Nonduality

NONDUAL ECOLOGY

In Praise of Wildness
and
In Search of Harmony
With
Everything That Moves

by

John McClellan

Boulder, Colorado
August, 1993

Nondual Ecology

Recognizing the inherent Buddhanature of rocks and clouds is not that
hard-many now acknowledge this idea in principle. Liberal thinkers admit
most animals and plants, even microbes to the select company of sentient
beings. Now rocks & clouds are beginning to be accepted too as part of
the "natural living world", i.e. that world that existed before mankind
brought civilization out of his brain and spread it across the landscape.
But recognizing this prized quality of aliveness in technology, in
human-machine social behaviors, and in the activity of abstract symbolic
systems is something else again. Buddhanature, in nuclear bombs? in the
computer systems of our urban networks? in the workings of pure
mathematics? No one in the environmental world seems willing to go that
far-only cyberpunks and techno-futurists have such thoughts, and they are
generally dismissed as frivolous by us serious, 'nature' loving deep
ecologists.

Us, Buddhists, and Muirists, and Thoreauists

Today's Deep Ecology seems to regard technology as an evil force,
something alien to the natural world, loosed almost by divine mistake on
this planet. These new energies are not regarded as legitimate
expressions of sentience, universal lifeforce, or granted the respect we
accord to "natural processes", but rather as something wrong, something to
be controlled and repressed. Deep ecologists seem to have the same fear
and loathing toward today's out of control technology as humans have had
until just recently toward uncontrolled Nature, with her savage, untamed
wastelands. They call technology inhuman, cruel, and heartless, using the
same words we once used to describe cruele wildernesse-and like humans of
the 19th century waging war on wild nature, environmentalists today long
only to conquer technology, to subdue and control it, as we have nature
herself.

Such a dualistic view of our world, neatly partitioned into good, pure
nature, and bad aggressive technology, does not lead to a complete
relationship with everything that is. It perpetuates the same kind of
good guy bad guy senarios that we have always been prone to indulge in,
and leaves a bad taste. Specially as the bad guys seem to be winning
everywhere you look. Why not take deep ecology all the way to the heart
of what is really wild on this planet: why not include, in the roster of
the wild and sacred, Everything That Moves? Since everything that exists
moves, we'd be done with all this picking and choosing, and all the worry
and strife that go with that. We'd have a complete, ready made, flawless
sacred outlook.

The Deep Ecology Establishment
The ambivalence of deep ecologists toward technology is clearly
expressed in the recent book, Gaia's Hidden Life, by Nicholson and
Rosen. This contains some of the best recent thinking in deep
ecology-wonderful arguments for the recognition of living being in the
natural world, even among the rocks and stars, etc. But almost every
one of the 27 authors, from James Lovelock to Thomas Berry,
unequivocally rejects technology as an invalid, unnatural, even wicked
form of existence. Meanwhile, they idealize the vanishing dream of
free, wild biological systems. They seem to want to restore them to
their erstwhile splendor-as though evolution ever moved backwards!
This is wishful thinking, like when we imagined the earth was the
center of the universe, or that humans represented the culmination,
and hence the end, of evolution.

This point of view is called biocentrism, and is proudly opposed to
anthropocentrism, which is supposed to be outmoded and provincial, a naive
and self-serving 'humanist' outlook. But to me biocentrism is little
better. It is based on the assumption that evolution reached its pinacle
not with Man, but with Biology. But evolution isn't like that. She never
reaches a pinacle. She never rests, and she never ever turns back.

A contemplative biologist would not want to be 'centric' about any stage
of the evolutionary process. Evolution unfolds continually and
mysteriously out of itself: She has no goal, claims no achievements, and
is uninterested in any past or future states. Just this mysterious
present moment unfolding, in which there is most definitely and certainly
nothing to cling to. Sound familiar, dharma students? Where have we
heard about this before? All we see in the world around us, just as with
what we find in our own minds is good, or at least authentic, valid,
workable. There is nothing to reject, nothing to protect, nothing to be
centric about. Why can't we be as wise in our understanding of the
evolution of this planet as we are gradually becoming about the evolution
of our own states of mind?

Biology is a series of provisional sketches for negentropic systems.
These systems are built out of and on top of and into each other in
endless shells of interdependent co-arising fields, just as the microbial
world is built out of and on top of and into the material world of the
four elements, just as the multi-celled (i.e. multi-microbe) animals and
plants and insects are built out of and into the microbes, and we humans
ourselves are built out of and onto the animals and plants. The world of
technology, cultural behaviors and abstract & concrete symbolic structures
are likewise built out of, on top of, and into human brains, emotional
drives and bodies. This is planetary symbiosis at work. Perfectly
natural. All this creative activity is blowing in the restless wind of
change, of Impermanence, like the thought forms that flow through our
minds. Many humans, particularly in the contemplative traditions, have
come to understand the working of our mind, the theory and also to some
degree the practice-but we still seem to hold primitive beliefs about the
workings of planetary evolution and life systems.

The leading thinkers I've met in deep ecology today all seem to have this
biocentric attitude, Gary Snyder, Arne Naess, Bill Duvall, John Seed,
Doloress Lachapelle.... Many or most of them have good dharma teachers
too, but they don't listen to them carefully enough, in my opinion. They
talk about surrender to what is natural, following the Tao, and so on, but
are not willing to stretch their arms all the way wide open, and let
Everything in. Everything That Moves. They would like to exclude certain
things, exploitive technology, warfare, social injustice, famine, urban
landscape, television, the extinction of non competitive species, the
collapse of planetary life support systems for higher species....

You have to go to Walt Whitman and William Blake to find a real grasp of
these elementary subjects, biology and evolution, a view in which all of
Life is honored impartially, devils and angels together, on their own
scary terms. Zen teachers give clear expression to this, as do Tibetan
teachers at times. American Indians know it, Rumi says it clearly again
and again, all the contemplatives are clear on this understanding. It's
time for deep ecologists to get up to speed here. I think the limited,
overly precious view of deep ecology today exists because deep ecologists
are not serious contemplative mystics. They specialized too early in a
limited professional expertise on the 'natural environment'. Serious
ecologists must learn to let go of personal or social agendas, and embrace
everything that arises, the good the bad and the ugly. Only after this
painful surrender can one go deep.

Technology seems to play the role of the devil for us in this outlook.
There's nothing wrong with having a devil or two or ten million around,
but devils should not be insulted, and no attempts to banish or vanquish
them have ever been successful to my knowledge. Like wicked fairies, if
you do not invite devils to the feast, honor and feed them, they make
worse mischief. Those who would worship the angels of pure 'unspoiled'
biologies, must allow the devils of technology their due. This means
recognizing them as independent evolutionary forces, in symbiosis, like
the microbes, with biological systems.


Nondual Ecology

I am proposing a Nondual Ecology, in which all forms of life are honored
equally. This would include anything that displays negentropic activity,
i.e. the self-organizing, information encoding, entropy defying activity
of dissipative structures, as described by Ilya Pirogogine and others in
the field of Complexity.

Negentropic processes defy, on a local level, the Second Law of
Thermodynamics, which binds all forms of existence in the material
universe. Instead of gradually losing their information structure, losing
their energy and running down into amorphous thermodynamic equilibrium,
negentropic structures, all by themselves, increase their energy levels,
internal complexity, and degree of self-organization. In the domain of
the Life Sciences, this energetic self-organizing activity is as
surprising in its way as perpetual motion would be, especially if the
motion got stronger and stronger over time. Such things are considered
impossible in classical physics, on any large or longterm scale, but the
life processes set in motion on this planet have been increasing their
energy levels, information density and complexity for four billion years,
so far, and are accelerating ever faster. This is a quarter or a third of
the age of the universe itself. If we weren't so used to this process by
now, we'd call it a miracle. Even today we still doubt it could be taking
place on other planets.

I consider all such activity, spontaneously arisen on the pristine,
untouched wilderness of this planet, to be naturally free and primordially
pure, whether we like it or not. Many of these entities or technnobiotic
processes are dangerous, but so are the natural forces in large biological
wilderness areas. We have at last come to accept and even appreciate this
element of danger in nature; perhaps we must learn to accept it as well in
the world we live in today-in the world of cities, wars, famine zones,
collapsing ecosystems, toxic pollution, and so on, including the
extinction of species and even perhaps the disappearance of 'higher'
lifeforms on this planet, like ourselves. Perhaps this kind of danger is
good, even healthy. I think it is essential to any real wildness.

The first question here must be, what are these new forms of life that
seem to have taken over the planet recently, these machines, the social
and metabolic behavior systems of civilization, the new energy,
information & transportation networks that hold our planet in such a close
and deadly embrace? Are they authentic biological entities, legitimate
expressions of sentience, the result of the natural working of evolution
on a pristine planetary wilderness? If so, they may be entitled to some
respect, perhaps protection or even saving under the Code of Rights of
Sentient Beings.

The Evolution of Non-DNA based Life-systems

"As soon as the primeval soup provided conditions in which molecules
could make copies of themselves, the replicators themselves took over.
For more than three thousand million years, DNA has been the only
replicator worth talking about in the world. But it does not
necessarily hold these monopoly rights for all time. Whenever
conditions arise in which a new kind of replicator can make copies of
itself, the new replicators will tend to take over, and start a new
kind of evolution of their own. Once this new evolution begins, it
will in no necessary sense be subservient to the old. The old
gene-selected evolution, by making brains, provided the 'soup' in
which the first memes arose. Once self-copying memes had arisen,
their own, much faster kind of evolution took off. We biologists have
assimilated the idea of genetic evolution so deeply that we tend to
forget that is only one of many possible kinds of evolution."
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

We humans are no different than we have been for the last quarter million
years or so-our brains and bodies, our emotions and instincts are the
same. But ever since we started using symbolic systems to good effect,
some ten or fifteen thousand years ago, the world has been transformed.
These symbolic codes, and the knowledge, tools and social behaviors that
came with them, have given rise to immensely vigorous evolutionary
activity: from agriculture and animal herding to social systems and
warfare, from city states & nations to space exploration and global
ecological crisis, all are expressions of the power of this new life
activity.

In evolutionary terms, the whole biological kingdom, all the animals,
plants, microbes etc, is a set of 'morphs', or bodies, built according to
the information codes contained in the DNA molecule. Until humans came
along no information codes sufficiently complex to build bodies or shape
behaviors existed on this planet outside of DNA. Nothing else held
complex data about how to build a negentropic object that could do
something to keep itself going, and to copy, or replicate, that precious
life-giving information-not the clouds, not the air, not the sunshine or
the heat in the earth, not water or mud, not the rocks, not even the
silicates and crystals-all of the vast world of the four elements was
dead, inert, i.e. subject to entropy. Only the DNA molecule could code
information, and use it to create things, like bodies.

So four billion years of DNA driven evolution went peacefully by, age
after age of dreamy biologies. Then finally one of the morphs, or body
types (humans) develops a brain capable itself of independently storing
and manipulating information structures complex enough to generate morphs
or bodies of their own. At last, the first new copying system in the
history of life! The world of technology and culture was born. With the
tremendous symbolic activity which our incomprehensibly large brains
allowed, information codes had jumped out of their ancient amino acid
cradle, and began to persue 'their' own evolutionary destiny. Immediately
a torrent of new morpholgies and behaviors were loosed on our innocent and
unsuspecting planet. Such things as language, alphabets, mathematics,
engineering, arts and crafts, religions, belief systems, social customs,
the stuff of technobiotic civilization, new tools, new hunting, farming
and herding behaviors, new buildings, new forms of social organization.
In a blinding flash, from an evolutionary time frame, the planet has been
transformed. A new form of evolution is at last unfolding here.
Information codes are free, free to replicate in any way they wish or are
able. The rate of evolutionary change undergoes a blinding,
heart-stopping degree of acceleration, as compared with biological
evolution.

No longer forced to be made of either meat or cellulose or chitin, (the
animals, plants & insects), you could make a body now out of anything you
liked. A wood or rock club (arm), wool & leather clothes, a dirt or log
or steel & glass house (skin), metal shovels & swords (claws), ceramics,
rubber, plastic, silicon, etc etc. Many vibrant morphs are nothing but
pure behaviors, like social customs, languages, music, government, and so
on. Many more, among the most evolutionarily potent in fact, are
completely abstract in morphological character-most notably ideas, the
pure and applied sciences, music, dreams, etc. All of these are bodies,
or life processes, in the scary new meaning of the word. All are active,
hungry, exciting, and dangerous. If you back off ten thousand miles into
space and squint your eyes, as a biologist from another planet might do,
you would see that this planet had gone through an evolutionary phase
change, from a pure 'climax' biology to early techno-biology.

Now then, if there is in fact a new kind of evolution happening on this
planet, and the stupendous changes in the last ten thousand years suggest
clearly that there is, we cannot afford to ignore it, to dismiss it as
dangerous, ahuman, or unpleasant. Above all, we must not think we humans,
just because we "hosted" it, can control or even understand this new ofrm
of life very well, any more than we do nature hereself. This is where
deep ecology can be of help: the attitude we should have toward this new
life process could be one based on respect, on awe and wonder, rather than
on likes and dislikes. We should, in fact, have the same attitude toward
techno-biotic evolution that we are finally learning to have toward good
old biological nature herself. These are mysteries, divine (that is to
say natural) in origin. We should not seek to accept or reject, nor even
to control them, but rather to learn how to coexist among them, and accept
their inherent wildness, to appreciate this dangerous quality, to honor
and respect, even revere it, even when it's dangerous or life threatening
to us.

Symbiosis

These new 'entities' we see all around us in the world today, the machines
and social behaviors and bodies of knowledge and energy systems and so on,
are of course no more independent of us than we are of our own biological
support systems. But then, what lifeform has ever been 'independent' of
its symbiotic partners and background ecosystems? Symbiosis is the key to
understanding this situation.

Lynn Margulis says that all of life is a "symbiotic phenomenon", in other
words, no creature exists as an independent entity. All are functioning
in intimate personal interdependence with all others, in indescribably
complex and endless shells of expanding relationships. We humans
obviously have this relationship with our technologies, both our machines
and belief-behavior systems. We are no longer purely biological
creatures, but have, according to Margulis, become "technobionts", and
could no longer survive on this planet without our technological support
systems.

The symbiotic phase humans are in with technology is known to biologists
as the initial invasive, aggressive-parasitic stage-it is considered to be
extremely unstable, risky for the invader (technology etc), and dangerous
to the 'host' organism (in this case, us). This is particularly true in
our case, since technology evolves at rates which are exponentially faster
than those of biological communities, thus creating conditions of extreme
instability. At the high voltage levels techologies operate at today, if
things aren't just right, a techno-biological eco-civilization could
easily fry its circuits, crash its 'systems', and suffer major blackout,
which could of course mean extinction.

However, all symbiotic unions must go through this initial phase, and it
is considered biologically normal in the life sciences, even though the
mortality rate is high. It's one of those "long odds pay off" approaches
that biology often adopts. Long odds, as long as they are above zero, do
pay off in evolutionary time frames. But the experiment often has to be
tried thousands or millions of times.

There may yet arise on this planet, an evolutionarily stable technological
civilization, but who would wish to assert that this one-in-a-million shot
just happens to be this one, the first ever made on this young and still
innocent planet? This marriage of biology and technology may have to
arise again and again, and again, until some incredibly lucky combination
of biological traits falls in symbiosis with a perfect, sweet and
sensitive technology. Today's world, with our aggressive-ferocious
technology linked to the primitive emotional agenda of a top-end
predator-carnivor, does not so far seem to be that perfect, stable union.
But of course you never know...

Boundaries, to Life-systems?

So who are we? Are we still pure humans anymore? Is it even possible to
conceive of technology, machines and information systems etc, as a
separate class of existence from humans? I think not. We have become
technobionts, symbiotic members of this new lifeform which has taken over
the planet. Any alien biologist would recognize this at a glance. Our
"human" nature has merged with the new morphologies to become technobiotic
nature. It is a nature that cannot be clearly conceived. Its boundaries
cannot be drawn, as they include everything in our culture, in a variety
of groupings on endless levels of meaning and organization. Through all
this evolutionary transformation, is our primordial true nature, our
original buddhanature still clear? I think so. True nature is enormously
mysterious, but one of its most reliably established qualities is its
indestructibleness, its vajra nature. Today's buddhas report that
buddhanature is alive and well, in spite of the odd circumstances and
curious surroundings it finds itself in.

New Life

A new form of Life has arisen on this planet, which could be called the
Technobia. Its power and speed of evolution lead instantly off every
scale on which we are accustomed to measure living systems. It is young,
but terrifyingly, thrillingly, overwhelmingly vigorous. It is feeding on
us humans, just as we feed on the plant and animal kingdoms, and just as
they feed on the microbial kingdoms, who rest in turn on the material
universe. We are not in control of this process, we are merely a part of
it. It is happening to us, and in spite of us, as well as because of us.
In this case we are the host organism, the medium in which technobiotic
lifeforces are finding their fertile soil. We humans, with our obsolete
bodies, easily exploitable emotional drives, and our fabulous brains, are
the primeval soup our symbiotic technology partners have come to live in.

What this means is that purely biological evolution is no longer the main
focus of life on this planet. It's become a subplot, relegated in its
wild forms to out of the way corners, to empty lots, roadsides, and cracks
in the sidewalk of civilization. It's been built over on top of,
subsumed, in the best evolutionary style, by the techno-biotia. So in any
discussion of ecology, whenever one refers to rocks, clouds, rivers and
mountains, microbes animals and plants, one should include kitchen tables,
cars and computers, stuffed animals and nuclear reactors, as well as
abstract symbolic systems such as mathematics and music, and belief or
behavioral morphologies, including social systems, religions,
culture. etc. These are all valid forms of life, if we or rocks and
clouds are.

Everything That Moves-Primordial Purity

The way I see it, anything that arises on this planet is completely
natural, pristine, and pure. Created by God's spontaneous, self-arising
nature, sacred. God itself. Deep ecologists reserve this level of honor
for wilderness areas, asking that they be untouched by outside forces,
meaning generally man or machines. But is this entire planet not a
pristine, sacred wilderness? Has it ever been touched by 'outside
forces'? Is not all this Gaia's own doing? I wouldn't even insist that
it remain untouched from the outside. When aliens do ever arrive on this
planet from other stars (if they are not already observing us discreetly
from a nearby 'blind'), that just shifts the wilderness boundary out a
bit. The galaxy as a whole remains a pristine wilderness. If they come
from outside the galaxy, the larger universe will most likely still be a
pure evolutionary preserve. Where could 'unnatural' processes ever find a
crack in the skin of this planet, Gaia, natural child of the natural
universe, to poke their way in and corrupt her? No, everything we
encounter in this universe must be considered natural, and intimately
related to us in some way, like the contents of one's own mind. This
awkward intimacy changes one's point of view.

Really Deep Ecology

The deepest ecology might not seem to be specially 'environmental',
because it doesn't cling to any version of reality; it surrenders
continually to whatever situations occur. This viewpoint doesn't directly
advance the work of saving the planet or preserving local landscapes, but
it could be helpful for environmentalists nonetheless. Because unless we
enter into the heart of that Wildness where life itself is continually
born, we remain outsiders in our own world, and outsiders never really
know what's going on. Outsiders can't help sentient beings-they don't
know what to do.

We have much to lose by entering the world of real wildness that surrounds
us today. We are losing a nice local version of reality we've been
basking in for several million years, the lovely landscapes, the fauna and
flora of the late Cenozoic, the Age of Flowering Plants and of Mammals.
These have have been sweet indeed, and it is sad to see them go.
Difficult goodbyes must be said. But we won't miss them for long-there's
plenty more where they came from. The unbridled, fecund wildness that
lies at the heart of co-arising emptiness-luminosity will not disappoint
us. A really deep ecologist has understanding of this, and faith in it.
This fertile, dangerous, healthy and real wildness is where we should be
resting our hopes and our hearts and our minds. We have nothing to lose.

Sentient Being Is Inconceivable

Life is magnificently abundant, inconceivably plentiful. It needs no
protection, and is vulnerable to no threat. It is vajra, indestructible.
This magical quality is its supreme protection, and must be grasped
properly before we can have a good relationship with the world of beings
we live among.

Sentient beings are precious, to be sure, but they are also unthinkably
numerous, inextinguishable, existing abundantly in the Three Times of
past, present and future, in every possible kind of world. Impossible to
count, immeasurable. Besides, their existence is beyond conception, and
takes place in a sacred manner. They do not need to be saved by any
ordinary methods, in a museum or in a cage or in a zoo or a park or
wildlife refuge or bio-preserve, or in a hospital or a school or a jail or
low cost housing or a refugee camp, nor in a book or a photograph, or a
video. Sentient beings are inconceivable. Only inconceivable methods can
help them. They live in ll times indiscriminately. They are not separate
from the rest of the cosmos. They cannot be saved or even conceived as
separate parts. The entire cosmos is saved, or lost, as one integral
principle. Consider the Diamond Sutra on this:


"The Integral Principle

Subhuti, if a good man or a good woman ground an infinite number of
galaxies of worlds to dust, would the resulting minute particles be many?

Subhuti replied: Many indeed, World Honored One! Wherefore? Because if
such were really minute particles Buddha would not have spoken of them as
minute particles. For as to this, Buddha has declared that they are not
really such. 'Minute particles' is just the name given to them. Also,
World Honored One, when the Tathagatha speaks of galaxies of worlds these
are not worlds; for if reality could be predicated of a world it would be
a self-existent cosmos and the Tathagatha teaches that there is really no
such thing. 'Cosmos' (or 'life bearing planet') is merely a figure of
speech.

Then Buddha said: Subhuti, words cannot explain the real nature of a
cosmos (or 'living planet'). Only common people fettered with desire make
use of this arbitrary method." Chapter XXX

This is not an easy emptiness "exit" from the tragic plight of our earth,
a cheap shortcut to a 'higher view', to avoid grieving for what is lost,
to erase or escape from the sorrow & joy of the vast birthing and dying
that is taking place on our planet today. The sorrow is true and should
be tasted fully. But it helps to shift one's grip a bit, to avoid getting
clutched up on a fixed version of reality-Mother Gaia isn't like that.
She didn't get to where She is today by clinging to fixed versions. She
doesn't favor any of Her endless children over any other.

Saving Sentient Being

The saving of sentient beings is perhaps the most confusing issue in
contemplative work. All are in agreement, this must be done, but who are
the sentient beings, how are they to be saved, and on what scale? What
about those who are out of reach, or worse, who dwell in past and future
times?

I've sometimes thought the greatest single clarification that could be
brought to the this subject might be to drop the s from "beings". The
project suddenly becomes the vaster but in many ways simpler one of saving
Sentient Being. Immediately we stop worrying how to handle the crowd of
particular individual beings, more or less accessible to today's saving
methods-each of whom must have passed a qualifying exam for sentience (no
rocks, dust clouds, or empty space, no computers, shovels, or car tires,
etc), has demonstrated clear and present need of saving, is in fact a
spearate, individual ego entity, has not been previously saved by others
(it's getting hard to find unsaved beings anymore), and so on.

Simply drop the bothersome s, and Sentient Being itself looms up, vast,
inconceivable, glowing and humming, in all ages and all spaces-obviously
indestructible, beyond all confusing particulars. This vast presence of
aliveness, of sentient Isness, filling the time-spacecosmos from beginning
to end, dwarfs all bodhisattvas, all saints, revolutionaries, and liberal
reformists-it silences the poets, and overflows even the hearts of
mothers. It is inexhaustible, self-sufficient, needing nothing, wanting
nothing. Suffering is as natural and organic a process to it as
breathing. The tides of life and death are its diastolic rhythm.

Who would dare try to "save" this vast Presence? Save it from what? Who
would wish to "alleviate" the suffering/breathing, living/dying of
Sentient Being? Any who approach this Being with a "saving mind" would
have to have the greatest humnility, the greatest respect, the greatest
hesitation, and the greatest boldness. The lack of an s might even cause
some investigators to question the need for the qualifier "sentient"...
Are there any boundaries to sentience? Can the universe be divided up
into sentient and non-sentient regions or beings? Is the whole universe
not completely sentient, one being? This great Presence is often refered
to by the mystics as That. Try saving That by ordinary methods.

Life is Nothing Special

Nothing special has been accomplished in the last 600,000,000 years since
the arising of multi-celled creatures on this planet; nor in the
3,750,000,000 years since microbial life began-no one is looking(!), no
one is interested. We are all alone here in space, and nobody cares what
happens to us. For all we know, God might be taking a nap. Our precious
stream of lifeforms during the last four billion years are nothing more
than clouds blowing in the wind.

Nothing special will be lost if we 'higher' lifeforms crash back down to
the ranks of microbes. There's plenty more where we came from too, in the
bottomless womb of evolution. Evolution is a child, doodling lifeforms in
the sand, humming a little tune, absentmindedly letting grains of life
trickle from her fingers into pretty piles. Wind & waves erase all by
sundown. There is nothing here to save or regret.

What's wrong with a world of microbes anyway? OK, worst case: what if our
unruly technologies, in symbiosis with our unruly human appetites kick the
whole planet into a positive feedback heating loop, causing it to spiral
up into thermodynamic equilibrium (shudder, the only thing negentropic
entities really fear), at uncomfortably high temperatures, like 1000°
or so, causing biological meltdown and permanent sterility like Venus-or
suppose things go the other way, and we spiral down to subzero
thermodynamic equilibrium, clouding over and freezing solid forever like
Mars-what's wrong with that? There's plenty more planets where we came
from, plenty more galaxies to give birth to them, plenty more universes to
hatch galaxies....

As for the innumerable creatures on our planet who are undoubtedly
suffering and in need of assistance, including very much and most
especially our own personal selves, what kind of saving do we really need?
I suspect this saving has more to do with the ability to see and share the
true nature of these beings than it does with trying to increase their
good health and large numbers. Perhaps we should concentrate more on
seeing them clearly, on feeling what they feel, knowing and caring about
them, than on setting up biopreserves and housing projects to save them
in. Thinking in this way, one comes to feel that the saving of sentient
beings has more to do with knowing and feeling and suffering and caring
with them, than with preventing their extinction or raising their minimum
income level or wiping a bit of pollution off their brow. Sentient beings
can take care of themselves, just as we like to think we can do.
Considering them in this way is a mark of respect, it honors them.

This deep frame of reference may seem chilling to some, but it is not. On
the contrary, it warms the heart and lightens the step, and it should help
to save the earth and advance the agenda of conservation biology too,
along with any other worthy projects. The buddhas and patriarchs may seem
to play rough, but this roughness is good for us. It is the roughness of
real wildness, real wilderness. There's no reason in the world that
environmentalists shouldn't be able to hold a deep view and still be
energetic and effective, good people to have around when things are tough.
We aren't babies. We can look at Reality along with the rest of sentient
beings. We do not need to tell ourselves children's stories about how
unique and precious we are, to make ourselves go out and help the world.
We are precious and worthless at the same time. We are neither precious
nor worthless. It's not like that.

This is nondual ecology. * * * *

Happiness and Good Health? For the Whole Planet? Forever?

Today's deep ecology and environmental movements seem to have fixated on
the petty goal of a healthy flourishing biologically active
planet-attaining this is supposed to be the purpose of human and nonhuman
social actions and personal aspirations. Once attained, I presume, then
everyone will enjoy happy, healthy lives forever or at least for a very
long happy time, as long as Total Planetary Control can be maintained over
the inherently wild, naturally unstable, and dangerous evolutionary
process.

But this is rampant materialism!. I think deep ecologists have over looked
a few important points, to wit: This is God's world, not ours. (God:
Suchness, What Is, Reality, etc) We just live here, we don't own it.
Maybe God doesn't care about biology anymore. Maybe it's none of our
business what He cares or doesn't care about. Maybe we should spend more
time trying to find out what God's Will (i.e. His World) is, and paying
attention properly to That. (God's will, incidentally, is no mystery.
Just look at the world in this moment, everything included. That is God's
will. What is.)

I doubt the Buddhas and Patriarchs are bothered much by our confusion, but
I know it doesn't do us any good, or those sentient beings we'd like to
help either. If we ever can relax our own obsessive social and personal
agendas enough to get a glimpse into Nature's Way, maybe we'll like it and
maybe we won't. Liking or not liking doesn't have anything to do with
surrender, and is not the point. This is the way a contemplative deep
ecologist thinks.

Fighting the outside world or the laws of nature is a bit like fighting
death. It's OK to fight, you have to fight to live, and fight to die well
too-but you must remember to bow. The outcome may already be standing
right in front of you, watching to see if you recognize it, so it would be
foolish not to bow.

The Fate of Civilizations

This civilization, like all that have preceded it, is bound by the laws of
biology, which have expanded to include the domain of culture. It is
likely to do what all others have done: It will expand, or rather explode,
beyond the safe boundaries of its uncontrollable technologies, and then
crash back into the biological/cultural background. The Sumarians, the
Egyptians, the Mayans and Aztecs, the endless Chinese dynasties, the
Greeks, the Roman empire, the great African kingdoms, the Mongolian
hordes, the Ottoman empire, and so on and on till the pages of recorded
history become too numerous and tattered to read. A corollary principle
seems to be, the higher they rise the harder and more abruptly they fall.
This is our diastolic social-cultural rhythm. Civilizations seem to have
an indefinite, but distinctly limited lifespan, just like all other living
organisms, whatever their level of organization.

The only recent variation on this theme is that our Civilization is
playing out the drama for the first time on a global scale. Does the
global scale make a difference? Not at all-the drama is always played out
on the largest possible scale the society is capable of expanding to and
destroying itself on. Measured on a psychometric scale, this means that
the collapse totally engulfs and obliterates all meaningful existence for
that society. Whatever remains after the crash, whatever survives, is
considered 'not to count'. Today we feel that to crash the biosystems of
the planet back to the Stone Age, or back to a level where only the
arthropods and plants, the fish and microbes, and a few marginal
rodent-like mammals remain, would be tantamount to 'total global death'.
Of course this is nonsense; it would be a very nice earth indeed, and
would rebound to a nice climax biology in the twinkling of an evolutionary
eye.

This rush to apocalypse may nonetheless have a useful role to play: It
seems to function as a form of population control of civilizations, and is
governed by biological/cultural laws as implacable as those which mandate
the death of individuals and the inevitable extinction of all species.
Why should the death of civilizations be feared any more than the death of
individuals or the extinction of species? No matter how painfully it
happens or awkwardly it's done, through ecosystemic collapse or
apocalyptic warfare or diseased culture crisis or toxic pollution, it is
natural, and good, magnificent life and death activity.

Any extraterrestrial observer would be quick to point out, having observed
our stream of technobial civilizations for a few thousand of years, that
It makes little or no difference what the human beings do on the earth at
this point. The torch of evolutionary development has slipped out of our
brains and is loose in the world. The technobiotia are the dominant
lifeform on this planet now, and we/they are defining our own future, as
all dominant lifeforms do. No force whatever can control us, or even
exercise any discernible influence over us. We are alone with the laws of
physics and the rules of evolution. From the point of view of freely
evolving technobiotia, we are wild creatures. There's no safety for wild
things. Never has been. This is the good life as it is lived in a real
wilderness.

As for who's right about this, and who's wrong, there's no waiting period.
'We shall see', or 'Time will tell' do not apply here. Either things have
been this way for 30,000 years, or four thousand million years, or they
are not this way.

An Ecology based on Dynamic Evolution, not Fixed Ecosystems.

Deep ecology is good, but not always useful in everyday life. We need a
working ecology, something tough and flexible, that you can use to save
the world with. A practical ecology might come in two parts, view and
practice, as follows:

The View. Reality is as perfect today as it has ever been. The world in
this moment, along with one's mind in this same moment, is the Great
Perfection spoken of in the teachings. It must be enjoyed just as it is,
pollution, warfare, famine & poverty, confusion and materialistic greed
and all, no matter how unlikely, unhappy or sorry a specimen it may seem
to be (world or mind). Ecosystems like minds are always in perfect
balance, even when they're neurotic, ill, confused or going extinct,
miserably and unnecessarily.

The Practice. A dynamic ecology has got to work in a world which is
changing from one moment to the next. Ecology cannot be based on trying
to preserve ecosystems at some particular stage of their evolution, no
matter how beautiful that stage may have been. This is like trying to
prevent our children from growing up, or our old people from dying. It is
a form of materialism to be overly attached to a special set of God's
Works, and is doomed to failure in any case.

We will never "get" our dream of attractive, healthy ecosystems-they will
always be collapsing around our ears. This is what ecosystems do! They
have a natural lifespan, which in addition to being short, is frequently
terminated 'unnecessarily' early by accident or misfortune. Just like our
own lives. Wanting to freeze ecosystems at a certain charming stage of
their existence is like our other foolish dream of always being young,
attractive and healthy ourselves. Good luck!

The only ease lies with the process of evolution itself. Sound ecology
must be based on respect for God's creative/destructive working process,
not on a childish clinging to pretty toys He may have made. Then we can
live in this world, help it out a bit, and go with, lean into its
mysterious unfolding.

Everything That Moves

To combine this challenging view with the challenging practice, one simply
regards everything that moves as a form of sacred activity. The mad
materialist technobic frenzy gripping the planet is nothing other than
this. There is only One Thing happening, not some things that are good
and others that are bad. This includes fragrant ecosystems, fresh and
unsullied in wilderness areas on spring mornings, and it includes urban
industrial megagrid, ghettos & famine zones, materialist mind greed, the
extinction of wild animal species and the slavery and torture of
'domesticated' ones. Life and death. Even television.

Everything we love will die, and everything we hate will live, and vice
versa, and we will never be rid of such problems. No contemplative would
want the buddhas and patriarchs to catch him trying to escape death, much
less get rid of it. Death is sacred activity. What is happening on this
planet today is the sacred activity of life and death, which we sometimes
call evolution, Ed Abbey and his friends to the contrary notwithstanding.
It is perfect as it stands, flawless, without blemish. But as Suzuki
Roshi said, there is always room for improvement too.

So it's proper to fight and struggle with the situation, to take care of
each other, and try to save a few suffering sentient beings. We must do
this!, and we do, just as we struggle to improve the 'climate' ,
'landscape' and evolutionary process in our own minds and hearts. The
thing to be careful about is not to reject what is ugly and cruel,
dangerous and poisonous, even the heartless machines, the computers &
TV's, cars & highways, nuclear bombs, animal and plant slavery and
torture, and money.

These are our sacred enemies. They might even be our sacred friends, one
never knows for sure. We should not try to know for sure. It's none of
our business. Friend and enemy are not distinguished on this level. It's
disrespectful to try to do so. To the enemy, one offers a deep bow, as
deep, and as filled with respect as one offers to one's friends and
teachers. This bow is offered to everything without reservation. It is a
form of protection. It saves us from attachment and illusion, and in the
end, from the wrong sort of despair.


Only One Nature.

We can chose to regard all of existence as «alive», or we can regard
it as «not alive»; we can regard it as «both alive and not
alive», or as «neither alive nor not alive». These are all valid
ontological constructions. What we cannot do, is divide existence into
two classes, and call one of them alive, and the other one not. One a
'natural', kind, pure and nice biological nature, and the other a raw,
unnatural, alien, bad and ugly machine industrial nuclear warfare
pollution starvation toxic materialist greed poverty and television urban
nature. There's just one nature around here.

As environmentalists, we must learn this way too. Bowing to what is,
working hard and politely to improve it on a local level at the same time.
Not trying to change the larger design, but simply contributing some
tidiness and sanity to our immediate surroundings. Keeping a nice camp in
this great howling universal wilderness, a reasonably safe and comfortable
place where the gods are honored, the children are cared for, and good fun
is had.

Outside such a camp there is Great Wildness. Sacred beings roam out
there, on the street, enjoying dangerous degrees of sacred freedom. The
gods are in charge out there. What they choose to do and to leave undone
is their business, not ours. No one tries to control what goes down on
the street, no one but gangs, drug lords, and cops. You don't want to be
like that. You want to be a bodhisattva of compassion and awakeness, with
sympathy for all forms of life. You want to tiptoe through the street in
a state of reverence and awe, armed and able to defend yourself, as
necessary, as in any wilderness area. But basically respectful of
whatever you meet out there. Whatever. The street, regional ecosystem,
or planet, should be considered a wilderness area, free to define itself,
no matter what happens. This is basic Wilderness Ethic, and is the first
and greatest rule of all deep ecology.

Reality does not need or want to be changed. It has gone to great trouble
to establish itself as it is, and it's perfect. This very world of today,
as it appears before us in all its glory and horror, this is God's will.
What is. Our role is not to arrogantly critique this Great Perfection,
picking and choosing in it according to the conventional wisdom of the
day-our job is simply to join in with it. And there's no need to have a
poverty mentality about the life in this world. It is not now, and has
never been in any danger, no matter what happens on this planet. There
will always be plenty of good life-filled world for us to join in with.

It is not only that there is water in the world, but there is a world
in water. It is not just in water. There is also a world of sentient
beings in clouds and space. There is a world of sentient beings in
the air. There is a world of sentient beings in fire. There is a
world of sentient beings on earth. There is a world of sentient
beings in the phenomenal world. There is a world of sentient beings
in a blade of grass. There is a world of sentient beings in one
staff. Wherever there is a world of sentient beings, there is a world
of Buddhas and Patriarchs. You should thoroughly examine the meaning
of this. Dogen, Mountains & Rivers Sutra, Chapter 20

DON'T UNDERESTIMATE ANY ONE
Everything moves. This alone should be enough to demonstrate inherent
aliveness. From mindless hydrogen clouds swirling purposelessly in
interstellar spacetime, to clouds of thoughts swirling around in the
brain, all cloud forms are the same. They move-they have buddhanature.
None of these patterns from beginning to end have any greater or more
distinct 'separate self' than any other. All are meaningless, empty of
personal intent. All are falling into their own true nature,
effortlessly, along with all other illusory phenomena. We must not
underestimate them. All are beautiful to behold, including the ugly ones,
all are precious, including the worthless ones, all are friends &
relatives, even the dangerous ones, even when they kill you! Their value
cannot be conceived in ordinary ways. Some of these (not all) have a
tendency to grow in complexity, energy, and information density, to blow
off greater & greater clouds of waste heat, to become increasingly
improbable, ephemeral and fragile. Others prefer to stay simple. They
are all good, because complete. Even the rocks & clouds are like this,
even the technobiotia. This good life stuff is the swirling of
clouds-nothing more-it's what evolution does around here.

.