THEY HAVE NAILED THEIR CARS TO THE ROOF
……………………………………………………………………………………………M. King Hubbert: in memoriam
They have nailed their cars to the roof
And ridden off on bicycles
The grass is still green
Spruce in a cool screen
Not completely aloof
The calm houses stare eyes half-closed
Through the long lashes of Greeks
In the trees
The lightest breeze
In fifteen weeks
The distant hills have not decomposed
Only a little dust rises from the fields
And the sun is overhead
It is midday
The warmth of the earth is red
Reflected from the windscreens as from shields
Never mind the shell game
The carny show sleight of hand
It’s slowly crumbling
Empire jerry-built on sand
Whatever next? Fracking hell
Observe the shell game
The carny show sleight of hand
It’s slowly crumbling
Empire jerry-built on sand
Whatever next? Fracking hell
I invite you to perform a small experiment with me. Take a moment to become as aware as you can of yourself, your body, the words in front of you, your immediate surroundings. Now imagine that, instead of perceiving in the normal way a number of discrete objects – hands, display device screen or paper and so forth, you are seeing at the subatomic level. All around “you” is a field of tiny points of light, particles of matter/energy moving around, colliding, transforming, winking in and out of existence. As you remain still, a small point of observation, notice that here is one continuous interplay of energies; there are no boundaries between different objects, no “empty space” or “solid matter”. Stay in this place for a few minutes and allow this view of the way things are to come as close to a personal experience as possible. Then gently allow yourself to return to the everyday mode of perceiving. It may help to reach out and touch a few objects, or to get up and walk around a little to reorient yourself.
If successful, this experiment should have allowed you to taste two very different things. Firstly, the interrelatedness of everything (including your own body), and secondly your own essential aloneness and separateness as the observer of this interrelatedness.
The human being possesses a dual nature, being in one aspect a part of the material world and in another aspect a spirit, capable of detached observation and the exercise of will. This basic truth is expressed by one of the levels of symbolism of the Christian cross: the vertical axis representing spirit, the horizontal our (and Christ’s) sharing in the flesh and the world. The two worlds we inhabit – the physical and the spiritual – each have a “game rule” which, once identified and acknowledged, can give purpose and direction to our struggle to live and understand correctly. Should we ignore, or confuse them then we do so at our peril, as our history and present situation bear witness.
The game rule for the physical universe can be found in the book of nature, as interpreted through the commentaries of ecology. From an evolutional viewpoint it did appear that nature was indeed “red in tooth and claw”, that its law was that “of the jungle”, of “dog eat dog”. The perspective of ecology, however, has illuminated systems within systems of balance and overall harmony, a planetary organism whose motif is the circle. The end products of any natural cycle become the material for another cycle. There are no loose ends.
The game rule for the spiritual life of a human being is admirably explained, among many other places, in Aldous Huxley’s “The Perennial Philosophy”, an especially useful source since it does not belong within any specific “religious tradition”, but draws inspiration from all the major religions to illustrate that which is common to, and lies behind and within them all. It consists in a striving away from separateness and an ascent to a (re)union with the ground of being, the lived experience of which our experiment a few minutes ago is but a pale imitation. The arrow can serve as a fine motif for this aspiration and process.
It seems to me that if we review our behaviour as a race, what becomes clear is that there has been a radical confusion between circling and striving when deciding on an appropriate way to conduct ourselves in each of the two realms we inhabit. It is within the spiritual arena that we tend to circle round and round the same tiny enclosure of our separate selfhood, saving our unswerving linear striving for the outer material world, with the goal of “As Much As Possible”. Unfortunately “As Much As Possible” is both a logical absurdity and a planetary tragedy perhaps approaching its final act.
If “green spirituality” has any meaning, then I believe it relates directly to everything I am suggesting here. In just the same way that a human being cannot be a human being without both the physical and the spiritual aspects of their nature so, I believe, there can be no real greenness without spirituality, and no true spirituality without greenness. The need to manage our physical existence on this planet in a manner which the planet can sustain – by ensuring that the outputs from all our cycles can be incorporated as materials for other natural ones – must follow from our developing a sense of relatedness to all that is. The need, I might even say the hunger, which exists in each person and which arises from our essential isolation from the source of our being, must be assuaged through striving within the spiritual, not the material realm, where it cannot be satisfied. In the physical realm this hunger only leads to insatiability or exhaustion, and we can see plenty of evidence of both around us.
Thus we need to remain aware of our dual nature. We need to remember the game rule for each realm: the circle of physical nature; the arrow of spiritual ascent out of selfishness and separation into reunion with a greater system of consciousness. As above, so below. At the present time, as a race, we are isolated and in conflict on both levels. We are damaging ourselves, each other, our surroundings, both physically and spiritually. We have the potential to reverse this tendency, and the responsibility to begin with ourselves.
Meanwhile, I invite you to perform a small experiment with me …
And so one day this guy comes up to you and says: “Hey man, did you ever try heroin? It’s really great.” And you say: “Oh, how’s that then?” And he explains like how it gives you this really nice feeling, man, and you’re a bit suspicious, of course, because you can’t believe it can be that easy and haven’t you heard that it can be dangerous? But he says no, it’s not dangerous as long as you know what you’re doing, so you say OK and you take some and it IS really nice, so you take some more. And so on …
(And so one day this guy comes up to you and says: “Hey man, did you ever try mass production economics? It’s really great.” And he explains how it’s this fantastic system where if you use machinery to produce lots and lots of everything, it all comes out cheap, so that everyone can afford a flat screen wall mounted TV with a DVD player and surround sound and a CD player in every room in the house, a computer, a laptop, an i-pod, a mobile phone, a digital camera, a microwave, two cars, a washer and dryer, a dish washer, a fridge and a deep freeze. And you’re a bit suspicious, of course, because you can’t believe it can be that easy. But he says: “What could possibly be wrong with a system like that? It’s just what we’ve always been looking for. Here, have this free gift and 14 days free trial in your own home WITH ABSOLUTELY NO OBLIGATION AND A MONEY BACK GUARANTEE AND 0% INTEREST FINANCE.” So you do …)
And then you start to notice after a while that maybe you don’t get to feel quite as great quite as easily as you did before, and it seems like you’re needing more of the stuff. And not only that, but when you don’t have any you don’t feel good at all and it’s like you’re beginning to have this NEED and that need keeps growing and you’re needing more and more and the price keeps going up and you start to suspect maybe the stuff is being cut with something and that’s why it’s not having the same effect. But you can’t be sure though and whatever – you can’t afford to pay for your habit legally any more and you’ll do anything for dope or the money to buy it. Running to keep still. Mortgage on your soul.
(And then you start to notice after a while that maybe you don’t feel all that happy with all this stuff, certainly not as happy as the people in the magazines and on the TV, but then you don’t have all the things they have yet, at least not the new models. And your work and your whole life doesn’t seem very satisfying either somehow, as if you’re kind of separated off from everything, and the things you’ve bought don’t seem to satisfy either (though you pretend they do) and again it seems to be a separation from something. And the price of whatever it is you want next which will finally free you keeps going up and what you have keeps wearing out or proving unsuitable or going out of fashion, and someone else always seems to be doing better than you and it makes you so mad. And you’ll listen to anything that promises satisfaction (“Buy now and save!” “More than you can possibly use in a lifetime!” “Vote for me and I’ll make everything OK.”) and agree to anything the system says is necessary, even a nuclear war.)
And finally you awake from your technicolour fantasies of horror and ecstasy and allow yourself to realise you have been sucked into a situation of total need. Terminal addiction. The only way to avoid the excruciating pain of withdrawal is to tie yourself in knots trying to pay for your ever-increasing consumption of the poison which is killing you. You can choose between death by intoxication and the voluntary suffering of a pain which you are afraid may also kill you as the only escape from your sick body and back to some kind of health. Some make it one way, some the other.
(And finally you awake from the advertisements braying between the taped laughter of the sitcoms, the obsessive violence of the thrillers and the ritual humiliation of the big money quiz shows to learn that you are living in a multinational board game, a cross between Monopoly and Risk, mesmerised by an intrusive and pervasive media telling you not only what to think (too obvious) but what to think about; where corporations not only buy and own politicians, but can sue governments whose policies cut into their profits; where goods are more abundant than ever before while the number of people without shelter, work or enough to eat is constantly growing. At home the tap water tastes like a swimming pool and you can be thankful if your child isn’t among the one in three on the poverty line; with a floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of Texas; the “third world” is as in third world war; you can smell the fuse for the Christian/Muslim explosion to come; AIDS, starvation, pollution, war and corruption are a Jehovah’s Witness dream/nightmare coming true and you are a cell in a sick body, sucked into a situation of total greed. Marooned on the terminal beach while “safe” nuclear waste leaks slowly into the oceans. Much of the world is starving and oil, metal and timber are running out, while the only remedy will throw most of our industries out of work and collapse the (already teetering) world economy. You can choose between capitalism, where man is exploited by man, and communism, where it’s the other way round. The only way to avoid the excruciating fear of “the enemy” is to tie yourself in knots trying to pay for ever-increasing overkill potential: nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry. Prophecy a-fulfil, ya.)