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Myths, Keeping the Chaos at Bay

The Minuscule Space Between Birth and Death, and an Environmental Myth

Some aspects of life pass beyond the veil of consciousness, and we find ourselves driven by forces not fully within the realm of our comprehension. When autumn descends upon the land and the winds of seasonal change blow, tree leaves turn to gold and red. Leaves dropping from the trees skitter up, down, and sideways, but the wind always determines their final path, and they travel to where the wind takes them. We humans are no more than leaves in the winds of time, driven relentless forward by forces blowing through the universe; forces we cannot grasp and hold within our conscious minds; forces defying our flawed understanding of what it means to be alive and to be human beings.

In many respects, we fail to grasp what understanding means. Our desire for order in a chaotic universe drives us to seek logical explanations for experiences that befall us. We take common events and attribute meaning and origins to them. A myth about thunder attributed it to Mjöllnir, the hammer of the thunder god Thor. We need the comfort of logical connections to explain the world around us, and we take refuge in these understandings. We rely on our logical narratives to keep the chaos at bay.

Our Place Under the Sun

But our understanding is a veneer, below which a mysterious universe swirls and churns. Our bodies are intimately connected to wild energy flowing through the universe. Life itself traces its origins to the sun’s energy. Our biosphere is simply a node on our solar system’s energy pathways. Deep space is not empty at all. Remnant radiation from the birth of our universe permeates this seeming void, and perhaps dark matter exists where we now detect nothing at all.

The universe is expanding, and all parts of it are in motion. All of existence is kinetic, moving, and imbued with forces we barely comprehend. Our puny ape brains, limited to four dimensions, can only process what our senses detect and attempt to impose some semblance of order on the perceived chaos . We call this process understanding, but there is more. Our subconscious minds sense forces we can’t fit into our simplified models of reality. We feel the pull of birth and death, existence and non-existence, and in between these fixed points in time and space, we live.

What does it mean to live in the minuscule space between birth and death? Against the backdrop of a 13.8 billion-year-old universe, which spans 96 billion light-years, life is less than a dim flicker occupying virtually no time at all.

With our lives framed against this background, we must find an appropriate balance point for existence, a nexus where our world’s spiritual, emotional, and intellectual components intersect. Without such understanding, we only keep the chaos at bay through shallow and incomplete myths. We deny ourselves full access to the wonders surrounding us, and we destroy the connections providing us with life.

Our Environmental Myth

One of the myths we tell ourselves is that our existence is somehow independent of the biosphere. We live and act like the environment can endlessly absorb our transgressions, as if we can thrive without air, water, or food. We deny our intimate connection to the biosphere and our responsibility to live in balance with the life around us.

Many western religions hold a core belief in manifest destiny. Before the arrival of Europeans, the native North Americans managed the land in a circular or sustainable manner for thousands of years. The land was rich and provided sustenance, but the land required maintenance to sustain future generations.

This model is very different from the commercial views of European settlers, where manifest destiny was the operating philosophy. Under this philosophy, the land is used to extract wealth and value, and when the resources are completely stripped, the business moves on to new undeveloped lands. This practice is essentially the slash-and-burn farming technique being applied today over much of the Amazon Forest in Brazil.

The system is commercially lucrative since it extracts maximum wealth from an ecosystem. When the ecosystem falls into decline and ruin, we don’t restore it. Instead, we move on to the next ecosystem. The systematic destruction of the very ecosystems we depend on for life is part of our cultural heritage.

Even today, despite many international climate agreements, we still cannot drag ourselves away from the myth allowing us to maximize short-term wealth at the expense of the environment. The economics of pollution are too lucrative for us to abandon. Life is about the flow of energy through the biosphere. When we cripple the biosphere, we do so in willful ignorance, buying into the myth that wealth creation through environmental destruction comes at no cost.

Related Articles:

The economics of pollution (by WM House: ArcheanWeb) 

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William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.