The Only Way To Live, Things Being As They Are

Sitting at home at my computer, staring out of the window, sound of the washing machine on spin coming from the kitchen behind me. There’s a fantastic display of pansies in the window-box. Their flowers always look like human faces to me, with their eyes screwed up, facing different ways. Some of them express nothing in particular. Others seem to convey acute suffering. And yet the overall impression of these flowers, yellow, black, mauve, white, is of overflowing life and happiness. I know if I go out now and walk into town and watch the faces of the people, I will get a different impression. There will be enough suffering, probably not so obviously acute as the face of some of the pansies, but real, long-term, hopeless, or made worse by hope. Did you know that hope only exacerbates suffering? I’ve discovered this. To live in the present is to live, and to let go of all attachment to future achievement or future good things is to live in the present fully. The only real happiness is here and now, not next week. Next week’s happiness is an idea only, based on a memory of past happiness, projected by your mind onto the screen of the future. It takes thought and attention to do this. That thought and attention gets in the way of living fully in the present.

The human race is ruled by mad people, mostly madmen, and bullies of both sexes. Fortunately their influence does not extend everywhere. Fortunately we have not pushed all other species into extinction yet (see recent 3-part Radio 4 series “Extinct” which I think is still listenable to on BBC iPlayer). There is still hope (hope?) for the future. But that hope is rapidly dwindling. The oil will run out. That will put the price of everything up fast, including food. Get an allotment now. But the saddest thing to me is this mass extinction we have started. Scientists have shown that the rate of extinction now exceeds the worst mass extinctions in the planets geological past. One of them wiped out all of the forests and most land creatures. That was cause by volcanic eruptions that releases loads of CO2 into the atmosphere. Some of the lave flowed over limestone rocks, and was so hot it liberated more CO2 from that (limestone is calcium carbonate). It took millions of years for the planet to evolve complex ecosystems again, with some plants evolving into trees, amphibians into land reptiles etc. And now the human population is rocketing up. Of all the human beings who have ever lived since the first man evolved from primates, most of them are alive now. That seems an astonishing fact to me. Unlike other animal plagues, which peak and then drop to almost zero when their own food supply runs out, the human plague is using up everything, space, coal, oil, water, ocean life, etc., so when we peak and drop to almost zero in numbers, or to actual zero (this seems to me inevitable, unless we suddenly come to our senses), there will be nothing much left for any creature. Microorganisms and slime will inherit the earth.

Back to the present. Live happily without hope, and love your friends. It can be done. It’s the only way. I think it can be done. Face the worst, not dwell on it 24/7, but just face it, to its depths, totally, it doesn’t take that long if you give yourself to it – and then live. OK?

James Turner