Uncertain times

Uncertain Times

We are certainly living in uncertain times. At best we are heading into a period of years of economic recession and financial hardship. At worst, we could be seeing the beginnings of fundamental changes in our lifestyle. Given that we have finite resources of oil and other critical resources and those resources become increasing ly more expensive to access because as humans we always use the best and easiest resources to access first. So, maybe this is a good time to be geeting used to the fact that we need to be living our lives in a very different way from that we have become accustomed.

I saw a video called “Money as Debt” and it was talking about  the 3% annual growth that is needed to keep a modern day economy running. So if we have an economy of 100 million dollars at the end of the year it needs to be at 103 million dollars. At the end of the second year we might think it must grow to 106 million dollars, but it accually has to grow at 3% of 103million, not 100 million. That difference seems minute but each year the effect of that little increase build and builds. It grows exponentially, not linearly. Linear growth would be 100, 103, 106, 109.. and when graphed makes a straight line. An exponential graph starts looking straight and flat but then slowly curves up ( the 3% of the 3% annual growth). It doesn’t stay slowly growing it curves up more and more and very suddenly it is growing very quickly. We get to the point surprisingly quickly qhere we need 200million dollars just to achieve the same growth that we had been able to do with 100 million. Now, that’s fine in a perfect world with infiinte resources, but we just don’t live in a world like that.

Here in New Zealand and in the US we have elections coming shortly. the people we elect and how they choose to face our future will have an enormous impact on the life we and our children will live in over the coming years.

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Beyond goodies and baddies

Our desire to be right causes immense amounts of pain and suffering. We have a need to feel good about ourselves and so when we do not fill our own picture of perfection for ourselves, we will often project the difference between who we are and how we would like the world to be and how it is onto something external.

As soon as we do this the world is split into two; me and you, us and them. The world is in conflict and the view of reality is distorted. If we watch a western movie, it is very clear who are the “goodies” and who are the “baddies. When bad things happen to the baddies it is deserved and the hero earns his reward.

We make goodies and baddies in our personal lives and the people we come into contact with. We make goodies and baddies right through to the planetary level. When we see the horrendous actions of some people, it is very hard to avoid seeing them as wrong and as the enemy, who needs to change or be destroyed. It is easy to see the enemy as the corporate world, the United States, Al Queda, the Democrats or the Jews.

We need to be able to step back and know we live in an interconnected universe and those qualities we see in the outside world are reflections of our inside world. The same forces and influences that made Osama bin Laden and George Bush are alive within you and me.

New Zealand is a small nation in a rather isolated part of the world. It has played a prominent role in promoting a nuclear free world. It has sent naval vessels into the radiation zone of French nuclear tests and refused US ships which will not declare if they are nuclear or not.

New Zealanders tend to see themselves as valiant young “David’s” standing up against a terrifying “Goliath”. In many ways this reputation is justly deserved and many courageous people have put themselves on the line for this to be so.

From another point of view, New Zealand is in a privileged situation where it can take a moral stand. It is not under threats as other nations are. Israel is also a small nation and irrespective of arguments that perhaps their actions have precipitated its situation, it faces real threats from other nations. It vigorously defends its rights to being a nuclear nation. Would New Zealand still maintain its non-nuclear stance if it faced the real possibility of a nuclear threat? We often think our motivations are pure, when in fact we are interpreting events to create an image that we are more easily able to live with.

We have already seen how we tend to see the end of slavery as driven by our realisation of our inhumanity to our fellow humans, whereas much of the reason is that machines were more efficient than slaves anyway and the women’s movement was to large extent driven by the ready availability of household appliances.

We need to see our situation as it is rather than distorting our perception to support a viewpoint that suits us more. We need to see that we as humans are not enemies of each other, but members on the same team. If a member of our team does not play a sports game as we might expect than we work with them, encourage them to change how they are acting. This viewpoint of acknowledging our connectedness, as difficult as it is, allows us to see the world in a fundamentally different way that can reduce the level of conflict and aggression in our lives.

We often hear people bemoaning the misuse of power by those on positions of authority and the seeming unending depth of pain and suffering that has been caused by that misuse of power.

Many millions of people have died truly horrific deaths, injuries, rapes and other violations of the rights those victims in wars, avoidable famines and diseases, witch hunts, oppressive governmental policies and the likes.

While it is totally true that power has been misused and the pain caused was and is very real, however, the more we focus on the misuse of power by others, the more we see ourselves as a victim, the more we give away our power and authority over ourselves and perpetuate the very misuse of power within ourselves that we despise in others.

While the pain and suffering through the misuse of power has been and is very real,, we need to be aware that having distorted our perceptions of that misuse in order to justify our further personal misuse of power by negating our true personal power, we distort our perceptions of our reality to support the false reality we choose to create.

While living an impeccable life, fully balanced and always in great power and compassion is the ideal, we always remain human. We will fall short of our ideals we set for ourselves. We must be able to accept our inadequacies and lovingly include them in our being rather than deny or distort them. We must face our dragons with compassion, wisdom, authority and courage, so we remain fully connected to our selves and our world.

Building Community

We all need a community to feel a part of. Being connected to other people is important to us as humans. we live in a highly technological complex age, where community and what it means for us is continuously changing.

When I remember back to my childhood I knew everybody who lived in my street and halfway up the next street. They were all a part of my life. When we went away fishing during the holidays we would come back and everyone in the street would recieve their fish for a meal. Now I know my immediate neighbours to the left and say hello to the neighbours on my right when I see them every couple of months.

I read a book called, Bowling Alone, which talked about how there has been a shift over the last thirty years or so, from community activities to individual activities and that people are spending their time in more isolating ways. the example they cited was the shift in bowling alleys from team competitions and the social interactions, to people going bowling by themselves, just trying to better last weeks’ score.

What has become increasingly important as my immediate physical neighbours have become less important is building a community of interest. that is, I am associating with people who have similar interests, goals and ideals. Some of my community live far away and we keep contact by email and Skype. We often try to find our sense of community within a working environment; with people we spend many hours together through the week.

There is of course an enormous amount of community activity happening in towns and cities all around the world. People play sports, learn skills, join clubs, go to churches, invite friends around for barbeques and so much more, but  it is good to think about how we can work together to create even more connected vibrant communities.

Some of you will have known Ted Sommerville, who died in January of this year. he was great at just quietly linking people together with a wonderful gentle presence. Many people came together united in their grief, and in the remembrance of a great person. What I noticed was a community of people coming together who all knew each other, but did not necessarily interact as a community. Of course, as with all communties it also brought our differences and arguments, but then even that is community.  That community existed for a short while, and then drifted back into the shadows.

For me, my personal spiritual perspective on life is extremely important, so my communities of interest are generally tied to some type of spiritual idelals. Over the years I have tried many different possible paths and find myself now drawn to  alternative spiritual and healing paths and in particular to organisations that encourage people to explore the wide range of possible pathways, so they can find their own, rather than having one presented as the right way.

I have become involved in the Evolve Holistic Development Trust here in Dunedin and have find myself in a wonderfully vibrant community of people, who have similiar values and interests as me. We have many social and learning events that I enjoy being a part of. I am also aware that this fledgling community can grow and develop in so many interesting ways.

A community can only exist through the connections and actions of the members within the community and so it will only grow and develop as it could, with the support of the people within the community. As with every community organisation I know, there is a relatively small core of people more heavily involved in running the group. I heard the other day, that the Trust has over seven hundred people on its mailoutlist and the list keeps growing.

That represents a huge opportunity for community building. Within those seven hundred people must be an enormous range of skills, abilities and talents. Each person has so much to offer and so much to gain by being actively involved. We all have other commitments and priorities and our time is precious, but we also have a wonderful opportunity to, share our talents, conect with each other and enrich our lives.

E.F. Schumaker talked of thinking globally but acting locally. Wheh we look at the problems of our world today, it is easy to get overwhelmed by what is happening around us. Schumaker’s message points us in the direction of the solution; to be active in our own community, while being aware of the big picture.

I am interested to hear from anyone, who has any ideas or opinions on these ideas and what might be some steps we can make for our little group to provide opportunities for a community waiting to grow and flourish.