|The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight|
|Sponsored by West Washtensaw Greens and the Friend's Lake Cooperative Community|
|4th October 1999, at the Michigan Friends Center in Chelsea, Michigan.|
|I am not a professional note taker or journalist. These notes are not complete. While I strive for accuracy and faithfulness to the speaker's ideas, I can not write fast enough to take down exact quotes or facts. I often state ideas in my own words, since I remember ideas better than exact words. Not only that, I was often glancing aside to admire a beautiful woman next to me. Use these notes at your own risk. Not to be used as testimony in court. According to my lawyer, I may or may not be a semi-literate fifth grade drop out. Do not consume with alcohol or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of these notes. Not for children under 99. Not certified for use in life-sustaining equipment such as heart-lung machines.|
|Missing the point of a book like this is quite easy to do, because this book makes a radical departure from the normal fare of self-help and environmentalism. It presents the problems, delves into the cause of the problems, and then presents as a solution something that many may think couldn't possibly be a solution because it seems unfathomably difficult: change our culture, beginning with yourself.|
Some especially horrifying stats: about one billion people in the world have tuberculosis. That's a significant fraction of our 6 billion in human population. Also, one billion people today will be watching "Baywatch" on TV. This is not supposed to be an amazing coincidence, but reflects the kind of world culture we're in.
After telling us these statistics, he asks "Why?" He had been asking "Why?" for a long time, researched, and found out. There's good news, and bad news.
|Good News:||Of all the cultures on Earth, only one has gone awry to make all this trouble|
|Bad News:||We're that one|
By "our culture" Mr. Hartmann refers to all the people who watch TV, use money, all peoples who consider themselves "civilized", probably about 90% of the entire world population. No matter how poor or rural or far away, many people are aware of, in contact with (maybe not easily or frequently), and to some extent caught up in, our culture.
Can we change our culture? Some people say it's difficult, but look at just the last century - we've allowed women the right to vote, we have mass consumerism, we have couch potatoes, we have rock and roll culture, and so on. Culture changes, often with little help.
Over the last 200,000 years the Earth has had modern Humans, in the sense of they looked like us and lived and acted in ways we would understand, though perhaps "primitive". For most of this time, no more than 1/4 billion (or did he say 1/2 billion?) people stood on Earth, their only source of energy and food being from plants. Plants are made of complex carbohydrates, created from carbon dioxide in air, and water, and sunlight. All of mankind's energy was indirect, stored sunlight. Then we discovered peat bogs, and coal, and petroleum. These source of energy took thousands, or millions of years to create, and we burn them up quickly, allowing farm machinery to operate, factories and transportation to function - with the result that now there are many more of us, and we're living longer. (Mr. Hartmann never mentioned increased life spans, actually.) So the population grew faster - the 2nd 1/2 billion taking only a few centures, and the next billion taking only 130 years, and so on... the latest 1 billion increase, from 5 billion to 6, took less than two decades!
In biology, there are only two other known situations of such rapid growth:
There is something wrong with our way of thinking, that governs our way of living, and that must change.
Mr. Hartmann asked some fundamental questions: Is Humanity worth saving? Why are we concerned? ( I am not going to address these in my notes.)
We all have personal beliefs, what Mr. Hartmann calls Stories, that become set
roughly in adolescence, and which we live by. Some are stories of "I am..." or
"I can...", such as "I am the smart one", "I can bake cookies" but typically more
sophisticated than these small examples. We also have "I am not..." stories,
such as "I can't play musical instruments".
The "I can ...." stories are the floor upon which we stand, and the "I can't..." stories make up the walls and ceiling that box us in.
As persons have such stories, so do entire cultures. Some stories that we collectively have been following:
The history of Religion offers countless examples of stories - some that repressed
society, and some that reversed those effects.
Consider the classic philosophical question: Why do Bad things Happen to Good People?
Mr. Hartmann said that, ultimately, there are two basic answers, originating with
the ancient Greeks:
1) Bad things occur as accidents when the gods fight; we are but ants crunched under their feet.
2) There is a cruel god
With story #1, the natural conclusion is that we should try to placate the gods, make offerings and song to please them, to keep them calm.
Story #2 needs to be explained in a little more detail. A long time ago, the universe was populated with intelligent beings, Aeons. One, Sophia, gave birth to a son with a twisted mind. Cruel, wicked to the extreme, when he was old enough to create, the gods sent him off far, far away, to make his own world. As a madman god, he made random mischief all over that world. That world is Earth, and here we are stuck. Once in a while, one of the Aeons would send a compassionate teacher to Earth to provide relief to the inhabitants. Typically, this teacher appears as a human born to a virgin mother -- unknown to most Christians, this is a common them in many ancient traditions.
Gnosis grew as a secret knowledge of how to avoid the dangers of the psychotic god. At the time Jesus taught, stories #1 and #2 just described were the prevalent beliefs explaining the world's condition. Neither motivates people into action, to improve themselves or the world. Jesus wasn't into Gnosis or myth. He said: "Ye are gods." His Sermon on the Mount was one of the greatest anti-Gnostic speeches ever.
My notes a little muddled here, but having to do with Gnostics and Jesus. The Gnostics had their way of understaning who Jesus was -- something totally different from what Jesus and his sincere followers, who knew him personally, believed. There was a branching, with the followers going one way, and the Gnostics, and Paul in particular, going another way. The early Pauline church was basically Gnostic. Around the year 300, when Constantine wanted to convert all Romans to Christianity, he made use of the fact that the people understood gnosis readily, and so chose Paul's writings and ideas. This lead to the Catholic church as we know it, with Pope and all. Watch out, be careful, the crazy god will get you!
This is a toxic story - telling us there is a danger basically outside of our control or knowledge, and avoidable only through certain rituals, ways of living, the expertise of priests. The latter belief among the people, of course, gave greater power to the rulers of the land.
Compare this to the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and the sayings of Jesus. Whereas the Romans (up to the modern day) use the bible as a thought-weapon, the actual contents brings the reader into closer contact with spirit, tasting the deeply mystical, feeling divine joy. Organized religion usuall fails to bring that aspect out. Once in a while, a teacher or saint comes along to restore awareness of divine joy, to reform the church or reform society outside of formal religion: Martin Luther, Theresa of Avalon, St. John of the Cross, and many more of similar, lesser, or no fame. They show people how to regain contact with the mystical part of life, to set aside fear.
The book of John teaches about God and Love, and does not promote fear as the guide to life. Mr. Hartmann called John non-gnostic rather than anti-gnostic. Someday I will reread John to find out why.
On a totally different topic, but here it is in my notes, Monsanto has created a genetically modified seed that grows plants one season, but those plants are sterile. The farmer must buy all new seeds for the entire field every year, making the seed company very rich, and disturbing the economical and traditional farming practice of keeping seeds from one year's crop to plant next year's. These are known as Terminator seeds, and Mr. Hartmann asked the audience if anyone knew of the riots in England protesting the scheme. Monsanto is in big trouble in the USA too, but one doesn't hear so much about it except on National Public Radio.
Write your state legislators and ask that Terminiator seeds, and similar things, be forbidden in Michigan.
There is great harm being done by the huge trans-national corporations who do not need to answer to any government. They can go anywhere, rape and pillage, and leave when local complaints build up. The corporate kings, to some extent, rule over governments. Now it seems to me that Earthlings are just so dense and confused and loving of ignorance, that much of our trouble can be explained without corporate kings, but we do have them, and they're certainly not helping with the problems.
How big must an organization be, to become a "they"?
One final comment on this section about our stories: Dioxin, a nasty chemical is being perhaps wrongly blamed for causing cancer. Yes, it is a nasty chemical and that we shouldn't be splashing all over the land. But researchers in conventional and alternative medicine are discovering that cancer seems to result from withheld anger and worries. Especially in holistic medicine, the mind-body health connection is seen as the primary means of understanding disease. Since Dioxin is by now everywhere -- you who are reading this have it in your body -- how to explain that some of us have cancer, and some of us don't? It is debated whether one's state of health is entirely dependent on one's emotional, psychic state, or if it takes a combination of that and carcinogenic substances.
Well, check the statistics -- there really is an increase in cancer rates in high-dioxin areas. Certain kinds of tumors are dramatically correlated with certain kinds of pollution. However you want to explain it, you can't hide the fact the chemicals and disease are related. We really do need to clean up our world! What we learn from alternative medicine is good and useful, but we must remember that we are in physicsal bodies in a physical world, and so need to take good care of our physical planet.
The first step is recognizing the various Stories that we've playing make-believe to for so long. Just recognize the beliefs that civilized society has agreed to, that no one of us was asked to vote on, but we all live by. Beware especially of the belief that culture is hard, nearly impossible, to change - this too is one of those beliefs to notice and question.
After that, help others to recognize these stories and beliefs that no longer serve a good purpose (if ever they did). Those who can see the illusions for what they are, can point this out, diplomatically, to others. Spread the light.
Read the legends, myths of other cultures -- such as Native American, Tibetian, and so on. While we may need to adjust their stories to fit modern ways - we now drive cars and live in apartment complexes, not trade goats and pigs and tend farms -- the stories of the wiser cultures have excellent core values.
Another story Mr. Hartmann told was how in Australia, the aboriginal children were tuaght the English game of cricket. While the kids learned easily enough the rules, techniques and method of play, the English instructors were annoyed that the kids would never play competetively. Instead, the kids of the two teams in a match would play until both sides had the same score. No matter what the teachers, the kids cooperated for an even score. Imagine American business owners thinking that way!
Many Native American tribes give their tribes names that more or less mean "the people", "we", seeing all individuals as part of a very extended family. One calls themselves by the word that, to them, means "deer". They see themselves as even more connected to nature - people eat deer and make their housing and clothing from deer skins; people die and become food for plants, and the plants become food for the deer.
Mr. Hartmann told, in some detail, of a native american who described how southerners (europeans; he was from a northern tribe) came to take the land and its resources, needed slave labor. The work required literate slaves, and so the southerners built schools. The Native American children did not do well in those schools, and the europeans thought this was a problem. So the southerners put more effort into the schools, and controlling the Native Americans' society. When the southerners asked the Native Americans what else they could do the help them, the indians replied: Just consider this -- that we don't want to be your slaves! We don't want your schools, or your ways.
For the Europeans, anyone not conforming to the needs of industry and business is a misfit, and is considered pathological. We have created a great number of misfits, just by having defined limited and false goals for society. Respect the ways of others, and peace will follow. There will then no longer be any misfits. We willl have defined away the problem. We do not all have to follow the same big goals.
In learning about other, wiser cultures, we will learn their stories. Some may be false in ways different than how ours are false, but more likely we will find something to learn. Western industrial society has been arond two, maybe three centuries. Mass consumerism only about half a century. Large armies go back to Roman days, but the Western Empires have never been very stable.
Compare to Australian Aboriginals, Native Americans, and various peoples in South American and Africa. Most of them have been going on for many centuries. Not all enjoyed peace, but many of them did. Certainly none had such threats as nuclear holocaust, or fouled up their own lands. Read their stories and find out what beliefs they held that guided their ways of living.
Q: What can we do to help our kids? They sit glued for hours in front of the TV, watching hundreds of ads. Are they being brainwashed? Help them stay out of the consumerism trap by pointing out the manipulations that advertisers use to persuade their audiences. If there's one thing kids of all ages hate, it's mind control.
Be helpful when your kids want to things you approve of - drive them to visit friends who would be a good influence. Don't offer to drive them to places where less favorable influences abound.
Note on addictions: There is one addiction that is worse than nicotine, worse than crack cocaine. It changes one's opinions, sometimes strongly, it distorts reality, in many ways qualifies as a drug, yet it's not a chemical. It's TV. Mr. Hartmann presented this in a more intriguing way than I can -- he's the talented book author, not I. He described studies in which heavy TV watchers had less healthy brains. Younger poeple have has so much simultaneous audio+video stimulation, they just can't imagine any story when presented just as words. They cannot create their own pictures in their minds. Their imaginations are dead!
From something else Mr. Hartmann wrote:
Q: So why bother to save Humanity? Are we really worth saving?
No answer here in my notes. (I was distracted, admiring Tami's beautiful hands.)
And then we all climbed into our gas-burning cars and drove home.
These are organizations, web sites, and other things that may be of interest to people who enjoyed
Mr. Hartmann's lecture (or these notes about his lecture.) Some of them are more directly
related to sustainability and energy consumption than others.