on humanism and environmental crisis

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Why invest time and effort in working on your Personal Worldview?

This post is going to be published as a part of Worldview Owner’s Manual.  It is posted on my blog to invite you to cooperate in this project.                                           

     “You are a hero!” I repeat this several times a day. It is what I say in my office to a mother who brings her new baby and tell me that she is breastfeeding. Many of them will quit in few days, some will breastfeed for weeks or months. But she is a hero, and in the same way you are a hero. You are attempting to work on your worldview. This statement urgently needs two clarifications( so urgently, that I will proceed at the peril of mistake of not starting with the thesis of the chapter.)

First, I have to remind you that you are not going to reveal any Truth about the Universe. If you are, you are going to get the Nobel Prize, become a prophet or be invited by Oprah. But it is a test, a test of you being unique, individual thinking being. The dogs, cats, the robots, the mob members should not apply. We are going to work on the essence of your experience, of your story. We are going to work on our personal worldview.  

Second, I need to say something about the term “to work on”. And it is more difficult than it looks from the distance. Because you are my hero, you are already working on it. Actually, nolens-volens everybody is working on it. Our every action is an attempt to understand our world and ourselves. And we have been working on it since birth, and our species has been absolutely famous of working on it since we jumped down from the branch. So, our work here is just an “accelerated method” or “advanced course”. We will be transferring our gut feelings and deep instinctual worries and hopes into written, short, crisp thoughts.

 

     In this chapter, I will discuss the dilemma of “why to do it”. And it is a real dilemma. Billions of people never have done it and they go their more or less happy way. Initially, we thought (really!) that the fun of working on it would be so great that no elaborate cajoling would be necessary.

Be advised: this work is arduous and takes longer than expected. Many famous philosophers never did it. If you’ve been to counseling, you know about spilling your guts – and justly so, this metaphor doesn’t sound very inviting.

But it is worth it.

      The most obvious benefit of this work is of course , personal. The personal growth that is.

The term of the personal growth may seem rather vague, but not for a worldview owner. You go from the question to question, you write down your answers and you’re learning about yourself at the every step. Usually, you start with the questions which are most familiar and finding this out very often is  in itself a revelation. Like “am I really worry about the death?” “Is material more important than spiritual?”. You go through several answers and the picture of a human emerges.

Is it you? Or no picture emerges. Oh -oh… You might find yourself in the unfamiliar “territory”. Look, this is great! And you can stop and review and edit.

It is similar to the psychotherapy but more interesting and profound. As you go further and further, you’ll observe that these “late” questions are harder and more revealing. If it is difficult to condense your answer, I suggest that you write a longer version in “comments” and come back other day and finish the job. I have never revisited my worldview without an insight and editing. The most beneficial times to work on it is during the crisis- you’ll be surprised how much it helps to get clarity of the feelings.

There are professional philosophers who would work on big questions with you for a fee, as some sort of therapy. They claim to make you happier and more resilient. I agree, but having it written may be people liking it or commenting on your answers, has for me an additional element of building your own intellectual and emotional castle. You can just hide there if needed, or you can add another tower!

Think also that working on the personal worldview may and should “branch” into the conversations about personal freedoms and personal values. They also deserve to be transferred from implicit to explicit.

Of course, there is always the anxiety that the worldview that emerges from your writing might be incompatible with what you do, who you are. Well, there you are and it is good thing that you got confronted, isn’t it?

     These goodies are all personal, but I believe that this work can have an impact on the society. Does everybody need the personal, unique worldview? In the same way in which everybody needs good education- yes, everybody does. And then people can choose- to be a savage, easterner or westerner , are they any other options? I believe that the people who did the worldview are not only more successful but also easier to talk and negotiate with, they know where they stand. Creating one’s personal worldview can be beneficial for the society, especially if people in charge, people with power will do it and bravely share it with the rest of citizens.

Lastly, participating in the growing community of the worldview owners adds to our knowledge about the society and its values.


     At the end just a hypothesis: The more one works on transferring one’s implicit worldview into the explicit form, the more one become a humanist. And this, by itself, is beneficial for this person and for all humans. Now, I mean the humanist as a person who explores and promotes and holds dear the human values and it includes both religious and non-religious people like Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, my Mom or Kurt Johnson, a prominent force in the Interspirituality Movement.

Humanists and Extrahumanists

 

         Let’s stop dividing people into theists and atheists. By referencing something, we automatically validate it, it is why the term “atheism” is self-destructing, as one describes oneself by the term denoting the absence of god while one does not believe god exists! For me the term “atheist” is meaningless.

        The term humanist is the best- better than naturalist, atheist, freethinker, etc.- it is species-specific, solid and logical. It should be an “umbrella” term, similarly like theists (or extrahumanists)  have their religions, cults, and sects.  Let’s talk about  humanists and extrahumanists.

          Humanists are the people who see the source of the goodness and morality inside the nature of human being. This nature was build for eons by evolution, later modified by culture and endless tapestry of the earth’s civilizations. It includes all the instincts and wisdom of our ancestors, the heroes, the kings and the prophets, down to everybody’s  dad and mom. Everybody contributed and now it is our time to carry on.

 

           Extrahumanists are the people who see the source of the morality and ethics in a message from an intelligence higher than humans, actually infinitely higher.  This source, they believe,  is beyond evolution created human mind, it is all powerful God or gods, or aliens, or Heavens, or just unknown Order or Force permeating all the Universe. By definition and by design, this intelligence, which is the source of scriptures and their moral messages, is beyond the capacity of the human brain to comprehend, so its nature and its reasoning are unknown; they are the subject of faith and speculations. Scriptures tell the faithful what to do, but they give very few details about the origins of the message, say why we should not work on Sunday, or Friday or Saturday (depending on the God). And, again according to the extrahumanists, humans should not even attempt to completely figure all this out, they would not be able to understand it. So the extrahumanists are assured (or assure themselves) that that higher intelligence will take care of them, and maybe even of us poor humanists. They will listen to the message of the Lord, act accordingly, and go to heaven. Naturally, historically and ethnically, different sources or deities suggest different things to do. No surprise. On the mythical and ethnic level, these suggestions may be locally and temporally quite beneficial for the faithful, but may be very unpopular for the rest of humanity. These mythologies and rituals, while often beautiful and sentimental, also tend to become, by and by, pretty ridiculous and embarrassing as the times change.

         It might appear that there is the attitude which do not fit either of the two groups. Some scientists and other materialists just refuse to engage into philosophy. They are out to discover the laws or the things in the world leaving the philosophical quibble to the lowly humanities. If pressed, they usually agree that they assume some order in nature. Obviously, we do not know, will never know everything, but what we know is built by the animal, and then human intelligence, therefore they are humanists by default.

 

          Defining somebody’s worldview by pointing to what he or she does not believe, does not make any sense.  As a humanist, I have plenty of ideas to explore, beliefs and doubts, but it is useless to discuss things which do not exist. So do not call me a-theist, as I am not calling you a-humanist. Like in the restaurant, it would be odd to concentrate discussion on the dishes we will not order, or are not even on the menu. Anyway, the content of the message is the most important, the ethics and the values, while the quibble about the source may be irrelevant. It seems that across all religions and spiritual systems, the more contemplative the training, the deeper the level, the more barriers fall away and all the messages become the same. Perhaps it is  because their origin is the core of the human nature.

           Exploring these messages, including mythology and wisdom of all religions and philosophies, examining the human nature with the human mind not only discovers the unifying goodness and beauty but creates it (ie, goodness & beauty) in the process. Like, searching for the meaning of life makes it meaningful, or, according to modern phenomenologists – “living is making sense”.

What we need to unlearn

What do we need to unlearn

By 2050 and maybe sooner the humans need to unlearn a few things:

  1. some people are yours and others are different kind
  2. if things are unfair you can try use force
  3. money makes you safer
  4. poor people are dangerous
  5. people of your kind make you safer, the more of them the better
  6. dying is always sad and bad
  7. conversation about quality of life is a taboo
  8. we are free to have any weapon we want
  9. we are free to teach children anything we want
  10. we are free to buy whatever we want
  11. the more you play the happier you are
  12. in danger you can always call your God and you feel better
  13. if an experience is deeply personal and moving you call it religious

and learn few things:

  1. how to share our worlds, what we know and what we have and what we do.
  2. how to teach children about families and learning
  3. how to create strong families
  4. that the friendship produces cooperation , but not other way around
  5. how to create strong friendships
  6. how to create democracies, local and global

If we are ok by 2050- think of this as a Houdini escape.

Early Hominids, Hunter-gatherers, I think they are the inventors of the friendship. This new type of the relationship was beyond the power structure of the wolves’ pack. It was a skill highly beneficial for the group’s well being, learned during the childhood and the adolescence, sinking in the genetic code during the last million years. The friendship is the kind of love which is non kinship related, non- sexual, and non- spiritual, but it rewards the participants with most of pleasures, the gratification and fulfilments of love . It is centered on the cooperation.

The cooperation make friendship fun and the friendship makes cooperation fun. We need a renaissance of the friendship- the only way out.

My friend and teacher, Dr. Guo thinks there is no crisis- the same circular history in 5000 year history of China.

It seems that 3 billions of people in Far East believe in the circular history, so there is no worry, 1 billion Muslim believe that they will conquer the rest, so there is no worry, 1 billion Westerners believe that, if the Disaster comes, they will survive because of money and technology, so there is no worry, others are weak and poor and few so their opinion does not count.

I think there is crisis. I think it was always there together with the solution.

Early hominids started proto-civilisation with the development of the complexity of the nervous system reflecting the complexity of the society, with the metaphors, language and technology.

It took many civilizations to grow and fold, many cultures to flourish, and die, involving more and more of the population and resources.

Kurt Johnson believes that in the core of the deepest mystical exploration all religions are the same. With his idea of the Interspirituality all boundaries will fall away : religions, nationalism, racism, maybe others? It is good that these guys, the enlightened mystics, the monks, the meditators are there, better few dozen than nobody, but what about the rest of us?

Also it is amazing and wonderful if to these guys , each appropriate god is saying the same thing. It is interesting from the neuroscience point of view. But for this revelation they still rely on the message from god. We are relieved that the message for them is “love, love, blah blah, no violence, compassion, etc”, but why, and for how long? We do not understand god, can not guess him, so anytime and anyplace,  maybe tomorrow , or to other guys he or she will say “what would Jesus bomb?”.

Turn on your TV and see if my idea is purely theoretical….

So the religions, by following and relying on the god’s message, are intrinsically toxic and evil.

All these wonderful, best people, my brother Piotrus, my late Mom, Andrew Harvey and Dalai Lama, they all build walls. They allow the bombing (God bless USA) and beheading (Allah Akbar), because- “we just do what our god tells us to do” and “ it is clearly written”, and “ we swear on the scriptures, we are right”. And we can not tell them, “you are wrong, you uncouth primitives”, because these wonderful people, together with Kurt Johnson, are saying exactly the same thing!

Our only chance is that the last million years have build-in the critical thinking, the reflective thinking and the ability to be friend, in our core nature ( the kinship and cooperation are in our genes, that’s for sure, the ants and E.O. Wilson confirm it ). Or, I am wrong, an optimist and utopian, one million years is pretty short time for the evolution and other “survival” traits of fear and greed and seeking power and mate are stronger….

And, frightening as it is, all these latter traits are the base for the development of spirituality and religions!