Category Archives: materialism

How then does one achieve enlightenment?

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  and essay, by Sha’Tara]

Quote: “Prescience reveals no absolutes, only possibilities. The surest way to know exactly what the future holds is to experience it in real time.” (Sandworms of Dune – Kevin Anderson)

How do I approach this? Let me say that lately I have been allowing myself to “feel” and that has translated into deep and abiding sorrow for this world. Certainly if one is remotely aware of the many sick things going on here, or being done here, there must arise a sense of anxiety. But “anxiety” means concern for one’s self, or one’s “special people” within the greater body politic.

Sorrow is a different thing, as I have written about before. My understanding of it is, it isn’t about me (or mine, if I had any special people) but about all of it, about the flow of life… and death… all around me, as far as my senses can reach.

One achieves “enlightenment” when one gathers enough personal courage to look at her or his world exactly as it is and not as the conflicting sources of propaganda declare it to be. Yes, that takes courage because it removes all the facile excuses we constantly make up to justify our sustaining beliefs regardless of how such beliefs affect others. Enlightenment means I no longer regard others as conveniences to supply my endless wants; I no longer view them as competitors for space or resources; I no longer see them as threats to my personal, or national, beliefs and security.

Enlightenment means becoming aware of reality without blinders or protective armor. It means choosing to become vulnerable so that others may not have to feel vulnerable but safe in our presence.

Enlightenment then means living the compassionate life does it not?

If we accept the truth of our current social condition, that being a very difficult thing to do, we will of necessity plunge into a maelstrom of personal conflict. If we are of the relatively “rich” West, we will feel the weight of responsibility for many of the world’s ills and we won’t know what to do about it. We will want to protest; we will seek to blame someone, particularly “they” for the world’s major problems. We will think that just changing “me” is useless in the grand scheme of things and when we see that all our struggles, our protests, our votes and our hopes are increasingly dashed, we will go the route of despair, despondency, denial or seek solace in “old time religion” and our spirit will die within. We will go through the motions of living and when death comes, that will be that. It might even be seen as a relief from pointlessness and boredom.

This reminds me of a song I once wondered about so long ago, sung by Peggy Lee: “Is That All There Is?”


I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire
I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up
In his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement
And I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames
And when it was all over I said to myself, is that all there is to a fire?

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

And when I was twelve years old, my father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
And as I sat there watching
I had the feeling that something was missing
I don’t know what, but when it was over
I said to myself, “is that all there is to the circus?

And then I fell in love with the most wonderful boy in the world
We’d take take long walks down by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes
We were so very much in love
And then one day he went away and I thought I’d die, but I didn’t
And when I didn’t I said to myself, is that all there is to love?

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep

I know what you must be saying to yourselves
If that’s the way she feels about it why doesn’t she just end it all?
Oh, no, not me I’m not ready for that final disappointment
‘Cause I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you
When that final moment comes and I’m breathing my last breath, I’ll be saying to myself

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

Yesterday was my 73rd birthday, a pretty good milestone, even by today’s standards and I realize that all my life I have refused to accept that “is that all there is” condition.

In “Sandworms of Dune” Kevin Anderson wrote: “By following the same beliefs and making the same decisions one wears life’s path into a circular rut, going nowhere, accomplishing nothing, making no progress.”

That is “the” problem Earthians seem unable to confront and move beyond. Many a time I suggested doing something outside the status quo in order to get off the treadmill. I was mocked and accused of not knowing the difference between imagination and reality. Eventually I chose in favor of imagination and against man’s sacrosanct reality. I chose against “Is that all there is” and went on a life-long quest for whatever lay beyond this view.

I found the doorway, and I saw the future, yes, and experienced it in real time. That is what the gate keepers do not want Earthians to realize: that their future exists, that it is waiting for them to enter into it and experience it, that it is neither some bullshit religious “heaven” or “hell” nor equally bullshit materialistic annihilation.

If we would become truly enlightened we all have to take that chance and go questing for our own particular future. It’s a strictly personal reality and not a collective affair. Scary thought that, hm?

Embarrassment of Riches-George Monbiot

When it comes to being a voice for our stressed and possibly dying natural environment, George Monbiot’s has no equal.

Please read on. (Hopefully all the links are working as this is a copy, not a reblog. They do work at this end, I checked.)


Embarrassment of Riches –

Embarrassment of Riches

Posted: 20 Sep 2019 01:22 AM PDT

For the sake of life on Earth, we should set an upper limit on the money any person can amass. (My emphasis)

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 19th September 2019

It is not quite true that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Musicians and novelists, for example, can become extremely rich by giving other people pleasure. But it does appear to be universally true that in front of every great fortune lies a great crime. Immense wealth translates automatically into immense environmental impacts, regardless of the intentions of those who possess it. The very wealthy, almost as a matter of definition, are committing ecocide.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from a worker at a British private airport. “I see things that really shouldn’t be happening in 2019,” he wrote. Every day he sees Global 7000 jets, Gulfstream 650s and even Boeing 737s take off from the airport carrying a single passenger, mostly flying to Russia and the US. The private Boeing 737s, built to take 174 seats, are filled at the airport with around 32,000 litres of fuel. That’s as much fossil energy as a small African town might use in a year.

Where are these single passengers going? Perhaps to visit one of their superhomes, constructed and run at vast environmental cost, or to take a trip on their superyacht, which might burn 500 litres of diesel per hour just ticking over, and is built and furnished with rare materials, extracted at the expense of stunning places.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that when Google convened a meeting of the rich and famous at the Verdura resort in Sicily this July to discuss climate breakdown, its delegates arrived in 114 private jets and a fleet of megayachts, and drove around the island in supercars. Even when they mean well, the ultrarich cannot help trashing the living world.

A series of research papers shows that income is by far the most important determinant of environmental impact. It doesn’t matter how green you think you are. If you have surplus money, you spend it. The only form of consumption that’s clearly and positively correlated with good environmental intentions is diet: people who see themselves as green tend to eat less meat and more organic vegetables. But attitudes have little bearing on the amount of transport fuel, home energy and other materials you consume. Money conquers all.

The disastrous effects of spending power are compounded by the psychological impacts of being wealthy. Plenty of studies show that the richer you are, the less you are able to connect with other people. Wealth suppresses empathy. One paper reveals that drivers in expensive cars are less likely to stop for people using pedestrian crossings than drivers in cheap cars. Another revealed that rich people were less able than poorer people to feel compassion towards children with cancer. Though they are disproportionately responsible for our environmental crises, the rich will be hurt least and last by planetary disaster, while the poor are hurt first and worst. The richer people are, the research suggests, the less such knowledge is likely to trouble them.

Another issue is that wealth limits the perspectives of even the best-intentioned people. This week Bill Gates argued in an interview with the Financial Times that divesting (ditching stocks) from fossil fuels is a waste of time. It would be better, he claimed, to pour money into disruptive new technologies with lower emissions. Of course we need new technologies. But he has missed the crucial point: in seeking to prevent climate breakdown, what counts is not what you do but what you stop doing. It doesn’t matter how many solar panels you install if you don’t simultaneously shut down coal and gas burners. Unless existing fossil fuel plants are retired before the end of their lives, and all exploration and development of new fossil fuels reserves is cancelled, there is little chance of preventing more than 1.5°C of global heating.

But this requires structural change, which involves political intervention as well as technological innovation: anathema to Silicon Valley billionaires. It demands an acknowledgement that money is not a magic wand that makes all the bad stuff go away.

On Friday, I’ll be joining the global climate strike, in which adults will stand with the young people whose call to action has resonated around the world. As a freelancer, I’ve been wondering who I’m striking against. Myself? Yes: one aspect of myself, at least. Perhaps the most radical thing we can now do is to limit our material aspirations. The assumption on which governments and economists operate is that everyone strives to maximise their wealth. If we succeed in this task, we inevitably demolish our life support systems. Were the poor to live like the rich, and the rich to live like the oligarchs, we would destroy everything. The continued pursuit of wealth, in a world that has enough already (albeit very poorly distributed) is a formula for mass destitution.

A meaningful strike in defence of the living world is, in part, a strike against the desire to raise our incomes and accumulate wealth: a desire shaped, more than we are probably aware, by dominant social and economic narratives. I see myself as striking in support of a radical and disturbing concept: Enough. Individually and collectively, it is time to decide what enough looks like, and how to know when we’ve achieved it.

There’s a name for this approach, coined by the Belgian philosopher Ingrid Robeyns: limitarianism. Robeyns argues that there should be an upper limit to the amount of income and wealth a person can amass. Just as we recognise a poverty line, below which no one should fall, we should recognise a riches line, above which no one should rise. This call for a levelling down is perhaps the most blasphemous idea in contemporary discourse.

But her arguments are sound. Surplus money allows some people to exercise inordinate power over others, in the workplace, in politics, and above all in the capture, use and destruction of natural wealth. If everyone is to flourish, we cannot afford the rich. Nor can we afford our own aspirations, that the culture of wealth maximisation encourages.

The grim truth is that the rich are able to live as they do only because others are poor: there is neither the physical nor ecological space for everyone to pursue private luxury. Instead we should strive for private sufficiency, public luxury. Life on earth depends on moderation.