The Architecture of Life: Sustainably Sufficient - Verse One

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sustainably Sufficient - Verse One

Exposing the Myth of Scarcity

Before we can create a sustainable, green and just global economy – we must first overcome an entrenched view of reality that persists in each of us.

True change is not prescribed by political leaders. It emerges from a grassroots awakening among individuals.

It is not enough to change policies and pass new laws. Every historical shift that has ever occurred in human society began first with a small group of people who were able to see the possibility of a deeper and more powerful view of life.

Human beings like to make sense of the world. It helps us feel in control of an overwhelmingly complex and uncertain existence to have strong opinions about what is real. We take these views of reality – real and imagined - for granted in our day to day lives.

Our beliefs originate from all kinds of sources - our cultural background, our upbringing, opinions we hear on TV or in our social group and to be frank, from entirely irrational sources in own personal psychological makeup.

The most reliable way we have to verity those views is by using the scientific method to understand nature. In that pursuit – scientists have uncovered general laws that determine what is possible for us.

Many of these laws are easy to understand. We know we can’t fly like the birds because our bodies aren’t built to defy the laws of gravity. We know can’t breathe underwater because we don’t have gills like fish.

We accept these facts because for most of human history, everyone who tried to fly or breathe water fell to their deaths or drowned. But “common sense” is not always a reliable measure of reality.

Through science, we can distinguish fact from fiction. But even science is a child of change. Time after time, the prevailing views of the scientific community have turned out to be utterly false.

And to be frank, most people don’t verify their “views of reality” through the filter of current science. Not only are new discoveries always revising the views of scientists – but we inherit all kinds of strange notions from our social environment that have great power in our minds.

All sorts of false views – untrue as a matter of fact - persist all over the planet. Some could be seen as beneficial. Others are dangerous to our wellbeing and limit our ability to create more workable and fulfilling lives.

Consider how damaging the views of racism, tribalism, sexism, predatory capitalism and out of control consumerism are to our planet and the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Similarly, most of us live as though “insufficiency” is an undeniable natural law. If you listen to the news, your neighbors or your internal dialogue, you can hear it everywhere.

There’s not enough money, not enough food, not enough peace, not enough freedom, not enough leadership, not enough vision, not enough integrity, compassion or forgiveness.

That is what the outside world looks like to most of us. We see the most valuable things in life as scarce and hard to find.

Scarcity as a point of view is also integral to how we see ourselves.

We aren’t rich enough, powerful enough, kind enough, attractive enough, effective enough or happy enough.

We are driven more by what we lack than what we have. We see the glass half empty. We focus more on what we are not than what we are.

Commonly held views become the accepted reality of a time. Enough people see a flat horizon in their own neighborhoods and soon the whole planet becomes flat. The “world is flat” view is passed down through the generations and becomes an unquestioned dogma in our shared reality.

Then, a miracle occurs. Some curious soul comes along and questions that prevailing view. New facts of nature are discovered that prove the old belief was a myth. The majority notions slowly fall by the wayside, often with a lot of “sound and fury.”

The old order is disrupted. A new balance is eventually restored. In a nutshell, that’s the history of all humanity and our accumulated knowledge.

Progress is directly related to our ability to distinguish fact from fiction in our communal views of reality.

Nothing has really changed in that process down through history – but almost everything has changed in the daily lives of people.

We found ways to fly to the moon and explore the darkest chasms of the oceans. Over and over, we have overcome false “realities” previously considered indisputable.

We have done that not by denying nature, but by learning more about it and creating new possibilities in the space of those discoveries. Despite our many frailties, human beings are very practiced at turning the impossible into the possible.

Go to Sustainably Sufficient - Verse Two