We are in the midst of a monumental transformation in human civilization, akin to a metamorphosis. Just as in Nature where the caterpillar gorges itself before forcibly undergoing a metamorphosis in the chrysalis, we over-consuming humans are reaching a point of being forcibly transformed within the cocoon of our finite planet into compassionate, life-affirming butterflies. Vegan life-affirming butterflies.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that a new cultural narrative is required if we are going to be successful in our human quest for wisdom, meaning, and harmony in our rapidly changing world. Understanding how the deep structure of our culture confines us to the shallows of consciousness provides keys to this new narrative, and to authentic personal and planetary transformation. Learning to connect the dots between our culturally mandated mistreatment of animals and the environmental, cultural, psychological, and health challenges we face is an essential key to evolving new perspectives that provide the foundation and inspiration for lasting positive change.
I began writing this book over two years ago. I attended a Vipassana retreat in Twenty Nine Palms, Southern California in January 2014 and during those ten days of silence and meditation, the patterns of this unabashedly positive story began to emerge. It was stunning! As a systems specialist, I’m now in total awe of the systems design that is Nature. I’m talking about Nature as a whole, including us humans, with all our blatant flaws.
Everything in Nature is unique. Every human being, every animal, every leaf, every rock and even every grain of sand is unique. In turn, the universe experienced by every being is unique as well.
In 2003, the Nobel Laureate, Richard Smalley, compiled a Top Ten list of problems that humanity faces today
Nature’s physical limits are not easy to overcome. Certain laws of physics are literally sacrosanct as engineers have been butting their heads against them for decades without much success.
It is that quest for growth that created Smalley’s top ten list of humanity’s “problems”. These problems are systemic since their root causes are structural or cultural and therefore, largely independent of the individual actors.
Imagine going to a doctor with a persistent mild, 1 degree C fever…
And a coconut-sized growth by the side of your head.
As you are waiting for the doctor to examine you, you sense a lot of nervousness in the office. You overhear the nurse furtively whispering to the doctor, “Don’t mention the “C” word!”
This story of separation is the core story that is truly failing us. With the technological strides we have made in the last two centuries, most of us live in concrete jungles with little to no exposure to the terrestrial biodiversity on Earth.
In addition to the stories we tell ourselves about the present, the stories that we tell to explain our past and the stories that we tell about our future also determine how we act in the present, which, ultimately, is all that matters.
In Dec. 2010, as I held our tiny, one-month old granddaughter, Kimaya, in my arms, surrounded by our family, two thoughts crossed my mind
It was the summer of 2009, a dark night in a remote wildlife sanctuary nestled in the Western Ghats of India.
In my 2011 book, Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies, I used the metaphor of the Caterpillar and the Butterfly to recast the human story in a positive light, where we do belong exactly as we are.
The story of separation which has animated Western civilization and which has now been imposed globally, must now end in a common story of reunion and redemption for all humanity.
In our Caterpillar phase, the human ego has risen high as we have become more and more deluded that we are separated from Nature. As a result, even our stories about supernatural deities have become tinged with human hubris.
Our egotistical thinking is then reflected in the attributes that we assign to our deities.
At their core, all faith and wisdom traditions, including secular humanism, contain the same nugget of truth that only compassion for all Creation helps Creation thrive, whereas unbridled violence to any part of Creation cannot endure.
I contend that in an inexorable march towards that idyllic world, we had to create a mess to begin with! This is an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary factual evidence.
Our story rationalizes most of these seeming imperfections as the necessary suffering that had to be endured in our Caterpillar phase as we built out the technological foundations of our Butterfly phase.