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Changing the World One Meme at a Time: Reflections on an Interview With Daniel Quinn

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(Article changed on March 16, 2013 at 18:45)

(Article changed on March 16, 2013 at 18:09)


Daniel Quinn
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Daniel Quinn by Daniel Quinn


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Chief Seattle believed us white European folk were a strange breed. Mourning the loss of the Native ways, he stated:

"It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.
A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see."

In this speech we hear a deep loss. A loss of more than land, but of a way of life, an identity. Even in the face of words like these, we insist that our way is the best. In the terminology of Daniel Quinn, the difference between our cultures is inherent in what he calls memes. Memes are our values and beliefs...our guiding principles--not the ones we preach to one another but the unspoken ones we live by; not the ones we say but the ones we do. Memes are as deep a fact of life as genes. They are inherently neither good nor bad; they just are. When they contradict the true Nature of life (when they are lies) they become lethal. One of the lethal memes we have in Western Civilization is "Human growth/progress is linear and can/must go on and on." Some staggering statistics regarding the consequences of this trend are at the website for Whole Systems (link in references section):

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1. Edward Wilson estimates 27,000 species are currently lost per year. By 2022, 22% of all species will be extinct if no action is taken. (22 %! That's almost - of the species on this planet!)
2. Niles Eldridge estimates 30,000 per year currently.
3. Georgina M. Mace using a different methodology based on extrapolations from the current lists of endangered species arrives at a figure of 14-22% loss of species and subspecies over the next 100 years.
4. Paul Ehrlich, using another approach based on total energy use estimates extinction rates at 7,000 to 13,000 times the background rate, (70,000 to 130,000 species per year) which he says is higher than figures based on data for higher orders of animal indicates, but we have little data on insects and micro flora and fauna.

Of course these statistics do not take into account the young people that have died in wars over resources to maintain our lifestyle, such as the wars in the Middle East. Nor do they account for the billions of dollars on these wars which are driven by our maintaining an unsustainable lifestyle. These are written off as collateral damage.

Regardless of the different numbers of dead or the amount of money we are spending, many of us are aware enough to KNOW something is not right. Yet, for many, it remains hard to get past the conditioning of commercialized media. The meme "We must maintain civilization, even if it kills us" is so strong that most people shrug off their doubts. We oftentimes know deep down something isn't right, even though we've been brainwashed. We simply cannot stomach to face the facts. Our lives are unsustainable.

With this in mind, go to your nearest big box store and look around. Don't look just at the store and all the goods. Gaze into the eyes of the people. Look at the anorexic looking young women with gobs of make-up picking up plastic purses and sexy laced flimsy underwear. Nothing wrong with sexy, its inherent in our species to make ourselves attractive. We want love, to be acknowledged in our beauty, to enjoy our sensuality. And we wish to procreate the species. What is wrong is her belief that she is not sufficiently sexy intrinsically without these commercial props. The underlying thought must change before anything else.

What is not so healthy is our definition of what we are, and that is a manifestation of the corporate culture. Our daughters are taught to put tons of chemicals on their face, have their breasts implanted, and to walk in heels that will break the spines of ancient dinosaurs. Why can't our daughters be beautiful in accordance to their true Nature?

Our boys, in turn, are taught to be heroes fighting for whatever war is to be fought. Theirs is a world that demands performance and perfection. He is to be the marine that rescues the world, or the doctor that saves the day. These are at best. At worse, he becomes a drug addict, a criminal, and, perhaps--if he lands himself on the right door by being in an appropriate class--a corporate executive.

Is there any difference of the criminality of the drug addict and the criminality of the corporate CEO? These are nothing more than two intersecting pieces of one puzzle...left and right, rich and poor.

In our orientation towards life, we deny Nature. The reason we deny Nature is due to our memes, the underlying assumptions that function like cultural genes. One of our memes envelops the notion that Nature is to be controlled and dominated for the sake of profit.

The origin of this meme is reflected in the Bible's "Book of Genesis" when it is said that Adam (the Man) shall rule over Eve (the Woman) while in the same breath says that "he (Adam) shall live by the sweat of his brow," meaning his labor will be painful. Indeed, this painful labor was also prescribed to Eve for enticing Adam into eating the apple of self-consciousness (i.e., his becoming ashamed of his nudity, his true Nature).

Woman is equated to Nature. Thus to rule over Woman is to rule over Nature. This is what is at issue with Nature. We want control. We want to dominate. And what has it gotten us? Pollution, massive extinction, and an overextended population that is becoming poorer and angrier by the day!

It is interesting that Nature has two definitions: (1) the birds, bees, and natural process (e.g., sexuality, ecology) and (2) Essence. This is appropriate since our bodies are eggs that have morphed into being us upon the marriage of our father's sperm to our mother's egg. It is the egg that actually becomes the body, the sperm simply dissolves and marries his genes with the genes of his sweetheart.

In other words, the egg is what morphs into us, and is our original form. It is our Nature. The egg is also the primary shape of the planet. Accident?

These two definitions of Nature, planetary and essence, are not separate. As the mystics often say, we are one with All.

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Thus one of the Hindu Upanishads states:

It is above, it is below. It is, in fact, this entire world. When one knows this, one knows bliss in the Self and in all worlds is free.


" We" are not just ourselves, our families, our nation, our race, or our species. "We are the entire world--Nature herself." This is the new/old meme that must replace our limited, lying ones.

The meme that will help us solve our converging economic, ecological, social, and spiritual collapses, the meme that is closest to the truth for our planetary selves states: "Our Self and Nature are one."

We must embrace and promulgate this meme as assiduously as we have embraced the old meme that we are separate from Nature in the day and age that is now collapsing. Indeed, we have accepted the Lie that we are transcendent over Nature for too long now.

No, we are Nature. And what consequences could manifest if instead of looking out at Nature and seeing resources or otherness, we saw our Self?

If we saw Nature as our Essence, would we consciously dump cancerous chemicals within ourselves? Or more appropriately, would we become more dutiful in telling the corporations "NO!" to their polluting our bodies?

Memes are inherent in the stories we tell ourselves, our children, and one another. And stories tell us who we are. One of our current memes is, "We are the greatest thing going on this planet and rightfully her King." Yet, the science behind the work of ecologists such as James Lovelock tells us something different....and that something different is that we are parts interacting with the whole in creating the living conditions of this planet that sustain us.

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Burl is an avid writer and publishes to OpEd News. He is author of "Sophia's Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature." As of this writing, Burl is planning to self-publish the book. Alongside his wife, Burl co-hosts an on line radio (more...)
 

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