Monday, February 19, 2007
I think there is a link between the realization that our consumer culture is making us sick and the sustainability movement. Our relentless pursuit of prosperity has changed the world from one of scarcity to one of excess. We are genetically wired to compete for resources in a world of scarcity. Yet when our comfort is all but guaranteed by the civilization of excess in which we live, our natural instincts work against us. The discomfort we feel with our lives of excess encourages us to seek answers. As we learn that our actions not only lead to discomfort but to the devastation of the Earth, we strive to live in ways that are sustainable. The argument that we are hopelessly destined to destroy the Earth through our instinctual actions is losing ground. Could it be that the system of life on Earth, of which we are a part, is "telling" us that it is time for us to behave differently? We have "progressed" too far. It is time for respite, renewal and rebirth.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Food for thought. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that humanity has known that money will not buy happiness for thousands of years (straightforwardly expressed by writings of the ancients). Yet, our species (particularly Americans) continues to believe that it is so. How have we not been able to recognize and absorb this proven fact? Will we ever?
Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert suggests that the reason may be in what he calls the super-replification of beliefs. It is not necessarily the truth of the belief that it important for our species to perpetuate. What is important is that the belief, and the activities associated with it, is a "communication" channel for something that is truly important to our survival. In other words, the social interaction and "progress" (i.e. efficiency) that result from the false-belief that money will buy happiness is what is important. Humans are innately wired to compete, produce, and consume. Our beliefs drive our actions.
The question is then, is it possible for our species to not destroy the Earth? Maybe the planet's destruction is hard-wired into our genetic code. Of course, this intellectual expose is off the subject of happiness somewhat. Yet happiness is a big emotional driver for humans. Our search for happiness, combined with our false-belief that money will buy it, leads us headlong into oblivion. I think we can escape it. Do you?
Monday, February 05, 2007
Today's Ramble comes from Dr. Peter Whybrow, the author of American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. "In achieving material success, we have dramatically changed the social circumstances under which millions of Americans live and work until many, now pushed close to the limits of their physical and mental tolerance, are beginning to lose faith in the time-hallowed narrative of the American Dream - that if you compete, work hard, and pay your taxes, then one day you will be rich and happy. Something is not right. We seem to have lost touch with the purpose of our quest. Increasingly, when the behavioral outcomes of our manic pursuit are measured, it is not happiness that we find but the disturbing trends of rising anxiety, obesity, and greed. In the face of the growing sickness it is time to pause and to reflect."
Friday, February 02, 2007
Adam Smith, the "father" of free market economics, stated the following :
"In what constitutes the real happiness of human life, the poor are in no respect inferior to those who would seem so much above them. In ease of body and peace of mind, all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and the beggar, who suns himself by the side of the highway, possesses that security which kings are fighting for."
It's ironic, but Adam Smith understood that wealth does not preceed happiness. Even though he was a proponent of progress through free market capitalism, he understood that it was not necessarily a pathway to happiness. Perhaps what he did not understand was how humans would be convinced that their happiness was dependent upon their level of wealth.