from “Koyaanisqatsi” (1982)

One of the most notable of human qualities is our ability to adapt technology to solve problems.  Another would be our inability to stop “solving” the same problem over and over again to the point of over-solving problems to degrees they don’t exist.  If it aint broke, we MUST fix it. It’s a kind of excessive-compulsive disorder.

It goes back to our being animals.  We are clever problem solvers, but we are also acting from bio-imperatives written into our genes.  We do all sorts of animal things like compete for territory, food and sexual partners.  Any rational person understands that war is an evil thing.  We have war because we are programmed aggressors and defenders, and because we cannot resist trying out our new inventions, even when it’s better technology to be used for killing.

Take automobiles, for example.  They are part of a never-ending solution trend that began with the need and/or desire to be able to go to places far away.  Walking took too long, so we began riding horses.  Then, to be able to haul more stuff back from far away, that expanded into wagons and stagecoaches.  Trains and boats allowed for more efficient hauling of huge amounts of stuff and you could move more people back and forth also.  However, people are selfish by nature and demand the ability to tailor their travel itineraries flexibly and individually.  Therefore, we made automobiles.

Cars go faster than we really need to go.  They are also much larger than 9 out of 10 people need.  They burn fossil fuels in finite supply and produce air pollution that reduces lifespan and is expensive to clean up.  Some say the pollution has changed the climate of the planet.  I’m not taking sides on that one.  I will say that driving a steel vehicle that weighs 10+ times more than me, burns the irreplaceable product of plants and animals that died a million years ago, and that goes so fast that if I blow a tire it can roll and kill me in 8/10 second sounds insane.  I can’t afford a horse or a vehicle that uses cleaner fuel and goes slower, and I need to get to work within 15 minutes of being called.  I’m putting my life at risk because I have no better solution.

Agriculture began as a solution for how to feed the tribe in winter when game was scarce.  People figured out how to plant and grow more food than the tribe could eat.  Food surpluses became trade goods.  That spurred demand for ways to preserve food so it could travel.  Adding salt preserved food and allowed older food to remain tasty.  Now so much sodium is added to so many foods in the “developed” countries that we have big increases in high blood pressure, which decreases lifespan and increases the cost of medical care to treat it.

If you can build weatherproof domiciles, you can live in colder climates that have great natural beauty – like here in the Pacific Northwest.  However, if you insist on building McMansions you’ll have to remove a lot of that natural beauty to make room for them.  There’s a house going up next door.  It will be about the size of a medieval inn, and only two people will be living in it.  Another one of similar size will soon appear down the hill in front of us, also to be occupied by a couple.

I completely understand wanting to build a home in this lovely place.  I’ve met both couples, and they appear to be basically decent people.  I know how to make friends with people who don’t vote the way I do, and I had better know how to co-exist with people who don’t think like me – because hardly anyone does.  I’m going to be a good neighbor and try to offer our own model of voluntary simplicity.  I have to be rich in grace and generous in spirit, and not judge people harshly who are more materialistic than I am.  People do not change easily.  The things I understand now in my 50s took most of my life to learn.  But I must have a little time to grieve for the loss of the trees.  I hope the deer will still come around.


Filed under Emotions, Ethics and Morality, photos, Thinking about thinking

19 responses to “NIMSY

  1. Wow.
    The trees.

    • I had a feeling this one would move you in similar fashion to the way it did me. It’s hard to reconcile our best intents with the corporate history of our actions. That’s the challenge, isn’t it? To accept the dual nature in hopes of being able to someday understand and improve the outcome…

  2. I thought for a time that I had reached that understanding, that you had reached that understanding, that together we had found a place to come to terms with our own past indiscretions. But finding myself linked to the unity of human nature through this degree of such destruction,for such selfish reasons, I’m just filled with the utmost sorrow. I’m ashamed to be related to the creature who fails to look back before moving forward and tonight I find myself apologizing for what was lost.

    • We cannot prevent the animal in us, J. I believe that we can only forgive the unwise action borne of our animal heritage and try to move forward. It’s not easy to choose to be something more, but we can still risk and achieve it. It can’t happen without loss, so I share the loss with you.

  3. I don’t understand the whole car thing, I have to say. Speed limites are coming down (here anyway) yet we “need” cars that travel at the speed of light? No, we don’t. We are big on small cars here – well, what Americans’ consider small anyway.

    I don’t get the huge houses thing either. Why? What does it achieve?

    Am I out of step with the rest of the Western world? I’m reassured that if I am, so are you! So I am not alone. 🙂

    • Moving from a city of several million to one with about 9,000, learning to live on half our previous incomes in a much smaller house, choosing to work 30 instead of 60 hours – It’s all been a process of learning and adjustment. In this town, I’m more able to deal directly with the dynamic between the contemplatives and the capitalists. We live more face-to-face here.

      There’s a Buddhist axiom that goes something like, “Unless you solve all the problems, you can’t solve any of them.” We have to evolve and grow wiser as individuals and then ally ourselves with others intent on being part of the solution. It’s the misguided march of civilization that’s out of step with reality, Robyn.

  4. Pingback: Countries with Nuclear Weapons | burning fossil fuels | nuclear power plant

  5. Not sure what the “netiquette” is on Pingbacks, so I’ll just say thanks for recommending my article on your web site.

    (This is from a site that has posts with info about power plants and international nuclear issues. There’s also an NRDC banner, and I like those guys.)

  6. I feel for trees b/c they are alive, but I am a material girl too. I wouldn’t want a giant house, though it would be nice to have big rooms to put all my junk.

  7. You’re absolutely right, of course. As much as the loss of your neighboring trees breaks my heart, your post has sat me down. I feel as though we have been weighed and measured and I find a message in your words. My connection/obsession with trees is fairly common knowledge, it began as a child when my father told me to go hug a tree to see if “nature wanted me”, yet, I also use the trees to my advantage. I use them to heat my home, cook some of my food, heal my family, flavor my tea and on and on. Like any other creature, trees are vital to my survival. Your post gave me a moment to sit back and consider my OWN impact on the trees and for a moment or two, I felt like a hypocrite. (We all did here in this house, because I included the WHOLE family in on this one!) It’s not an entirely new thought to me, or my family, but it certainly made me stop and ask myself if I was taking things for granted. Your post shows how important it is to be comfortable in our choices, with all things considered, not just our own wants and needs. I’m going to stop rambling now, my reaction to the topic at hand probably would have been better suited to my own blog ;P
    I do however, wonder if there’s any chance some of those trees will be replaced in the future…

  8. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who always knows what they’re talking about on the internet. You categorically know how to bring an issue to light and make it critical. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  9. post not working in firefox

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