I do not agree with the Buddhist belief that life is suffering. Life is a beautiful, unknowable, and magical time of existence that will never happen again in the same manner that it happens now.
Surely though, unconscious life is, without question, suffering. And we are suffering. Our earth is suffering. If you are conscious about our earth, it is impossible to disagree.
This however, brings up many questions. What is consciousness? What is it to be unconscious? What is suffering? Books are obviously written about the answers to these questions. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, a good one to start is Alan Watt’s Man, Woman and Nature. For the sake of time however, my answers to these questions can be explicated by a story.
Yesterday, on my way to Ubud, I drove through Denpasar, the capital of Bali, one of the 7,000+ inhabited islands of Indonesia. Bali, approximately the size of Delaware, has the population of the country of New Zealand (~4,000,000). It is important to remember that Indonesia’s 7,000 inhabited islands comprise the 4th most populous country in the world, right behind the United States. But are the States United? Is Indonesia united? That’s a question for a different time.
I wanted to see an area that I had not seen before. And not a nature-scape, but a real-life, raw, city, where millions of people live. From the beginning of the drive, I rode through black, grey, and green smoke shooting out of bikes, cars, and trucks, watching men banging on rebar and mixing cement with their hands. This wasn’t just in Denpasar, this was happening the entire way. And if you’re unfamiliar with Bali or Indonesia, this happens EVERY day, not just yesterday. When I arrived in Julia Robert’s Eat Pray Love-scape, Ubud, there the men were, pouring concrete with their hands and banging on rebar with hammers up on future high-rises (yes in Ubud!).
Living in Indonesia, this stuff ceases to surprise you. We black it out, turn a blind eye, no one wants to curtail development, even unconscious, unsustainable development. Chalk it up as a win for GDP.
What did surprise me, well not really surprise me, but stuck me, was a river I passed in Denpasar. In the middle of a bustling metropolis shanty town, a river gurgles with the beautiful sound of any babbling brook. Except this brook was covered with plastic as it waterfalled with gravity’s pull towards the ocean. Still though, as rivers often do, it brought me some peace. But even more sadness. A lot of sadness, actually. I think this is what consciousness is.
Opening our eyes. Being sad. Accepting the sadness. For we are not going to make changes if we are not sad about what we have done to the earth. We can be both sad and positive, though. But we need to see and acknowledge what we have done first. If you haven’t had a good cry in a while, this will help (http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2011/11/the-dream-of-a-dying-albatross-chris-jordan/).
So how can we turn this sadness into positivity? Acknowledge that the plastic in the stream and in the Albatross’ stomach is from us. It isn’t from petroleum companies whose power is controlling us. It is that we use plastic straws and plastic spoons and plastic bags without seeing the polluted stream or the albatross killed by eating a used lighter it thought was a fish.
We could demand bamboo straws, and spoons, and cotton bags. We must demand these things. Or carry a pocket size spork with you if you want to eat on the go. Otherwise, wait until you’re home or use your hands. This is consciousness. When you use a plastic bag, a part of you should feel the sadness of the stream covered in plastic.
If you are in Indonesia, please learn one phrase: Saya Tidak Perlu Pipet. I do not need a straw. It is not necessary to explain why. I have never been looked at strangely for saying this. Because we do not need straws! It just makes sense. And still I forget to ask sometimes because I am still unconscious.
To remember, we have to be forward thinking. Remember how bad you would feel before you order a drink if your used straw killed a baby albatross. I know it kills a part of me every time I have an unnecessary straw in my drink because I wasn’t paying attention to my unconsciousness. Maybe it all starts with straws. Saya Tidak Perlu Pipet. You can ask this wherever you live.