“You know how to split atoms, how to send explorers to the moon, how to splice genes, but you don’t know how people ought to live.” “That’s right.”
“A minute ago you said, ‘We need prophets to tell us how we ought to live, because otherwise we wouldn’t know.’ Why is that? Why wouldn’t you know how to live without your prophets?”
~ Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
When I was 14 years old, I was at once inspired and paralyzed by this question: “How should I live my life? What’s the right way to live?”
It wasn’t an easy question. I didn’t have a religious background to provide me with answers. My upbringing made me very independent and suspicious of any “prophet” or “book”, knowing pretty well that prophets are humans and books are written by human beings like us.
My socialization was sort of broken, as my mother was almost always involved in some activism, protest or meeting, I had no-one to tell me how to behave and there was no father to look up either. My role models (my mom, aunt and uncle) were all activists and permaculturists before permaculture appeared in the world. They dismissed money and possessions and (particularly my aunt) were absolutely passionate about nature, plants and animals. I was lucky enough to attend schools and daycares that were piloting all kind of alternative educational approaches, and my afternoons and summers were spent in the most amazing environment surrounded by forests and huge fields; I was allowed (not necessarily by design) to be on my own most of the time. I learned, then, from Nature and old books and had plenty of time to create my own questions and mythology about how things came to be the way they are.
It would have been easier for me to choose the path of these role models, if it weren’t because a traumatic event separated me from them and made me fearful for many years of any radicalism or involvement: the military coup d’état or 1976 separated us and showed me that this system can’t tolerate certain behaviours. Their life was not easy or always happy either: due to their involvement in activism, their own relationships and health were pretty messy and neglected.
I didn’t have much time to ponder that question either: as the daughter of a refugee, I started working at age 14 and haven’t stopped since then, except for the short periods when I had my two sons and when we moved to Canada.
I now understand that most people don’t have that time either. Even worse: most don’t ever ask themselves that question. The answers seem to come on their own, provided by a system that was there before we were born.
Except obviously that many of us never “fit in”. Some go with their lives with depression and anxieties, dysfunctional and unrewarding relationships, carrying a burden that they may not know they have.
Many enact this unbearable pain on others and perpetuate the hurt through generations and places, even through species beyond human. That’s the case of those who take up roles that make them rigid, judgemental, greedy, powerful and successful at other peoples and lives expenses.
Some try to live “by the book” and follow religious teachings, this or that new dogma or discipline and similar paths. And yet, joy and peace seem to elude them…why?
As humans, we are governed by the same “laws” as any other element of being in the world: when you look inside, our bodies and systems resemble that of many other mammals. As other beings, we breathe, drink, eat and get rid of what our bodies can’t process or don’t need. As any other element and system in this planet, we are subject by laws such as gravity, thermodynamics or systems behaviours.
We are no different from a frog or a fern. We depend on other organisms and systems to stay alive and thrive, as they do.
Why then, do we behave as if those laws don’t affect us?
Many may say that gravity doesn’t affect us because we have learned how to fly…well, we can fly because we have tried and tested until we found the mechanisms behind the aerodynamics laws. But I can assure you that if you jump from a cliff, you’ll certainly fall down to the Earth.
The thing is, as Ishmael tells in Daniel Quinn’s book, that if you jump from a high enough cliff, you may have the perception (for a while) that you are actually flying…and that all those who told you you couldn’t are wrong, jealous or just a bunch of cowards.
Well, that’s what humanity has done so far and for about 10,000 to 12,000 years: we have jumped from a cliff, ignoring the laws of nature as if we were different and special, and have been “flying” all this time: because the cliff was high enough, we accomplished many things we thought were impossible: we built things, we used “resources” everywhere, we went to space, to the floor of the oceans, inside volcanoes; we built empires and technology that resembles magic…the fly was so good that we started thinking it was “normal” for us to use a metal box with wheels to move at 100 Km/h, to fly at 7,000 ft or more over the Earth, to drink a sugared dark beverage that gives us temporary pleasure, to owe TVs and fridges and dryers and cellphones and give iPads to our babies …
What Nature will tell us if we ask Her how we ought to live?
We may think we have managed to obliterate her and dominate her, but think twice: is that even possible? sensible? ethical? And for how long can we do that until she decides to stop us?
I would like to share an event happening tomorrow. You can create one in your community if there’s none or you can do this from home with your family or friends…
This may be a step closer to understand how we ought to live, the practical details will come to you naturally, once you allow yourself to feel with all your senses. The answer is not in any prophet (although many have been very close to it), not sacred books or practices (although many have nailed a big part of the truth), the answer is both within yourself and out there: because no matter who you are, you can’t deny you are part of nature:
International Vigil for Standing Rock:
“Wherever you are, pray on this day for all water protectors who have been injured or imprisoned, and for the horse that was killed by police. The world joins in prayer for HEALING for those at Standing Rock who experienced such intense trauma on October 27th. We also join in prayer for the men and women police who brutally harmed the water protectors. We also pray for the pipeline workers and those who finance them. May they all be blessed and healed and reconnected with the earth. We pray for everyone as we know that in the end we are one, inseparable human family. In forgiveness, hard truth, courage and faith, we will arise from this hardship.”
Thanks for reading,