What's Your Worldview?

Reduce Waste, part 2

The previous post included a description of the world-view, "World as Battleground." The second world-view is:

2. The World as Trap

In this worldview, our spiritual objective
“is not to engage in struggle and vanquish a foe, but to disentangle ourselves and escape from this messy world . . . to extricate ourselves and ascend to a higher, supra-phenomenal plane.”
Not in some future life, but in this life, the objective is to escape the trap, to live with contempt for the material plane, prizing only the rarefied life of mind and spirit, aloof from the world of strife and desire. This view engenders a love-hate relationship with matter – for aversion inflames craving, and the craving inflames aversion. Wherever we see people vigorously denouncing something and then being caught at doing that very thing – whether it’s extramarital relationships, or eating fatty foods – we are seeing the playing out of a love-hate relationship that comes from seeing the world as a trap.

I have seen people be attracted to Buddhism out of a feeling that the world is a trap, and a hope meditation will take them to a place removed from worldly entanglements. I tell them that the Buddha taught detachment from ego, not detachment from the world. And that even with ego, he taught being present to it, seeing it clearly for what it is, not suppressing it or ignoring it. For people who see the world as a trap, social justice may still be a concern, but their approach is to get themselves detached and then help others detach -- escape the trap of the material world.

3. The World as Lover

This view beholds the world as an intimate and gratifying partner. With training, one can bring to every phenomenon the beauty and sweetness of primal erotic play. Since lovers are impelled toward union and oneness, this view can then segue into:

4. The World as Self

In the Western tradition there is more talk of merging self with God rather than with the world, but the import is about the same. When Hildegard of Bingen experienced unity with the divine, she gave the experience these words:
“I am the breeze that nurtures all things green....I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.”
In riding a bicycle or driving a car we can quickly come to feel the vehicle as an extension of our own bodies. In the same way, the whole world is an extension of your own body. Yes, sometimes it does things you don’t want it to and can’t control, but the same is true of your joints and organs (increasingly so as the years go by). Truly, everything in the world is your joints and organs, sinews and bones, glands, skin, and hair. And brain and mind.
“We are our world knowing itself. We can relinquish our separateness. We can come home again – and participate in our world in a richer, more responsible and poignantly beautiful way than before in our infancy.” (Joanna Macy)
If you see the world in the first view – as a battle-ground, or a proving ground – then your moral thinking will emphasize individual courage, strength, taking responsibility. Those are good things. But just telling people to be that way doesn’t help us actually be that way. A moral code that sees self-improvement as solitary and nonrelational won’t work. It doesn’t stick. Our growth and change require the nurture we get in relationships and loving attachments.

We don’t get to resilience by ourselves. And when we are held in a network of relationships – providing both support and accountability – then we become able to adopt the third view: we can see the world itself as lover. And from there we might even see the world as our very self, the fourth view.

From this place of joy and gratitude, then we are able to sustain care for the Earth. I am going to talk about reducing waste – but if it isn’t fun, if it isn’t joyful, I’m just wasting my breath. And the waste I hope to reduce begins with reducing the waste of my breath. A joyless call to self-sacrifice and duty is not what any of us need to hear.

So I spent this time describing the four different world-views because I think we are attracted to numbers 3 and 4 – world as lover and world as self. But most of us probably waffle a bit. Sometimes the world does seem like a battle-ground or proving ground: everything is a test, and I am constantly being judged – sometimes well, sometimes poorly. Moving the needle on those judgments, including my self-judgments, more toward the positive end is the primary aim toward which my energy needs to be directed. When my self-judgments and others' judgments of me are predominantly positive, that's affirming, but it still isn't joyful. It’s still a life that’s all about the judgment.

And of course, the world of judgment is never always positive. And then the second view looks attractive: world as trap. This view recommends retreat from the world -- the realm where I’m never good enough. This worldview promises a refuge in sublime detachment.

So we waffle around amidst the world-views, and I find it helpful to name them: to notice how they work. The simple act of identifying “world as lover” as a world-view helps me feel the joy of that view, helps me live into it more consistently. Identifying “world as self” as a world-view helps me stay in it.

We also need relationships with others in a mutually supportive social context that nurtures the understanding of the world as lover – or as self. With that context, I’m now ready to take in some factual information about waste reduction. Grounded in joy, we can respond in care, and it’s what we want to do, what feels good – not just some duty we’re brow-beating ourselves into.

Are you ready?

Next: Some facts of the matter about waste and how to reduce it

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This is part 2 of 3 of "Reduce Waste"
See also
Part 1: "We Are Our World Knowing Itself"

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