As you might be aware the next few days might be of particular importance for the future of human societies on this planet. In the next two weeks a UN Climate Summit will be held in Paris. In this occasion governments from around the world will meet up to decide a global action against climate change.
There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is already a reality.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated different possible scenarios for climate change. All of them involve a temperature rise (from 0.6 to 4 more grades Celsius on average according to the scenario) [see table below].
Many different schools of thoughts, both religious and secular, came-up with the conclusion that we live in an inter-connected reality where the well-being of the whole system depends on the actions of the individuals. In other words we inter-are, as zen master Tich Nhat Hanh would put it. I could not agree more.
I believe there is an interesting parallelism between the scenarios developed by the IPCC and the vision of inter-dependence of philosophical and religious traditions.
This period of in history is a big chance for all of us to realise more deeply this fundamental truth. What we do affects others, both across the world and across generations. What we have is a big chance to recognise this inter-dependence and to change our behaviour on this planet to ensure we enter a more sustainable path. It is a duty we have for the whole of life really.
I hope this chance will be taken by both the world’s population and by the world’s politicians. I would love to see the walls that divide us to fall when we recognise that change is needed for everybody’s future survival and well-being.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh [him again, I know!] asked all mindfulness to practitioners to make personal commitments for environmental change. These might include joining a march, fasting from meat or diary products, wear a green ribbon, raise awareness as so on. Similar needs to raise awareness and take concrete actions were raised by Pope Francis. Anyway, independently of your political or religious views I would encourage to take action as well to raise awareness on this important issue.
We live in a beautiful planet. If you think about it, the changes of having a planet as beautiful as the one we have we pretty damn low. Furthermore this planet is our home, it is the source of our life and especially it is the only one we have. It is key that we treat it with respect and wisdom.
If you still are not convinced about why we need to love our planet, here are some nice pictures of it which will help you remembering..
And this is me being totally awesome during my first bike ride when I was 14!!!
Table 1: IPCC estimates of future temperature rise
|Temperature Change||Sea Level Rise)|
|(°C at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)a||(m at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)|
|Case||Best estimate||Likely range||Model-based range excluding future|
|rapid dynamical changes in ice flow|
|Constant Year 2000 concentrationsb||0.6||0.3 – 0.9||NA|
|B1 scenario||1.8||1.1 – 2.9||0.18 – 0.38|
|A1T scenario||2.4||1.4 – 3.8||0.20 – 0.45|
|B2 scenario||2.4||1.4 – 3.8||0.20 – 0.43|
|A1B scenario||2.8||1.7 – 4.4||0.21 – 0.48|
|A2 scenario||3.4||2.0 – 5.4||0.23 – 0.51|
|A1FI scenario||4.0||2.4 – 6.4||0.26 – 0.59|
I deeply sorry for this city I love.
I wanted to write, to write a lot.
I wanted to speak about people like me,
and about the cowards who took their lives.
I wanted to write about the discomfort
that one can feel now in a big city
upon hearing the minimum noise.
I wanted to speak about the West
and its ability
to generates its own enemies.
I wanted to write, to write a lot.
A river of words about all,
about people I knew, even if barely,
about people who are now gone.
I prefer to be quiet,
at least for this time,
and let the world cry its children.
In Photo “Peace for Paris” by Jean Julien
Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, what are you doing for others? Martin Luther King
There is something I have realised recently by speaking with people in my life as I was getting closer to them: You never can tell.
You never can tell what people went through in their lives. You never can tell what formed them as individuals and at what price.
There might be somebody who looks extremely strong, or confident and secure. What you can’t see, though, is what it took to that person to be who they are today.
Other times you can see somebody that appears open, loving and caring. What you can’t see in that case is the fragility they might hold inside and that might lead to act unexpectedly.
There is a girl I know from a job place I was in some time ago, let’s call her Erika, that always appeared to me as being strong, committed and irradiating a sense of authority. I was extremely surprised when I gathered that she conquered that sense of authority through the difficulties of losing some loved ones in the range of few months.
Another friend of mine, let’s call him Tim, is a big and strong guy. If you look at him he’s the emblem of strength. Muscled, secure, fun. The perfect gym buddy. Well, that same guy has fall down a mountain not so long ago. No kidding. Not even in a metaphorical sense. He actually feel down a mountain. For some five hundred meters I believe. Well that person is still on his feet, going to the gym and keeping a positive attitude about life.
Another friend, Andrea might be her name, is currently going through a break-up with a guy that didn’t deserve her. She’s feeling so bad right now, yet going through is what is right for her at the moment. I still don’t know what person she will become once she’ll find the strength to grow from the ashes.
You never can tell what people went through. For this reason we need to treat everybody with compassion. For the same reason we have to commit to never give up on others.
If you somebody going through a hard moment, never give up on them. You never can tell what lovely person they will become.
Heroes! Superheroes! Heroes everywhere!
As a child I have always loved the stories of heroes, knights, samurais and all of that happy bunch.
Heroes and their moral code were giving me reassurance about the unconscious chaos I was seeing all around me (hey, it’s life baby!). Knowing that somebody was willing to sacrifice himself or herself, or at least the majority of his/her free time, was giving me the calm that follows the awareness that order has been restored.
But this was not something deemed to last. Luckily my critical mind came into the equation and now here I am, speaking badly about all of those man in costume (no offence!).
Heroes do to our super-ego what advertisement does to our consumption habits.
We could just buy what suits our needs, but no, we have to take it further. Similarly we could be just decent human being, but that’s not enough apparently. The game is either being a hero or a nobody.
This moral marketing plan started long long time ago.
We first had Hercules in Greek mythology, killing two snakes with his bare hands when being still an infant.
We then had smarter versions of this early Schwarzenegger with Ulysses and even their more spiritually-inclined variation with Saint George and the Dragon (who manage to get the girl at the end anyway!).
What I know is that I’ve learnt to tie my shoelace when I was about six. This doesn’t seem to be a good start for my hero career. Yet, I am glad I am not part of the club.
Because, think about it. To be a hero must be a very meagre job. You either have to justify your passion for lattice by telling everybody that your costume is the one of the protector of justice. Similarly you have no chance being bought an ice-cream after a fight, because of your regenerating power.
This is the bottom line of the whole heroes thing. A hero does not have time to really enjoy himself.
In truth I believe there should be less of hose heroes (at least in the form portrayed by most stories). The reason is simple. To foster the idea of the hero might be counterproductive for our happiness and the one of others. We cannot focus on what we are right now, if we believe there is a far better alternative for what we could be (Duh!).
Reinforcing so much the importance of the individual perspective might lead us away from seeing the bigger picture, from accepting things the way they are and from adopting a compassionate view towards life.
To leave so much space to the hero means taking space away from others. Also, insisting so much on the moral virtues of the hero does not allow us to ask for help when we most need it.
This is not to say that our individual life are not important, nor that we should shift our societies towards models that create weird systems of incentives. I just imagine what a world not so individual-centred would be.
I like to think that the alternative world we could would be one with more kindness, with more space for open and truthful relationships with others. I also like to think that many drivers of our society, like status or consumption, would lose much of their appeal.
I am aware that this thinking might sound utopian, but perhaps it is not that unrealistic either.
We have no control on the conditions we were raised in, but we do have a choice of opening up, trying to be awake and to practice compassion with ourselves and with others. And this practice is something that is available to us right now. It just asks us to stop for a minute, take away the hero mask and breath.
Ultimately, this is not for our happiness only, but for the happiness of everybody.
Anyway, I’ve got to go now. Ironman’s movie has just finished its download!!!
One day a wise friend of mine told me:
“When in you are in doubt always put compassion first.
Calm down, relax and take one step back.
What is moving your actions? What do you want to achieve?
Which need are you covering up? And most of all,
Which effect your action will have on others?
In this world we all are a big family. Not in the naive sense of the word, but in its deeper and truer sense. And to any family one owns the right attention. And attention requires patient, calm and concentration.
Life is big, chaotic and unpredictable already. But it is also beautiful. Hence if you feel in doubt, or in confusion, accept it. It is part of life.
But when you will move your hand and you will take an action think again at your big family and think how your action will impact on it.
In this world which spins around and around, always put compassion first.
You will discover that your happiness is not alone, but it’s the daughter of the happiness of others. And both lay beyond what is the bubble of our own individuality.
Hence remember, always remember, when you can always put compassion first.
And may the Universe give you the fruit of its humble happiness.”
I just wanted to share his advice with you… I hope it might bring you some light if you need it…
Long time ago a friend of mine told me a phrase which influenced me much more than what she would have thought. One day I went there to see at her shop to have a tea and to chat about zen and our role in the universe. I was telling her all my thoughts on the issue, all the things I could not figure out and all of the paradoxes I was seeing in and around myself. In that afternoon she came up with a phrase struck me like a thunderbolt and that still resonates in my head: “We are not neutral beings”. Five simple words, yet so powerful altogether. For her those words meant that regardless what we do our actions will always affect others and the environment around us. Being it bad or being it good an effect will always be there. At the time I could not immediately understand the real depth of this phrase. To be honest I am still figuring it out. On one hand this implies that the intention we put in our actions is key in defining the outcome of our actions. Everything we do will eventually have effects on others, no matter what, hence the need as aware as possible of the intent of our actions in order for them to be of benefit for all beings. If you think about it this is a huge responsibility. On the other hand this also means that no matter what we do there will aways be some instances in which our actions might end-up hurting others, or, on the contrary, we might be hurt. On this point my friend continued saying that our lives should not be a continuous attempt to avoid pain, disappointment or a broken heart. In a way those things are not avoidable. What we should aim for is a life in which we really allow ourselves to fully feel what occurs in the moment. In other words every sensation should be felt hundred percent to lead to real comprehension and growth. It is needless to say that I totally agree with her. If this is the case, then, this comprehension might lead us to real compassion. If is it true that sometimes we have no chance but to hurt somebody, or being hurt, then it is also true that we can take a compassionate view about it. We can perhaps recognise that in sombody’s aggressive communication there might be despair for a situation they cannot cope with. Other times we be compassionate with ourselves when we see that hurting somebody in the short-run might lead to both’s wellbeing in the long-run, even if doing so can cause us pain. In any case this fact implies that we cannot simply spend our lives under the influence of fear. No matter what we do, we will leave a sort of trace in the world, even if we decide to lock ourselves in the closet. Knowing this we might be much better off embracing this as a fact and decide to live fully. In any case I believe I will continue to explore the implications of what I have been told on that afternoon and hopefully those reflections will lead to a deeper and deeper sense of compassion and unity. Of one thing I am sure, on that day my friend was certainly not a neutral being.
San Giorgio is a figure who has always been very close to me since childhood. The story of this Saint originated in the Middle-East. He became then very revered in the greek orthodox church and his worship later diffused to the whole of Europe. George, the saint, has always always embodied the virtues typical of the code of chivalry: a strong hero, brave and spotless, who thanks to his valiant is able to save the lovely damsel from the clutches of the terrible dragon that terrorizes the city. The only thoughts that a similar figure could have existed always made me hope that everyone might have deep resources to deal with any situation. You do not need too much insight to realize that things are often not quite so.
To really understand a phenomenon, the first thing is to observe it carefully. In the example of Orthodox iconography of St. George the dragon is depicted as a monster that emerges from the bowels of the earth. In the story the dragon, often asleep, would suddenly wake up to collect his debt of blood. The dragon is therefore something primordial to the social context in which it imposes himself. In virtually every mithological story of the Western tradition the monster is a strength that can not be controlled and that arises suddenly. In some cases, the monster does not seem to be truly defeated, as it the case of Hercules, who recognises that one of the heads of the hydra he was fighting is immortal. In that case the hero’s only choice was then to bury his head in order for it not to arise again. Does this sound familiar?
There are far too many examples from the international scene that seem to be there to remind us that the pattern of the hero who defeats an enemy monster is not a model that works. Just think of all the attack of Ghedaffi Libya, Saddam’s Iraq and the fight against international terrorism. While many of these individuals or organizations were undoubtedly monsters is often all too clear that each of the attacks on this kind of mysterious dragon has not done anything but to generate new monsters to deal with. Threat, war, order restored. And then what? A new threat. Always and forever, in a spiral of violence. That there is probably something wrong with the model that we are told by tradition?
It makes you wonder if there is a better alternative to this scheme, perhaps one that could lead us to a deeper understanding of the real situation in which we live.
The need to understand this phenomenon becomes even more urgent when one realizes that demons are not evil creatures outside of us, but deep-rooted forces within us. All these forces we face every day in one way or another. They are found in feelings of anger if someone bumps us on the street, when we feel we are unable to say what we feel, wen we make ouselves smaller than what we are, or when we bask in doubt. All of those forces blur our vision and lead us away from compassionate action. We feel anger and then click an aggressive response. We feel frustration and then it arises a fake need to shake it off. There is a desire, and again one might end up acting blindly. All of this unaware and uncompassionate choices are like providing the dragon with more sacrificial victims. Those victims are parts of our soul, and attention. Also, we know all too well that this type of dragon will never satiate his hunger. Maybe it will be satisfied for a while, but then his hunger he will awaken again and who knows if there will be a few San Giorgio passing at that time.
Yet there may be an alternative which is a change in vision. One can play the same game again and again, until it is realized that maybe the dragon is not really a monster and that its desires are not his real needs. When the dragon manifests his first request the latter seems to indicate a certain need, and yet we often find that what really moves the dragon is qualcose different and deeper. To understand our dragons we must therefore learn toconverse with those monsters and understand what they might need.
Every time I have to do with my dragons, hence almost every day, the first impression is almost always fear of the monster, or the strong desire not to deal with a specific dragon. Followinf a closer look, however, I can recognize that my dragons follow specific trends. Certain things trigger them, others do not. In any case, all the dragons I’ve encountered (in a metaphorical sense!) have always proved to be fragile, frightened and anxious to be understood creatures. They are like everyone else who just want to find a cure to their pain. In this sense those dragons are more like children to look after. They must be observed, aided and cared after. If left to themselves, unobserved, we might end up being managed by our unwisest side. However, if one manages to adopt a compassionate conversation with those dragons, asking what they really need, those same forces might turn out to play on our side.
The trick around this is to be able to embrace what in us we find repulsive. If we do it openly and compassionately it can help you finding the words to express the energy that this hatching. The result is always a transformation. What at first was biting and kicking can become our ally and we can become a little freer, without the need to be heroes.
If you are interested in understanding more about the idea of the “dragons / demons” I suggest “Feed your demons” by Tsultrim Allione. So insightful!