Thursday, March 29, 2007

Goodbye for now



On April 1st I’m beginning a ten-day, silent Vipassana meditation course at a retreat center outside of Kathmandu. After that I’m headed up to the high peaks in Langtang National Park along the Tibetan border for some trekking meditation. So there won’t be too much activity on the blog here for the next month or so.

I’ll take lots of photos of the trek and post them here when I get back. And I’ll try to distill whatever metaphysical musings I get out of the experience for you as well. In the meantime, here are some books I’ve run across lately that I highly recommend…

From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture. By Peter Goering, Helena Norberg-Hodge and John Page. This book concisely critiques several aspects of industrial agriculture such as the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the treatment of animals, biotechnology and the use of hybrid seeds, the mechanization of farming, and the economic and social effects of industrial agriculture on small farmers and rural communities. It’s a quick read and a good general primer on what’s wrong with industrial agriculture.

The Unsettling of America. By Wendell Berry. This book should be required reading for anyone who eats food, because, as Berry points out, “eating is an agricultural act.” Two rare elements are combined in Wendell Berry’s writing: one, he is a great writer, and two, his message is exceedingly important. The Unsettling of America is another critique of industrial agriculture. But unlike the book by Goering et al. that provides mainly a step-wise, logical account of the factual problems in the way we do agriculture, Berry’s critique is much more spiritually based.

Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. By Helena Norberg-Hodge. This book tells the story of a healthy, happy, enviable traditional society high in the mountains of western Tibet formerly based nearly exclusively on subsistence agriculture. Once the area was opened up to tourism, trade, and so-called “development,” however, their idyllic way of life quickly began to erode. This book is a powerful account of the workings of “development” and its negative effects on traditional cultures and ecological integrity.

The One Straw Revolution. By Masanobu Fukuoka. An entertaining and quick read that describes Fukuoka’s philosophy on life, industrial agriculture, self-reliance, and farming methods that mimic nature. A classic text among alternative agrarians.

The Power of Now. By Eckhart Tolle. This book is perhaps the best book ever written describing the way the mind works and the difficulties generated by the ego for health, happiness and connection with other people. Tolle is able to explain on a conceptual level how the mind works to cause anxiety, depression, pain and suffering; but, as he points out, a conceptual or intellectual understanding is insufficient for gaining control of the mind, ending suffering, and becoming fully present. However, his writing has the power to take you beyond intellectualizing and conceptual understanding to finally experience the workings of the mind directly – this makes it possible to get beyond egocentric ways of living.

Still the Mind. By Alan Watts. This is a quick-reading little book that provides easy access to the teachings and philosophy of Zen Buddhism. Watts’ style is whimsical and entertaining, and his book is full of koans – statements designed to interrupt the mind’s logical, linear processes to produce deep insights into life, the self, the nature of reality, etc. I can also recommend another of Watts’ books, Buddhism: The religion of no religion.

Well, happy reading! I’ll be back in contact around the first of May.

3 comments:

sushil yadav said...

Josh,

You have written about "Industrial Agriculture", Wendell Berry, Living in the moment and Meditation. In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of speed, overstimulation, consumerism and industrialization on our minds and environment. Please read.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.


A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.


Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.


To read the complete article please follow any of these links :

PlanetSave

ePhilosopher

sushil_yadav

Josh said...

Thanks for your contribution.

I am also concerned about the implications of living in a highly technologized and competitive society for the human psyche.

As a scientist for several years in the academic system, I witnessed first hand in myself and others the spiritual degeneration that takes place in a culture based largely on careerism, egocentrism and acheivement. Of course, scientific research does not have to proceed under these conditions, and in fact I think would be much improved if it occured in a healthier environment. But unfortunately at the moment this is a major struggle within our university system.

I am, however, confident that we can change things for the better.

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