Balance: A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements
In early 2000, I was walking through Manhattan with three friends on our way to meet a fourth member of our party. This was well before cell phones had become so completely pervasive but still, I was the only one in our group without one. I sarcastically commented on this and was prompted mocked as a Luddite. Then it was on to the essential business of figuring out how to meet up with friend #4.
Out came a cell phone. A call was placed to another cell phone. A meeting place was agreed upon and we were on our way. Friend #1 hung up his phone and turned to me, declaring that this was “one of those times” when a cell phone was indispensable. To which I replied:
“If we didn’t have access to your cell phone or any cell phones at all, we would’ve been simply been more creative in order to come up with a plan that would’ve gotten all of us together without a major hassle. Instead, the phone made us lazy because we knew we could just wing it. Instead of problem-solving, we opted for reliance on consumer electronics.”
A similar rant, of course, could realistically be applied to calculators. Not to mention, the spell-check function on your computer, most software programs in general, and yeah…the computer itself. We no longer have to learn how to spell or remember phone numbers or do math in our heads or memorize directions or even walk up a single flight of stairs. Thanks to the marvels of industrial civilization, we happily delegate such tedious tasks to technology so we can have time to focus on the truly important stuff, like…um…well…uh…removing 90% of the large fish from the ocean, perhaps?
Harmony: Agreement in feeling or opinion
We each possess a physiology that evolved to negotiate the Stone Age. Unfortunately, we live in the Space Age. There’s the rub. We are urban cavemen — overmatched in our daily battle to navigate an artificial reality because we have lost contact with our instincts.
“Pediatricians nowadays see fewer kids with broken bones from climbing trees and more children with longer-lasting repetitive-stress injuries, which are related to playing video games and typing at keyboards,” writes Sally Deneen at The Daily Green. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, calls this “nature deficit disorder.” As a fourth-grader quoted in Louv’s book explains: “I like to play indoors better, because that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Nature deficit disorder is obviously not a medical term; it’s more of a social trend, a trend that plays in factoids like this: American children between the ages of 8 to 18 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day indoors using computers, video games, television, and MP3 players.
The payoff for all this spectatorship is a lifestyle based on imitation, competition, materialism, and self-delusion. The dominant culture keeps us inactive while our biology desires movement. The dominant culture sells us junk food while our bodies crave nutrients. The dominant culture trains us to be obedient while our minds yearn for freedom. The dominant culture teaches conformity while our souls demand individuality. The dominant culture denies our biology and puts us out of balance with nature.
Among many others things, it can be posited that we did not evolve to experience artificial light after sundown, live inside four walls under that artificial light, eat processed and refined food products, ingest chemicals and pharmaceuticals, sleep during the day and stay up all night, drive cars, travel in an airplane across time zones with such rapidity, become obese, remain sedentary, consume animal flesh or mammary secretions, usurp our immune system with toxic vaccines, exist on a man-made time schedule, be surrounded by copious human-induced electromagnetic radiation, climb giant mountains, travel to space or underwater, wear shoes or eyeglasses, lift weights and develop hypertrophied muscles, exist without community, give birth lying down, live in a world devoid of top soil and nutrient-rich food, smoke cigarettes, be hyper-exposed to toxic pesticides, endure global warming and the greenhouse effect, use cosmetics, or manage the high level of stress and noise that is synonymous with our so-called progress.
Koyaanisqatsi…this is what the Kogi Indians of Colombia call “life out of balance” and this is what we have created as our culture. When I say “culture,” I am referring to what Jason Miller calls “the pitiless, soulless, murderous machine of capitalism and industrial civilization inculcates, indoctrinates, entices, bribes, and coerces nearly everyone to participate in its bloody, rapacious, and relentless assault on the Earth and its sentient inhabitants.” This culture has quickly fucked up the entire planet. So much so that the elusive Kogi have issued a warning to us, their Younger Brothers.
Equilibrium: A condition in which all acting influences are canceled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced, or unchanging system
Even the eyes of veteran activists glaze over when I talk about 80% of the world’s forest being gone. They want to debate the latest political minutia while all life on this planet is under relentless assault. It’s cliché to declare that our problems cannot be solved by the same type of thinking that created them. Cliché but accurate. Elections, legislation, protests, petitions, and so on will not stop the flow of pesticides or the use of nuclear power or the glorification of war and its volunteer soldiers or our culture’s relentless march toward total destruction.
Life on Earth is out of balance. Corporations, politicians, judges, cops, and soldiers can’t fix this. In fact, most of them can’t even perceive the imbalance. The change has to come from somewhere else. The change will come from somewhere else, of that we can be sure. The details of outcome, however, are far less certain.
Symbiosis: A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence
One final note, on the medium by which I have shared these thoughts: The aforementioned Kogi have no written language. In part, this is to assure they remember. They talk, they pass down stories, and they remember. “The Kogi attach great importance to memory,” explain the editors of Ode Magazine. “The memory of events with which the community has been confronted, the memory of social regulations within the group and so forth. ‘Memory,’ they say, ‘is like eyes which were made to see. If they close, everything becomes darkness.’ For them, this memory cannot be written down, it must be spoken, passed down by members of the group. In writing, memories are separated from the people and lose their effectiveness.”
So, I ask: what memories are we creating and what are we doing to ensure there will be someone left to appreciate and remember them?
Synergy: Cooperative interaction among groups