Humans see the world through largely unconscious frames that determine what we believe our nature to be and therefore what we believe to be possible. To address our biggest global challenges, we can shed this non-ecological mental map—what I call a “scarcity-mind”—based in lack and fear. Locked in scarcity-mind, we remain blind to our own power and end up creating together a world that none of us, as individuals, would choose. But humans can actually change how we see, moving from a frame of lack and limits to one of alignment with nature. Based on research in neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology, this article explores a world seen with the emergent “eco-mind” in which possibility is all around us. Thinking like an ecosystem, no one is bereft of power.
"If it bleeds, it leads"... ever hear that maxim of journalism? If you want readers, go with the scary, gruesome story -- that's what gets hearts pumping and grabs attention. Yeah, but what grabs our attention can also scare the sh*t out of us and shut us down.
Scary news might "sell," but we can also feel so bombarded with the negative that our "why-bother" reflex kicks in. Fear stimuli go straight to the brain's amygdala, Harvard Medical School's Srinivasan Pillay explains. But, he adds "because hope seems to travel in the same dungeons [parts of the brain] as fear, it might be a good soldier to employ if we want to meet fear."
How do we know the difference between head-in-the-sand hope and eyes-wide-open hope? One is a killer; the other, a life-giver.
First, it helps to ask, what is hope?
Some of my Buddhist buddies pooh-pooh the whole idea of hope. Hope keeps us from experiencing this moment, they tell me. It feeds our yearning for some future one. Hope is rooted in desire, even craving -- and aren't they the root of suffering?
"We've hit the limits of a finite planet!" How many times have I heard this dire warning and felt myself banging against a wall -- ouch! Or, I've read that endless growth is killing our planet, and we have to "just say no" to growth.
Sure, such pronouncements can seem like common sense, but even common-sense metaphors can get us into trouble. The problem is, if we conceive of our challenge as squeezing within the limits of a finite planet, our imaginations stay locked inside an unecological worldview of separateness and lack -- precisely the thinking that got us into this mess. Not good.
Earth Day is really People Day, isn't it?
The fate of Earth is now in human hands. And, recognizing this truth, some have named our era the Anthropocene. So it's high time that we get a grip on what makes this era-making species tick... don't you think?
The biggest question facing our planet might be this one:
How do we protect, not what we own individually, but those indivisible goods we inherit, share, and yearn to pass on unharmed or enriched to our children? You know... those things we take for granted but can't survive without: like air, water, soil, forests, oceans, and diverse species -- treasures many call our "commons."
The "commons" comes with a lot of baggage, though.
David Pogue in the New York Times not long ago extolled the wonders of LED lights, but lamented that the all-too-human weakness for "instant gratification" -- killed by LEDs' higher price tag -- will prevent them taking off.
Pogue's piece got me thinking. What is instant gratification, and has it changed for me?
We see fear's face everywhere, whether in a Congress debating assault weapons or in schools introducing lock-down drills.
And for most species fear is, of course, key to survival. Sensing danger, a healthy animal experiences instantaneous physical changes that enable it to escape; then, once the threat has passed, the impala literally shakes off its fear and runs back to join its group.
But could it be that for human animals fear itself has become a danger?
Don't laugh. It's true, and it's serious business. Today is the world's first International Happiness Day, declared by the UN to signal the importance of going beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of progress. We need, says the UN, better measures of society's real wellbeing -- including happiness.
A “life-changing experience” sounds clichéd, I’ll admit— but it’s what just happened to me in Bhutan.