2. Separation is a Delusion!

We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, and with our thoughts, we make the world
— Buddha

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:

1. This was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me, and
2. This baby girl must not inherit a trashed planet!

Three years earlier, I had been wallowing in the depths of despair, feeling an abject failure as a parent and as a despised member of a planet-destroying generation. But now, I saw Kimaya’s birth as a sign of redemption, not just for our family, but for all humanity! Then a third thought occurred:

What if everything is already perfect? Just as she was.

I don’t mean that in the sense of the mystics, as an article of faith. But rather as a statement of fact, based on science, reason and common sense[1].

What if we have been telling our human story all wrong?

We live on the most beautiful, life-sustaining planet that we could have ever imagined[2]. We are a truly privileged species within this amazing community called Life on Earth.

Therefore, despite the numerous difficulties that we face on the planet today, what if the world doesn’t need to be changed? The world just needs to be understood. When we understand the world correctly, we will change ourselves, together. As we change, the world will change with us so that our difficulties will melt away.

The English writer and philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once said[3],

“The greatest challenge to any thinker is to state the problem in a way that will allow a solution.”

But this can be interpreted in a reductionist sense. Unfortunately, that’s how most of us have been educated to see the world, as full of smaller problems that need to be “solved”. Bertrand Russell’s dictum can even be stated as an algorithm, a sequence of actionable steps:

Step 1. List problems in order of importance.
Step 2. Solve them one by one.
Step 3. Reap the unintended consequences…
Step 4. Go to Step 1…

Is energy the number one problem for humanity? Then solve how can we produce 45% more energy by 2030. Next, solve how can we produce 30% more fresh water by 2030. And so on, down Smalley’s list. Such reductionist thinking has led us to where we are today, with all the undeniable suffering that surrounds us. Therefore, what if the greatest challenge is to state our problems in a way that they are not problems, but indicators to personal and social change? As we respond to those indicators correctly, these problems will transform as well.

This is how flourishing ecosystems actually work. There is fluidity and flexibility on both sides spanning difficulties. After all, most of our problems are self-inflicted. Along with the problems, we have created enormous surpluses of profligate waste that we can harness to mitigate these problems as we change ourselves.

As William Ophuls wrote[4],

“The real product of genuine systems analysis is not solutions, but wisdom.”

We have plenty of “solutions” for our “problems”. Wisdom is precisely what we have been lacking, not solutions.

True wisdom leads to personal change, first and foremost.

[1] It is customary for a parent to feel this way when his or her child is born, not when a grandchild is born. Please see the Prologue section in Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies, http://www.carbondharma.org

[2] Artists have imagined fantastic planets, but not another that is also life-sustaining.

[3] The Bertrand Russell quote can be accessed here, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/11219-the-greatest-challenge-to-any-thinker-is-stating-the-problem

[4] The quote can be found in Chapter 4 of Ophuls, William, Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-1479243143, Dec. 2012, http://amzn.to/1WHM8t8