Enlightenment is to see the world and our lives as they truly are vs. how civilization has programmed the escalator of our life into our minds. We know we are getting closer when the world appears to us as a bad Disney cartoon: media is nonsense and politicians are clueless egomaniacs competing to be on the media stage.
To be clear, enlightenment is not seeing the world as, “I am getting screwed by the rich.” Although, it is true that bottom 90% of American households are over-indebted, poor credit risks and their income is stagnant and/or precarious. Enlightenment is feeling, not just seeing, what civilized humanity is doing to the world and ourselves. And, oh by the way, yes we are getting screwed by the control system, but that is not the point. That is just a symptom or mechanism of the overall problem: civilization.
Some look at enlightenment as avoiding suffering caused by grasping. But, this ignores the reality of the world and the damage to the perfect ecosystem that sustains us. I advocate the opposite. Grasp like hell to improve the world. Be attached to a successful outcome. Change our life. Protect the ecosystem that will sustain your children when you are gone. If we fail, be disappointed, regroup, dig deeper and try again.
I have done it all: Christmas parties at the White House; Fortune 100 companies paying me millions for my advice.; founded business and nonprofits; sustainability teacher, writer and full-time parent. To me the prior a destructive waste of time and the latter is has been the most fulfilling part of my life. I would add leaving forests in my footsteps to the fulfilling list. I have three restored ecosystems to my credit. It is truly fulfilling to see diverse plant, insect and animal wildlife come back to what were man-destroyed ecosystems. To restore wild ecosystems, I found I had to stop farming, stop cutting, stop haying and remove all domestic animals and insects, especially honey bees that out-competed wild pollinators.
When we can toss civilization into the trash heap of history we will be moving towards the enlightenment that Native Americans possessed when Columbus was found lost at sea. Biblical scholars refer to an ancient Garden of Eden from which humanity originated. As for most history, this could not be further from the truth. The Garden of Eden was North and South America 500 years ago when European settlers began to destroy the wild ecosystems of this content from sea to now dying sea.
Europeans brought many diseases: smallpox, dutch elm, chestnut blight. But by far their most deadly disease is the mind-diseases: civilization, dominion, taking, money, property, war, genocide, slavery, on and on. If a civilized person cannot look in the mirror and see that all of these horrors are required to maintain their lifestyle, then they have been blinded by poor education and deep programming.
Cities have created such a pig-pile of population density that there is no way left to survive than rural and foreign exploitation and war. By externalizing all costs, we civilized people do not experience the costs of our actions. We just order another latte. One of the most ironic things I have seen is a bumper sticker says, “Peace Now,” Haha, that’s hilarious, because the cars we drive and their fossil fuels cause the wars.
The survival of a species is not based on what we might think. Species only survive long-term if they contribute to top soil and biodiversity. If a species does not do that long-term it goes extinct. Humanity built fertility and supported diversity until we created civilization. After that, we started mining top soil, created mono-crops and mass extinction. We have to understand that civilization is the exact opposite of and blocks nature’s secession. To be enlightened, we have to realize we have to stop, literally everything, including having more than one child, and get out of nature’s way.
Peak Oil May Be Our Only Hope
Programming runs so deep in most people that it cannot be undone. From birth, Mother Culture whispers in our ear. We see her everywhere; our parents repeat the Taker culture of their parents. We are taught to be consumers, wage slaves, and that nature is only a resource to be consumed. The grip of the control system is too strong and the programming too deep for most people to free their minds.
Over the next 200 years, peak oil will be a great blessing not a curse. Global warming is caused by deforestation, not by the burning of fossil fuels. With a slow decline of cheap energy, we will have a slow decline of food, transportation, extraction and all other civilized activity. The world will look as different 200 years from now as it did 200 years ago during the American Revolution.
The problem is we have had the civilized mind-disease since horse and buggy days, if not thousands of years before. The only hope is that the calamity of the slow decent will become a lesson to future generations of what not to do.
Enlightened indigenous peoples will never be as strong as the civilized people through greater food supply and population. This leaves our hope on the resiliency of the land itself and time itself. Will there be enough resiliency left in the destroyed land and wildlife to indigenize the white man? Humanity’s and all life’s only hope is if we can leave all destroyed landscapes to let them heal and re-wild themselves.
Since civilization began when we were still tossing spears and arrows at each other, there may not be much hope for a benign low energy future. Native people have always known civilized man was foolish and have always resisted.
The biblical story of Cain and Abel is reversed. The story is actually the tale of the civilized Cain slaying the tribal or native Abel. Civilized Europeans murdered and starved millions of Native Americans to steal their land. This is not manifest destiny or enlightenment, it is theft and genocide. America is founded on the freedom to mercilessly farm, log, extract, mine and exploit. God-fearing Americans should fall to their knees and beg forgiveness for their sins against their creator and destruction of her creation.
Enlightenment is a Matter of Perspective
Can we see behind the curtain? Can we hear the lies? Can we hear the screams of wild animals as they are crushed, poisoned or buried by civilized machinery? Can we feel the suffering of the exploited people? Can we see the spirits of those who lived in harmony on this land?
If we can’t, we might as well accept our lot, turn the TV on and get back to work on Monday. Go back to sleep.
We reach enlightenment through steps: knowing something is wrong, seeking knowledge, finding the truth and changing our life a little or a lot. Changing our life a little is volunteering for a nonprofit, becoming an activist or gardening in the community garden. Profoundly changing our life is quitting our day job, getting a vasectomy after one or no children, and creating a new working community model that leaves forests and biodiversity in our footsteps.
The hope is realizing that we are living in a cartoon, on a hamster wheel, in a cage, programmed from birth and so is every civilized person around us. Once we wake up, then we can start to change our lives and teach our children differently than we were programmed. We also realize the sustainabilities© that matter are the ones with the biggest long-term benefit: one or no child families vs. just recycling your consumption?
Are we enlightened beings or a zombies?
This is our choice.
This chapter is to simply help us see the world differently. It is not about how we can save the world. That comes after we can to see civilization as a cartoon. Then we can begin to look behind the curtain and free our minds.
Originally published 10-08-2017. Revised 09-16-2019.
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See Chuck Burr’s essay, 6 Circles of Enlightenment.
Editor, Beth Brown.