August 1, 2022: The One Sustainable Thing

Elizabeth Willing Powel asked Benjamin Franklin at some point after the Constitutional Convention whether we have a republic or a monarchy. To which Franklin was reported to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Ms. Powel asked “and why not keep it?” “Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good,” Franklin reportedly said. Paraphrased from Dr. Joseph Coohill, aka “Professor Buzzkill”

What, Me worry? Alfred E. Neuman, Mad Magazine

We are at war and have been for a long time, even if that war is punctuated by periods of calm. What constitutes a rationale to war is fraught with inconsistencies. However, the rationale for civility is also fraught with inconsistencies.

The birth of an “us” in the U.S. was about eschewing royal degree and embracing a self-governing decree (the rationale behind the Declaration of Independence), yet it was divisive, leading to the “loyalists” vs “patriots” and in a later war, the same divide, then called “North vs South.” Though ratification enshrined in documents like the Constitution, its Amendments, and the Bill of Rights occurred, behaviors adhering to those documents failed to include entire swaths of human beings, though the precepts were “self-evident.” And that is why we still war today, even if we have rationales based on resources or borders, used as an excuse for getting or taking.

It is not sustainable to war. It is not sustainable to disagree when trying to move forward. It is not sustainable to have an impotent representative body, whatever form of governmental name we use. It is not sustainable to use up resources to go green, in the name of not using up resources. Temperance is not sustainable, nor greed, or stupidity, though all three seem to have a following who try anyway. It is not sustainable to come together to get, but not to give—civil sustainability built on a plethora of laws designed to keep us in check may be necessary, but is a place holder awaiting a change in human nature. We the people, I the individual, all change. If we don’t get it, nature does.

It is good to embrace life’s riches, one that involves both give and take. But, enough of a community has chosen taking, a decidedly non-sustainable path. The solutions are not founded in fewer of us or technology alone. Besides, many think it’s far too late to change what we’ve wrought, that we are likely the creators of the next great extinction and we’ll pay with the blood of the living and the anguish of our ancestors. Waiting for change in human nature sans an apocalypse seems an impossibility, though I think it’s well within our current abilities.

If the human-caused extinction is to be, can we choose to be honestly civil while we can? Can we stop taking more than does us good? But even if not, the most unreasonable, delusional, incorrigible human soul on this planet is still a human being. That’s the essence of the democratic, of the documents we supposedly so revere. We have enshrined the compass heading. That alone is amazing, but we need the behaviors and it likely begins with accepting those “lost” souls, including ourselves. “They,” “we,” do not have to die wickedly while others get to clap.

To the many who live or “vacation” in Nutsville, at least on occasion, including myself, give it a break. Comeuppance is yet another non-sustainable category and not worthy of flag waving. It’s not a compassionate being who desires and applauds another’s misdeeds. We can banish until we’re alone, leaving only one remaining to be banished.

And what’s the one sustainable thing? Looks like life and likely love (okay, maybe it’s two things), though they take so many beautiful and wacky forms and so many divergent views of other forms. Those forms, those views are not sustainable and do not have to be, to be real and to be enjoyed. That life and love is a practice we’re capable of doing, even if living with and in a form cannot be forever.

The Bumper-Sticker Corner: Sustain This? Part I

Engage others in a roast, but draw the line at making others toast.

Explore to soar, implore to bore, ignore to gore.

A true equation can change as we learn, a false one can have a long life.

A funny thing about a room full of mirrors is how much one can run into them.

Flexibility, malleability, and adaptability birth sustainability. Caution remains appropriate.

The Wizdum Corner: Sustain This? Part II

Long before guilt, there was innocence. But that innocence was not good, which was confusing.

Long before the tribe, there were individuals. But that could be pretty dangerous.

Long before civil regulations, there were natural ones. But that could also be pretty dangerous.

Long before civil safety nets, there was “let the buyer beware,” which was pretty egregious.

Long before now, there was all manner of delusional thinking-feeling, making for a lousy now.

Long before now, long before a future, is the best time to sow the seeds of change.

The Personal Corner: Sustain This? Part III

About forty years ago, I had a dream where this kind of cartoon entity, but with an air of knowing who they were, where they were going, and what they were doing, walked right up and said they had a task for me. To sustain me until I completed it, I needed three tortillas, but knowing me, they’d give me five. I firmly said I needed ten.

I woke up, realizing I didn’t get the ten tortillas, much less what my task was. But there was obviously something very memorable about that dream—one I thought was spot on about me. Born of depression-era parents, both of whom were food-concerned (my father was a WWII POW) as well as being listened-to concerned (a general human need), I apparently took on the notion that scarcity was, abundance not so much—and I’m not just talking food and stuff.

As a sign of how slow I can be, I just recently realized the task this cartoon entity had assigned to me: to not want so much. The cornucopia of wants, including love, being listened to, deeper awareness, etc., was a surefire way to keep all of it just out of reach. And being strident about cutting back was not the answer, it was just another want.

So, what’s the point of trying? Nothing and everything, I guess. Open the clenched fist, release the grab, and it no longer has you, and almost like magic, more is available. I will, however, remain somewhat ardent about those who say to take less, while they take more. But the first stop on that track is to make sure it isn’t me. And having nothing is not a credential to prove one’s knowing. We can enjoy the “tortillas” of this life, but they become moldy indeed to stockpile much more than one can use while denying others access.

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