OF THE SIXTH MIRACLE OF NATURE
This week Jarvis in North Carolina wrote about a study showing that ever fewer people in North America are visiting parks, hiking, hunting and fishing, while computer games and other electronic media appear to fill the void. Then I heard a BBC shortwave program referring to another study concluding that our consumer society encourages young people to judge themselves according to the clothing they wear and what they own, resulting in many young people developing bad self-images. Finally Bea in Ontario wrote about recognizing the wrong-headedness of many of our traditions and institutions, but fearing that if she rears her child according to her insights the kid may suffer from being so different from her peers.
One feature uniting the above three situations is that they all offer opportunities to participate in the actualization of the Sixth Miracle of Nature.
First, it's to be expected that most people would be more attracted to electronic media than to the biological world. That's because electronic media are configured to be human-centered while Nature treats us as just one tiny element of an enormously complex web of interdependent parts. If you're insecure, the right computer game can convince you that you're a hero. If your hormones are raging, porn can relieve the pressure. Nature, in contrast, doesn't reward self-delusional and self-gratifying behavior, and typically even punishes it.
Similarly, nothing is more human than consumerism. It's what humans have done since the dawn of humanity, hunting and gathering, trying to possess. Our genes program us to consume.
With regard to traditions and societies, remember that they are in place because they've survived long periods of being tested in a Darwinian manner. Traditional behavior has survived while untold numbers of novel ideas and untraditional behaviors have gone extinct. In the past it was sustainable to do what always had been done, and what everyone else was doing.
And yet, intuitively we all know that in the long run outdoor people are happier and healthier than those who root themselves behind TVs and computers. We know that long-term happiness arises from other than great material wealth, and we know that today our conservative traditions such as "blind faith in authority" are causing untold grief as we fail to adapt to the fast-changing world around us.
Years ago in this Newsletter I wrote about "The Six Miracles of Nature," which remains online at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/6/.
The Sixth Miracle of Nature manifests itself when mere consciousness of the kind a clam or mouse might have evolves into an ability to learn and to reflect. While the first five miracles, such as "something coming out of nothing," happened long ago, the Sixth Miracle is flickering into existence right now.
Whenever any human struggles with existential problems and adapts his or her behavior to resulting insights, that's the Sixth Miracle actualizing right now. That's humanity right now advancing toward spiritual maturity.
When anyone glimpsing the superficiality of electronic media gets up, goes outside and takes a walk to "get it together," it's beautiful, and it's a miracle.
When anyone walks away from a well-paying job in order to do work fulfilling to him or her, it's beautiful, and it's a miracle
When a family orients itself toward a spiritual ideal despite knowing what it means to fall out of step with the surrounding community it's beautiful, and it's a miracle