Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Worlds apart

In recent months, I've been attempting to persuade my father, among others, to work with Ayahuasca.  Not only is this because of the immense physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits one can gain by working with Ayahuasca, but, as I now realize and can acknowledge, it is because I have a desire to share my worldview with my father and my peers alike.  And not just through words and discourse, but through a real experience.  Ayahuasca is like a wormhole into a dimension of deep universal knowledge, a realm which -- although personal experiences can differ greatly -- is commonly experienced by its users.

The definition of worldview, by www.thefreedictionary.com (for simplicity's sake), is:
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

This isn't a long-winded story about my and my father's relationship.  I'm simply beginning with our relationship as an example for a broader point, which will become clear before the end of this essay.  Historically, I'd felt as though my father and I were two very different people, with a rift of uncommon likes and dislikes between us.  But, as of late, I believe we are more similar than I had thought in years previous. My father is a sportsman, an athlete.  He is a fighter, strong willed and idealistic.  I can see how that sportsman in him transfers -- as he will also admit -- from games such as hockey into other affairs in his life, such as work, business, and finances.  Every game comes with a set of rules, a scoreboard, and a winner.  That's how Dad plays the game of life.  And, although the activities in which I have chosen to participate do contrast significantly with my father's, I do operate similarly.  What major differences exist, appear to me, to exist in our differing worldviews.

For years I'd condemned the indifferent actions and seeming ignorance -- as perceived by me -- of my father's baby boomer generation  -- with respect to issues such as the dispute of global climate change, dismissal of irreparable widespread environmental degradation, and the blind, relentless pursuit of self interest, material accumulation, and financial gain.  I'd blamed them for allowing the brutal maltreatment of the planet to continue, if not encourage it by idealizing the destructive, capitalistic, economy-over-environment paradigm.  But, in years leading up to this era, widespread public discourse was not necessarily focused on these topics.  It has been years of experiences, lessons, and social conditioning that has constructed their worldview into what it is today.  And where my worldview differs today, it is because I have undergone an entirely different set of experiences and been exposed to my own unique streams of social conditioning.  Acknowledging that, I cannot claim any sort of innocence in the predicament we're in -- I've got just as much blood on my hands as anyone else -- but I refuse to simply discredit or ignore the situation our very existence on this planet is faced with.  And it's not just the older generations who offend, disappointingly.  Even after all the available information today, after all the frighteningly clear signs of our planetary collision course, I see the vast majority of my own generation -- the ones our seniors claimed were going to change the world -- assimilate into the same dismissive, ignorant, self important, money seeking lifestyles.  The sad thing is, much of that has even been perpetuated by our seniors as they, consciously or not, influence our own worldviews.  But again, I must be careful of my scathing judgments, because what seems, to me, to be a dismissive, ignorant, self important, money seeking lifestyle may be someone's pursuit of goals and morals he or she believes to be righteous.  Maybe he or she is not aware of the severity or reality of the widespread social and environmental consequences our fast paced, well dressed Western lifestyle costs the rest of the world. Maybe if they were, they would refuse to be complacent and conform.  It all comes down to their worldview.  And someone's worldview can only be developed over time, experience, and social conditioning.  When considering a broader scale, it's obvious that worldviews differ even more greatly between regions, nations, climates, continents, ethnicity, and religions.  How can there be so many worldviews, when we all live in the same world?  Which is correct?

There is obviously no easy answer to that, but I do believe that most people or groups believe their own worldview to be correct.  In many cases enough to warrant violence, oppression or pain on others of different bend.  Perhaps one of the major reasons why contemporary humanity in bouncing around in in this catastrophic stalemate, unable to curtail our acceleration down this perilous path, is because no one can agree on one holistic view of the world, the cosmos, and our place within them.  My recent focus has been on consciousness as the driving force behind our actions.  But along with consciousness, worldview is the main determinant in how we behave.  So, then, it seems realistic that the unprecedented, coordinated global action required to rehabilitate the planet and solidify a fair, humane, and sustainable existence for its inhabitants, would be most effectively brought about if we were somehow able to mitigate our differences, globally, and adopt a unified worldview.  With unified action, humanity's potential is unbound and infinitely formidable.  So, the most critical challenge now becomes how we can develop a clear, realistic and functional worldview that can be adopted by all humans.  One that will encourage us to place the life of our home planet above self interest and greed. Here's my suggestion:  Give every breathing human a cup full of Ayahuasca, and we'll go from there.


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  2. World views differ throughout the Globe, but one common belief that is shared among many individuals is that if you work hard and play hard then you should be able to live the lifestyle you want for yourself, as you earned it. Having the option of living life day to day with luxuries seems to be what drives and motivates working professionals is Western cultures and why wouldn't it? Of course people want to live in comfort, comfort that involves easy transportation with a vehicle, shelter in a nice and welcoming home, clothing and fashion, products that convenience our lives like computers and telephones. Moreover, money provides us with entertainment that’s fun, like bars and clubs, concerts, fine dining and good food, and the freedom to travel the world seeing different corners of earth and experiencing new cultures. Being wealthy gives people the option to have this type of lifestyle, and in order to get there in this society, we have to conform to some of the rules set down for us, which is a system that revolves around economic growth. Yes it is selfish, and lacks compassion for others and our planet, but in order to make changes to stop or slow down the depletion of the Earth; people in our generation have to act selflessly, making alterations to our own lifestyles in order to provide a healthy planet that can sustain human existence in future generations. While this is an important responsibility that should be honored, it inconveniences people in their present life. As a result, like you said, many are ignorant to the environmental issues, and even if they do know about the issues, many chose to ignore it. Why? Because people are not willing to sacrifice the things that they want for themselves for a generation that does not yet exist. Can this way of thinking be altered? I’m not sure.
    In March I am going to try Ayahauasca in Peru with you Dan, I am very interested in seeing what my experience will be like, and what I can take from it.

  3. I, too, lament the postmodern condition in which the discourse of a western perspective has worked to build a homogeneous society. This task which western culture has embarked on since the Enlightenment has been the source of a lot of misery in the world. All of which you seem to agree with along with many others. Yet, in the end, how is your proposal different from that of earlier leaders of western culture? You have a vision which you think is the path to 'enlightenment.' You believe that so strongly that you are willing to proselytize to others (your father and friends at least). How is that different from others who proselytized religion or reason as the answer to the ills of the world always from an elitist position? In addition, your advocacy of another material substance in which to master the spiritual nature of humanity seems to be reinforcing the mind body dualism that was created by the philosophers of western culture that have caused so many problems of the world including environmental problems. Do you think the reciprocal subjective relationships that you desire can be adequately developed by another objective/materialist framework? Finally, do you find your appropriation of South American culture for western cultural consumption problematic? Again, I think, you are correct about the nature of postmodernity but I wonder if you are not just rebooting an old familiar response associated with a new discourse. Is this truly a paradigm shift? Shouldn't we dig deeper and exhaust all possibilities.

  4. Thanks for your excellent comments Mr. Hall and Catherine, you make very good points. Mr Hall, I have been studying exactly what you speak of. It's obvious that pursuits of Enlightenment and utopian visions have caused extreme periods of misery and destruction across the globe for millenia. In my argument there are a few differences from traditional Enlightenment thinking. One is that I don't warrant the pursuit of a Utopian vision through violence, an endeavour which is often perpetrated by historical Enlightenment movements. Another is that historically we've not been threatened by the holistic collapse of the biosphere, or the only means by which humans and all earthly life are able to survive. My point is, this time we are being forced to change by necessity. And although there is much to suggest humans are unable to reach the kind of goals commonly described in Utopian or Enlightenment thinking, I prefer to aspire that previous limits can be broken. Especially this time, as we are positioned in a do-or-die scenario. I am not coming from a religious perspective. In fact, I hold much contempt for the religious institutions and the misery and violence they have manifested for millenia. Yet, it could be argued that visions such as mine are simply a deformed version of such ideologies. Again, I may be delusional, but I am only conceptualizing what I see as the idealistic change required to encourage what I'd like to see on Earth, which is ultimately peace, sustainability and respect for the planet. The alternatives are tackling fragmented problems piece by piece, as suggested by realism, or business as usual, which will ineveitably force us into change or planet wide desperation, misery and death anyway. My visons are certainly far from original. They have been shaped and influenced by rhetoric I've absorbed for years through exposure to similar thinking. By posting these blogs my goal is not to assert some personal concrete vision of the future, but to inspire discourse such as this and also to evolve my own ways of thinking. By making your points you challenge mine, which inspires progress. We should dig deeper and exhaust all possibilities. But first, more people need to actually care, and that will require a wider consciousness and even an evolution of worldview, especially in North America. Now I speak of probability for things to occur in the future, which can only be speculation because nobody truly knows the future, but I think that once the gravity of the situation becomes more and more blatently obvious and history progresses, serious awakenings will inevitably spread.

    I have worked in tourism as a tour leader in South America. I have seen first hand how the simple presence of Western tourists dilute and pervade culture. In fact, I got out of the industry because I could no longer support it. There is definitely a limit where culture becomes commercialized and therefore murdered in its essence. Culture cannot be mass produced for consumption. The heightened perception offered by Ayahuasca does not necessarily need to happen in South America. I can just as easily brew Ayahuasca in Canada. It is the medicine that has the effect, not the culture behind it. I am going to the Amazon in a few days to work with Ayahuasca in the jungle, but that too is because I simply have a deep affinity for the Amazon region, for the nature of it. Psychedelics have worked for me for years in Canadian culture just the same. South American culture, as all culture, should be learned about and appreciated for its uniqueness and character, but also given a respectful degree of space to maintain its authenticity.

  5. Daniel,

    I think that you have a great skill at writing but I question to some degree your study of the Enlightenment. I don't remember any Enlightenment thinkers advocating violence (i.e. Kant's categorical imperative, Descartes' equality of reason). In addition, the secular thought that your notion of the future and fulfillment of the future are built on the foundation of Enlightenment and modern philosophy. Since those secular notions are dependent in a quasi-Hegelian fashion on an extended history that is unfolding, the structure in which your solution cannot be used to support your changing notions of social and environmental justice. You must, like Nietzche suggested "un-inherit" your Enlightenment foundation if you want to think about social and environment justice not as futurity but as "the other," that is always already deferred by your very thinking about it. How? Most postmodern philosophers are trying to work on that one. You have the rhetoric skill and passion to work on it too but you need to , like me, dig deeper. I feel that you have a lot to contribute to this discourse for change. Examine your reasons for your actions. Be sure that it isn't some rewound version of the western notion of the exoticism of the Orient detailed in Edward Said's Orientalism. I respect your committment and your Kierkegaardian 'leap of faith.' but if you reexamined some of your assumptions and paths, could you have a greater impact on your notion of social and environmental justice?