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“You better travel to Alaska while you can still see the glaciers. Climate Change is destroying them.”

That is what I heard from someone after she returned from an Alaskan excursion.

Air travel, with its voracious appetite for fossil fuel, contributes  to climate change. I prefer the term People/Machine/Stuff (PMS) Disaster.

Am I missing the point? Why see the glaciers when the act of seeing them begins to destroy them? Dramatic increases in the human population, the machine population, and the overproduction of stuff in general got us into this environmental mess. Perhaps only dramatic decreases will stop the glaciers from melting.

But imagine the misery inflicted by a systematic decrease in people, machines, and stuff?

Do nothing = pain. Do something = pain. We are living “Catch-22.”

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Beans and Strangers

It’s all about the can of beans.

People fear the Other and fail to see the humanity of strangers. This was the message in a short story I read in an English class years ago. The professor spoke about how the fear of others is unjustified and that we can live together. Humanitarian goals benefit everyone.

Then he stopped and stared out into space for a few seconds. As he continued, he said that these are all noble goals, but in the end, people care only for their own can of beans.

The last few survivors in the post-apocalyptic book, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, kill for that last can of food found on any shelf.  Those beans mean life or death. The stashes of silver and gold are useless.

In a struggle between us and the Other, human nature gravitates toward selfish goals. Glimmers of humane treatment of others exist in McCarty’s book but only after being tempered and tested with severe, life-preserving distrust.

We protect our little band of friends and family and hope to make their lives happier and easier. How much energy can we expend on strangers? To expand on that idea, just how much can we move out of the here and now, and empathize with those that lived in the  past or will live in the future?

The past and future remain inscrutable. All I know about my great-grandmother, who lived to the age of 94, is that she hauled water from a well back to her home on the day that she died. She lived on another continent, another time. She is only an interesting anecdote to me.

Chances are that I will never see great-grandchildren. To feel love and empathy for hypothetical children or adults in the future is a strain. We would love to say altruism guides us and we care about the future as much as the children right in front of us, but human nature selfishly holds on to the now.

The here and now is all we have. Isn’t that what the trendy Eastern religions teach? To love the Other is a worthwhile goal, but opposes ancient instincts.  We must eat for today or else the future is irrelevant.

Let us hope for a time that humans can sever the dichotomy of good and evil that exists within us all.  At that time, maybe love will be all that we need.

Of Human Bondage

viniciuggarcia Pixabay

viniciusggarcis Pixabay

A dark, depressing book brings me some peace. That book is “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham.

In the novel, Philip loves Mildred, a woman that tortures him and never loves him back. He loses hope and questions the point of being alive. An acquaintance tells him the meaning of life can be found in a Persian carpet. Before he can unlock the mystery of the carpet it is destroyed.

Later on when he keeps thinking about the lost carpet, he unlocks the secret. The patterns in the carpet, the cycle of life and death, are all we have. Life has no meaning on this rock hurtling through space. But this insignificance gives Philip power.

Forget about the meaning of life and just find a place in the pattern. Failure and success are all the same. Just live as best as you can.

Nivana is a big nothingness in an Eastern culture. The elimination of life on earth is the goal.

My Western mindset pursues meaning in life. A life that does not end in death but continues on to a blissful, new afterlife.

The Eastern viewpoint makes more sense to me than the Western one.

It’s kind of odd that meaninglessness provides more comfort to me than everlasting life. Getting composted back into the All seems to be a useful occupation for the dead. Not too shabby to be One with the Cosmos.

But how much do my sensibilities matter in the grand scheme of things? For all I know, this universe may be running on Calvinist principles. If that hurts anyone’s sensibilities, no one cares.