Is it possible to quietly and unobtrusively live an honorable life in the middle of a dishonorable society?
Whatever your answer to this question, I appeal to you not to answer it too quickly. I am convinced that if you live with the question for a while, you will come to see how impossible it is to turn away from the injustices of one’s time, and not, by gradual degrees, become an accomplice to them. I doubt that anyone on earth actually wants this realization, but when it arrives, you can’t send it back.1
People of the world are waking up to the fact that global warming is a serious threat. Due to our collective obsession with comfort and convenience, many millions of people remain gripped in the frozen consciousness of apathy. We are the frogs in the slowly warming pot of water who don’t realize that we are heating up to a point that will soon kill us—unless we jump out of that pot! Yet we swim around as we always have and imagine that all is right with the world.
I find it fascinating that we so often refer to our culture as “the system” while never for a moment really understanding that the lifestyle of modern society is powered by a giant man-made mechanism that has nothing in common with any true system in divine pattern.
Those fortunate people who are devoted to observing the natural world, who are lucky enough to spend time in nature, know that all life is interconnected. John Muir expressed the interconnectedness of life this way: When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. This one concept will change the world. Mother Nature, in her great desire to teach this concept to her children, is showing us the error of our ways by revealing the natural consequences of wide-scale polluting, dishonorable harvesting, and overuse of natural resources.
What is perhaps most sinister of all is the fact that in this world-wide drive to reduce life, human and otherwise, to the limits of a technetronic system, there is not even a mind at work. Many brains, but no mind. Nor heart, nor soul. There is no intelligence directing this enormous and enormously complex process; merely the cumulative efforts of thousands of specialists, experts, each sequestered in his tiny niche in the technological apparatus, each unaware of or indifferent to the investigation of all but his closest colleagues, each man in his own way an innocent.
From the essay “Science with a Human Face” by Edward Abbey
The disconnected ways of modern society (sometimes referred to as the fallen system) pave the way for a cacophony of greed-motivated agendas to drive relentlessly forward with no regard for how they are individually or collectively harming the planetary web of life. We see it in every aspect of the world’s dominant culture: the way we pollute, grow, distribute and waste our food; global air and water pollution; the sick relationship between the medical system and the pharmaceutical companies; status-quo education; the prison/slave system; greed-based economics; national governments’ submission to the fossil fuel cult and the corporate stranglehold on resources; and the corporate media and music franchise business, to name a few.
The 1% may be profiting from the energetically extravagant lifestyle of the “haves” of the world, but it is the comfortable ones in the 99% who are doing most of the consuming. In order to live in harmony with the planet in such a way that will create health and well-being for all living things in the future, we “comfortable ones” have to change just about everything in our society. Yes, we can all live on a planet where everyone has what they need. To become a part of a sustainable system, how willing are you to change your lifestyle? What steps are you taking to make the world a better place?2
There is a growing international interest in the work of a man who was nearly forgotten (because of anti-German sentiments after WW2) even though there are places all over the world named after him. Alexander von Humboldt (1769 – 1859) is considered the father of ecology and environmentalism. The book The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf, tells the fascinating story of the man who motivated a holistic perception of the universe as one interacting entity and warned that global destruction of the web of life and human-induced climate change would be the inevitable result of man’s greed and consumerism. He recognized that indigenous cultures lived for generations in a region that was then quickly thrown into ecological havoc with the encroachment of “modern” societies.
Humboldt resurrected the use of the word “cosmos” from the ancient Greek and assigned it to his multivolume treatise, Kosmos, in which he sought to unify diverse branches of scientific knowledge and culture. The first volume of Kosmos was published in 1845.
Humboldt was one of the first people to propose that the lands bordering the Atlantic Ocean were once joined (South America and Africa in particular).
In order to live an honorable life, we have to live in an honorable society. We have to become part of a system that honors and upholds the pattern of life that we are a part of. In order to accomplish this, we need to change the dominant worldview that everything is isolated from everything else and embrace the worldview that everything is interconnected in the dance of life.
This idea is catching hold in many ways, one of which is the “General Systems Theory” of science. Systems thinking can be applied to every walk of life.
The systems approach was first proposed under the name of “General System Theory” by the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy. von Bertalanffy noted that all systems studied by physicists are closed: they do not interact with the outside world. When a physicist makes a model of the solar system, of an atom, or of a pendulum, he or she assumes that all masses, particles, and forces that affect the system are included in the model. It is as if the rest of the universe does not exist. This makes it possible to calculate future states with perfect accuracy, since all necessary information is known.
However, as a biologist von Bertalanffy knew that such an assumption is simply impossible for most practical phenomena. Separate a living organism from its surroundings and it will die shortly because of lack of oxygen, water and food. Organisms are open systems: they cannot survive without continuously exchanging matter and energy with their environment. The peculiarity of open systems is that they interact with other systems outside of themselves.3
It is great folly to operate from the idea that everything is a closed system. In the state of Arizona, this folly allows us to have laws governing water that refuse to acknowledge that ground water and surface water are connected. Arizona has become a large plumbing system of pipes and dams, with calculations of “water credits” on paper that somehow justify out-of-control population growth in an arid state with dwindling water resources. Anyone with a basic understanding of watersheds, water cycles, and systems theory understands that when you pump more water out of the ground than is being recharged by the rain and snow on the surrounding mountains, unless you have a bottomless aquifer, you will eventually run out of water.
I look forward to the day when higher standards for protecting the environment from a limited worldview (that allows greedy corporations to rape and pillage the earth) are enforced. To incorporate systems thinking into decision-making and problem solving processes of local and global import would be a good place to start. Eventually, I believe we will need to take it to the higher concepts of governance that are practiced by Global Community Communications Alliance, and which are taught in the University of Ascension Science and the Physics of Rebellion and implemented (with a high degree of success for 30 years) at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage.4
Let’s take a look at some of the ways of a systems thinker:
- Seeing the whole picture
- Changing perspectives to see new leverage points in complex systems
- Looking for interdependencies
- Considering how mental models create our futures
- Paying attention and giving voice to the long-term
- “Going-wide” (using peripheral vision) to see complex cause and effect relationships
- Finding where unanticipated consequences emerge
- Focusing on structure, not on blame
- Holding the tension of paradox and controversy without trying to resolve it quickly
- Making systems visible through causal maps and computer models
- Seeking out stocks or accumulations and the time delays and inertia they can create
- Watching for “win/lose” mindsets, knowing they usually make matters worse in situations of high interdependence
- Seeing oneself as part of, not outside of, the system5
Scientists around the world are cataloguing damage to the environment, all too frequently without having a clue as to how to repair the damage. Until we change our worldview as a global community and take responsibility for one another and the generations to come, we will continue to wreak havoc on a planetary scale.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her deeply insightful book Braiding Sweetgrass 6, describes the negative force that drives the destruction of life on Earth as the “Windigo”. The Windigo is the legendary monster of her Anishinabe people; an Ojibwe boogeyman driven by insatiable hunger to consume and destroy all in its path.
In terms of systems science, according to Kimmerer, “The Windigo is a case study of a positive feedback loop, in which a change in one entity promotes a similar change in another, connected part of the system. In this case, Windigo hunger creates an increase in Windigo eating, and that increased eating promotes only more rampant hunger in an eventual frenzy of uncontrolled consumption.
Ojibwe scholar Basil Johnson suggests that: Multinational corporations have spawned a new breed of Windigo that insatiably devours the earth’s resources — not for need but for greed”.
On the opposite hand, Kimmerer describes negative feedback loops that create balance and sustainability. An example of this is “when hunger causes increased eating, eating causes decreased hunger, and satiety is possible. In this case, a change in one component incites the opposite change in another, so they balance each other out. The old teachings recognize that Windigo nature in each of us, so the monster was created in stories to teach us why we should recoil from that greedy part of ourselves. The footprints of the Windigo are all around us, once you know what to look for”.
Kimmerer’s book is full of hope as she describes the restorative power that is the source of everything that is alive—including the Windigo. In her field of botany she has learned about systems that sustain healthy living. In her understanding of the world of plants, and by sharing the lessons she has learned from the multi-colored vegetation that blesses our world, Kimmerer gives us an open doorway to walk into the new world coming.
In another indigenous tradition—the Seneca—there is the Story of the Seven Worlds. A good friend of mine (Jim Fry aka Hi-we-sas, which means “looking for good news” in Seneca) has learned this story from Elders all over Turtle Island (American continent), and has done his best to write it down. This story describes the world we are living in now with stark insight, and names the transition we are currently in as moving from the fourth to the fifth world (as does the Hopi Prophecy).
“The Fourth World is the Middle World. There were three worlds before, and there will follow three worlds after, in which Completeness will be relearned. It is the Fourth World that we are just now leaving. It is the World of Separation & Control. We Human People have done all we can to separate ourselves. We have tried our ‘best’ to misuse and control all the other peoples. We, with no thought, tear open the Earth, looking for treasure. We no longer look into each other's eyes to see the Sparkle. We stand six feet apart from one another. We even cover our faces to divide from each other. For many, God/Great Mystery no longer exists. For many, we don't even know love. We rarely talk with each other, or any other of the Peoples. We merely sit and ‘talk’ using little black and white lines and symbols. We have learned Separation and Control in its Completeness. We have done such a good job of learning these lessons that the Fourth World ended (several years ago). But, because the Fourth World is the world of Separation & Control, the people who most like control are desperate to keep that control. Those people can feel that their world is ending, so they are going to greater and more extreme measures to keep that control. We see it every day on our individual screens and devices.
“Because of being so far from the Unity of Great Mystery, it is the Fourth World that will need the most cleansing as it ends. The Fourth World is ending in all the ways the first three worlds ended. In Ice and Fire and Flood. It is what we are now seeing every day (which some people mistakenly call Climate Change). When this Cleansing, this Transition completes, the Fifth World will be a World of Illumination and The Hand Outstretched to Each Other. Once the Fourth World is fully cleansed, those Standing Up Right People (who happen to make it through the Changes) will raise the children who will become the Hand Outstretched. It is those children (some of whom may already be born) who will begin to re-learn the Unity and Completeness of Great Mystery. So that finally by the end of the Seventh World, Great Mystery will finally know all Unity.
“In 1989, there was a Gathering of many Elders and people from across America in the Grand Tetons. They came together and did the last Ceremony for the Fourth World. It was shortly after that day, the Elders said that the Fifth World Circle must be built. Since then they have tried for so long to find that builder. As the Fourth World ends, it will require more Cleansing than has ever occurred before. The Fire and Ice and Floods will cause the World to begin rock'n and roll'n so much, that there must be first-cleansed places on Earth, in order to hold Earth in its place in the Universe. These first-cleansed places will act as anchors to the Sky.”
A Seneca Elder named Twylah Nitsch always suggested to not use the word Hope, because it contains just the least amount of “maybe not” in it. So I will instead use the word, Trust. I trust that the Circle will find a way.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir
As I reflect on what all this means to me, I know that my soul felt alienated by almost everyone and everything in the “Windigo culture” that I grew up in. I fled to the mountains, lived in tipis, and searched for a culture that matched The URANTIA Book—which came into my life at the age of 17 and gave me a model of God’s Divine Pattern to strive for.
It wasn’t until I met Van / Gabriel of Urantia / TaliasVan and Niánn Emerson Chase that I found an honorable society to live in. When I joined Divine Administration, I became part of a system that honors and upholds the pattern of life. Thirty years later, I see the fruits of the labors of the regathering Cosmic Family (under the Mandate of the Bright & Morning Star) are the fulfillment of the Circle of Life finding its way into the next world. We are all working together to prepare for the soon return of the Promised One. Van is the builder that Grandmother Twylah and so many others have prophesied and searched for.
I have also found that these are indeed the times of purification and cleansing—for individuals and for the entire planet. Ojibwe scholar Basil Johnson stated that “a Windigo is a human whose selfishness has overpowered their self-control to the point that satisfaction is no longer possible”. His definition matches perfectly the insidious patterns of the Lucifer Rebellion described in The URANTIA Book. As I strive to overcome every rebellious trait in my soul, so that I can be a true bridge builder into the Fifth World (also called the first stage of Light and Life), I am blessed to be a student in the University of Ascension Science & the Physics of Rebellion.
Van’s teaching of One God, One Planetary Family is the cry of peace to carry us forward into the first stage of Light of Life.
1 From: Conscience Behind Bars—The Prison Letters of Norman Lowry
2 See the book: Living Through the Tribulation—How to Survive by Starting Subcultures by Van / Gabriel of Urantia / TaliasVan for information on joining the Spiritualutionsm movement and building a new world in your own backyard.
3 From: Basic Concepts of the Systems Approach http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/SYSAPPR.html
5 From: The Systems Thinking Playbook by Linda Booth Sweeney & Dennis Meadows
6 From: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer