10/9/15

Sticky Notes and Random Quotes I

pliny the elder

  “Man is the only animal that knows nothing and can learn nothing without being taught. He can neither speak, nor walk, nor eat, nor do anything without the prompting of nature, but only weep.”

-First century Roman, Pliny the Elder (23 – 79), lawyer, author, naturalist, natural philosopher, army and naval commander, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian, comparing humanity to the wonders of the animal kingdom. He died at the beachside resort of Stabiae, on the south-west coast of Italy, sixteen kilometers (nine point nine miles) away from Mount Vesuvius when it blew its stack in the year 79, and which also took out the nearly twelve thousand residents of nearby Pompeii, almost instantaneously.

 

“Fascism is capitalism in decay.”lenin

-Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870-1924), also known as Lenin. Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist, he was head of the government from when the Russian Empire was dissolved and replaced with the Soviet Union, a one-party socialist state. He remains an ideological figurehead behind the political theories of Marxism and Leninism.

 

 

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

mussolini-Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (1883-1945) also known as ll Duce, was an Italian politician, journalist and leader of the National Fascist Party, which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1945. He was the founder of fascism, a form of radical authoritarian nationalism, and venomously anti-liberal, anti-communist and anti-conservative.

 

 

 

“What happened was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to be governed by surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop. naziism

                                                  (Political poster for the 1932 Nazi Party)

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, regretted. Believe me this is true. Each act, each occasion is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we did nothing) … You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”

-German professor after World War II describing the rise of Nazism in the 1930’s, to a journalist.

 

“Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence for fighting for our cause, but by non-participation of anything you believe is evil.”

einstein-Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German born anti-racist, socialist, agnostic, and Nobel prize winning theoretical physicist, who developed the general theory of relativity, also known as the geometric theory of gravitation, which describes that gravity is a geometric property of space and time, in a United Nations radio interview recorded in his study, at Princeton, New Jersey, (1950)

 

 

 

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries – the realists of a larger reality. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.”le guin

-American author and staunch critic of the publishing world, Ursula K. Le Guin, (born Oct. 1929) as she accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th annual National Book Awards ceremony, in November 2014. She believes rightly that capitalism has turned writers into producers of market commodities rather than creators of art. Much like it has for most of all the arts.

 

 

 

“We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, hedgesand our banks destroy the economy.”

-Chris Hedges, born in 1956, is an American journalist, activist, author, Presbyterian minister and socialist.

 

 

 

“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know. And as long as the general population is passive, apathetic, and diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”chomsky

Noam Chomsky, (born 1928), is an American author, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, libertarian socialist, traditional anarchist, and political commentator, whose ideological position revolves around “nourishing the libertarian and creative character of the human being”.

 

 

 

 

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, pull back the curtains, move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

-Frank Zappa (1940-1993), American social critic, satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, orchestral innovator, atheist, anti-censorship, and perhaps one of rock and roll’s zappasharpest musical minds. He strongly believed that the United States was becoming a “fascist theocracy”.

“I believe that people have a right to decide their own destinies; people own themselves. I also believe that, in a democracy, government exists because (and only so long as) individual citizens give it a ‘temporary license to exist’—in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy, you own the government—it doesn’t own you.”

 

 

 

 

 

04/8/13

Costs Of Living – Inequalities, Poverty Levels, and the Cost for one Person to live in Victoria BC

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity”  U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights


 

While we have been busy climbing ladders, wishing we were someone else and purchasing our personalities, the basics of life have become much more than simply the costs of living, and are in fact taking much more from us than just income and capital; it’s taking away the planet we live on as well.

To exist as a biological species we need safe drinking water, food, clothing, a roof over our heads, and sex. To be human we need someone to love, someone to love us, friendship, an individual talent which gives us self worth and the ability or opportunity to question. To keep humanity’s greatest resources, imagination and ingenuity, in proper context, we need what Albert Einstein called “the principles of free and responsible development of the individual so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of mankind.” To keep ourselves mentally healthy is to relish each one of these essentials. But each one of these essentials, especially over the past thirty years, has now become nearly entirely privatized, as we stare like deer caught in the headlights.

Today such basic needs and rights also include education, health care, parks and recreation and freedom of speech, all of which are now packaged into products to be simply bought and sold, with many of these rights easily taken from us. Obtaining them is now based on who can pay the most, because anything good, important, healthy or reliable costs more.

The cost of living before agriculture and civilizations was called life and death. Then about twelve thousand years ago, after seventy thousand years of our current mutation as modern humans; we began to domesticate animals and invented agriculture to feed them, eventually feeding ourselves as well. We also began to live communally in larger numbers, which rose exponentially after such villages became cities. The cost of living became income. At this time the characters bearing psychopathic tendencies, such as “self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure; failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behaviour; lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another; exploitation is a primary means of relating to others; deceit; the use of dominance or intimidation to control others and misrepresentation of the self”, were finally able to rise to the top, feeding on their thirst for power, to control the food source, and demand tithe for doing so. Where once there was enough for everyone slowly became never enough. The seeds of inequality among humans began to quickly sprout and split into the haves and the have-nots.

At the same time, laws were formed by the individuals who controlled the wealth to control the public and soon the populations began to lose the opportunity to be noble or heroic, with everyone’s destiny and position in life laid out for them. Distractions such as literature, theatre and sports quickly followed, becoming the places where we could live out an honorable life, through someone else’s actions.  To further control the masses the elite created capital, usury, then debt, by imposing scarcity on their own populations, and any conquered ones, thus causing inequality which created poverty. To keep at least a wee bit of hope, religion was created.

Eventually the distractions and illusions became what they are today, sports heroes, movie stars, politics, and numerous economic theories that only exist on paper and which keep us focused on anything other than our own lives. Ideas such as GDP, which we base our economic worlds and societal success on, but which have nothing to do with our personal well-being or the planet’s. It operates under the illusion that unlimited growth under free market capitalism, operating on only one delicate and finite planet will work, and that a person’s well-being has all to do with material gain and how much one consumes. As it devours our social and natural environments it has us thinking that money will bring us happiness, where instead life should be doing that.

But we do not live in a world where the economy understands that there are now over seven billion people living on a single and finite planet and concerns itself with the importance of everyone getting along, the welfare of each individual, and having enough for everyone, even future generations, by caring for the earth’s resources. Instead we have an economic system, neo-liberal capitalism, which only generates extreme wealth for a very few individuals and is destroying the planets ecosystems by replacing the earth’s resources with waste, and controls the majority of the human race using nationalism, intolerance and oppression by economic means. For instance, if every country on earth were to consume resources and generate as much waste as the United States, we would need five planet earths.

Meanwhile we are extolled through the corporate government media machine that we should worry about events in far-flung places, rather than what’s happening in our own communities, ignoring the depravity within our own society by watching it happen somewhere else. More often than not, global mainstream media is not the real world; our everyday lives are not filled with horror, crime, and continuous bad news nor are they filled with the need to always exact revenge. Most all news stories are about things we cannot influence, and the daily repetition of such things we cannot do anything about, makes us passive. It is grinding us down and is undoubtedly one of the core reasons for the widespread disease of depression which is ravaging our societies. Media could and should, put life into better perspective though in many instances it is verboten to do so and now simply sticks to peddling the ideology of the corporate state.

We are further led to believe that lavish spending and waste makes one a better person somehow, to be a true human you need stuff, especially stuff you don’t need. That what one is wearing or what vehicle one drives denotes their personality and that money is everything. Even assets and debts are to be carried over, and still to be paid after we die. We are bludgeoned and brow beaten about debt and how much is owed, numbers in the billions and trillions on the national level and which we have no hope of ever relating to. On a more personal level we simply try to ignore the amount we ourselves are amassing.

We are also told that having a distinct personality is imperative to be the most powerful, invincible, admired, sexy and unique, yet our daily lives are interactive and interdependent worlds, as are most all species whether animal, bird or fish. No matter the distraction or how far one buys into it, the underlying questioning of what we are told to do, say, act and buy, goes against the reality of who we are. And it’s confusing the hell out of us.

For generations’ topics such as religion, politics, what one does for a living, inequality and sex were simply not spoken about or brought up. Climate change and the current economic crisis can also be added to this list. Yet these are all things we should be talking about, because they are the causes of the abuse we are doing to ourselves and the planet. We get upset when talking about such issues because it’s taken personally, thus we become emotional and offended. Talk about any other fundamental global issues today and people really get their hairs up and knickers in a twist, and either emotionally expounds their personal world-view at you or simply doesn’t want to talk about it and quickly changes the subject. The main reason for this is because it gets too close to the bone; we are hurt emotionally because our inaction, obedience to the system, and denial are complicit with the digression of our unequal societies and destruction of the earth’s eco-systems.

It is getting harder and harder to differentiate between truth and fiction so we interpret reality through illusion, believe what we want to believe, and are quickly rid of anything unpleasant, instead of learning to cope. Our comfort zones have been separated from reality, with the media working their best for their corporate masters, to ensure that they shall never meet. The paradox today is that people have to be far enough out of touch with reality to function and yet acknowledge reality to survive.

The separation between reality and illusion is a thin veil and is creating so many contradictions in our lives that many people today, especially in the developed countries, simply can’t cope with daily life. Each year the United States and Canada consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants, the bulk of the global cocaine supply and have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. Not to mention deteriorating physical and mental health. There is a reason for this.

We have become a public overwhelmed, numbed, and weary of the stories and realities of climate change, unwinnable wars, whether drugs or terrorists, and the ever worsening global economic recession and the strain it’s putting on our lives. No matter how much one becomes distracted, such issues weigh heavily upon us. For many, worrying about where the next meal will come from creates stress and worry, which affects our health, therefore also becomes one of the costs to live today.

Underlying our human madness is the reality of each day in an individual’s life and the fact that our basic, modern needs, and fundamental requirements to exist as a healthy biological species, along with, income disparity and the lowering of our morals, are all becoming more expensive and much more than we, as well as the planet, can afford.

It is estimated there are billions of people in the world living on less than $2.50 per day. Most are indeed poor, but then again there are also some peoples and places on the earth, where consumerism and capitalism haven’t become a belief system, nor has the surrounding environment been eroded or poisoned. In such places $2.50 a day is all you really need to fulfill one’s daily need for water, food and a roof over your head, with lives which are just as fulfilling, loving, rich and rewarding as anywhere else. But for much of the planet’s populations, one’s life is determined by how much money one makes and what you do with it.

Today the cost of living is based on what is called the “poverty level”, which is the minimum level deemed adequate to afford the essential resources an average human being needs to consume in one year. It is based on a human’s basic food and water requirements necessary to exist.  With food, a human’s health is determined by what’s called “body-mass index”, which is a human’s body shape based on an individual’s weight and height. The minimum “allowed” body-mass index is 16, although the more accurate and real body-fat % number is being used more often as the scale, with the highest percentages being in North America. The BMI is still used globally, with the lowest BMI scores, averaging 19, are found in many of the poorest countries, especially Eritrea, Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and Southeast Asia. The highest rates are Tonga, Micronesia and Samoa, with an average of 32. As a rule a BMI of over 25 puts one overweight.

Though there is no standard caloric intake list, a person needs a minimum of 1500-2000 calories of food per day. With the actual number of calories each individual needs depending on multiple different factors, including age, gender, height, weight, lifestyle, availability and metabolism, and that not all calories are created equal, so it depends more so on what kinds of calories you eat.

The minimum amount of water our bodies need, in a moderate climate and average activity level, is about 5 litres (1.3 gal) per day, while the minimum water needed for drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation combined is about 50 litres (13 gal) per day, per person. In perspective, Americans and Canadians use 250-300 litres (65-78 gal) of water per day per person for drinking, cooking, bathing, flushing toilets and watering lawns. In the Netherlands, they use 104 litres (27 gal) per day, while in Gambia, in Africa, they use only 4.5 litres (1.17 gal) per day. The poverty level minimum water needs also states that every person must have safe drinking water available less than 15 minutes away. And although 70% of the earth’s surface is water, less than 2% of it is fresh water, of which only a few hundredths of a per cent is actually drinkable.

As for food and water, these minimums are scary as in many parts of the world they are still not being reached, and in fact are declining, with the supply of these basic needs being the most affected by climate change. The UN estimates that there are 925 million humans with insufficient food, 1 out of every 7 people, with over half of all the children in the world today living in poverty. Global fresh water is dwindling quickly, not so much from drinking, but from growing food, while the acidification and oxygen depletion of the earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers, drought, severe weather, glaciers disappearing and rivers drying up continue unabated.  We whine about what a litre of gasoline costs, yet are paying sometimes twice as much for the same amount of water in a plastic bottle. Heck, in Victoria we are paying fifty-cents to simply put air in our tires.

The poverty level provisions must also include proper sanitation for our biological waste, health care for serious illness, injury and pregnancy, and shelter, where fewer than four people live in each room with at the least a floor and a roof.  Next up is education, where each person is able to read and write, thus learn. Finally, the poverty level includes that everyone should have the modern essentials of having information at hand, whether in books, magazines and news sources, as well as access to services such as further education, health advice and care, legal assistance, social services, and financial services such as credit unions.

While in reality many of these minimum requirements can never be reached by someone actually living at the poverty level; with many of them slowly being erased or priced too high and out of reach for the majority of humanity.

Before we continue I would like to emphasize that I understand very well there will be a wide range of circumstances when further discussing the cost of living, and to some extent income inequality, but I’m just going for an average, ballpark figure of an average Canadian, with the odd comparison to the Americans. I’m not really comparing but generalizing, because there are so many variables, such as where one lives – city, small town or suburb. Are they male or female, single or have a large family, or two people sharing expenses and with a joint income of $40,000 and having a higher standard of living than two individuals living alone on $20,000 each, with all sorts of intangibles in between.

In Canada the after-tax poverty thresholds are $18,421 for one person, $34,829 for a family with two children. One in ten Canadians live at or below these levels; 3.2 million people, of whom 634,000 are children, with British Columbia continuing to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. In the US the poverty level is $11,344 for one person, and $22,133 for a family with two children, with more than one per six Americans living at and far below these levels.

Such income levels have not changed much over the past 30 years, though the actual costs of living and the income of the top earners have risen dramatically. Consider that in 1982 the median income of an average Canadian was $28,000 annually after taxes, while the income for the top one per cent was $191,600 after taxes, seven times higher. Fast forward to today where our economy has grown twice as large, the richest one per cent now report a median income of $283,400, nearly 10 times higher than the median income of the other 99% of Canadians whose median income has only risen to $28,500.

Income inequality is even more disturbing in the US. In 1980 the average CEO’s annual pay was 42 times more than the average worker. By 2011, their pay was 340 times more, regardless of business performance or shareholder value.  As to income growth over the past 45 years and adjusted for inflation, 90% of Americans annual income, has risen a mere $59 per year, while the top 1% of the top 1%’s annual income has risen to $18.7 million. To put this in perspective, for each dollar that an average household’s income rises, the household incomes of the top 1% of the top 1% rises $311,233 annually.

In Canada the top 100 CEO’s earn an average of $6 million per year, while the average minimum hourly wage in Canada is nine dollars, in the US its $7.25 per hour. The lowest minimum monthly gross income in Canada, working a 40 hour work week, is $1,631 per month. To currently live in Vancouver B.C. an individual needs to earn at least $18.81 per hour and work a 40 hour week. In 2012, the average weekly wage in BC was $860.57 before taxes, with an hourly average wage of $23.53. In a nut shell, more than half of all Canadians are living on less than $25,400 per year after taxes and would need to work one month to make the same amount a top CEO makes in one hour.

Out of the pie, 51.9% of Canadians make $29,299 a year or less, 48% make more than $30,000 per year, and the final 1% makes $169,000 or more a year, with 0.1 % of these individuals making an average of $30 million a year. Breaking it down further, if you make more than $60,000 per year you are in the top 19%; above $120,000 per year you are in the top 5%. As for weekly income, the top 10%, who are mostly just the managers of the top 1%’s industries, governments, corporations and wealth, and who are really just commodities themselves, average $6,000 per week. Their bosses make about $160,000 per week.

The disappearing middle class in BC have individual earnings between $40,000 and $125,000, while in the US their middle class is determined to be those earning $36,000 to $57,657 per year. In both countries it’s becoming blatantly clear, yet readily ignored, that the bulk of the populations of both are below middle class, with a few at the very top.

The latest employment reports show that since the economic downturn in 2008, 60% of all jobs lost during the subsequent recession paid middle income wages, while 60% of jobs gained are low paying jobs in the accommodation or fast food industry. Declining traditional middle class jobs include executive assistants and secretaries, construction laborers, carpenters, bookkeepers, accountants, telephone operators, general maintenance and repairmen, and reporters and correspondents.  With the biggest drops in employment occurring in utilities, public administration and especially manufacturing. Although actual manufacturing sales are rising, the higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing quickly, and being replaced with low paying service jobs. Staying stagnant are jobs in business, trade, and information, culture and recreation, while rising employment opportunities are in education, health, and as previously mentioned, the fast food and service industry, which is growing four times the overall rate. People are getting jobs but staying poor, because the increasing low-wage jobs don’t pay enough to live off of.

Besides income disparity, wealth inequality is equally outrageous. The richest 300 people in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. In Canada, the top 1% possesses more than 45% of the wealth, while eight out of every 10 working Canadian share 7% of the wealth between them.  As for who actually has the wealth, meaning who has the share of money, gold, real estate, stocks and bonds, not very many. In 2012, Canadians with more than $30 million in assets numbered only 4,922 individuals, with a combined worth of over $148 billion. In 2010 the population of Canada was 43 million people, yet only 164,000 individuals made more than $250,000, while in BC there were only 18,810 individuals making that much, and once again, possessing nearly 45% of the wealth.

In the US, the Walton’s, heirs to the monolith that is Wal-Mart, are worth a combined $110 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. If Wal-Mart was a country it would be the 26th largest economy in the world, with yearly sales exceeding $444 billion, $20 billion more than Austria’s GDP.

The problems with such growing inequality are that most of the wealthy do not even invest their wealth back into where they live; instead they move it offshore as quickly as possible. There is no trickle-down effect. Record profits in the private sector haven’t led to an increase in wages, but rather quite the opposite, less wages along with fewer jobs.

After all that, and taking a deep breath, we come back to how much does it really cost for somebody to live. In BC the average working stiffs, putting in 40 hour weeks, with no dental plan and no pension plan, other than what the Canada Pension Plan eventually pays when we are 65 years old, gross median annual incomes, range from the ticketed master carpenter making $50,070, to a construction labourer averaging $36,147, an apartment manager making $32,300, a bartender $23,198, to a waitress making $22,242, while a bookkeeper makes on average about $17.95 per hour,  a pharmacy technician, $15.91 per hour, and someone working in retail/fast food $10.25 gross per hour. Currently, the before taxes, gross median annual income in Canada is $30,800.

The poverty level mentioned earlier, supposedly is the least one needs to survive as a human being in a developed nation. In Canada, as earlier noted, it is $18,421 per year after tax, while one’s actual cost of living is determined by how much of a consumer you are and how much of the bullshit do you buy into. In Canada, in 2012, for every $100 an average Canadian family earned in disposable after-tax income they owed over $164 in market debt.  Why this is so, is in part because many of us are buying stuff we don’t need, and with stagnant wages for the past few decades the basics are costing so much more.

An example; a single male living in Victoria BC in 2012, pulling in $24,000 a year gross, whether $2000 per month salary or working 40 hour weeks for $12.50 per hour, is determined to be on the poverty level.  Off the top goes $3600 (15%) to Federal taxes, $1214 (5.06%) to Provincial taxes, $1080 (4.5%) to Canada Pension Plan, and about $360 (1.5%) for unemployment insurance. Using public transit with a bus pass costs $82 per month ($984/year) and living in a one-bedroom apartment costs an average $830 per month ($9960/year).  Cost of consumables such as food one only makes at home and personal care averages $280 per month ($3000/year). BC Medical (health care) is $55 per month ($660/year), $66.50 per month if you make over $30,000. Some sort of Life insurance, Critical Illness insurance or even savings, will cost at least $40 per month ($480/year), and that’s if you don’t smoke. Though I will not be adding such a cost to total when complete, a pack of cigarettes averages $9.30, a pack a day habit will cost you $279 per month.

Apartment insurance is about $15 per month ($180/year); the average cell phone costs are $71 per month ($852/year), though a basic land-line phone on one’s home runs about $26 per month.  Very basic cable is about $38 per month, including taxes ($456/year), while having an internet connection is about $40 per month ($480/year).  The cost of electricity for an apartment, with free hot water with heat registers, is on average $18 per month ($216/year), if it’s electric heat, $50+ per month. Entertainment is going out for a dinner for two ($50) once a month, grabbing the $10 burger and beer special once a week at the local pub, buying a bottle of cheap wine ($10), a new book ($15) and perhaps going to a movie once a month ($12), will total about $127 per month ($1524/year).

After paying these costs of living, the single person living in Victoria will be left with nothing, in fact they will be in arrears $1046, and still have to cover any clothing expenses, stamps, laundry, newspaper and occasional coffees, and emergencies. While the two week holidays one gets annually, never really includes an actual vacation. Such things as owning a car, paying for its gas, smoking, having a drug problem, eating out and being an obedient consumer is simply not possible. Though many cut corners and/or borrow to do so, a minority steal to do so. With over half of Canadians making less than $30,800 net per year, the poverty level is not so far away for the majority, and it is very true that “most everyone is a couple of paychecks away from being on the street.”

Many people whose income is $60,000 a year are also living paycheck to paycheck. The more you make, the more you spend, most times on frivolous and disposable stuff that has no actual value, and on such things as a bigger car loan or lease, a mortgage, higher credit card debt, purchasing higher end stuff and more of it, such as phones, clothing, TVs and shoes, personal loans, eating out more often, expensive holidays, TFSA’s, RRSP’s and savings, maintenance of home and a higher standard of living. It’s all relative. Though of course, no matter how much a person makes still does not guarantee them happiness.

The proverbial wrenches thrown into the cost of living are the facts of life that drop in and disrupt our lives from time to time, the stuff that happens in between paychecks. One’s mother dies on the other side of the country. Can one afford to fly there and bury her? One breaks their collarbone in an accident at home and has to go on six weeks unpaid leave, or someone has the flu and can’t afford to take the time off work. The car needs new tires, or one who has no dental insurance needs a tooth pulled, a root canal, or heaven forbid needs a crown.  It is estimated that 60% of all the people in the States who go bankrupt each year, have done so because they had a medical crisis and huge medical bills and costs.

As it is, wages have been stagnant for thirty years, which we have compensated with debt. Our society is becoming ever the more insecure, living in fear of losing one’s job, not being able to provide for family and the worry of losing one’s stuff. Stuff which we have been programmed to believe that we simply could not get by without, but which has no value whatsoever. Yet our response to the madness continues to be, think me and mine.

We have been told to do things in our lives that make us feel important, more independent, vital and valued. Interacting in the world of my daily life, I see so much of it, where people have taken what should be self confidence and empathy, and instead have created a profound sense of entitlement and a drone like stare. But no matter the cape one wears, we are all having a hard time of it mentally and emotionally. Though we try to smile and coo that everything is alright, we are actually barely putting up with the arrogance and ignorance of our fellow human beings, including ourselves.  But then this should not be surprising considering its now three generations of people, in Canada, the States, Europe, et al, who have been raised by television, and we are never wrong.  History has also proven that the worse society becomes the more delusional they become.

Ever since television, the powers that be have worked very hard at selecting for us what decisions we make. Forty years on, most of our decisions are already made for us well in advance and the income equality and wealth distribution gaps have widened to a point never seen in all of human history. Meanwhile the majority of us are finding it ever more difficult in bearing the brunt of what the cost of living today is demanding from us.

With any society truly only “three meals away from a revolution,” the trigger point for change in how our economic and social worlds operate is nearing. But when people rise up because their child is starving and they themselves have no prospect of an advancement or job, because as our population grows there will never be enough jobs for everyone, will pharmaceutical drugs and the gods of consumerism replace the most powerful drug we possess, which is hope?

Extreme wealth and social inequality is nothing new, nor is the inability to afford the cost of living. It has happened more than a few times over the course of human history. Each time there was ever worsening of physical and mental health, shorter life spans and more criminal behaviour, especially among the wealthiest, because unfortunately, when life gets hard, living wrong is easier than living right.

But when we cannot feed ourselves or get access to drinkable water anymore, enough will then be enough. And there will be change. Such crises in the past have touched off revolutions, which more often than not are led by middle class, educated leaders, doctors and teachers; though the problem with revolution has always been that they are messy and very violent affairs. For to achieve true change, the system must not only be beheaded, the base has to crushed and swept away as well. Leaving it and just getting a new head, operating within the same system, same rules and regulations or lack thereof, eventually fails as well, because the system is broke, and has never worked. At that time the step will have to be made to cross the great divide between being aware of our current dysfunction yet only standing back and pontificating about it, and start acting on the dialogue about alternatives and solutions to the problems and becoming involved in its reform. It’s why many of the earliest civilizations had laws where wealth would be distributed anew and all debt erased every seven or so years.

Today I fear that I myself am caught up in the current age of myth and capitalism and that as a people we do not have the courage to rescue ourselves from ourselves anymore. It has become too easy to shut out the madness of our corporate governments and oligarchs with sports, movie stars and reality TV. I sit here and peck away on the computer analyzing, researching and giving an opinion about problems that thousands have already and quite often have done so more eloquently and intelligently, but I feel this is all I can do. Of course it is not.

The proof in the pudding will be when enough of us scream “time out”, get up from our couches, step away from our routine distractions, put one foot in front of the other, get out onto the street and make our voices heard, and come up with options and alternatives as to how we currently operate as societies. Instead of future generations cursing our names, we should at least give them the impression that we tried the best we could, and for once stopped thinking about me, myself and I. How can we expect any hope for our children and our children’s children if we do not?

The height of ignorance would be for us to continue to operate on self-denial, excess and self-indulgence and believe it’s all about us, with no thought to our children and grandchildren and what type of world they will be allowed to grow old in. The epitome of ignorance personified is to actually think the ecosystems and weather patterns of the earth, which we have greedily altered, care if we can cope or change our ways, or not.

After forty short years, the reality being proven in most developed countries is that in general, and not through a lack of trying or working hard, but because we are operating within a flawed system and have become distracted, we won’t do better than our parents, and our children will not do better than us. Heaven help our grandchildren.

 

 

 

11/12/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter Two

The Great Rift Valley of Africa runs 5,600km (3,500miles), from the Red Sea and Ethiopia in the north, south to Lake Victoria where it splits off, and from Uganda continues south as far down as present day Mozambique. The Great Rift is where two plates of the earth’s crust are separating and is also where our human ancestry seems to have begun.

The earliest traces of man have been found in the valleys of Lake Turkana in Kenya and the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, between Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti Plain. The Olduvai Gorge itself is a 30-mile long gash in Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain. The area is considered the primary host of all other cultures. Why this is so will be explained as we go.

Evidence of the earliest Humanoids has been found and dated from 4 to 1.6 million years ago in Tanzania, 700,000 years ago in Java, and 420,000 years ago in China. From sites found in the Olduvai Gorge in Africa and elsewhere, these early peoples favoured lakeside camps, rock overhangs and caves for protection from predators and the weather. Their camps were most always near water availability, like rivers and lakes, and close to herds of game and vegetable foods. They would stay in each camp for a few days or weeks before moving on to better land. Many of these sites also contain bones of smaller animals, species less powerful than these early humanoids.

Hunting seems to have been more running down and grappling their quarry to the ground, with scavenging the more important means of getting food, with their weapons most often being made out of wood. These early humanoids were opportunistic hunters, picking over carcasses from predator kills and gathering wild vegetables. At the time, the larger animals were kept at a distance and avoided, for they were not afraid of man yet, indeed to many of the larger predators, early man was inconsequential and often the prey.

These early humans were bipedal, had an upright posture, a high vertical forehead and rounded skull, were about 1.5m tall, and became the species, Homo erectus. For when earlier species had first moved out of the trees and the forests and onto the grasslands they had begun to walk upright, to see over the grass. By about two million years ago, Homo erectus had spread out over Africa, Asia and Europe, with their descendants thought to be the first humans to use fire.

From watching fellow creatures they would eventually develop memory and foresight, and by mimicking the behaviour of the other living things around them they would assimilate such things as trapping; from the spider, basketry; from birds, burrowing from rabbits, dam building from the beaver and the art of poisons from snakes. These early peoples did not think themselves as being different from the rest of the animal world. With no language, they grunted and squawked like everyone else. From copying the other creature’s diets, mostly fruits and vegetables, to watching how they would get their food and how they would store it, they became very adept at exploring their surroundings and keeping a memory of which plants, insects and small animals one could eat and which ones were to be avoided. Their reality was a world of animal, vegetable and human spirits interacting with each other. They could not tell the difference between material and immaterial, imaginary or real, animate or inanimate. With no idea of self, there was little difference of skills, and having no idea about the concept of surplus there wasn’t much difference in status distinction between each other. The sensations that bombarded them daily needed an immediate response, so life was lived very much in the moment with not much thought about past or future. One’s life was determined by one’s actions to what was happening at that moment, at that time.

Because of their intimate connection with the earth, they expressed great care for its well being, for they believed that they were simply one part of the earth’s body and did not distinguish themselves from everything less in nature, thus they did not possess the sense of self, only the concept of their groups survival. Their culture consisted of a father, mother, siblings and extended family members, perhaps a dozen individuals, whose only concern was each day’s survival as a group.

Everything in nature represented a spirit or demon, depending on whether looked at as friend or foe, with animals and trees considered human but simply in another form. And because they did not see themselves as finite mortal beings they did not believe that people died, but rather they went to sleep and their spirit entered a netherworld and/or parallel existence. As to birth they also had no idea, they did not make the connection that sex had anything to do with the birth of a child, instead believing a spirit would enter a female’s body and then be brought forth, with a baby thought of as being half spirit and half human, who remained in contact with the world it came from until which time it grew up and then, sometimes over years, would have to pass through various rites of passage to become a part of the community. Because having too many babies would prove to be a hindrance to the tribe’s survival of having to be always on the move, a woman could only carry one child at a time and until that child could keep up on its own to have another was no doubt forbidden. Biology took care of this issue; women would breast feed their child for two full years, thus enabling suckling to be the contraceptive technique that it is, by repressing the menstrual cycle. The average reproductive cycle of most of the women, over an average life span of about thirty years, was perhaps 10-15 children, though of course we do not know an actual fertility rate.

The evolution of all species is all about natural selection, with many similarities in all living things. For example, creatures known as vertebrates – having a backbone – all share the five digits, skeletal structure of a hand. This appears not only in humans but also in apes, raccoons, cats, bats, porpoise, whales, lizards, turtles and a plethora of other creatures. Dolphins are able, as we are, to call each other by name. At the same time it is curious why many male mammals, including humans, have nipples. All animals share the same basic bodily functions and feelings, such as pleasure, pain, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping, the drives to find a mate and procreate, birth, and death. For humans especially, history has followed different courses for different peoples because of different environments, not because of any biological differences between the peoples themselves.

The fact of the matter is, all humans have the same facial grammar; everyone smiles the same, frown the same, uses the eyes to convey cognition or flirtatiousness the same. A laugh is a laugh, anywhere on the planet and when one is angry, everyone knows they are. Don’t you find that human beings are very good looking people when they smile, and so disgustingly ugly when angry? But it’s much more than that, for instance, when people smile, the mouth doesn’t convey the whole truth. A true smile appears in the eyes and it’s no wonder the majority of a human’s muscles are in our faces, which seems to prove how important expression is in inter-personal communication. Then there is the tilt of the head, arch of the eyebrow or where the eyes are looking when communicating that further convey what one is thinking and trying to say or feel. Without eye contact we never truly know what someone is saying because we are not getting the whole story. The eyes are truly the windows into our soul. Even people that don’t understand what each other are saying can look at each other and communicate more than words could possibly describe. In Donald E. Brown’s excellent “Human Universals” he finds that there are about 400 specific behaviours that are invariant among all humans, with the facial expressions of basic emotions truly universal, and shared by many other animals besides humans, whether it is anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise or contempt.

About 150,000 years ago the evolutionary pace quickened when our skull and its contents evolved to the point where we became able to plan more for specific projects or definite purposes. At about the same time the development of speech and a symbolic system of language began, which allowed future cultures a much quicker way to share ideas that enabled them to cope with their environment. As language became more complex it allowed the ability to remember, transmit, and exchange information much more quickly and it allowed for such knowledge to be passed on through the ages, where myths through oral traditions would form, though it would not be until 50,000 years ago that language and culture would really begin to change who we were and who we would become.

Language would eventually give us the ability to create worlds of memories and life histories, and unfortunately, it would make us self-conscious. Before language we could only live in the moment and react to the shifting patterns of our environment, but language brought us the awareness of oneself, in terms of what others expect; humans who sense they are being evaluated and perhaps sensing a negative attitude towards themselves become self-conscious. While being conscious is being aware of oneself and subjectively experiencing each moment and having memory control; where we can think of something and then replay it in our head to examine what we had just thought. Yet we cannot both, think of something and also be self-consciously aware of what we are thinking. Conscious experiences also include inner feelings and thoughts as well as being aware of self and others. Other animals are simply conscious and not self-conscious at all. Yes they are highly intelligent and very aware of the world around them, but they do not look inward and observe the process of consciousness at work. They are not self aware, nor have imaginations, independent will or a conscience, because they are programmed by instinct, genetics and/or training.

There are many views on the origin of language. While it is true that all animals communicate in some way, human language would eventually become associated with the human way of using symbols and speech, while human nature is thinking, feeling and acting, which all humans have in common. Some views state that language is an extension of speech, which all humans have within themselves, with reason the most primary characteristic of human nature. Some believe language developed first, before reason, perhaps explaining many of the negative aspects of human communication. Others believe language and reason co-evolved. While still others believe that reason was developed out of the need for more complex communication, when more sophisticated social structures came about by the gains made by language and/or reason. It is surmised that more sophisticated human behaviour and basic speech both appeared about 164,000 years ago in southeast Africa, beginning with grunts and clicks, with language then evolving at a pace with cultural growth.

Speech evolved from non-verbal mood vocalization signals such as a cry of pain, a scream or a laugh. Other nonverbal forms include the expression of silence, hugging, touching and looking into someone’s eyes. Non-verbal communication is all about tone. While the tone of one’s voice is how the earliest humans signalled one another, speech brought cooperative exchange of information and allowed early humans to refer to objects in their environment. Non-verbal vocalization signals are still very important to us in being able to communicate; in fact they are everything, no matter what the media technology toys of our age tells us. When we cry out in pain, anyone listening can usually tell how severe it is; though with speech we now also add a few choice words along with the cry of pain, adding expression to the experience. Tone of voice is also the reason one can travel to another land and not knowing the language of that part of the world, can still get a reaction and communicate with other animals, even pets, which live there.

The evolution of speech was also connected to the development of the human vocal tract; it’s development allowed a far larger range of sound and the ability to speak more quickly. Our speaking rate has always been connected to the brain, which needs the body to take a breath about every five seconds. The earliest humans that began to speak could say maybe four to five words in five seconds. Today we can get off twenty to thirty-five words in five seconds, in fact a typical human today has a speaking rate of more than two hundred words a minute; three girlfriends chatting could raise this rate exponentially.

Language and speech would alter our brains. In order to operate, the brain needs to understand the inside world of the body and a view of the world outside, to act intelligently and make decisions. Before speech and language the brain relied on the senses. The sense organs would see, feel, hear, and taste to build a consciously experienced picture of the outside world. Sensations such as hunger, pain, and thirst told the brain what it should do to satisfy the demands of the body and because early humans operated on mostly instinct and intuition, the brain allowed rich areas of knowledge to surface in the conscious plane, which early humans would envision, and then do the images that were presented.

Among all animal species we are the only ones who tell stories. Living by the narrative in our communication is important to us because by listening to each other’s stories we are given to needing each other’s companionship and inclined to intimacy, affection, relationships and sociability. Language and speech would indeed change the way we lived and how we were to evolve socially, but at the same time it was when, ever so slowly, we would begin to lose focus on the present moment.

An animal’s mind operates by perception, recognition, simple thought association and environment, and is led by being aware of the moment, much like early humanoids but with language the human mind began operating not only by perception but also with memory, imagination, and more complex habits of thought such as inner-driven attention and self awareness. As humans we are responsible for our own lives, with our behaviour a function of our decisions, not our conditions. The traits of behaviour which sets humans apart from other animals’ starts with self awareness and the ability to think about our thought process, and possessing an imagination, where in our minds we can create other realities. We also have independent will; the ability to act based on our self awareness, and finally we have a conscience, an inner awareness of right or wrong, which we gain from internalizing the moral standards of behaviour of the social group we live in.

Meanwhile, the original groups of perhaps a dozen humans eventually became nomadic bands, basically large family groups of about 25-30 people. Living as hunters, gatherers and foragers, each group would need about 250 square miles (400 sq. km) to support itself. A small band would only have to travel a few miles every couple of weeks, or maybe led by the full moon, move to a new campsite about every four weeks. Most of their travels were just moving back and forth to familiar areas according to the season. In fact for over 95% of our human existence we have lived this way, as foragers and on occasion, hunters. We lived off of what the earth gave us, within daily and annual routines that matched the rhythms of the changing seasons and progressions of each day. Time would be measured only by the sun, the seasons, and the generations.

Most of these early hunters and gatherers diet was made up of nuts, fruits, edible roots, shellfish, insects and eggs, and were dependant on knowing which ones could be eaten and where to find them. To survive they had to depend on their intelligence and knowledge of the land and nature. When available, meat was a welcome addition to their diet whether by spearing big game, snaring small animals, scavenging carcasses left by bigger predators or from fishing. At first they would have had an easy time living off the land; most groups would have been able to gather the food they needed that day in only a few hours.

Beginning with simple wooden clubs, hunting and tool kit technologies would develop further when small game could not sustain the growing populations. These advancements in technologies allowed early humans to go after bigger game. Like the earliest tools, they were still often made from stone, but now would become finer and lighter, with the sharp flakes, broken and chipped from stone, and being used not only for hunting but also for cutting and sawing. As far as hunting, early man found that they could literally walk up to many of the larger animals, for they were not afraid of man. Though during the first million years of our evolvement, early humans were nowhere near being the predator they would one day become. It would take thousands of generations for the larger animals to develop the sense to run or attack when they see or sense a human. As early humans found ever more lethal ways to kill, scavenging was less needed and with the advancement of their tool technologies they were able to start processing the meat and using more of the carcasses such as the skin and bones, to further their advancement along even more and ensure their survival.

Instead of being centred on and preoccupied with oneself and the gratification of one’s own egotistical desires, early humans were more altruistic, where they were unselfishly concerned for and devoted to the welfare of their family. The group needed to be organized and work as a group; even in the pairing up of certain men and women into stable and perhaps loving couples for the better survivability of the child. But then most all animals possess this trait, where the behaviour of an animal, though it might not be exactly to its advantage and perhaps is life-threatening, benefits others of its kind, most often its family. While making up simple tools took a great deal of thought, testing and refinement and was a turning point for human’s evolvement, learning how to get along with our fellow human beings would prove more difficult.

With language and speech, the human ego began to develop and time began to take over our lives. Our thoughts eventually became only concerned with the past and the future. We would begin to rely on our past for our identity and sense of self, while we looked to the future for our fulfilment. This state of consciousness brought forth fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, and anger into our lives, while our cultures and environments would form whom we have become today, shaped personalities, with our brains filled with a continuous stream of thought. But we should not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Early humans were formed from interaction between only a few people, mostly all family members, the surrounding environment, and their unconscious mind; where the mental phenomena of feelings, perceptions, intuitions, thoughts, habits, and desires, exist. Being an exploratory species by nature, as their populations grew and enough room to forage became intruded upon they would have to move more often, with generation upon generation slowly making their way farther out of Africa.

By about 400,000 years ago, Homo erectus had been joined by another species of humanoid, Homo neanderthalensis and between them had spread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. Around this time another species would also evolve and enter the mix, Archaic Homo sapiens. Then about 170,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens would arrive on the scene.

First appearing in Ethiopia, these more modern humans slowly replaced all the other populations, while language, speech and more sophisticated human behaviour began to appear, and evolution, brain size and myth would take another slow step forward, though self awareness, lives filled with an almost constant state of mental distraction, and such things as an ego, were still thousands of years away.

 

 

 

 

08/11/12

Dazed and Confused

“There must be some kinda way out of here.

Said the joker to the thief.

There’s too much confusion.

I can’t get no relief”

All Along the Watchtower – lyrics by Bob Dylan

After writing the four Oh Canada, where art thou going articles I felt drained, perhaps confused. Maybe it was the weight of too much information. Or the fact that the current political system in most capitalistic/democratic countries, including my own, is truly broken, with the world now being run rough-shod by a shockingly small number of transnational corporations and few hundred individuals doing what they will with the planet and its inhabitants. While at the same time many of us plead ignorance. The confusion I felt, altered something in me and made me remember what mostly affects our lives happens at the community level and not on the other side of the planet. But then I realized, holy cow, my community and more specifically my tribe is just as confused as I am.

On the federal level in Canada and after an election, we have no more say in any decisions made by that government, basically the same at the provincial level, who also make their own decisions without any public consultation, with their often times wrong and misguided decisions felt by all except themselves. While on the community level is where we live our daily lives.

On our streets, in our homes, at our workplace, where we buy our food, raise our children, where we meet with friends and where we share our lives with a loved one is what is important to our lives. What affects us the most is the environment, how clean the water is out of the tap, what are the conditions of our communities’ infrastructure and how safe are our streets, most all of our needs are met within the community we live in.

Politics on the community level, in most cases is working. If a municipal’s council comes up with something that many in the community feels strongly about, the town or city hall fills up pretty quick at the next week’s meeting. But reality dictates that councils are also often influenced by the local business community, small groups of usually retired teachers and other very politically correct individuals. Citizens who believe it is their civic duty to make their community safer but perform with such fervor that this type of over the top justified involvement most often becomes invasive involvement. They become hall monitors and snitches, always on the lookout for that one small thing a fellow citizen does that the police or city council might be interested in.

Technology seems to be opening up transparency and on the whole, at least at the town or city level there is still a degree of accountability. We live in the same community with those elected; their kids go to the same school as our kids. We get people into government by voting for them, supposedly to speak on our behalf. And only at the community level can you speak your behalf to the elected member of your community face to face and personal.

Of course this all breaks down the bigger the community, town or city is because those on council are humans and once they believe they have power over others and are becoming increasingly wealthy compared to their neighbours, they will move away and their kids will attend private schools. Scientific American and Psychological Science have both shown and have proven that the wealthier a person becomes the less empathy they have for people unlike themselves. They become much more focused on self and that such a level of self interest of course promotes wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. While the true psychopaths, if defined as individuals whose brains do not register stressful feelings when they observe harms on others, who are most likely to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain and who represent less than one per-cent of humanity while possessing more net worth than the bottom 90% combined, are the puppet masters and running the show.

So anyways, I’ve decided to focus my articles more on the community level. This came about because of two things: a community project I assisted with and the fact I just took a week off and travelled through some very cool little communities around nearby Puget Sound in the States. With an open mind, a willingness to always talk and with a friendly and inquisitive nature I’ve met many people over the past week. And you know what? Most people do know the current way of things is askew and wrong on many levels, but their lives take up all their time and though realized or not, the simple human interaction we have within our tribes, the thirty to forty people we come into contact with daily or at least once a week face to face, is what makes up nearly every moment of our lives. For this is where humanness resides.

The community project needed a dozen people to volunteer to work as a team, by using each one of our specific traits and experience to bring the project to fulfilment. Many in the group had obviously stepped out of their routine and you know what? They craved it, egos were not evident, and everyone was engaged in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than they themselves individually. It made us happy.

Happy is a funny thing. We consume, earn and spend, often times even when we can’t even afford it, forever chasing down some false and misguided happiness. Yet within our individual worlds, deep down, the level of respect and admiration from friends, families, peers and communities determines a human’s happiness, not wealth, economic status or overall success, while food, sex and water simply keep us alive.

We each would hope to be an engaged, trusted, generous and accepted member of our individual groups. Indeed within our local hierarchies the individuals with such traits hold a higher status among the group. And if truth were to be told, where we stand with those whom we live our lives alongside and the acceptance and respect earned from them makes us happier, regardless of our wealth or fame.

Volumes of reports and studies on happiness all clearly show that feeling respected and admired as a human can cause our happiness to increase and being happier makes those around you happier, thus overall happiness increases. Meanwhile, it’s also been proven time after time and over the eons that just feeling rich or feeling above others, one’s feeling of happiness does not increase. We should know this, you think?

Seriously I don’t see much happy these days. The smiles are there but the eyes aren’t smiling. There are days lately where I feel I’m either going nuts or I’m just noticing we’re all nuts. It seems everyone is questioning, whether it be our lives, relationships or jobs. There’s also a lot of denial out there, even with reality gobsmacking us in the face. We are all agog with far too much information, looking more zombie-like with a thousand yard stare and either a stupid little grin stuck on our face or in most cases just a permanent scowl, with everyone seemingly so pissed off.

Personally, I get excited when I sense change in the air. But lately it’s getting rather thick, with information exponentially increasing in speed and volume it is now far more than we can absorb.  It’s not even subtle anymore, this struggle we are having over our subjectivity, our inner reality, and how we define our needs.  If change is dealt with an honest apprehension of one’s situation and without cynicism, it can only be proactive, but our avoidance of doing so will only create tragedy.

Communities are being affected by change the hardest because it is where we actually live and because of the trickle-down effect from the top of greed, oily slime and the oppressive nature of capitalism and consumerism. Yes capitalism creates new ideas, but its goal is to intensify consumerism, even when it is no longer affordable for the average humanoid, and it does so with no ecological or moral principles. Advertisers have shaped our attitudes, what we taste, see, hear, smell and feel. Our car and clothes we are told are what defines us. And yes we have unlimited information and technology at hand, because it’s been put there before us to purchase to keep us busy and entertained, while we lose control of the world out on our streets. This happens oddly enough because we think we have freedom, no rights, but we say we are free and safe. We’ve given up far too much just to think we live in a safe and wonderful environment. Our idea of what normal is and what is sane, decent and patriotic has sucked our soul’s dry, while each day we desperately try not to notice that the systems running our societies outside our front doors are terribly broken. It’s like we don’t trust ourselves anymore. The weathers fine, no it is not. Equal rights, excuse me? There will always be jobs for anyone willing to work we are told, nope not no more, because there are simply too many of us. Our senses are numbed daily by a myriad of means, we are all self medicating in some way.

Most of us are seeing the same things, the same stories, yet we are coming to different interpretations. Everything that is said or done is becoming being taken the wrong way. People are offended very easily these days, always “put out”. Trying to prove their point is whatever they say it is by their level of indignation. Trust and respect seems to have been replaced with fear and blame. Any truths and realities are argued and often denied because of a two minute sound bite of only a few dozen words announced on any mainstream news stream that they had heard, seen or read. So much of what we say amongst others is misinterpreted and questioned. We are realizing the deteriorating situation of our lives, individual world-views and the planet, and it is scaring the hell out of us. The scariest is the realization that things have gotten so out of hand yet we allowed ourselves to be distracted while it went on and we are confused by the realization that many aspects of our lives have somehow become beyond our control. It seems all that is left is denial and rage.

Grasping reality can sometimes be painful but rarely does anyone die or lose an eye over it and a change in behaviour does not necessarily always mean mental illness, but could be perceived as a type of societal shell shock. It’s as though one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Not knowing if one should accept the reality of our lives; where not everyone is a drunk driver, murder (at least here in Canada) is rare, there is no such thing as the perfect family, we all have mental illnesses, and the majority of the population will experience violence only on the screen, thousands of times and all different ways. Or we can keep acknowledging and swallowing the steady stream of propaganda shoved down our throats and which assault on our senses on a daily basis.

Changes are happening that are far too fast for the mind to comprehend and weigh their implications, because reflection has been ignored and tossed aside when the television entered our worlds and became the center of our universes. The people that are getting off of their addiction to the aptly nick-named boob tube are often times awakening to find themselves embarrassed for their blindness and ignorance. I was.

But then that is what a capitalistic system creates, class stratification; along with racism, prejudice and feelings amongst the majority of people of powerlessness, unfocussed rage and shame. These frustrations are then controlled by developed compulsions and self indulgences which displace such frustrations. While the majority slave away at their lives the few at the top snicker away that so many have fallen for the propaganda. They do not snicker fearlessly though for they dread and pray the majority do not become pissed off and develop such insolence as standing up and saying enough is enough.

The less people who instead of simply stepping outside and being aware of what the environment is doing, are told what the weather and other people’s lives are doing via a seemingly drunk on caffeine and themselves, boob tube personality with a painted on smile, the better. The less people who still think the world is gumdrops and lollipops the better as well.

Nearly everyone I know is questioning something in their lives. What was once right or wrong doesn’t necessarily mean right or wrong anymore. We seem to have been programmed but are now trying to shake the cobwebs out. Whether because of our parents, peers or mainstream media, what we once believed good is now bad and vice versa. People are not dealing with their shattered dream so well I fear. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us are still living in the past and so very scared of the future, with many of us still hung up over things that happened years and decades ago. Yet all it takes to create positive change in one’s life is relentless struggle to keep a greater self awareness of the present. Most mistakes I have made and continue to make, happen whenever I’m not listening or not aware of the moment nor focused on the task at hand.

It seems ladies and gentlemen we have also somehow lost our empathy, equal rights and traditions. If we were electrical, which in part we are, we’re blowing fuses, experiencing black and brown outs, and disconnecting all over the place. The promise of more open communication through texting and tweetering is actually creating the opposite. Someone once said our generation has at hand, more information and technology than at any time in history, yet we have somehow become the stupidest.

It does not have to continue. All it takes is taking one step forward instead of leaning out of a sofa for the remote. Stepping away from mundane routine and habitual thought that keep us away from taking such a step, for the majority of folk, seems to be the scariest part. It is but being engaged in your world. It’s hard work being aware of each moment and is sometimes forgotten or ignored for hours or days at a time, but it must never be given up on. The only place the ego does not dwell or like, is when their host is living in the present moment. This is where true change happens.

Another step forward could be finally finding out your neighbours name and taking some pride in your community. Not so proud? Do something about it and get others to help you. It’s like if you want a responsible, trusted, smart and goofy child, you as a parent should be responsible, trusted, smart and goofy. You don’t agree to how we’re ravaging the planet and ourselves, speak up, create change and better yourself. Go to a municipal council meeting one night. Once a year spend the fifteen minutes or so and vote. Know who you are voting for. The community you live in is not your living room or house, its outside on the street. The people you meet each day are your community and this is where we can make a difference for the better. Don’ be intimidated by the media and corporate propaganda, no one owns the Earth. At the same time we must stop fouling our own nests, the rest of the animal kingdom are shaking their heads in disgust laughing at us and crying at the same time.

Let us not be souls who instead of dying peacefully, aware and grateful, it will be the tragic; sitting up from one’s deathbed after your life had just flashed before your eyes and very sadly gasping “Oh shit”. Overwhelmed with regret and guilt, thinking of all the things one should of, would of and could have done. Rueing all the differences in one’s life, in other’s lives and in their own worlds, that could have been made. And then slowly laying your head back down upon the pillow and allowing your last breath to escape from within. With finality perhaps asking ourselves if we had made a difference that we had lived or we had never made a difference and it was of no concern to anyone whether we had lived at all.

To paraphrase the humanist and writer, Eckhart Tolle, “The greatest achievement of humanity is not art, science or technology, but will be the recognition of its own dysfunction, our collective madness,” and dealing with it.

 

 

11/13/11

A Stream of Prophets (2009) Prologue

“If people bring so much courage to this world, the world has to kill them to break them. So of course, it kills them. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure that they will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.”       Ernest Hemingway,   “A Farewell to Arms.

Prologue

The central message of many of the great teachers of wisdom that have come along, as well as the multitudes we do not know about, and yet who have entered each of our lives at some point in time, is that they all stressed a spiritual awakening, and the need to rise above materialism, fear, inequality, and/or persecution. They appear to help us rid ourselves of the physical substances we identify with such as the essential natures of who we are which only keeps the ego, the collective madness of our species, in place and imprisons each of us separately within our own conditioned personalities and the voices in our heads.

In many cases these teachers are simple, humble heroes, courageously facing off against the forces of greed, fear and the lust for power. Forces that are forever being pushed along by humanity’s ego and which have a thirst made never to be satisfied. Its infection comes by way of warfare and violence, and its presence has tainted nations, religions, beliefs, and personal relationships. This gap between the way human behaviour is and the way it ought to behave, is from where many philosophers speak and teach. They realize that empathic consciousness overcomes this gap; for there is no dividing line between what one is and what one should be, for they are one in the same.

The earliest of prophets taught about the need for enlightenment, salvation, and awakening. They were talking about transformation. They spoke of sin, suffering and delusion and they also shared the insight of a transformation of the nature of the human condition and of what lies within our consciousness. Trying to become a better human being is a great idea, but unless there is a change of consciousness it is yet another form of self enhancement, the desire for a better self image. One cannot become good by trying to be good. One must find the good that is already within us, and allow it to emerge. But to emerge, there has to be a change in our state of consciousness.

In most cases, the message that the prophets were trying to get across arose from their concern for their people, and their collective sense of existence. What they are trying to communicate often times goes against the grain of the framework that our sense of existence is based on, our world-view. Strangely enough many of us don’t really acknowledge a world view, but most prophets had a very good understanding of this. The world-view is what was created by individuals who ran and continue to run societies and are basically behaviour control methods. They include laws, patriotism, religion, propaganda and nationalism and operate nationally, at the community level and the unconscious level. The princes of capitalism don’t like people walking around preaching spirituality and world peace, let alone inner peace.

For many of the prophets, after they had been ridiculed, reviled, spat on, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, or killed, their messages would often be misinterpreted, distorted, and misunderstood by the disciples that followed them. Other men took the teachings and organized them into books; and the belief of a religion came to be. Soon there was no more need to seek enlightenment, but instead, in the belief of one god, and to serve and worship him on the basis of guilt.

And that was one of the main problems with the teachings of many of the prophets, especially before the 16th century. Nearly all religions had stubbornly resisted any attempt to translate their sacred texts into languages everybody could understand. It became more important to believe, but not think.

Over the years many things were added and edited that had nothing to do with the prophet’s original intentions and lessons. Incredible publicity campaigns grew up after them, spreading the word. With the best scribes and much influence from the literate elite of society who attained much wealth along the way, the original teachings of many of the prophets, and the changes they brought about, created cultures. Culture became the beliefs, values, behaviour, and material objects that constitute many peoples’ way of life. Our culture and where we live, not only shapes what we do, it also forms our personalities. The religions that formed from these original teachings became divisive and not unifying at all, because they brought more violence, hatred and racism and a greater lack of tolerance for other people and other religions. They became ideologies, belief systems that people could identify with and use to enhance their false sense of self. They who believed were right while all others were wrong. Others were either nonbelievers or wrong believers and could be killed because of it. Convert and repent or die. If you did not think as they did, you were considered evil. As religions grew it soon became all about conflict between the dominant and disadvantaged, the rich and poor, the black and white, Aboriginal and Anglo-Saxon, Westerner and Asian, Christian and Muslim and on and on and on.

Far too many people do not realize the differences between spirituality and religion. Having a set of thoughts regarded as the absolute truth, dictated by a belief system, does not make you spiritual. The more one tries to make these fabricated beliefs a part of their thoughts and identity, the more one moves away from the spirituality within themselves. That is why the original teachings of many prophets, such as the need for mankind to transform consciousness, have arisen again, but this time outside the structures of most organized religions. Though structures are still needed in modern societies because of the size of our population and the fact that our species is flawed, in that we are a menace to ourselves because we continue to fall into disasters caused by our passions. Thus man-made systems have to be created and put into place to keep our desires in check and on an even keel.

Many of the prophets were spiritually enlightened individuals who liberated themselves from attachments that led to selfish desires. They were people who preoccupied themselves with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations for their fellow human beings. True prophets believe in the value of human life, any human life. Both preaching and open dialogue are used. And more often than not, the messages indicate that there is always a reason for what happens in our lives. It may not be the most obvious reason, but if you look hard enough you will find it, as nothing really happens by chance. The proof lies in the universe itself, which has proven time and time again, and against all odds, that it is a very meaningful place indeed.

Appropriately enough, the journey to enlightenment, bears many comparisons to the composition of the classical heroes’ tale. Though a few prophets do reach the final stage of enlightenment, the reality is, it is very rare. The majority of prophets are simply, mere mortals, who have flaws just like everyone else; ambitions and regrets, wives, sons and daughters. But something inside them would arise, and above all they held dear, even their own personal safety, they felt compelled to throw themselves onto the tears in the fabric of our existence. To stand up and say what was needed to be said. And if they were righteous and true in their stance and point of view, many would come to support them, and to revile them.

Reaching enlightenment is where one feels to be a part of the realization of spirit, of the energy that exists in the global human community. The enlightened do not necessarily believe in a god, but they seem to carry a grace that makes them more aware and complete than other fellow humans. They do not think of themselves as perfect, rather they think of all humans and nature, and hold dear the aspect of each.

The enlightened are able to get along with anybody, and are able to have dialogue with all people, no matter their stage of spirituality or faith-based tradition. They live each moment as it happens. The problems the enlightened and many prophets have, as mentioned earlier, are the structures that make up our societies, the world-view that has been constructed by despotism and religions. These structures are what we sustain ourselves with for personal and corporate survival and which are significant, to our existence. Structures of institutions, habits, culture, and tradition, are the things that people cherish, and which brings about social cohesion, religious faith and national pride. But if these values disappear and we no longer have our distractions and allegiances of the ego, then the majority of the populations of most countries would then clearly see their exploitation and with the curtain drawn back would see the flagrant, harsh, and unadorned reality of the differences between the corporate elite and the worker. It is why many who reach enlightenment are murdered at the hands of those who they had hoped to change.

According to Ken Wilber’s “Integral Spirituality,” there are six stages of spiritual evolvement. The first stage on the road to enlightenment begins when we reach about the age of seven years. Before and after birth we make no distinctions at all about anything. By seven, our thoughts are made up by what we’ve learned from our parents, the surroundings of our childhood and interactions with other children. As for spirituality, our thoughts are made up of unconscious and mostly religious fantasy. The next stage is when we begin to hold certain aspects of these myths as literal and absolute truths. We also start believing in miracles. The third stage is when we move beyond our family’s faith and start accepting the judgments of others, such as teachers, the media, and priests. This is when we first start developing a loyalty to a certain ideology, group or lifestyle, whether it is religious, the military, artistic, sport, economic, or political.

The fourth stage is where self, our inner being, comes into contact with the ego. Spirituality suddenly becomes more of an individual struggle. One becomes more reflective, concerned about achieving their full potential through creativity, independence, and a grasp of the real world, and to take more responsibility for their beliefs. It is the time one starts asking if there is anything beyond this deity-ruled world. Much of what they seek is hidden behind words and language. It becomes a time when one stops ignoring those little voices in our head that are forever questioning orthodoxy and when one will begin to seriously examine other religions and belief systems and many times coming to the realization that some of one’s personal convictions are very relative to them. Many organized religions fearfully believe that this stage is the “mortal sin” of humans in thinking of self and not ego controlled thoughts. To seek knowledge and to ask questions, to be more confident or to use reason have all been deemed “evil thoughts” by many of the faithful. The most important characteristic of this stage is when we realize that each one of us has a choice in how we live our lives. Allowing the masses to know they have a choice is what most scares the few at the top.

The fifth stage is integration. It is when we recognize our weaknesses and can see truth over contradictory and absurd beliefs. We no longer take literally the stories of spiritual and cultural traditions, but instead seek the truth which is deep within each one of us. We study all the philosophers and scriptures, using their symbolism to bridge the gap between rational and intuitive. Both sides of our brain working together allows us to seek that which is not directly visible in the material world.

The final stage is enlightenment and being aware of each moment of each day. It has nothing to do with what you do with your body or mind; it has to do with what you do with your soul. One does not need classes, religious ritual, or seminars to find out who they are. Love without exception, without requirement, and without wanting or needing anything in return. One achieves enlightenment when their life possesses happiness, peace, and wisdom, and they share these with others. They see that life is no longer just about them, but instead is about everyone else that their spirit touches. It is this final stage of enlightenment that the earliest priests and rulers tried to hide from the masses.

After the first cities arose more than five thousand years ago, they had quickly begun expanding outwards. In conquering nearby lands for room to grow more food to feed and work their increasing populations, they rolled over other cultures and cities for their wealth, natural resources and people, who would become their slaves with generation after generation of warfare, enslavement and bloodshed, compounded regularly by drought, famine or flood. Every city-state was busily rushing around using humanity as fodder with each frantically trying to claim the biggest piece of the pie.

No doubt because of this Dynastic Age world-view, which lasted two thousand years, in about 800 BC, many cultures would come to similar solutions to the war and violence that plagued their respective societies. Before this time, the majority of the planet was ruled by their kings, pharaohs, priests, and hundreds of gods, with two prophets, Abraham and Moses standing out because they would be among the first to believe in only one god, were respected and feared leaders of their own distinct tribe and their stories would become written word.

But after 800 BC, what the German philosopher Karl Jaspers would call the Axial Age began and gradually ended about seven hundred years later. The Axial Age was an explosion of spiritual growth and influx of prophets all over the planet. It was like the world had decided to come up for air, and by taking a big breath, it brought out its consciousness. But then that is what a true prophet’s role in society is, promoting change, based on their messages and actions.

The similar solutions these respective societies would come to, was the development of four great religious traditions; Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Monotheism, from which would arrive Judaism, and later on, Christianity and Islam and the philosophical rationalism in Greece.

By 800 BC the Hebrew tribes had conquered all of Palestine and Israel and finally laid claim to their promised land. At last there was a measure of peace. The scribes began writing and copying the books of the Torah, which would become known as the Old Testament and be written for only the Jewish people. The stories of Abraham, Moses, the history of the Hebrew tribes, and the belief in only one god, were finally being recorded and fine tuned, though all around them were tribes who believed in many gods. The preceding centuries had created much waste and injustice from mankind’s unending and brutal violence upon itself. And it would have an effect on the Hebrew, where, though their god was still the father, demanding, and threatening, and still existed outside of humanity, he would now become more of a personal god, more responsive and the sole creator of the universe.

At nearly the same time, the Greeks, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle threw themselves into the roles of being prophets of humanity and nature, through the theory that reason provides the primary basis for knowledge rather than experience, authority, or spiritual revelation. They also brought about a new system hoping it would end the carnage of the past. It was a system where the exchange and discussion of ideas were allowed, a system that protected the right of each citizen to hold their own view and opinion, no matter their strength. This system, based on interaction, would become democracy.

In the East, Buddha, Confucius and Lao Tzi brought forth simplicity and inner and cultural peace by taking the concept of a god and accepting it as a force, but a force that could only be found through enlightenment. God became a consciousness one could be connected to on the inside, instead of a god one had to please by obeying his laws and rituals. It was a shift in awareness for the Chinese, an opening that brought their collective consciousness into harmony and security.

Oceans away, the Olmecs and Aztec would soon construct their pyramids and temples, and begin sacrificing the blood of their people to appease their own gods.

Many of the Axial Age prophets were not concerned with doctrine or the supernatural. The belief was in the behaviour of humanity. “What mattered was not what you believed, but how you behaved,” behaviour that was characterized by an emptying of the self, the abandonment of egotism and materialism, and having compassion for others. The focus was now about how one treated their fellow man, and the idea that there was nothing wrong with who or what you believed in, as long as those beliefs impelled you to act with consideration toward others, especially strangers. These were new ideas to many people of the Axial Age, especially the realization that one’s behaviour, rather than one’s belief, was what was important in both life and community.

The main principle these prophets gave was hope. They made changes that in practical terms, brought people out of an abyss. They taught that the quest for happiness and harmonious interaction between individuals and groups, involved some kind of spiritual journey, whose completion, though sometimes beyond the limits of human emotion and ordinary understanding, would bring fulfilment and remove the pain, tribulation, tragedy, worry, and confusion. A sense of purpose of why we are here began to develop. They also emphasised the importance of resolution, of being vigilant and aware of one’s path. And most importantly, when journeying to fulfilment, one should not look back.

The concepts of the Greeks, Asians, and the knowledge contained in Babylon, would have a profound effect on what would eventually become the Bible and later the Qur’an, as well as on the rest of the world. But unfortunately much of what was envisioned during the Axial Age would be pushed to the sidelines, hidden and banned with Christianity, and then Islam, arising after the Greeks and the Romans were no more. By 900 A.D., most Western cultures would revert back to adopting a religious view that society expressed God’s will. Christianity and Islam saw their societies and their worlds as the product of supernatural forces and lived their lives guided by selfish human nature and the worship of different versions of the same god. Social thought became focused on what society ought to be. And it would not be until 1500 A.D. that social thought would be based on the need to understand society as it existed. The changes in the spirituality of humanity during the Axial Age had profoundly affected people, and it had continued to run deeply until the 16Th century, where it once again arose from the mist, and sprouted the prophets, thinkers, and philosophers of the Scientific Revolution and humanity would develop a new world-view of heaven and earth. Then arrived the Age of Enlightenment in late 18Th century Europe, which would begin to shape the modern Western world.

The words of the prophets do overlap on many issues and what was and continues to be written of their teachings; identifies fundamental points of observances and rituals, and characterize ancient wisdom with contemporary language. They seem to share a common resource and spiritual heritage which allows its believers within a particular tradition, to identify, support, and commune with others, though not all of their new found knowledge went to the common people. In many cases, the theories and discussions and understandings were for the elite of society, who in most cases were the only ones who had the idle time to spend their days arguing points of philosophy and life, as well as being, in most cases, the only ones who could read.

The Greek philosophers, as well as men like Confucius taught only aristocratic men, sharing their wisdom with just a privileged few, mostly males of noble birth. Throughout much of human history, formal schooling was generally only available to the wealthy. Indeed, the Greek root of the word school, is leisure. Many of their beliefs and philosophies did eventually make it to the common man, but unfortunately not until hundreds of years later.

Many prophets were simply figureheads, patriarchs of beliefs that arose from their visions, meditations and reflections. Some scholars suggest that the visions and insights of the earliest prophets could very well have been a result of schizophrenia. And though some of the teachings of the prophets might very well have been based on haphazard fantasy, undeniably most are based on some sort of a sense of other levels of reality; forms of awareness that we in the modern West gave up in order to develop a more rational and more efficient way of thought.

Virtually all the brilliant thinkers of the ancient world were more interested in envisioning the “ideal” society rather than caring about the actual society around them. What they achieved worked its way down the chain eventually, but even then, only to the educated.

Other prophets dealt with issues, for social change, and brought forth values and norms for society. Values that would serve as guidelines for social living, and which would be culturally defined standards, such as desirability, goodness, and beauty, while beliefs would become specific statements on what the people held to be true and of what ought to exist in their lives. The norms of cultures are the rules and expectations by which a society guides the behaviour of its people. Values and norms do not describe actual human behaviour as much as prescribe how people of a society should act. The most important thing many prophets brought, besides hope, was change, because it is a fact, that new ideas create change in sociological thinking within a culture.

Since the first ancient civilizations, our lives have been framed by the social forces at work in our particular time and environment in which we happen to live in. Society is a complex system, and has always been characterized by inequality and conflict, which at times has created social change. However division in society has always been based on social inequality. Unequal distribution of wealth, income, education, power and prestige are all linked to the factors of race, ethnicity, gender, and age.

Typically, social structure benefits some while depriving others. But what often rises above these truths is the fact that shared values or social interdependence generates unity among members of society. And this is where most prophets have made their mark.

In religion, a prophet (or a prophetess) is a person who has encountered the supernatural or the divine, often one who serves as an intermediary with humanity, an agent of god. Though there are also prophets in music, science, philosophy, literature, and even in our daily lives, all of whom made a difference to our sense of existence, and who are not divine or supernatural in any way.  That is why authentic prophets by some are false prophets to others.

But ethical leadership is what the world desperately needs today. Our modern age came about after an age of enlightenment, while today it has become an age of entitlement. There is less gratitude and more attitude in today’s society because too many are living lives of flagrant consumption and yet at the same time acting so hard done by. Our attitude of not appreciating what we have, because of so much concern with what we want and can get is what is not allowing us to behave in a civilized manner anymore, to ourselves and to others.

This essay contains only a few of the untold numbers of prophets who have made a difference in their fellow human beings lives’, whether culturally, spiritually, scientifically, or behaviourally. It also includes prophets who preached a simple life apart from the materialistic world, and some who were prophets for justice, equality and peace, and strangely enough, most of the greatest prophets seem to always show up when their neighbours, people or culture, needs them most. Many of these prophets have also admitted, at least once in their lives, that when everything is said and done, “the most cherished thing we could do for each other, is to simply be a little kinder.” Or as the respected Jewish rabbi, Hillel, once answered a skeptic who had asked him to teach him the Torah, ” What is hateful to yourself do not do to another. This is the whole Torah, go and study it, the rest is commentary.”

07/14/11

Some Creation Stories

Part 1 of 3

Mesopotamia – Egypt – Mayan – China – Ainu of Japan

After having spent some twenty years commercially working upon and beneath the ocean’s surfaces, where most days, you are out there on the edge, over time and multiple near death experiences, one’s mind ponders many things. I began to study religion and science through history, then drifted to researching the time before religion and science. I found many answers and as many, if not more, questions. I continued to do my homework and of course ended up at the beginning, where this essay’s seed began to germinate. It was followed by others, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, as we most often do.

Throughout my researching and reading I sought to gather as much, and as up to date, information as I could pertaining to creation, human behaviour and history. Encapsulating hopefully what those in the know, know now, and continue to learn, as well as sharing the creation myths of groups of human beings who together inhabit the planet earth as a single species. Thereby perhaps allowing us to get some perspective on many truths and illusions.

Much thanks, admiration and respect goes to anyone who has made it their passion in life to seek truths through the disciplines of science and philosophy. The following essay, Some Creation Stories, grew as an essay and eventually peaked out at a goliath fifty-seven pages, so I will be posting it in parts. It was completed in 2009. Part One includes the Prologue and the creation myths of early Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayan, China and the Aniu of Japan. All resource material and bibliography for this essay is listed under Research. Have fun. Much peace and thanks.

Prologue

Most all the cultures of the world have their own creation myths, with many of them rooted in oral traditions and histories that have been passed down through the previous generations, and then with the invention of writing more than 5,000 years ago, they were finally recorded, and then through multiple translations and interpretations, they became hopeful answers to the question of, where did we come from? They represent a time when growing cultures began to dominate the direction our thoughts would take and when memory came into our beings. Though at one time, before the earliest creation stories, the question where we came from was perhaps not even asked, for it had nothing to do with, and was not a concern in one’s life, when most were living in the present moment, with memory used more as a survival tool. Creation stories’ emphasis is on explaining humanity’s place and role in the world.

Thousands of years ago this became important, when small groups of humans grew to form larger populations of hundreds, then thousands of individuals. It was the time when we had to learn how to get along with each other, outside of our traditional small tribal group, and village.

Within these first populations, human morality would become defined by creation stories as a means for social control, conflict resolution and group solidarity. Before creation stories and the subsequent religions that would arise from them, humans already understood how to properly behave with their fellow humans and always had. Our behaviour was based on the ability to be able to understand the present, to be aware of our surroundings and most importantly to remember the behaviour that would be right for the situation at hand and for living peacefully with others.

Even chimpanzees have a deep understanding of the social world around them. Each chimpanzee has the ability to mentally model the impact of its own action on the group, as well are able to guess the intentions of others. Thus, the perceived belief that we only get our morality from religion is layed open. We used to very much, understand that there were many important similarities behind life’s experiences, but then with the emergence of creation stories and religion, we were told only of perceived facts, a specific doctrine, that would be taught to us in a very specific way. We were preached to ignore the truth and that reality is actually nothing but a blurred and confused general definition of life, and truth soon began to disappear. What we thought, what memories we had, all began to be controlled. People would begin to believe in a god, because they would become conditioned to believe in a god.

Personal memories are mostly constructed by us without any influence. While the memories of belief systems are actually deemed factual by way of manufactured knowledge, which soon dilutes the wisdom of a culture and polarizes the races of human beings. Races who are not allowed their individual view on the matter, but instead taught of a right way and a wrong way. Which instantly creates enemies who believe their way is the right way, and therefore have justification for all sorts of actions and behaviours.

These systems would become developed to be easily learned and were, and are, taught in a very systematic and certain way, using proverbs, textbooks, churches, and classrooms. The inflexibility of these teachings has been the disability of anyone actually trying to learn something. Very early on certain individuals found that the way to control a population was to control the population’s mind. And the best way to start is to get them when they are young, and quickly teach them all about fear and guilt, the enemies of human beings. Look at a newborn child, happy as a clam, hears words but they don’t yet appear in their heads, they simply don’t believe in anything yet. Their minds are a blank slate (tabula rasa), and do not even possess an ego yet, which they won’t develop for another couple of years. Babies are even born with the ability to make sounds of any language, but as they learn the language of their parents, they lose this ability.

The dominating values of all societies do not come from the people, but are generally the views held by a domineering, authoritative control group, either the church, the military, banks and corporations, or the power elite. They are the ones who determine the public agenda, which in most cases, is to serve only their own interests, and not, we the people. Rulers and governments become the tools used to suppress or explain away any deviations that may threaten the power of the elite. Today, much of what we call our conscience, or believed to be morality, is unfortunately, not influenced as much by our soul, but more by where we live, the era we live in, and how we are raised. Even government, has given way to the power of the media. Our most cherished beliefs, our thoughts on what is good and evil, and even our concepts of morality has been created by our cultural heritages and experiences, and defined by the media. Where before the rulers and priests ruled with the whip and sword, and revolt and disturbances were put down quickly and viciously, today the media is used instead, to constantly manipulate and control the masses. This method of control is very subtle as it doesn’t use force, but is so successful we don’t even know, or sense, we are being manipulated. Besides many organized religions, the media is also very adept at hiding the realities of our economies, of really what’s going on elsewhere in the world and in our own communities, as well as the realities of life itself. Combined, these concepts represent the perception we would have of our worlds, and would become known as the world-view.

When language was invented, it became the manifestation of the world-view, and began trying to explain our collective sense of existence. This world-view would be the framework for generating, sustaining, and applying all the knowledge that we would gain over the centuries. The concept of a world-view comes from the German word, “weltanschauung,” and is just that, our sense of existence. It operates and is constructed by individuals, mostly at the national level, but also at the community level and/or the unconscious level, and is most always made up of six basic building blocks.

These six building blocks would be used by individuals all though history, for all different reasons and intentions. The using of different scientific disciplines, language and various systems of knowledge give us Ontology, a descriptive model of the world or the ideas and beliefs through which we interpret, to be able to interact with our world. The Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Flemish university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, in Brussels, Belgium, lists them as; an Explanation for the world; Futurology – Where are we going? ; Ethical Values – What are we supposed to do? ; Methodology – How are we to behave and attain our goals? ; Knowledge – What is true and false, real or imagined? ; and Etiology – the building blocks of our origins and construction of our societies.

Our hidden being is what is hidden within these symbols, codes, and fables that would become the scriptures, which all appeal to our moral intuitions and have evolved over the centuries by our thoughts and experience about the causes and possibilities of human happiness. We combine science with this knowledge to create our world view. Intertwined and woven into most scripture are truths about our inner being and that all the wisdom we will ever need is within us, it only takes a pure heart and deep need to seek the divinity within each of us. And then to be able to listen and trust what we hear or feel. This ethical wisdom should be desired by each one of us and realized that it has always been within each one of us, instead of being made to believe that if we worship a creator of the universe, he would allow us this wisdom. And yet at the same time, this supreme creator, in most all cases, tends to be an intolerant, jealous, angry, oppressive, demanding, restricting, violent, vengeful, and killing god. For example, people who don’t understand that cruelty and violence are wrong, won’t learn this from reading most scripture, like the Bible or the Qu’ran, which are filled with unmentionable cruelty, especially toward women. Too often it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons have always been within us.

All social animals live in hierarchical societies in which each individual knows their place. Social order is maintained by rules of expected behaviour, while dominate group members enforce order through punishment. Nearly all animals, not just humans, possess this morality, though humans and the higher primates, such as chimps, also have a sense of mutual exchange and fairness. What separates humans from all other animals, at least socially, is the difference in the change of our natural character to a higher level of sophistication and urbanity. Human society’s moral codes are enforced much more with rewards, punishments, and reputation building than other animals. Humans also have a higher degree of judgment and reason.

Most creation stories also represent a time when our expanding cultures began to dominate the direction our thoughts would take and memory would become important to our lives, arising from our development of language and speech. Before speech, early man had considerable reasoning power and were very intelligent, but language soon enabled us to have control over our thoughts. Where once our environment shaped us, speech would now take over that role, though the perception of our worlds would only be in terms of the symbols contained within that language. Instead of living in the moment, we could now chase after thoughts far removed from the present and better plan our behaviour.

Personal memories and history would become an artificial addition to the mind. Because creation stories are very similar to what human memory is, a repetitive, re-creation of events rather than an exact snapshot or video replay of what actually happened. It is one of the ways that beliefs begin to become true, even if they are not. When something is repeated enough, it is held to be true, even though in fact it could be the farthest thing from the truth. To this day society is still controlled this way in our thinking and our behaviour. It is our dogma. Our fantasies and imaginings are only limited by the diversity of our vocabulary and the level of the awareness of the world around us and are most always deliberately fictitious. We are still very much wrapped up in illusions.

Before the dawn of the first civilizations, early man routinely engaged in religious rituals, based on their interpretation of the stars, of their natural surroundings, with certain aspects of their lives becoming sacred, such as births, deaths and the passage to adulthood. People lived more in the present tense and used memory only to assist them in their understanding of what was going on around them from moment to moment, very much like the wordless mind of an animal that reacts only to events that surround them at a particular moment. With a clear uncluttered mind an animal focuses on its environment as each moment happens, its life is lived in the present tense. It has no ability to decide for itself what it concentrates its awareness on. For though it is hard to imagine, we humans, before language and speech, didn’t have voices in our heads. But with language and speech we were then able to control our thoughts more, by using words and visions to deliberately focus our attention on other aspects of our world.

Creation stories are beliefs in our origins and represent a time when not only memory, but reason as well began to become more controlling and dominate in our minds. They represent a time when we began regretting and feeling guilty about the past and forever worrying about the future, when we started to lose our focus on the present moment. It would lead to more dramatic, unwarranted anger, jealousy, and unhappiness in our daily lives. We should not totally ignore our past, for reflection of the past is good for acknowledging things that one can perhaps make right in the present time, situations that call out for healing. But we must not spend all our time trying to analyse every doubt, worry, and regret we’ve ever said and done, either.

The earliest people’s spirituality was based on animism, the belief that natural objects were conscious forms of life that affected humanity. They viewed the forests, mountains, oceans, even the wind, as spiritual forces, and displayed a reverence for the natural environment. The rain was a blessing, the warmth of the sun, the coldness and freshness of the water one would sip, all were probably felt as being a blessing.

Ten-thousand years ago, before the first civilizations, which were really just empires that were ruled by shamans, astronomer-priests, and tyrants, the chief deity of most of the planet was the sun of each day. All over Europe and much of the Indo-Asian continent they called the sun Dyeus, or as it was known all over the world, the Sky Father or Sky Mother, representing life, as well as the position of the patriarch or matriarch of that particular society. Only after humankind had butchered most of the big game and started to use hand tools to raise crops and start the domestication of animals, which led to trade and commerce, and which eventually led to the first civilizations, did the belief that a divine power was responsible for creating the world appeared. Where once everything on the planet was looked at as all on the same level, creation stories deemed humanity insignificant compared to the universe. For instance, the characters in the earliest creation myths were most all represented in animal form and represented in the stars, but with the birth of civilization this changed to where the gods of the creation stories were now viewed in human form, and possessed human traits and behaviours, and in many cases, were considered, basically, reflections of those that worshipped them. In many of the creation myths, after the gods or god had created the universe, these divine beings did seem to act human, but only if you are comparing their behaviour to a dysfunctional, egotistical, immoral human. Many of the gods seemed to just spend the rest of their days wrapped up in all sorts of debauchery. Each day was a party spending the time feasting, drinking, lusting, fighting, intervening in earthly affairs, or even, just sitting back and watching, with no intention of intervening at all.

But the priests would instill in the people that the balance of order and chaos in the universe could only be maintained by the gods and goddesses, or their representatives on earth – the kings, emperors, and the priests themselves. These divine forces required constant replenishment through worship, devotion, and sacrifice to maintain the continuity of the cosmic equilibrium. The gods had to be honoured for the cosmic order to be upheld. What separated these gods from mankind, was they were believed to possess sublime power and immortality. The people themselves would come to believe that their lives were to be totally dependant on the continued goodwill of these most powerful gods. The biggest loss to our collective humanity at this time was, where before we each had a choice, that choice was then taken away from us, and we would come to believe that we have no choice. It would become humanity’s crutch.

Out of these creation myths, two main thoughts on what god actually means began to arise. Pantheism would become the belief that God the creator was transcendent, existing in all living things. Nature and God were the same thing. Theism meanwhile believed God to be transcendent, but even though he works within the world, he also exists apart from, and is not subject to, the material limitations of the universe. These two main beliefs persist to the present day, where half the planet is traditional in their need for spirituality, in the belief that they must worship and pray to a supreme being, while the other half are more eastern in that it’s all about getting in touch with one’s inner self.

What also began happening within these early societies was that other gods, spirits, and ever watchful ancestors would appear in the social realm. It would become a very effective way to restrain selfishness, create order and enhance a population’s survival, by using the adaptive value of building cooperative groups of people, but because of religious belief, groups of humans actually began separating themselves from each other.

In many of the ancient cultures, the priests were the only ones who were literate enough and able to interpret the omens and portents of the gods, and use their creation stories to create order and control over the people’s everyday lives, to govern agriculture, but also, to set apart certain ideas, objects, events and experiences and make them sacred. Instead of trying to seek the truth as it is, many of the early scholars and priests sought what they thought the truth should be. Creation stories are believed to take care of the question of where did we come from, who created us, and emphasize that we should be grateful for being created in the first place, with the histories of both creationism and religion following this same path.

Besides giving interpretations on how and why the world was created, creation myths are limited in the definition of what the author’s world was thought to be at the time as well. The vast majority of humans at the time were completely illiterate, and whose reality of daily life was based only on what they could hear, see, smell, taste and feel. Their worlds were very small. Family, food, and shelter. The early Sumer peoples of Mesopotamia knew of their world to be only the Mesopotamia plain, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the Arabian deserts, the Syrian hills, and the Zagros mountains. They had no idea how large the planet truly was, or even the concept of what a planet was. Up until the 16th century, most inhabitants of the world still believed the world to be flat and lay at the center of the universe.

Most all creation stories are religiously motivated rejections of evolution as an explanation of humanity’s origins and were, in most cases, successful in replacing the principles of human nature and awareness. The real and unchanging natural laws of being human are deep, fundamental truths, and have always been with us. Principles that govern human effectiveness and are guidelines for human conduct. Universal principles of fairness, on which equality and justice are based on. Integrity and honesty, which creates trust, then service, which is based on quality or excellence and potential, which brings about growth, patience, encouragement, and human dignity. But when creation stories came along, they brought forth aspects of human nature that did not necessarily exist before. These aspects would enter peoples lives and become the illusions of humanity that persist to the present day, and which would become the illusions of need, failure, disunity, inadequacy, judgement, criticism, conditionality, insolence and ignorance. This foundation of illusion would be upon which religion would be created, and adopt the religious view that society would manifest a god’s will. The populations of the first civilizations and cultures worldwide believed very much in what the early priests told them of their creation and why they were in the world. There was somewhat of an appearance of security given and some sort of continued existence above the reality of their daily lives that the people began to believe in. This promise of an afterlife, gave most people hope to get through their own lives as well as the perception that they too were immortal, just like their gods.

At the same time, most creation stories also emphasized that the common people were impure, flawed, and lived error-filled, short lives, but that if one behaved, kept his head down and said his prayers, there would be hope for salvation. Unfortunately much of this is true, we human beings are flawed, this is most obvious when it comes to our conduct during times of temptation. What is not true, is our only hope for salvation is not through prayer or keeping the head down, it is by keeping the head up and interacting respectfully with the people around us. Most of our problems, our flaws, have to do with our behaviour that arises when we succumb to our own passions, thus the artificial systems that would be created, beginning with the creation myth, which more often than not, had to be created to balance and keep within bounds our selfish desires. Before creation myths, humans were not inherently evil, nor was the earth, but after the myths appeared, both would become thought of as much.

Because there are literally hundreds of creation stories, and in different peoples minds, the world was created in a variety of ways, this essay relates only the stories of the people of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayan, China, the Aniu of Japan, India, the Greeks, Aztec, Norse, Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, on the west coast of North America, the Iroquois nation of eastern North America, Inca, Judaism and Christianity, the Mandinka of West Africa, and Islam. There are of course a multitude of other creation stories we know about, just like there are many others that we’ll never hear or know about because they’ve been lost over time. And because the genetic map of an organism of every living thing on the planet is linked in fundamental patterns, and are able to change and adapt in many definable ways, I have also included the chapter, Big Bang and Darwin.

The People of Mesopotamia
In the beginning there were two divine beings, Apsu, god of fresh water and Tiamat, god of salt water. Though at first separate, they one day united and chaos was created. From this chaos arose the four levels of creation. The sky, air, earth, and water. The god of the sky was An (Anu), who would become known as the father of all the gods who would appear after him. He represented the heavens, with his symbol being a star. The god of air and the wind was Enlil (Ellil), who was believed to be the cause of a great flood, due to his angry character. Then there was Enki (Ea), who at first, was just the god of the earth, but he would succeed Apsu and become the god of fresh water as well. Enki was the child of Ninhursag (Nintu), a consort of the sky-god, An. Enki is known for being the god who had saved mankind after a great flood and was also regarded as a fertility god who brought agriculture to the Sumerian people. He was believed to be a benevolent god, the source of wisdom and creativity, and would eventually become the supreme Sumerian deity.

Working as a team, these gods began to create their world. They first dug out channels in the earth which became the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and then proceeded to create the irrigation infrastructure on which the land would depend and would allow vegetation to grow. All this work exhausted the gods though and soon they rested. While they slumbered, they discussed how could they free themselves from the mundane and arduous tasks of creating a world, as well as creating for themselves the idle time they craved and felt they deserved, being that they were celestial, all-powerful gods.

Ninhursag and her son, Enki, came up with an idea. Grabbing fists of clay, they worked together and melded mankind out of the clay. Turning toward one of the more rebellious, lesser deities that was emerging out of the chaos, they grabbed him and killed him, mixing his blood with the clay. The blood gave life to the clay, as well as the divine essence that is a part of mankind, in the form of a soul that would never die. The problem was that the blood had come from a rebel god, so it was deemed to be naturally flawed. Undaunted the gods finally had a workforce to take over their tasks of creating the world. The rules for mankind were that they were to work each day and pay homage to their gods, in the form of praise, worship, and sacrifice. With mankind created to finish the job, the gods retreated to their celestial realm, to live lives of luxury and look down upon their creation.

Then one day a man named Adapa, out fishing upon the river, had his boat overturned by a powerful gust of wind. Scrambling onto the overturned hull he shook his fist at the sky and cursed the wind and everything else he could think of. Unfortunately the gods heard him and they summoned Adapa to appear before them. Adapa stood before the gods and gave such an excellent account of himself during his defence that the father of the gods, An became very impressed by this man. He offered Adapa the bread of eternal life and water. While Adapa decided what to do, the god of water, Enki whispered into Adapa’s ear and told him to reject the offer. So Adapa rejected the bread of eternal life and water and agreed to accept two other gifts that were offered to him, oil and a robe, but Adapa very quickly came to regret his decision. The oil turned out to be the type that was used to dress corpses, with the robe turning out to be a burial shroud. Thus, from that moment on, humans were condemned to mortality. Eventually Enlil (Ellil) god of the air and the wind would unseat An as the supreme god and become, “Father of the Gods and King of Heaven and Earth.”

Though the Mesopotamia people’s earliest gods were worshipped in the form of animals, soon after writing was invented in about 3000BC, the gods began to be described in the form of humans. Over time the people would recognize thousands of different gods, each associated with a different aspect of the universe and their lives. They felt each one of them had to have their own personal god or they would cease to survive. The people would become obsessed with divination and considered themselves to be at the mercy of their gods, reliant on divine goodwill for success in any goal or enterprise. To avoid giving the gods any reason to be angry with them at all, the people employed diviners to seek out omens and portents on earth, as well as in the night’s sky. Even sickness was thought of as a punishment for some transgression, perceived or not against their gods. Many times it was not even possible to know whether or not you had broken any rules. The diviners would gain power and become the earliest priests, who would control the population by retaining their power through an ideology that would arise out of creation myths that they themselves had created.

The priests held their power and would become wealthy, while at the same time they had the populations of their growing city-states believing that they had no free will, which was something only the gods held. The people accepted and believed themselves to be simple slaves to their leaders, priests, and gods.

Egypt
Egyptian creation stories took on different versions of how the earth was created, each attributed to a certain group of scribes and priests, depending on which temple and city they were from. Each story was equally accepted and regarded as no less valid than the next. Though each story is based on the belief that in the beginning the earth was covered with the “Waters of Chaos” and then a huge eruption occurred beneath the surface of the water. From this eruption arose a dark and formless void, known as Nun. Soon after, a primeval mound of earth rose from the depths and it was on this mound that the gods would create life. There are theories that the pyramids are based on the representation of this original primeval mound of creation.

According to the scribes of the Egyptian temple at Heliopolis, the supreme creator was the god Atum, “the All.” At the first sunrise, a lotus flower had sprouted from the ground of the primeval mound, this was Atum, who then created all things. Within himself he held the life force of the universe, the creative power of the sun. The sun god took the form of Re (Ra) and was depicted as a falcon, ram, or a human with a falcon’s or ram’s head. According to two different versions, Atum either ejaculated or spat out, twin gods, Shu, god of air and Tefnut, goddess of moisture. Shu and Tefnut quickly threw themselves at each other and produced Geb, god of earth, and the sky god, Nut. Geb and Nut quickly had intercourse together as well, but Shu stepped in and separated them, but not before they had produced four children, Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

The Memphis temple version of creation was based on the idea that the primeval mound that had arisen out of the waters of chaos was in fact the creative world of the god Ptah, who used his mind, and thought the world into being, thus making all things of the earth by simply speaking their names.

According to the temple of Hermopolis, life was formed by the eight gods of the “Ogdoad,” who lived in the waters of chaos. There was Nun and his counterpart Naunet, who represented the waters, along with Heh and his consort, the goddess Hauhet, who represented infinity. Kek and his companion Kauket represented the darkness, the god and goddess, Amun and Amaunet, the hidden forces of life. Working as a group, and combining their energies, they would create the primeval mound of creation. The sun then exploded upon the world and life began. Amun would soon become the “King of all Gods,” and is depicted in human form, but is also seen as a ram, a goose, and as Amun-Kematef (“He who has completed his moment”), in the form of a snake shedding its skin in a constant, forever cycle of renewal. The Egyptians also believed that in the beginning, before the written word, their rulers here on earth were in fact, the gods themselves. The first king was the sun god Re. His realm became known as the golden age of plenty. But then a day came when he abandoned the world for a celestial realm, taking the sun with him. Mankind felt they had fallen from grace at the loss of the life-giving sun and quickly turned against each other and began to fight amongst themselves. As he watched from above, Re quickly sent Thoth, god of wisdom, down to settle the people and restore order. Re then appointed a succession of gods to rule in his place. Some believe this to be the Horus-line of rulers, the first pharaohs.

The twin goddesses’ Nekhbet (Vulture Goddess of Upper Egypt) and Wadjet (Cobra Goddess of Lower Egypt) would become known as the Mighty Ones, and whose roles would be to protect the pharaoh, with Nekhbet able to use her outstretched wings to act as a shield, and Wadjet able to spit fire into the eyes of the reigning pharaoh’s enemies. Indeed one of the royal titles of the pharaoh was “He of the Two Ladies.” In her role of directing the forces of aggression and destruction, the Lioness Goddess Sekhmet also guarded the pharaoh and was able to cause pestilence and disease. The shrewd and perceptive judgement of the northern goddess Neith (Mistress of the Bow and Ruler of Arrows) was respected and sought out by the other gods, with the Scorpion Goddess, Selket another maternal Guardian of the king.

The Goddess Hathor was represented as a cow, and was the goddess of love and beauty. She was also known as the “Mistress of Darkness,” who oversaw music, dancing and all forms of revelry. Also known as the Lady of the West, and though she received souls of the dead in the afterlife, she would become a much loved and joyful goddess, and became one of the peoples most popular goddesses.

Another myth accounts for Osiris being the first king, inheriting the right by being the firstborn of the four offspring of the gods Geb (God of the Earth) and Nut (Goddess of the Far-Reaching Sky). Osiris ruled alongside his sister Isis and together they brought peace and prosperity to the world and gave wisdom to mankind. Isis was the first daughter of Geb and Nut and over time would merge with many of the attributes of the goddess Hathor, and become the Goddess of Motherhood, Magic and Fantasy. She would be known as the ideal mother and wife, a friend to both, the downtrodden and the wealthy. One of her many other titles was the Mistress of the House of Life and she would become one of the most powerful figures in the Egyptian pantheon. Osiris was murdered by the god Seth (Lord of Chaos), his brother, who took his crown, dismembered him and scattered the remains around the world. The grieving Isis would use her magical powers to gather up all the pieces and revive Osiris. The virgin Isis then gave birth to a son, Horus (Lord of the Sky), whose eyes were the sun and the moon. As soon as Horus reached adulthood he would avenge Osiris’ death, and take back the crown. All the gods supported Horus in his claim of the throne except for the Sun god Re, who thought the stronger Seth should have kept the throne. Horus would be the last in a long line of gods who had ruled Egypt, after him, would arise the pharaohs, who would now be counselled and aided by priests, who began to record great stories of gods and creation. The priests themselves began to accumulate great wealth and power, which rivalled the pharaohs themselves. The gods became to be many and were nearly all symbolized aspects of the natural world, such as the sun, sky, land and the river. The early priests also had an incredible knowledge of the sky and the movements of celestial objects, which led them to be able to keep track of time, keep records, create calenders, and keep order in the world by performing the necessary rituals at the proper time of the day or season. They appeased the gods and kept the general population eternally grateful and afraid at the same time.

These priests would invent writing and be the only ones that could read the words, which the population thought to be sacred and divine, and which was believed to hold great power. It was something that the general population felt they could never attain themselves. Great temples would be built, which the priests maintained and directed for the good of the country. Scrolls and the best of the artisans works were kept inside them. They were also totally forbidden to the public, and in many cases to the nobility as well. Only the astronomer-priests could enter them. The priests would become the agents between the mortal and the divine worlds. The knowledge they gained they shared only with the pharaoh and the nobility, thus keeping their power intact. They would honour, soon to be, hundreds of gods, with a constant stream of offerings, festivals, music and dance. Every aspect of ancient Egyptian life would have a god, each represented by combined elements that were both male and female, active and passive, aggressive and temperate.

As with most all inhabitants of the earth, the sky, especially on a clear night, was and is everything, with the most supreme being, the almighty sun. To the Egyptians the sun rising in the east was the god Khepri (the evolving one), represented by the scarab or dung beetle pushing the day along. As the sun rose it was also known as the falcon god, Horus (the far one) or Harakhty (Horus of the horizon). Combining Khepri and Horus was the single solar deity, Re-Harakhty (the Dawn god). As the sun set in the west it was Re-Atum and it would then be swallowed by the sky goddess Nut, as they sank down into the underworld of Duat. All night the sun god, Re, confronted the forces of darkness and the giant serpent of chaos, Apep (Apophis). With each dawn, Re would emerge victorious, reborn in the east as a child of Nut, amid the “redness of her birth blood”. With each day after, Re would come to represent life, death, and rebirth.

The Mayan
In the beginning there was nothing except the sky and a vast ocean. Then one day the sky gods met with the ocean gods and they talked about the need for worshippers, and where these beings could live. They all agreed that to create the earth, they would simply say “earth”,which they did, and suddenly a cloud that, “formed and unfolded “, arose out of the water. The earthly realm was square and flat with four sides and four corners. Above this earthly realm was the celestial realm which had thirteen layers, each with its own god, and is from where they would tell stories in the night sky using the movements of the stars and planets. Below the earth lay the underworld, Xibalba, which had nine layers, also each with its own god. At the center, rising up through all three levels was the World Tree, with four other trees standing at each corner of the earth, holding up the sky.

Each side of the square and flat earthly realm, faced either north, south, east or west, with each direction having its own distinct colour. The east was the red of the rising sun, the west was black, signifying death, the south was yellow and the north was white. The center of the earthly realm was green, representing vegetation and life.

The Mayans had many gods, but the sun was the most important element in the life of the Maya. The sun was a male god known as Kinich Ahau, the “Sun-faced Lord”. He had created the light and heat that had created life. In the morning, Kinich Ahau was portrayed as being young, but as the day progressed he aged and by sunset was old, bearded, and withered, only to be reborn the next morning. The moon was a goddess who at first was just as bright as the sun, but one day the other gods threw a rabbit into her face to make her paler.
Hieroglyphic inscriptions gave the date of Mayan creation as 13.0.0.0.0.4 Ahau 8 Cumku. By using the two main calenders of the Maya this translates to Aug.13th 3114BC, or about the time that extreme global environmental change occurred due to a catastrophic event, and was recorded the world over. Interestingly enough, it is also about the same time as the great flood of the Bible, of the Mesopotamia plain in the Middle East.

The Mayans believe the earth goes through cycles, though unlike other creation myths, their cycles of time are more determined by the solar and lunar cycles of the sky. The current world age is a cycle of about 5,200 years and is due to end on December 23, 2012, though it is rarely determined to be apocalyptic in any way, but rather a change in universal consciousness. Even up to the present time, each year, on the night of August13th, Orion rises in the sky near to a point at which the Milky Way crosses the ecliptic and then, just before dawn, it reaches its highest point in the sky. The Mayans believed that this is when the gods placed the first thing onto the earth, the “Three Stones of Creation,” which is interpreted as the setting up of the first fireplace.

Other accounts of the Mayan creation tell that the earth was supported on a turtle’s back and since they believed the constellation of Orion was a turtle, the three stars of Orion (Alnitak, Saiph, and Rigel) are linked to the “Three Stones of Creation.”

After the gods had placed the first three stones, they began the task of somehow creating worshippers. At first they created animals. Instead of worship and praise all they heard from the animals were grunts, hisses, chirps, howls, and squawks. This didn’t impress the gods at all, so they then went about trying to create a human. On the first attempt to create a human they used mud. Though the human they created could speak, what was coming out of its mouth made no sense at all and its form soon dissolved into a shapeless puddle of slime. On their next attempt the gods made humans made out of wood. Once again these wood people looked human, spoke, and seemed to be very attracted to each other. Unfortunately they lacked a soul and the gods saw that these humans would not recognize them as divine beings, which would make them therefore useless. The gods became ever more angry and frustrated and began to destroy these wooden people by many means, including a great flood and attacks from wild animals like the jaguar. They even got the domesticated animals to turn against the people. Still not satisfied the gods even ordered the peoples’ cooking utensils, like pots sitting in a fire and grinding stones, to attack, at which time incredible damage was caused. Soon most all of the wooden people were destroyed. The very few that were left standing were transformed into monkeys to live forever in the forests.

The gods regrouped and decided to give one last attempt at creating humans. They each gathered up handfuls of maize kernels, then the goddess, Xmucane took the kernels and ground them up nine times. Adding some water, she made a paste, which she used to create the first four people. These people could speak and be understood by the gods, and seemed to hold up well to the earth’s environment, and most important, the gods found that these humans were able to quickly learn how to worship and make appropriate sacrifices to their creators. This made the gods very happy. They finally had their worshippers and began to teach them how they should perceive the world.

And from the very beginning, these first Mayans began to study the skies in reverence to their creation and to seek direction. With astronomer-priests soon arising, interpreting what the sky was saying and controlling any knowledge gained through the use of fear of the gods, they were able to keep the people, and their rulers, in their place and subdued.

China
In the beginning there was nothing, no light, no dark, no hot, no cold, nor time or space. But within this formless mass was a slimy substance that contained all matter. It was called Grand Unity (Tai Yi). Out of this nothingness, water was born, and when it mixed with Grand Unity, heaven was created. Heaven then mixed with the Grand Unity and made the earth. Heaven and earth then united to produce the spirits, the sun, and the moon, as well as intellect, spirituality, and moral qualities. As soon as this was all accomplished and everything had come together, the Yin and Yang were born, who in turn, gave birth to the four seasons. The two natures’ Yin and Yang were in the beginning only shade and sunshine, though they were made up of all the energy and matter of the world. Soon enough they became a series of oppositions that would carry onto the humans that were to still be created and represent both inner and outer, private and public, good and bad, male and female. The four seasons that had been created brought forth both hot and cold, after which moisture and dryness appeared, which would from then on determine the cycles of the seasons.

Everything was now set for the creation of humans. Chinese mythology has two different explanations for the creation of mankind, one about a man, and one about a woman.

The man, Pan Gu “Coiled Antiquity” was the personification of Grand Unity. When he neared his death, his body suddenly exploded. His breath became the wind, his left eye the sun, his right eye the moon, his arms and legs the four quarters of the world, his blood and semen the rivers and seas. The lice on his skin were touched by the wind and these became people.

The woman was Nu Wa. She used clay of the earth to make people, the noble ones were yellow, the meaner ones were darker. Another version of Nu Wa is that she coupled with her brother, Fuxi, the only other person alive, and together they made children. Whichever method was used, it was agreed that the body was to be made up of two elements, or souls. The Po, which was viscous and material, and Hun, which was vaporous and transparent. When combined they produced life, but upon death Hun would separate from the body, as it did when people slept, where its wanderings produced dreams.
The Chinese universe was complete, and contained three realms, the heaven, the earth and humankind, with an emperor becoming the living link among them. The first emperor was Fuxi, brother and husband of NuWa. He was responsible for all important cultural inventions, including the first marriage. Fuxi would invent the carpenter’s square, the hexagrams that would become the book, I Ching, and also would become the models for the building of nets used for hunting and fishing.

The second emperor was Shen Nong, the divine farmer, who would continue on Fuxi’s work, inventing the plow and the first market, where the people could exchange goods. Next up was the emperor Huang Di, the yellow emperor. He would invent armour, medicine, pottery, and the compass. These first three emperors would forever be known as the “Three August Emperors.”

The August emperors would be followed by the Five Emperors of Antiquity. Zhuan Xu, Di Ku, Yao, Shun, and Yu. Collectively they made government an institution, with emperor Yu The Great, dividing China into nine regions, each with it’s own particular traits.

Very much like other ancient creation stories, the stars and planets were believed to be gods and that their movements affected people and events on Earth. Chinese mythology also included the idea that the human realm had corresponding effects in the natural world, though not necessarily reactions, and vice versa.

The five visible planets in the sky at that time were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Each were each believed to have their own personalities, with Jupiter considered the most important because it governed time as it appeared to pass from one constellation to another, and like elsewhere, time was deemed to be cyclical rather than linear. These five planets also could be related to the myth of the Wu Xing or “Five Motions” or “Five Phases” of which all matter was thought to be composed. Of all the ancient Chinese myths, the most important aspect seems to be the idea that the universe is a self-contained entity with no abstract, supernatural, and supreme being outside of it, and that civilization is a legacy from generations of divine beings and imperial ancestors.

The Ainu of Japan
The Ainu people of Hokkaido recount that in the beginning their cosmology consisted of six heavens and six hells where gods, demons, and animals lived. Demons lived in the lower heavens. Amongst the stars and the clouds lived the lesser gods. In the highest heaven lived Kamui, the creator god, and his servants. His realm was surrounded by a mighty, metal wall and the only way in was through a great iron gate.

Kamui made the world a vast, round ocean that rested on the backbone of an enormous trout. As the trout sucked in the ocean and spit it out again he made the tides and whenever the trout moved it would cause earthquakes. One day Kamui looked down on the watery world and decided to make something of it. He sent down a water Wagtail to do the work. By fluttering over the waters with its wings and by trampling the sand with its feet and beating it with its tail, the wagtail created patches of dry land. In this way islands were raised to float upon the ocean.

When the animals who lived up in the heavens saw how beautiful the world was, they begged Kamui to let them go and live on it, and he did. But Kamui also made many other creatures especially for the world. The first people, the Ainu, had bodies of earth, hair of chickweed, and spines made from sticks of willow. Kamui sent Aioina, “the divine man,” down from heaven to teach the Ainu how to hunt and to cook, after which the people soon began to multiply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise photo by Sean Macentee : http://farm1.static.flickr.com/39/86898564_8450ac24a7_m.jpg

earth photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/39/86898564_8450ac24a7_m.jpg