“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”
“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke,
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
Bob Dylan All Along the Watchtower
Sexuality and sexual repression seem to me to be good examples of the generally broken, malformed nature of our culture. However, it is still but a single facet of who and what we are as people. When we step back and look at the big picture, we are leaving the scale of eros and philia and entering the realm of agape.
I originally defined agape as the …spontaneous joy in life and living things. We have all experienced that at some moment(s) in our life. How do we direct our lives and lifestyles to encourage that joy to be a constant companion? I have come to the conclusion that designing our lifestyles to be compatible with our biological nature is probably the first, and most important, step. So what does a ‘natural’ human lifestyle look like?
First, let me note that a ‘natural human lifestyle’ is not a single thing. I very much believe that there is no ONE right way to live. But I also believe that there are certain characteristics that all right ways ‘should’ include. Over the next few months, I will be exploring these characteristics: why they are useful or critical for agape, what they might look like, how they might be attained, as well as the particular versions that appeal to me.
The first characteristic I would like to talk about is sustainability. This is a word that has been vastly overused in recent history, particularly amongst marketing gurus and advertising agencies. So let’s start with a definition.
Sustainability can be defined at various levels: some use it in consideration of only a few years while the Iroquois defined it to the Seventh Generation. For our purposes, I would like to look both further into the future and maintain the principle within our own, individual sphere of influence. In order to do that, I will define sustainability as ‘always giving more back than one takes.’ Obviously, no one can literally do this from one moment to the next, but if one believes in this principal as a guiding principle of their life, it is really not that difficult to maintain a sustainable lifestyle.
Of course this takes us to the necessary characteristic of a sustainable society. There must be a physical component that requires the individual persons to understand and internalize the importance of a healthy ecology on their own health and well being. It must be impossible to externalize costs into the environment as we currently do. Tribal hunter-gatherer peoples had this internalized understanding as an inevitable consequence of their day to day lives. The question for our future is how we can find ways to make it inevitable for our descendants.
(Originally posted August 20, 2006)