Where there is a will there is a way

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Human Journey - Australian TV series (Beyond Productions)

In New Zealand: "Government plays down plans to mine DOC (Department of Conservation) land." (Click on link to read the article.) Coal mining no less! We just got a new government in (National), who are trying to make a quick buck, same thinking as the last few thousand "enlightened" years of our history.

In less recent news, Indonesia's forests are disappearing to meet the world's demand for palm oil-- as the forests are converted to palm oil farms at an alarming rate. These forests are the habitat for the orangutan, who are rapidly becoming extinct. (To read more about this, click

What’s wrong with the world (what is part of the unhealthy imbalance) is people’s expectations are too high—to live without skill, in comfort, in ease— equals being wasteful with resources. There is a social stigma against roughing it nowadays—you are respected for being someone who has harnessed so many resources that you don’t have to slave away like a labourer. But in my rise of awareness, I now respect people more who are careful, fastidious, and skillful with resources. They do use things for as long as possible. Far from being a poor, desperate act, this is the act of love and respect for the resources of Mother Earth. If we listen, with our spirits, we will behave more in this way. (I have an image that remains now of the old Asian martial arts teacher, shuffling around, being careful, not-wasteful, but very wise. The ancient East was a very intuitively strong culture.) I now see the people that rush around in fancy cars and lit up houses as wasteful and brash—they are not listening or being careful in the world around them.

Palm Oil, a cheap oil that destroys rainforest used in almost every single common brand of soap, soap product and cosmetics, is a destructive process—orangutans will be gone very soon if we don’t do a 180 degree shift. We need to not always go for the cheapest solution out there that will make us the most money, despite it consuming and destroying the earth! We need to not be greedy. Intuitive people and cultures know, every action has a consequence. Since we have been ignoring these laws of nature for awhile in the belief that they no longer apply to us (we have gone beyond the need to do so with all our technology), we are coming to the time where we will experience the result of our behaviour of many centuries, all at once. Lucky us! Ah well, the sooner we change all we can, the more we will not leave the same legacy to our kids kids.

Photos: The Human Journey (TV series), Beyond Productions

I woke up this morning in a chilly bedroom, under many warm bed coverings, having recently watched a documentary piecing together the path and experiences of early people. I instantly got an empathy with them actually waking up in a cold cave each morning. Then they had to wake up and find food, armed only with rough stones which had been broken to a sharp point. From there on we had to conquer our world. But how many amazing experiences must they have had that were not recorded. Don’t just picture vague stereotyped cavemen, picture real people like you and I, exactly like you and I, with their emerging consciousness that we have today, staying together, doing things together, exploring and discovering things together. Perhaps one day they found an amazing caches of food, or had amazing run-ins with animals—there is so much we will never know of their experiences. I wish I did know.

The Human Journey:

Apparently, our ancestors left Africa 130,000 years ago, and displaced the Neanderthaal people-- another people who had evolved from an earlier strand and left Africa much earlier. (According to a great documentary that aired on Australian TV called "The Human Journey" by Beyond Productions.) They weren't that much more primitive than us at the time, they spoke and planned as well-- we made a mistake when we first found their bones and thought they were stooped and ape-like (the individual Neanderthaal whose bones the French scientist found actually had arthritis, and so our perception became misinformed.) We both lived at the same time, and in South Western France we made use of the many overhanging limestone cliffs for shelter. An important difference in the way of life between us and the Neanderthaal people was that they kept the same home base, not venturing as far to hunt for food-- their main prey was auroch, a sort of wild cow. We were nomadic! We made shelter and camp where the best food sources were, such as wild game (reindeer), and spawning salmon. That way we kept both old and young alive far better-- the group.

The elders were the keepers of tribal knowledge, which they passed on to the next generation. Nomadic life expanded their view of the world, and this in turn, opened up their minds.

They came to know and understand each new landscape, its plant and animal species. They learned to plan ahead and anticipate possibilities, as well as problems. Constant change encouraged flexibility and innovation.

--The Human Journey, Beyond Productions

We used our imaginations and began to do things in new ways, making amazingly sharp stone tools, trading for better stone from far away and using better techniques, and gaining a great finesse with the raw material. We used fiber, resin and sinue to attach them to wooden spears. And you know the end of the story. We grew able to think consciously. In the end, we were able to adapt to every environmental niche on the earth. Now our biggest danger is ourselves.

That history gives me inspiration to pull beyond this specialized existence we lead today. It just gives me perspective, I guess. As travelling widens the mind as we realize that different groups of people can have different values, learning about history gives me support and a perspective about choosing my lifestyle.

These are some observations I have had about my culture, in the here and now, and I do think it's important we rethink how we live, and choose to live as green and tough as we possible can. The blessings are in the responsibility to the environment, but also we become tougher and more spiritually aware as we do this. It's great.

Observation #1: Good Enough.
Good enough---- people need to accept something that is good enough. As a mother around other mothers, with our very important standards, where we teach and help each other—I have run into many mothers with extremely high standards. The sort of standards that could only be reached with modern innovations—including a high level of wastefulness (energy and physical waste). Clothes have to be washed the minute they are worn, the moisture in sandwiches preserved by plastic film wrap 5 times around, disposables are mandatory. Houses are plastered with cleaning chemicals. Cloth nappies and reusable lunch wrappers are considered “not good enough for baby”. Well, tell me this, vigilant mother. How good of a world do you want for your baby to live in?Our habits have to not lay waste to the world, or what is the point

Our standards for performance are raised so that we act as though we can’t possibly suffer something that doesn’t work as well as modern, more wasteful solutions do—such as plastic wrap vs. a plastic or cloth container, or paper bag. The food might not stay perfectly fresh, but pretty damn fresh. It’s good enough. Cloth nappies aren’t as convenient as cloth, but they work well enough, and the waste created by disposables is silly. We have to let our children experience a little dirt, and pain, and get tough. It's good for us, and good for our world.

Observation #2: Never Easy

One of the illusions we follow is that life can become easier. Life can never become easier, because the easier our lifestyle is, the weaker we get. That’s how strength works. When we do something more challenging, we get tougher. So life will never be full of ease, because we are as strong as our challenges. We aren’t going to get strong, then put on cruise control (get weaker), and then have to climb up again.

Incidentally, this is connected to the principle of human nature where we assume our labour saving devices will mean we will work less, when really what happens is we then go try to do more. The person who started this dream didn’t realize that it was in our nature never “to be satisfied.”

Dreams are motivational. Since when was it actually good for us to get what we want?A young child wants to grow up. A young person wants to achieve the world and to look perfect. The siren call of our dreams helps us—when we have the power to get exactly what we want, it is from an older instinctual drive from when we didn’t have the power we have now...

We crave security, lots of food, security in every way, but now that we can actually have it, are we proud of ourselves? And isn’t it totally hilarious that we lead a lifestyle where we drive around in cars, sit in front of computers all day, and then we have to go to a gym to keep our brains and bodies healthy? Perhaps better to get out a shovel and dig a garden to grow our veggies, and bike to work.

We can control our environment all we want, but we can’t change the way we were built. God forbid we start messing with the wiring with genetic engineering, I don’t trust humanity as a whole to keep alive goldfish...

I know this is a very long blog entry. There is something floating around in the back of my mind that I feel is important. Something about the way we've evolved, and succeeded, and about why we are not succeeding now. What is our downfall? Humanity as a group is no longer showing good long-term survival skills. (We are suddenly not choosing to live in a way that can go on for long, laying waste to, and consuming our environment.)

When we grew strong, to be the humans we still are today, we lived in small groups, and were able to flex and adapt to the land around us. We explored and tried things, and communicated what we found. I feel like our large, sedentary structure has led to herd mentality. People believe the larger group's sense that everything is alright when it's not. Our organization and tools totally change the way our culture is, who has the power to distribute knowledge, who makes decisions. Our decisions are no longer in the hands of a small group or real humans who can share the same spirit and understand each other, and follow reality. Our reality is created overtop the natural world, and our experience with the natural world is controlled. I believe that the people who kept going out and hiking, camping, roughing it, working gardens, are able to keep a relationship spiritually with the "real world". And ever since I was a funny little girl, strolling along, never getting to school as I noticed every leaf along the way, I felt from the trees, and from hikes in the 100% natural wild Canadian mountains with my father, that this world is crying out for our help.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

About being in a real group

There is a wonderful essay that I found in the front of a booklet about the Awataha Marae on the North Shore, from when it was being built.

My children (who are not Maori) go to Kohanga Reo, and I love this opportunity I have been blessed with to learn about how a healthy and natural human society functions, one that is not connected to a religion-- but a people.

This is what his essay said:

Te iwi marai kore, e hara…
Te marae iwi kore, he moumou.

--Maori Proverb –

People without a marae, are nothing…
A marae without people, is wasted.

If a Maori was asked as to what he thought was the difference in the principal characteristics of a city and the principal characteristics of this traditional rural home, I am certain he would say, that culture dwelt there on the marae, and very little in a city without a marae. A city dweller unless he wanted to, need not participate in communal, cultural and public life. He will have few friends and no neighbours. In a concrete jungle with its labrynth of streets with large concentrations of human beings, a person may enjoy complete detachment from social and civic responsibilities. He will experience a kind of freedom and solitude as he might find in the Antarctic.

That sort of freedom in a rural environment, has never meant that the Maori was free from the restraints, the obligations and responsibilities imposed upon him by the elders, the family and the community which are additional to the ordinary restraints imposed by the law of the land. Every Maori is checked by local opinion and by a strong opinion of the religious community of which he or she is a member.

All the restraints within reasonable limits, make the life of the Maori on the marae and in a rural community, more purposeful, and more conscious of value than the so-called freedom of suburbia. After all they are restraints which are the true and necessary foundations of culture, based on the marae and the community it serves. A feature of Maori national and social life is that they do not live as solitary beings, but as members of a social organism.

The concept of a marae, a Turangawaewae (a place to stand on) is profound. Indeed it is almost a prerequisite to the fostering of Maori culture, the cultivation of the language and the preservation of customs and aspirations which is an integral part of our New Zealand heritage.

There are several urban marae to the East, to the West and to the South of Auckland and rural marae to the North, but none on the North Shore – serving a large Maori population and the community in general. I congratulate the trustees for their foresight and untiring efforts to rectify this serious omission.

The Marae on the Shore will play an increasing and important part in bringing together young and old of all ethnic groups resulting, I am sure, in better understanding and tolerance.

I sincerely hope that City fathers and the community at large will give this necessary and worthwhile project their whole-hearted support and commend this booklet to as wide a readership as possible.

He rangi ka aohia, he huruhuru ka rere te manu.

The dawn is nigh, without feathers a bird cannot fly.

Kia kaha, kia manawanui.

Kia Ora roa mai koutou katoa.

Sir James Henare

I love it. This "right" our culture teaches us to feel we have to individual choice and freedom is really the counterbalance for responsibility. You can see the fullest effect of this belief in the right to freedom over responsibility in America, in the States, where they do want to be free, but have also lost much due to this freedom. I just love how he states this truth, that when we believe we are being free, and practicing a right of personal choice, we are really choosing to neglect our responsibilities to others in our community.

The Maori community that I have seen operating is so different to what I am used to, in that the people, the teachers that are members, truly act like one entity, a part of a group. This sounds normal, but it's actually radically different to how people function nowadays. We act as a group somewhat, but at the same time playing our individual interests. These people discuss their feelings, acknowledge and include all parts of the human soul, in group discussion, spirituality, whether someone was insulted or hurt, enjoy music and food... To act as a group in all aspects of life has been a real eye-opener to me. I've been privileged, and feel more complete, to have been a part of it. The plus side is that each individual does not stand alone, having to be this super-achiever. We are all more like little children, listening to those with more experience, the older people, all along the path. The older people guide the younger, so you're not alone in being "an adult". And, parts of myself which would be neglected, or feel lonely, by the normal city culture, are now happy. Especially the act of whipping out a guitar, for everyone to sing, is supercool. Nobody would ever be able to do that coming from the culture I came from.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Understanding the sacrifice of eating meat

Ok, here is my take with the modern life (take as in matter or issue, Maori word, said tah-kay): One, we disconnect ourselves from killing what we eat, and pretend that we are now too civilized to kill anything. I for one want to be responsible, know what I am doing, and also to understand what it is I am doing. The closest I have come to understanding what it means to kill another animal for food is watching a program which took very unfit English people to a very traditional upper steppes village in Pakistan (the Shimshal). The people still ate and lived very healthily, they ate mostly lentil dishes with yak butter. Eventually they had the people who were getting better health, and becoming less obese, take care of a yak until at the end, having to watch him be killed in their honour. In the reality program, the obese English people were crying and coming to understand the sacrifice the yak had made-- I think I finally understood that the sacredness about it was to be grateful and respectful for the sacrifice of a living soul, for whatever reason. I think it's simpler than we modern people make it out to be, it's simple, and it is both good and bad.

Anyways, I want to be reconnected to this sacred reality. I don't want everything to not have much feeling to it, like buying polystyrene wrapped red stuff from a big grocery store, and selecting a few people to have the lifelong occupations of killing animals for us. That's weird.

I believe the complexity of modern society is going to devolve back into smaller units again, it's so uncomfortably complex. Like people having chooks (hens) in their yard again. And having a pig, or milking cow.

Another take I have with my culture is the competitive mantra. Like individuals were meant to compete against each other, for the sake of themselves, and that's all fine. There are many reasons why it's not fine. For one thing, it doesn't distribute wealth equally at all, the experiment "of the West" has failed in that way-- and it's also totally destructive on the environment-- bigger better, using more resources, despite not leaving any to regenerate themselves. Screw the next generation, I am stronger than they. But the reason I thought of this today was this intuition I always had about strong men, or strong young people. Some people believe that because they are stronger, they are meant to take this strength and use it for their own purposes, competing against the community. Boys are stronger than girls, and young more than old, so that they can contribute this to the team. You don't run past the old folks and say Aha! Of course people have power in different areas. You don't hold it over each other. It grew to be a valuable part of the team, and is nurtured within the group. Our freedom from the group that we enjoy is a freedom from social group responsibilities-- a freedom which has resulted in this cold world we live in today.

We lie to ourselves about many things, to enable our lifestyle today. We lie about being non-violent, non-killers, we lie to ourselves so we can wield wealth over each other-- be like Donald Trump, smiling smugly as he uses his power for his own self, not the greater community-- as stupid with lack of wisdom as he is cunning with his wits-- and the biggest lie that we tell ourselves, is my final take with our culture:

We lie to ourselves that we can live with such modern luxuries and easiness and escape from the hardships of life because we have outwitted nature, basically. We have made inventions that work so we do not. This was our dream, anyways. But that's not what happened. We live in great luxury because we take what we want from nature, ie we take too much. AND our very wasteful society also depends on many other countries which are "developing" to give us raw materials for not much money, basically to live in poverty below the clouds, overpowered by us, as well (e.g. Brazil with its money crops they need to grow to pay first-world debt). It's a bubble that is going to burst, because we won't see it for ourselves. We live beyond our means, and get a temporary relief from economy in life, from having to labour physically as much, and from having to become skilled and creative (using resources unwastefully requires becoming skilled)-- and do things for ourselves, but since we are using up all these resources, our future children are going to be living with the opposite reality.

Oh, Donald Trump, you stupid man, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.