extermination of 8 million Native North Americans and the theft of their ancestral homeland?

  • During the war years, the vast majority of Germans were occupied with survival and their war time duties.

    Amen. From der Führer on down. :-D

  • I don’t have time to wonder about the meaning of life,I to busy living & maintaining a choke hold on my mortality.

  • @ TIAA

    Dear TIAA, I’m sorry, I should have said what I meant more clearly.

    You said

    Don’t you mean when men ask, what is the meaning of life?
    Because lets face it, some really messed up men ended up dominating and naming all dynamics they felt were really important and only really messed up men and the women serving them would ask ‘what is the meaning of life?’

    So I asked if you had looked at the forum threads next door, I think of this as the blog thread, because on the forum women have been asking the deep question, or anyway, imho, Deb had a go, re treading water, a shoreless sea, etc, and Christie re patriarchy, etc.

    @ TR

    I thought the ‘every day new Christmas presents’ was pure genius…

    Sublime :-)

    But this is the Beach of Doom, the tide ebbs and flows and reveals…



    Green Fade-Out: Europe to Ditch Climate Protection Goals

    The EU’s reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking — jeopardizing Germany’s touted energy revolution in the process.

    Greed seems to trump intelligence here on what’s left of Earth.

  • In case some of you missed Guy speaking with Michael Mountain:

  • Tom writes: “Greed seems to trump intelligence here on what’s left of Earth.”

    But when wealth is the sole reason for being alive, who cares? The existential question of the age is not “who are you?” but “how much money do you make a year?” All other aspects of life are stripped away. It does not matter if you are “good” or “evil” whatever that happens to mean. It does not matter if you are loved or loving. It does not matter if you smart or stupid. All that matters is how much money you have. Once you understand that MONEY is why we are on this planet, then the state of the planet makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t it be a toxic waste dump? There’s absolutely no money in NOT digging for tar sands. There is no money NOT drilling for oil. And so on.

    I just hope when my corpse is dumped into a big pit somewhere, I land ass first on the face of banker.

  • Excerpt from a long essay by Norman Fischer

    “Dropping body and mind of self and others” is harder to see for it expresses the freedom that one would feel in the renunciation of everything, being willing to live as one is right now, without any need to hold onto life now or in the future, and to see that everything shares in this already.

    Finally (“enlightenment dissolves its traces, and the tracelessness goes on endlessly”) this sense of life as anything distinctive dissolves- it doesn’t look like anything. There is the sense that in the useless and unmade space and time of actual living there is a subtle endlessness and namelessness that is delightfully available to everyone at all times.

    I take this vision of Dogen to be more or less descriptive also of the process of making art- of, anyway, the sense of artmaking that I am advancing here, which is I suppose, after all, following Ginsberg and Valery, an inherently religious one. I do not want to conflate art and religion of course. I recognize that they are not the same thing, and yet I suppose it is inescapable that I am arguing that what we call the aesthetic impulse is at bottom identical to what we call the religious impulse. Certainly the cultural history of Zen, particularly in Japan, would attest to the close relationship between the two activities.

    Insofar as both art and religious practice always manifest in the world as we know it as particular things, both have serious built in problems. Religion solidifies into doctrinaire narrow-mindedness or institutional power-brokering, or usually both, and art solidifies into money, if it is successful, and despair if it is not, a defeat in either case. I do not think I am the first to point out that art in our radically mercantile society is more or less doomed to becomes commodified, and that it is generally made for the wealthy, and becomes for them in various ways a kind of sanitized and enriched currency. Even artists who do not make economically valuable artwork must create economically attractive explanations to attract funders to pay for the generally high costs of the art habit. Even poets, who need only about $10 worth of materials to create their works, must vie for these dollars. Despite this, I do not think the situation is hopeless, and that is why I have taken the time to think about this topic. Because I believe that if the artist can be clear about the nature of the project that he or she is finally concerned with, and actively work at being clear about it, for clarity is never a given, it needs constant revision, just as if the religious practitioner, which is any of us, can be clear about the project he or she is engaged in, I think it is possible to proceed with liveliness and integrity, despite the difficulties. Life well and seriously lived has never been without these difficulties; it is part of the fun and simply a given in the situation. A certain amount of complaining is probably normal but it would certainly be counterproductive to give one’s self over to complaining entirely.

    A final quote from Valery, ” The mind is terribly variable, deceptive and self-deceiving, fertile in insoluable problems and illusory solutions. How could a remarkable work emerge from this chaos if this chaos that contains everything did not also contain some serious chance to know one’s self and to choose within one’s self whatever is worth taking from each moment and using carefully?”

    And a poem of Dogen:

    Being as it is,
    What’s that?
    In a waterdrop
    Shaken from a duck’s beak:
    An image of the moon

  • I forgot to include the essay title:

    Do You Want to Make Something Out of It?

    Zen meditation and the artistic impulse

    an essay by Norman Fischer

  • @ Tom

    With apologies for a third post… Thanks so much for the clip on Guy with Michael Mountain. I swear, Guy just keeps getting better. Huge wisdom. My favorite clip thus far.

  • Grant writes: I just hope when my corpse is dumped into a big pit somewhere, I land ass first on the face of banker.

    HaHa that’s a good one. There’s some really good black humor on this list sometimes.

  • Classic Max Keiser,

    ‘[KR550] Keiser Report: Pimping USA’

    Bill Gates in the firing line.

  • I take this vision of Dogen to be more or less descriptive also of the process of making art- of, anyway, the sense of artmaking that I am advancing here, which is I suppose, after all, following Ginsberg and Valery, an inherently religious one. I do not want to conflate art and religion of course….

    I think that is appalling. It’s a travesty of what Dogen is saying which has nothing to do with religion or art or art making. Fischer degrades and besmirches Dogen’s teaching and there’s a lot of pretentious verbiage trying to justify him selling meaningless stuff to a shitty market to make a living and not feel guilty about it. Yuk.

  • The dipshits from main-stream media are finally showing some concern, give us 15 years to begin reducing emissions.

    O well. The MSM was never about anything more than excreting propaganda and selling advertising space. Just one more part of the problem. :(

  • @ Kirk

    Like Chomsky says, “The ads are what counts. The rest is filler.”

  • My clock has four hands. One marks the hours and it moves slowly, so slowly I don’t see it move unless I look away and look back again, later. Its usually the easy hand. The slow hand. It flows into day and night. It invents the weeks and months and seasons. One hand marks the minutes, and if I watch it carefully, indeed, yes, it is moving, keeping time moving at a normal, fairly ordinary, medium pace… most of the time, unless I’m bored or late, and then it is the excruciating hand with that long pointy finger, mocking me. One hand marks the sweeping seconds, and only by effort to keep up with its swirling sweep can I even track it with my eyes.. it marks the time that is going away quickly. It leaves me breathless in dizzying pursuit, but I never can catch up. The fourth hand… Oh! That demonic fourth hand… The forth hand of the clock is positively the scariest hand of all. And yet, it never even moves at all. The eery dead hand… Oh! That dreaded hand of the alarm. The one that just sits and waits, and ends the dream.

  • @ logspirit

    Is this one of your best? It is so, so powerful! It grabs the heart and belly, and made me think of the illusory nature of mass society. Collapse is happening too slow and too fast. No one sees the fourth hand, the most terrifying of all.

  • there is a subtle endlessness and namelessness that is delightfully available to everyone at all times.

    The source of one’s existence – the consciousness that illuminates all the “of”s in “awareness of” is neither “available” nor “unavailable”. It just is being, without characteristics or descriptors, no handles to grasp it. Any attempt to grasp it only leads to descriptions of the Void and ideas of nothingness and non-existence. Yet its fullness in the sense of limitlessness is beyond any physical satiation and contentment.

  • Four hands on the clock gives me a great idea.

    I think I’ll slap my mortality with both hands,twice.

  • (insert http usual beginning here)

    Fiji village relocated under climate change programme Last updated on 17 January 2014, 10:50 am

    First community moved under national initiative as rising sea levels flood houses and farmlands

    The Fijian village of Vunidogolo has become the first to be relocated under the country’s climate change programme. Rising sea levels forced the community to abandon their traditional compound, according to reports in the Fiji Times.

    Locals say effect of climate change has resulted in seawater flowing into the village compound during high tide, damaging houses and ruining crops. The government has contributed $879,000, around two-thirds of the capital for the move. “This cost includes the construction of the 30 houses, fish ponds and copra drier, farms and other projects we have set up in the new village site,” Acting Commissioner Northern Alipate Bolalevu was quoted as saying.

    Pacific Ambassador: climate stakes are high for ocean nations Plans for the move were proposed over a year ago, and it is expected 34 others villages will also be moved as Fiji grapples with an eroding coastline and an encroaching ocean. A recent report by the yhe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates sea levels will rise between 26 and 82 centimetres over the next 100 years. Last July a Pacific Island summit in Fiji involving 17 nations promised to “redouble efforts” to secure a tough new climate change deal at the UN.

    Fiji and its fellow Pacific state Samoa are still recovering from Tropical Cyclone Evan, which hit in December 2012. It is thought to be one of the worst storms since 1990, causing around $300 million worth of damage.;_ylt=Ar.oXvQCpVYOsgZIyTPEtb2bvZx4?p=Grateful+Dead+Bertha&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fr=yfp-t-901-1


    I had a hard run, runnin from your window.
    I was all night running, running, lord I wonder if you care,
    I had a run in, run around, and run down.
    Run around the corner, corner, lord run smack in to a tree.

    I had to move, really had to move,
    Thats why if you please, I am on my bendin knees,
    Bertha dont you come around here anymore.

    Dressed myself in green, I went down unto the sea.
    Try to see whats goin down, try to read between the lines.
    I had a feelin I was fallin, fallin, fallin,
    I turned around to see,
    Heard a voice al callin, lord you was comin after me.

    I had to move, really had to move,
    Thats why if you please, I am on my bendin knees,
    Bertha dont you come around here anymore.

    Ran into a rainstorm, I ducked back into novato.
    Its all night pourin, pourin, pourin,
    Lord but not a drop on me.

    Test me, test me,
    Test me, test me, test me,
    Why dont you arrest me?
    Throw me in to the jailhouse,
    Lord until the sun goes down, till it goes down.

    I had to move, really had to move,
    Thats why if you please, I am on my bendin knees,
    Bertha dont you come around here anymore.

    I had to move, really had to move,
    Thats why if you please, I am on my bendin knees,
    Bertha dont you come around here anymore.


    Has the Sun gone to sleep? Strange solar behavior baffles astrophysicists

    January 17, 2014 – UNIVERSE – Scientists are saying that the Sun is in a phase of “solar lull” – meaning that it has fallen asleep – and it is baffling them. History suggests that periods of unusual “solar lull” coincide with bitterly cold winters. Rebecca Morelle reports for BBC Newsnight on the effect this inactivity could have on our current climate, and what the implications might be for global warming. [see 6.5 min. BBC News video]

  • With thanks to Geoffrey Chia, I’ve posted a new essay. It’s Jonathan DeJong’s second in this space, and it’s here.

  • “If we are “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” then let’s “do.”

    Action is the antidote for despair.”

    Okay, I’ll “do” the catatonic stare.

  • once you get beyond the science and start talking about “love” and “getting connected” and all that – it’s just opinion. What if some people get the science, realize the “End is Nigh,” and start going helter-skelter on everyone and everything… One can be a “good” person and love thy neighbor through the collapse OR one can be a “bad” person and wreak havoc.

    What would Jesus do? Can you imagine, you are sitting in your office working on a spreadsheet for the 2014 quarterly forecasts and Jesus walks in and says “leave all this, walk-away.”

    What if everyone just walked away from their jobs, went home, and sat and waited for the whole thing to collapse. Maybe you could last a week, maybe a month, but you would be doing “the right thing.”

    “leave all this, walk-away.”

  • ‘Hubby just shared this joke with me: Problem-solving from a dog’s POV—If you can’t eat it or fuck it, piss on it and walk away.’

    that was good for a couple of belly laughs. thanks, lidia. hope u’re doing/feeling well.

  • @ Artleads
    Well I don’t know if it was all that great… but I make every effort to be my own worst critic. Thanks for the acknowledgement, keeps me going.

    @ TR
    OK with me, have fun.


    While the alarm is a ticking time issue, it will be even more profound when all the clocks stop, frozen, for want of winding or batteries, or the grid. Of course, puny humans won’t be around to obey them anymore. They’ll just sit there as unattended frustrated relics with their mainsprings rusting away.

  • @Robin Datta
    I tend to agree with you to the extent that I think we are all parts of one larger consciousness, but I still enjoy discussing the ideas raised on NBL, and it’s hard to have a discussion without using the words ‘you’ and ‘I.’ It’s especially hard to do it in song, so allow me a little poetic license. ;-)
    I’d be interested to know which writers you are referring to, who have taken individual responsibility. It seems to me that with regard to NTE, taking individual responsibility would mean committing suicide.
    In any event, my song is not about abdicating responsibility, if that’s how you took it. It’s about being forgiving and compassionate, rather than assuming that others deliberately choose to do us harm.
    Glad you liked the song; thanks!
    Thanks for the clip of Guy. I agree with his advice to students, ‘do what you love,’ but for a lot of people the time for doing that has passed. I think the other side of this coin is ‘love what you do.’

  • deb

    “Thanks for the clip of Guy. I agree with his advice to students, ‘do what you love,’ but for a lot of people the time for doing that has passed. I think the other side of this coin is ‘love what you do.’”

    Yes. There seems to be way too little time to change much. What would help, IMO, would be to examine much more closely what is happening right now, today. What Henley (?) says about unexamined lives seems right on the money.