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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Care without Being Cared About: The Awakening

“It’s common sense; essentially it’s saying what’s important…what matters? And you realize that what’s important is time to do the things you want to do, like playing the flute. You start thinking about time and you realize you’re working a lot of hours to buy all of this stuff so if you cut back on your stuff you can save money and maybe you can work less. I expected to be a Community College president one day, but I realized that in order to move up in community college administration…you’ve got to be a duller person. So, I started thinking about my work with simple living as my art and I became an artist.” – Cecile Andrews

Cecile is the author of several books on the joy of simple living and how it can save the planet. As we discuss all of these food issues, climate issues, peak oil issues I want to bring it all in around one glory hole we are circling. Because, this isn’t just a matter of changing the car you drive, the light bulbs you buy….it’s not just a matter of eating organic or growing your own food, it’s not just a matter of being an activist, or choosing to live in a tiny house…those are all things we do because of what many call The Awakening.

This is a matter of literally shifting the way we view our purpose, ourselves, each other…it is a change in human consciousness. In her works, Cecile Andrews discusses the way that simple living is a joy that just dawns on us when we finally choose to let go of some of our old believe systems. We have an illusory belief that money equals security. When Cecile and her husband received an advance for a book that he had written they wanted to pay off their house. Their financial advisor said, no, no that’s not what you want to do. With this money you can invest and make more money! But, Cecile and her husband didn’t want more money, they wanted security. That’s what really makes human beings happy…security, community and purpose.  These values are really important, and they are available through simple community living.

Cecile and her group have started a handful of social movements in Victoria, BC, including ‘Take Back your Time Day,’ and their own local ‘Gross National Happiness Movement.’ These are attempts to reach a broader audience about the joys and benefits of simple living. They are asking, “What is success to you, really?” People are working to save money so they can sit back and enjoy life…except Americans are working harder now than ever before compared to anyone. They have less time, less joy, more stress, more competition. Enjoying life is a right we all have simply by being born, not something we should be competing for.

Gross National Happiness is a global movement started in the 1970’s by the prime minister of the tiny country of Bhutan, Jigme Thinley. It seeks to re-address where people put their security of all kinds: economic, social, food, housing. Instead of putting our security into profit and money, if we put our security into other people, we will get a stable, sustainable, happier society. For example in food production, if we were to support local farmers, then suddenly we have a de-centralized food system where each community is its own sovereign producer of its own food. This type of economy lessens the gap that exists between the rich and poor. It connects people within communities, provides local jobs and keeps money flowing in the local region. 

What am I saying? I’m saying that this is the kingdom of heaven, this is paradise, but we’ve forgotten how to live in the garden. I’m also saying that the walls come down once the awakening begins…like dominos. Suddenly, the stress of the rat race falls away and euphoria begins to surround you. You find joy in EVERYTHING from doing the dishes to cooking, talking with the neighbors. You have time to do things for yourself and others which instills purpose and drive. 

But, in order to have an awakening we have to let go of our belief that money buys care: health care, home care, child care. In fact, this theme of ‘caring’ is incredibly potent throughout these issues. I am going to switch gears for a moment. Recently I read about psychopaths. In today’s American society about one of every one hundred people is medically a psychopath. This is a person who does not feel love or caring, and this condition is no longer just psychological. Psychopathy can be medically recognized and diagnosed, it is a genetic mutation. I find it fascinating that in a society which seems to have a phobia for expressing care without attaching some monetary value to it, psychopathy is prevalent. 

I am entirely speculating, but I think it is informed speculation. The field of epigenetics is young and wildly interesting. It explores the idea that certain hormones in the body can literally ‘hide’ certain genes, effectively turning them off, due to biological influences rather than previously known genetic exchange. This was a discovery that explained how environmental and biological factors affecting our grandparents and parents could result in phenotypic variation in offspring. Scientists are starting to find epigenetic factors that link to cancer, autism, even obesity…perhaps psychopathy? Andrew P. Feinberg, Rafael A. Irizarry and Peter T. Ellison wrote a paper titled: Stochastic Epigenetic Variation as a Driving Force of Development Evolutionary Adaptation, and Disease

Is it possible that we are creating phenotypic variation because of a social stress? The stress being a lack of development along lines of ‘caring’ coupled with a constant pressure to produce and advance. We see this type of system, and most human beings not flourishing within it…why wouldn’t Nature drive evolution to create a human who would? These things happen fast, do we have time to stop and talk about where we want our evolution to go?

Can we heal this derailing train through simple living, communal security and teaching universal care?

My suggestions for people wanting out of the rat race: Care without being cared about, live without being told how to live, produce without worrying about compensation, do without striving to ‘achieve’, don’t put so much faith in money and try to put some security into your friends, neighbors, family and Nature’s abundance. 

Reading and Reference:

Cecile on an episode of Peak Moment, discussion her philosophies.

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