It just seems obvious to me that if you look at the history of nature,
nature is some kind of novelty conserving engine. Every level of
complexity that it achieves, it then uses as a platform to achieve yet
further complexity. Nobody's ever really remarked upon this and it
reaches across Biology and Physics into Microphysics. Each ascent into
complexity or descent into novelty, whatever vocabulary you want to
use, happens more quickly than the stage which preceded it. So it's
not simply a ramp ascent into complexity, its a logarhythmic spiral
that is tightening ever more rapidly around some kind of an axis point.
And human history, which is you know, generously fifteen thousand years
old, signals to me that nature has entered a new domain of accelerated
complexification. And then with the advent of post industrial
revolution technologies, globalizing of technology, its clear we've
entered into yet a tighter twist of the spiral. And so this situation
which alarms us so much of uncontrolled change and dissolution of all
boundaries and previous models of how the world is supposed to behave,
is nothing more than our coming to awareness of how the world
apparently really works.
The other great intellectual revolution in the last 15 years, has been
the realization that nature is the same across scales. The so called
fractal breakthrough, that explains why an atom and a galaxy and a
solar system look the same way. It's because the same laws cause form
to condense along the same lines at every level. Well, then you can
look into the dilemma of your own personal existence and what do you
discover? You discover death as the ever present conclusion. Well,
then when you extrapolate that fractal understanding across scale, you
see that apparently this mysterious thing called complete transition of
form and energy which we call death, is supposed to occur at every
scale. And I think we are not witnesses to nature or an accident on
this planet. If nature really values complexification, then we're what
its all about. And whatever we're about to do, is what its all about.
And so the French has this expression to step back to leap and I think
that's what we're doing here at the end of this millennium, we're
stepping back and we're preparing to make the leap into a dimension as
unpredictable and profound as the land masses must have seemed to the
denizens of archeozoic oceans. And we don't know what it means but,
change on a massive scale is what nature is about and we're about to
come around the corner. It may be you know, that life intelligence is
the placenta of something unimaginable, that our technology which we're
extruding in this global organism which we're putting in place, is a
mere glimmering. So, I'm very, I think it's all very mysterious, but I
don't feel human beings can leave nature's plan and somehow fuck things
up, I mean nature made the galaxies and the local group, I mean the
hubris involved in the idea that we are running against the grain. No,
we're just some kind of catalyst species that is making the terrestrial
womb uninhabitable, apparently, because life is about to be expelled
into a dimension that it can't even conceive of. That's all I have to
say, sorry for speaking so long.
I don't think that we're fucking up a plan. I think that behavior will
tend towards sustainability or not and increasingly our behavior
derogates from the opportunity to survive. For us to survive and that
for other life on the planet to survive, and you may be right but,
that's not the point. Survival is not the point. I have had a sinking
suspicion from time to time that awareness doesn't care. That came to
me with great shock and amazement, that compassion was not the engine
of the universe, that it really doesn't matter. Yet, the work that I
do and I'm very interested in sort of, I live and walk on the planet,
very interested in grounded experience and activism tied to more
rarified ways of thinking about consciousness and the existence of
ethics and where we're going and evolution. But, so I'm wondering and
other people have joined this conversation but, I'm quite curious
where, how you feel about suffering in all of this. The suffering that
is entailed in being a human and, where compassion arises, where do
these constructs come from in this value neutral universe that you are
I wasn't quite understood, it isn't a value neutral universe. This
logarythmic spiral of condensing complexity is what in pre scientific
terminology is called God. It does care, the problem here and I felt
it last night, is there--underlying everybody's position are different
assumptions about death. If you think death is extinction and
dissolution and entropy, then your level of alarm is very high in the
situation we're in. But, that's just a notion that scientific
rationalism has extrapolated in the last couple of hundred years among
certain European intellectual elites. The overwhelming intuition of
human beings in all times and places, is that death is a dimension of
activity and completion and, I just can't believe that biology rears
the morphology of form to create organism in order to just blow it
apart. It goes against this tendency I mentioned of nature to conserve
her achievements in the area of complexity. So, I look upon death as
some kind of an adventure, including the death of the planet. We have
been committing an act of planning planetary suicide for fifty thousand
years. We never lifted our eyes from the goal. We worked relentlessly
our way across the Middle East. We founded monotheistic religions,
Greek mathematics, we have proceeded relentlessly toward the ability to
extinguish ourselves and all life on the planet. If you look at the
fossil record, what nature does best is produce extinct species.
Ninety five percent of all life that ever lived on this planet is
extinct. I think this is because completion lies beyond biology and
this world is the womb of morphological completion in some kind of
platonic superspace or something.
This is not the goal or the point, this is just a place we're passing
through and everything else is passing through. It was funny that the
theme of this thing was "sustainability" because I taught at CIIS
yesterday and in my final summation, I said if there's one thing life
teaches you and will insist on teaching you is that nothing lasts, not
you, not your enemies, not your fortune, not your horrible reputation,
Oh, so don't worry about behaving, because your reputation isn't going
No, the morality springs from the felt experience of the moment.
Everything else is a rumor.
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
I feel that's a real clarification for me in terms of sustainability,
because if we talk about sustainability as describing a goal for the
period of time between now and let's say the Omega point, or wherever
this leap actually takes place, then it has new meaning. Then
sustainability itself, by definition, is building in an awareness of
and a responsiveness to change, and suggests another way of looking at
death and at termination and at the end of biology, whether it be your
own or the species or all life systems on the planet. So it adds
another dimension to it which I think isn't in opposition but, more of
a clarification of it. It's along the lines that I feel more
comfortable with when we talk about sustainability, because it does
sort of in perhaps an ironic sense, contain its opposite and I think
Part of my retreat into the question which I described briefly
yesterday, is based in part on my unwillingness or my decision that
it's not quite as fun anymore to hold inside what you just described
which I share, and my day to day environmental activist life
simultaneously. I hold these two seeming contradictions comfortably as
I go about being the writer and the activist type. But, the contention
between what you describe and what the rest of my life is about, saving
this or that tree and all that, is a fascinating adventure and it
produces a lot of thinking and it, like I said, is why I'm retreating
back into the question. But I want to tease that tension out a little
bit more. How would, just to use a blunt instrument, how would you
apply, if you were Executive Director of Greenpeace, how would you
apply your insight into the day to day workings of that
Well, I don't have any argument with conservation. What I have an
argument with is anxiety. I just think we don't know enough to worry
at the shrill level at which we seem to be worrying. I don't trust my
own radical metaphysic enough to stop being interested in activism or
urging other people to activism. Like you, I'm totally comfortable
with holding the contradiction, "we've got to figure it out and do
something and its perfect, completed and inevitable all at once." I
think its a kind of hedging of bets. We should act as though we are
responsible but, we should understand and know that we aren't, so that
we don't contribute to this anxiety.
Well, what can be more anxiety producing than this fatalistic view that
we are caught in the gears of a fractal Newtonian clock?
That's not my view. My view is that a process of creativity twenty
billion years in the making has a chance of coming to fruition in my
The qualities that arise from the complexity of life itself, like
compassion or caring for the tree or whatever, maybe those are the
qualities that actually keep us going. You know it's an interactive
thing, its not separate, it's really not separate. What comes up in
our daily life is what pulls us into this...
Well who was it that said last night that they felt pulled into the
future? Was that you?
Well, that is my position. That feeling is the truth. Process is not
pushed by causality as we have been led to believe. Telos is real.
The universe is being inevitably drawn toward its completion. And as
its completion looms ever larger in the future, it casts a shadow back
into time. And human history is the shimmer on the surface of nature
which says the protein form is about to emerge. I compared it to the
dilation of the cervix. History is the dilation of the cervix, which
announces over a very brief geological moment fifteen thousand years,
that a species is about to go hyperspacial.
Well, this is all oracular pronouncement in terms of...
Well, but look at the evidence around you... [overlapping]
Well, I'm talking about the evidence around us. That upon this data,
the evidence around us can be extrapolated in various different
theories. For example, the future could have yes an attractor could
have two attractors. Just imagine the future had two attractors, both
casting shadows backward upon the...this is the twin but there's the
cervix and the twin...
The paths that leads to bifurcation between the basis of these
attractors is actually 30 seconds from now and it's going to matter,
the evolution of the future will, the option will be chosen from among
these three attractors within now 20 seconds and what we're talking
about and our attitude matters. And if we accept your fatalistic view,
then that pretty much guarantees option three, we don't know.
Well, I'm not talking some kind of predestination. It sounds like it,
but here's what I'm saying: I'm saying the universe is more determined
than we think. But, its not absolutely predetermined. In other words,
what is determined is there is an ebb and flow of probability, but
there is no law that says what events will fulfill these unfolding
probabilistic waves. The wave merely says where the unusual will
reside and where the ordinary is most likely to be encountered. But
what constitutes unusual and ordinary is freely determinable, and
that's the part we play in the world.
But the landscape of time, if you want to put it that way, is as given
as the landscape of space. I mean, we build our buildings on the
ground because we can't build them anywhere else and similarly, we are
making a historical journey over a topological manifold that is given,
like the laws of physics, but how we react and exist and emote and
communicate as we move over that landscape is a human concern to be
If I could again ground a little bit in my experience of work, I'm
really interested in this process is not pushed by causality statement,
because then, and this is sort of a side bar but, then, consequences
aren't on the rise out of the conditions that came before. Which is an
interesting thing to think about because under the assumption that I've
been operating on is that the consequences of choices make a
difference. The choices create the conditions by which things will
happen in the future and that there is not absolute control, but that
we can be mindful in terms of the choice that we make in understanding
the conditions that we'll obtain as a result of those choices. And the
environment that we're going to sort of inherit as a result. And that
has to do with sort of the most basic kinds of choices I make every day
as well as the most basic kind of choices that a government or the
global governments are making that affect our lives.
- Something else that you said is that nature wants to preserve
complexity, right? And I kind of think that's right. You know, I buy
that, and my concern is, as I stated briefly last night, is that our
behavior is reducing complexity. Now from my perspective, maybe I'm
not looking at it with a big enough view, I can only stand so many
valences out, so many concentric circles out.
It's only for the past six thousand years.
That's not a diminishing complexity.
I think the political decisions that we make, the political decisions
that are getting made and the economic decisions that flow from those
political decisions or we can call them all economic decisions actually
at this point, are indeed reducing complexity, or diversity anyway.
Maybe I confuse diversity and complexity and they are not the same
thing. But this is...we're turning...the economic choices that are
being made on this planet which have severe social justice and
ecological ramifications, and I think those are inextricable things
that somebody else was talking about last night also, are tending
towards homogeneity, tending towards monoculture, tending towards
creating a world that is interested in Raybans, Coca Cola, Levi's. And
that is propelled by greed, power, acquisition of stuff, consumption.
And so that's going to...in my perhaps limited way of thinking, I mean
I may not be using the words in the same way that you are, I may not
mean the same thing, we're reducing complexity, we're reducing
diversity. And when there isn't that stuff at the most basic level,
that then allows for more and more options of evolution, I mean, that's
one of the reasons why it seems to me complexity and diversity are
important because they offer more directions, more possibilities in
which to go. Now ironically, it may be that you're sort of narrowing
the pyramid as you're starting to come to a more comprehensive kind of
consciousness, but I'm really trying to see these things as being
related or along a continuum and not as being parallel ways of looking
at the world. The activist way of looking at the world versus some
desire to come to consciousness way of looking at the world.
I mean, I agree with much of what you say, but I do think complexity
and diversity are two different things. When you talk about the world,
mono culture that's being put in place, I agree and I'm agonized that
the rugs of Baluchistan will decline in quality and that sort of thing
will happen, but there's almost curatorial attitude in that position,
in the sense that we want to keep all these wonderful, traditional
cultures as a monoculture. Its the most bewilderingly, complex
environment I visit. And it's so bewilderingly, complex because
cultures from all over the world have been uprooted, put through
various cultural sieves and squeezed together, and that's how the world
is going to be. Its going to be like the lower east side.
But that's not the place she's critiquing, it's the strip mall, its not
Well, I thought that what she was critiquing was the worldwide
penetration of remote areas by media, advertising and western values,
and I'm saying Manhattan is the most penetrated spot on the planet, and
yet it is the most tribal and bewildering and un--those things...
I think Salt Lake City is the the most penetrated spot on the planet,
you know I think it's...
But no one would suggest that the planet is turning into Salt Lake
Oh, I think its turning into something much more like Manhattan--I mean
white people are going to be a minority in the future world, and so are
their religions and their value systems. Manhattan, not Salt Lake
City. Salt Lake City is retro.
Except that Manhattan is ecologically unsustainable.
Right, we couldn't survive if that's all there was. There's no place
to grow food for one thing.
And food is another important part of this. I mean, why did so many
people in Ireland die, yes we all have to die someday, and I'm
personally prepared to accept that, but when I think of the little
children that I know, I would much rather have a world around in which
they can live a little bit longer. And the Irish little children of
the last century died because they had one type of potato, and when the
blight came and killed that potato, they were screwed. So I don't
think we can just sort of write off the idea that diversity is not, I
mean, I think Chris is raising a good point about that, that diversity
The interesting thing about the Irish potato famine and I don't know
this for a fact but, I learned this when I was in Ireland was that you
always bring politics to bear. Because, there apparently was food for
people in Ireland, but because of the political decisions, political
and economic decisions that were made by the British Government, extra
food was going to be sent, it was going to be exported to England. And
so that's why these things are, they are inextricably related and I'm
just trying to grapple with this.
Well, I wasn't saying diversity wasn't important, I was saying its
indestructible. Everything complexifies. While we're creating a
monoculture in one place, we put in place a technology like the Net
that allows people of such diverse interests to find each other and
then build affinities, so, its a surging and amorphous situation, you
But, that's not real stuff, that's virtual. I mean, that's why I also
have this kind of....
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
Protection from the elements isn't virtual. The suffering that I cause
by my sort of domination over somebody else isn't virtual.
How to restore a monocultural feel to the diversity of nature is the
information which is presented on the World Wide Web for people, also
where to get the seeds to repopulate the native diversity of the area
that's been destroyed by the farms and so on, even that is all linked
up, its all one thing.
But the people in Sudan, as Mark said, aren't on the Web. Nor the
people in...East Los Angeles is a dirt road on the Web.
But wait a moment; I'm following an e-mail conference that's coming out
of Chiapas where all the correspondence in the field are feeding their
reports, their daily statements from subcommandante Marcos. The
Mexican Government is essentially paralyzed in its ordinary response,
which would be to kill everyone by virtue of the fact that this
dialogue in the electronic culture is keeping attention focused down
there. And this is consciously being discussed in parallel with all
these reports from the field by the people who are waging the
The Rand Corporation just finished a study on what they called Netwars
and said that the real hope for these people the Curds, and so forth
and so on, is to grab world attention of the ruling elites through
penetration of the Web. And they can do that with a power book. So, I
think it's wrong to say that the people in Sudan don't have power
books. I'm sure they do and that that's an illusion of distance. And
that in fact many political situations in the third world now are
slightly mediated or impacted by virtue of the fact that this
I really wonder whether we're not inflating it somewhat though, in the
sense that, take India for example. India is online sort of in some
places and I'm sure it'll get more that way. As the global economy
further penetrates India, it will be--the Web will spread throughout
the country. But, at the same time, you go to small towns or small
cities you know, a city of half a million people, which is a small a
city in India, and MTV is everywhere. And Coca-Cola is everywhere. And
Raybans aren't too far behind. The monoculture is so dominant, and the
Web is a subversive element within that monoculture perhaps, but
relative to the power and the reach of what I would term the negative
forces of globalization, the destructive forces of globalization, the
forces that are undermining both diversity and complexity which I think
are alike somewhat because the diversity of cultures in India are very
complex themselves. And they've figured out ways to live with the land
and live in some sort of fashion that might be appropriate and
sustainable for their specific situations within that area of the
world,that is being destroyed by globalization and the global
monoculture. And the Web may come in and the people of Kerala state
may at some point, when they end up in a serious conflict with a
multinational corporation that is there because of globalization be
able to communicate with us more rapidly, and we might be able to some
how mobilize to--against something. But the context of that whole
construct is something that is highly destructive.
No, no that's not fair at all that's not what I'm saying.
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
I don't think that is what you're saying, but what I'm about to say
does not suggest for a second that there aren't negative, destructive,
forces that are inherent in this globalization of the economy and MTV
in India, because there are. But you know, I remember being in India
in a village, talking to a young person, feeling very disturbed that
this imagery of the Western consumer lifestyle and all the ads and the
music piped into villages in India is going to change the face of
India, and destroy the culture that has grown in response to the place
where these people live. And, I don't think that's necessarily true,
and I had an awakening that for us to come to their culture and be
upset that there are changes afoot and want them to stay the same and
want them to not accept... the point is that people there want
microwave, and they want MTV. There is an unstoppable desire for all
the things that we take for granted. And there is some sort of
arrogance to think that well, their culture is going to be ruined by
it. To some extent there is a great deal of destruction involved
there. But it's not up to us.
It's not up to us and there's nobody here from India in the room who is
an activist who's part of a struggle to stop that, which is you know,
one of the largest most vibrant anti-corporate, anti-globalization
movements in the world. And there are millions of people who are
opposed to it. So what's happening...
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
And the creation of electronics infrastructure in India is not a
foreign idea. That's something that's been developing within India.
In fact, the second largest Silicon Valley in the world if there is
one, is in India, in Bangalore.
Right, and most of that is multinational corporations that have come in
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
But the Indians are using that as a platform to develop their own
computer industry. And they are doing that now. There's evidence that
they're doing that now.
But I think it's about preserving the ability to opt out, to make
choices. I think that eco-repression is as bad as any other kind. So
I don't want to go to India, and tell the people of India that they
can't have this or that, and I don't want to go to Guatemala and say
you can't have this or that. I mean, I have no interest in that at
all. But, what I am interested in is the opportunity for people to
understand the likely consequences of the choices that they make. And
so that's why I'm really--my initial question to you wasn't and isn't
just some kind interesting angels dancing on the head of the pin thing.
I'm really interested. It's so fundamental, is all of this just some
kind of insanity to think that there is any choice towards
sustainability anyhow? What does that mean, and how do we therefore
spend our time on the planet? But the other thing that I would like to
say is that I don't have a curatorial frame of reference about this at
all. And I think that that's often what people will jump to. That
they are sort of, let's take the bell jar approach here toward
preserving, either under the jar on in amber, cultures as they are at a
particular place and time. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested
in evolution and all of the different ways that could possibly go
non-pathologically. And one of the things that seems quite sad to me
is this incredible loss of languages that's going on around the planet,
daily. And not from a curatorial or just what are those folks at the
linguistics department at Cal going to study now perspective, but
rather because the language is fascinating to me for many, many
reasons. And one of the reasons that it's fascinating to me is because
different languages obviously reveal the way people see the world.
They not only reveal the way people see the world, but they reveal
what's important to people. So, I mean, the oft cited example of
Inuits having many, many words for snow that we don't have. Well, they
don't have many words for snow so that they can write more enriched
poetry. They have many words for... probably, although maybe that's
part of the reason, but probably they have many words for snow because
their survival depends on it. So it contains very interesting
information to me. And as we lose these people and languages, it's not
clear to me that we don't also still need that information, that
knowledge, that way of seeing the world. And I think that that's quite
different from weaving a beautiful rug. Which is also an important
thing. But it's not the commodification of culture, or the
commodification of stuff that cultures make. It isn't just someone
talking about a folklore perspective here.
Well, I agree. I mean I don't like to think that we can't--that
certain thoughts become unthinkable because the language you think them
in is unavailable. But on the other hand, we're told languages are
dying. Who keeps track and has a word count? Probably language--there
are more words and more things sayable now then ever before. But, I
want to respond on a different level because I didn't expect you to
lead me into the revelation of my peculiar metaphysics. So I try to
think about sustainability and you know, what if I'm wrong? And what
if the world isn't about to leap into hyperspace? What if there is a
thousand years of business as usual ahead of us? Then what are we
going to do? And it seems to me that all I could hear last night was
the only idea anybody has is smaller. Use less. Consume less. Less,
and belt tightening which. of course, is a good idea, but probably
insufficient. What we're really going to have to do if we're going
to--if we take sustainability seriously, is reconstruct our
civilization from the ground up. And in trying to think about what
that would mean, over a number of years, the only thing I've been able
to come up with is the problem is population. And the most radical
thinkers in the population field suggest that we should shoot for zero
population growth, which would leave us in the hideous mess that we're
in. I think if you're talking seriously about sustainability, then the
idea that I've kicked around in various forms is: one woman, one
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
Do you realize that, if this were in place, magically, instantly, that
the population of the planet would drop 50% in 40 years? Without war.
Without pogram. Without famine. The population of the planet would
drop in half in the lifetime of your children. That's astonishing!
Because we're accustomed to thinking there's no way out. There's no
way out. There's that way out.
But let me anticipate this. Some people say, well, but traditionalism,
you can't make people do that. That's right. A woman who has a child
in a high tech, industrial democracy, that child will use 800 to 1,000
times more resources than a child born to a woman in Bangladesh in its
lifetime. These women in the high tech, industrial, democracies are
educated, aware of gender politics. They're with it. They should be
the easiest converts to this position. And through insurance and tax
incentives and all kinds of incentives, this should be made the
Within a very few years, if a small percentage of women in the high
tech, industrial democracies took this route, we would begin to see the
strain on world resource extraction ease. And so, what is going on
here? The goals of the individual have at last been made commiserate
[sic] with the goals of society. Because you go to these women and you
say, How would you like increased leisure time? How would you like
cradle to the grave medical insurance and no income tax? And how would
you like genuine status as a hero in the struggle to save the planet?
This is the most politically, intelligent and courageous thing you
could possibly do. And what will it get you? More money. More
leisure time and social status. So people would do this. Why has this
never been talked about? Because we are unwilling. And I bow to my
friend here; we've mud wrestled over this before. We're unwilling to
hang the Pope, essentially, and his Islamic fundamentalist friends, who
together, every year, produce a combined ethical and moral disaster
that makes the Holocaust look like a dinner party. And, do liberals
step forward to condemn the fact that tens, if not hundreds of millions
of people are shoved into death, degradation and disease because of
these population policies? These are crimes against humanity. The
Nuremburg Tribunal should deal with people who take these positions.
It is not simply a political position to be expressed over dinner table
conversation. It is a crime against humanity. It is genocide and the
ecological [laughter] movements, the political movements don't seem to
be able to find their voice on this. The only way out is population
reduction. The fewer people there are, the richer those who would
remain are, the more land is freed, the less we have to extract
resources because the existing standing crop of metals can be recycled
and on and on and on. It's an obvious answer. What's holding it up?
Politics, fear and religion.
I wonder if at this point we could hear from some people who haven't
spoken before and just bring some other voices into the mix? This is
all very rich.
(Brother David Steindl Rast)
I do not have the impression that we have ever battled about it. As
far as the Pope is concerned I completely agree with you. And when I
spoke about belt-tightening, I had in mind not just eating a little
less. But I had such things in mind as that all of us here, coming
here, most of us, and I would have done the same if it was held
somewhere else, have used enormous amounts of fossil fuel just to get
to someplace to discuss that we shouldn't use so much fossil fuel. And
there's something wrong with this whole thing. There's something wrong
with the whole set up here, you see? So, I would suggest that we
tackle those things. That's what I mean about belt-tightening. How do
we start with ourselves? And look around here at Esalen, I would say
it's a beautiful place. It certainly is a beautiful place, but there
is an awful lot that needs to be done and Steve Beck would be the first
one to tell us that. And let's start here. And let's come up as a
gift to Esalen for the week that they allowed us to be here with a list
of suggestions. This is absolutely necessary if Esalen wants to have
the prestige that it has. Hand it to Michael Murphy and say those five
points we want to have taken care of before we come the next time.
Something complete like that. Otherwise we have had a nice time, and
we have just been talking about and we have been bellyaching and we
won't be able, neither you nor I will be able to do anything about the
Pope. But we will be able to do something about David and Terence.
I was hoping you would speak to him on my behalf.
I agree with the first two people, Terence and Andre. Accepting your
world view, and I do accept it on some scale... Your unusual
metaphysics notwithstanding, the planet is going to disappear when the
sun expands. I mean the universe--our solar system is five billion
years old and it's finished half its life. And other life half, the
sun will expand and consume the planet, so we're not going to stop
that. We're not going to make decisions that are going to change that.
(Allan Hunt Badiner)
But while we're here, I think there are an intersection of these
circles. Andre, your circle is saying: I care about what's around
me...and when I listen to Terence, I really don't know what to do with
my activism. It can be discouraging, and yet Terence's position is
right on the large scale. But I think the circles intersect, and I'm
real interested in expressing or defining where that intersection is.
I have a sense that it's at the point of first taking the general
population that isn't necessarily aware of these issues. Then taking a
population which is some small percentage of that, which includes
everybody in this room that is aware of what's wrong and thinking about
or doing something to change that. And then taking a small percentage
of that group and realizing that, you call it enlightenment, call it
fully awake as opposed to just aware. And entering that space of
awakeness and seeing how it feels inside that space and then what
action comes out of that? Not because it should be done, or there's
some goal orientation to it. But because its the natural outcome of
existing and residing in that particular way of being. And to me
that's the evolution of consciousness which is an expression of
complexity. And I think that's where the human race is moving and has
a choice too. And I think we're all capable of that, we all are
enlightened, we just have to find the space and go through the door.
My interest, as I expressed yesterday, is about the paths to that. And
Terence, you know, has done a lot with the psychedelic path to that.
And David has done a lot with the meditation and the intellectual path
to that. And Joan Halifax has. And the Native American sweat lodges
and long distance running. There are certain things that get us to a
position of moving into first the awake space and then the aware space.
And then the fully awake space, and I think that the more individuals
get into the fully awake space, the natural result and the actions that
occur from that are the things that will solve the problems. That's
what the intersection of circles form.
I think what Terence says is right. But I think your concern means
getting out of the I, me, my story and even though the I, me my story
is: I'm angry, I'm an activist, I want to do something about this. It's
still confining us to a situation that doesn't--isn't necessarily the
correct motivation. It's needed and it probably helps. But the clear
motivation is the one that comes from this other space. And so how do
we move into that other space? I think that's the theme that maybe we
can do a little with.
Other thoughts and topics?
I was thinking when Terence was talking about his last remedy for
sustainability because ultimately what we would evolve, of course,
would be society without brothers and sisters. And then the next
generation would be a society without nieces and nephews. And it would
create a, I think a very strange society, a society of single--of only
Well, it's only temporary. One doesn't want to divide the population
back too many times.....
Even if it's temporary...
I don't know how many of you read in the New York Times the other day a
very interesting article about the gene pool for human beings.
Apparently, in another hundred years, there will be no difference in
our gene pools. So therefore we will stop genetically evolving. So
therefore, the only way we can do that is to--brain implants and go the
whole virtual way. Well, yes, this is all sort of underlying what
you're saying. Maybe nature has another, more interesting plan. There
are no strangers anymore genetically. Hats off to Gaia because she's
obviously much smarter than all of us. And hats off to you, although
sometimes I think you give me a choice with this attractor business
between the Wizard of Oz and Hitler! [laughter]
In the science is the complexity there are avalanches of extension and
avalanches of anomaly. And hopefully we've got a little window here.
What are our choices? And what's right livelihood? It's something I
think of all the time. Because I have a propensity for talking to
really impossible people like Islamic fundamentalists and hardcore
Communists, which is what I do, it's like how do you communicate with
people who don't want to play? I mean that's it to me because so many
people don't have the choice.
We talk about options. You go to the Sudan, no one's talking about
options. People in this room have options. We all are wildly smart
and have a lot of options. But how do you interface with the people
that are doing what the rest of civilization is doing? The Western
world may be sort of, running a number through their brain pan called
"in the next fifty years have to decide between nature and culture."
But in the rest of the world, they're trying to figure out how to deal
with the individual and the State.
No, but I think it's important though, I feel it's important to say
that I don't believe options are just the province of rich westerners.
And I have particular stories that are basically about the option to
opt out of the grid. That's the option that I'm talking about.
I don't think that the answer is to go out and say to people, in a
either a bribery or coercive way, to have only one child. It's about
educating and empowering women basically. And that has now been
accepted in the world community as the way to go. Now, you could argue
just in terms of looking at the numbers and the time lag and how many
people, and how long it takes to change that kind of behavior, but even
under our best case assumption, we're still going to have twice as many
people on the planet in forty years. But it's real progress. It's
real progress. And the Pope has taken a real hit with all that. So
its not impossible to do this, but it takes some kind of synthesis
between these two approaches to see the goodness of the opportunities
presented to us by the technology. But also to realize that you know,
it takes real elbow grease too, and risk.
Well, first of all I agree with what you said; I used mass extinction
as an example of an Omega point because I think its easier to
understand that example than what I really believe, which is something
that can only be described as supernatural, transcendental and
religious. I don't think that the funnel down which we're being pulled
is a funnel toward mass extinction, but I also assume that this is a
room full of fairly rational people who aren't that familiar with what
my position is. [laughter]
I think that what is really happening is that the promise of Western
religion, all Western religions, is being fulfilled and that God is
entering history. But that's a sixteenth century way to describe it
and not how I would describe it at all. Something is going on which
Alfred North Whitehead called concrescence. All boundaries are being
dissolved. Everything is melting into everything else. Distinctions
between men and women, polis and nature, life and death, past and
future are all erased in the metaphysical culmination of complexity
that he called concrescence.
It is what caused history to put it into a shoutable slogan, history is
the shock wave of eschatology. History promises eschatology, and now I
think that it's upon us. But I don't know quite how to get that out in
a group like this because I assume that Marxism or something like that
is about as far as people are willing to go rather than to believe that
the next evolutionary step is about to be taken and that this is not a
crisis of society or a crisis of civilization. It's biology about to
do something so huge that civilization, politics are utterly
irrelevant. And that we are just simply like the frantic cells of some
metamorphosing super being and we're trying to make sense of what's
going on but, in fact we cannot make sense of what is going on
We're the caterpillar and the butterfly.
Yes. And the butterfly is a global hyperdimensional star traveling,
inconceivably different from us kind of creature that has always been
blueprinted into our dreams. It's what we call God. You know, Plato
said if it doesn't exist, we'll invent it. We are inventing it, it is
upon us, this is the time of advent. But it's so counterrational to
talk about this that people just dismiss me as the mushroom moola...
That is really my position, I think extinction is the negative image of
this thing, but it ain't extinction, its the deus ex machina, it's the
second coming, it's the descent of the flying saucers, it's Maitrea,
it's all of those things and so much more, that we can barely conceive
of it and it is upon us. It isn't a thousand years or five hundred
years in the future, this is the last moment before it will be
generally understood that all models based on the past have failed.
And that in fact, the presence is with us and history is ending and
everything is being propelled into a cultural superspace that we cannot
No, but if its a metamorphosis--and I agree, to a butterfly that we
can't conceive and I agree but, then why describe it as the end of
Because it is the end of history.
(Brother David Steindl Rast)
That is not my problem, but my problem is just...[laughter] what you've
described is very beautiful, and to that extent, I can even see it and
agree with you, but there is a second thing happening at the same time
which we can also see, and I'm afraid it's not just the healthy
metamorphoses, but there is an awful lot of pathology going on at the
same time. Well, I think that we should also focus on the pathology
which might even prevent this healthy metamorphosis to take place, and
it's obviously here, you know.
Well, but to make a biological analogy, if you look at the fetus in the
womb, it is sculpted from worm to human by dying cells. Death is what
fills the womb, cells die and slough off and slowly the thing is
sculpted into existence. Nature is very ruthless, and very capable.
It's a favorite metaphor of mine--almost a cliche, but think of the
situation immediately preceding birth. The free lunch of the amniotic
ocean is finished. And suddenly the walls begin to close in.
Strangulation appears to be what's happening, the fetus is going to be
crushed to death, "All hope abandon ye who enter here"; it says over
the birth canal, and then down you go. And you say "my God, the world
is ending." No, you're on your way to be a stock broker, a movie star,
or a research scientist, and the world is not ending.
It's simply that "a world" is ending and biology has decreed that if we
don't make the passage into the new order, then toxemia will set in.
We're at that stage. We are slightly post, you know, it's a late
delivery is what I'm saying here. [laughter] But it's alright--mother
and child, once parted, will do fine. And it's our job to ameliorate
anxiety on the part of people, who because they are oppressed, crushed,
misled and propagandized are afraid.
I really love the trance that Terence puts me in--I've been enjoying it
on and off for about twenty years. In actuality, I think a lot of what
you say is really important for us. At least as I have heard it over
the years. It is important for us to have as a kind of background in
our daily life. There's a deep ground there. If one identifies,
however, with just your perspective, it's like identifying with the
ultimate or the absolute. And Chris represents a perspective that is
coming from a bit more of the relative and the historical. And so, you
know, if one just stays with Chris's camp, for example, I think one
could become quite anxious, quite upset. And if one is in your camp
only, then one becomes rather remote. And I think what's interesting
here, is that there you are sitting on the opposite side of the circle.
That what we're trying to do is to find a kind of a middle way that
actually--and you spoke about this--the paradox is able to hold these
contraries. To me, that is what's really important, not to identify
with either/or, but to operate from this kind of the big view, or
sunyata, or whatever you want to call it, to see that life happens in
its details, and compassion emerges and love and kindness and action.
Effective action emerges out of the detail of our life.