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Friday, August 23, 2013

Still thinking


The following can be regarded as a pair of ethics toolboxes for designing a life. I'm still not clear on how to merge them into one, so this is practically a repost. If you've seen it all before, think of me as my own target audience, thinking out loud.

The first is derived from Buddhism. I find its core survives Occam's razor. Its basics are: four truths. And: eight ways for those truths to be manifested in your life.

Truth one: it's rough out there.

Truth two: it's rough because we (whether ourselves or others) want things to be different than they are.

Truth three: Not much we can do about others but we can change our behavior, so that things are less rough for us, at least internally.

Truth four is a simple method for these behavior changes.

Here is the method with its eight parts -- they are interrelated; are really aspects of one thing, but broken down for utility.

Right view. See what's happening.

Right aspiration. Care about the things that matter, not the things that don't. Notice the things that matter are not things (esp. as in "possessions").

Right speech. When communicating with others, delete whatever would hinder them from discovering the truths and using this method. For example, hurtful snark.

Right action. Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you. Heard that before?

Right livelihood. Do not do for a living that which would hinder them from discovering the truths and using this method. Example: fracking engineer. Example: bankster. The best occupations are probably smallholder and the crafts that support smallholders, along with health professions, preferably preventive care.

Right effort. Conducting the parts of the method with due diligence.

Right mindfulness. Clarity of thought concerning the truths, the method and their goal of non-harm.

Right concentration. To achieve clarity of thought, discipline the mind. Simply refusing to load it up with extraneous chatter (from television or Facebook, for example) is a start. I attend Soto Zen Buddhist retreats. Your mileage may vary.

The second toolbox is the Permaculture Design principles. I find them to be, ultimately, the same box differently adumbrated.

The core ethics are generally expressed as "earth care, people care, and fair share." Social Darwinists (those not interested in the above method) tend to dispute these a bit, especially the third one. If you're one of these, likely you didn't get this far. You'll have bailed, perhaps with a "hmph," and continued on your unhappy way. Socialism, as practiced by sovereign states, has not always led to ideal (whatever that means) conditions, but it is not inherently bad to help your neighbor, while it is inherently appropriate to help. Permaculture, like Buddhism, is effectively socialist and effective socialism, when not abused for personal gain. Try these three ethics. You may find you like them.

The ethics are applied in, usually, twelve kinds of activities usually called principles. 
1. Observe and Interact. By taking the time to engage with nature we can design relevant solutions.
2. Catch and Store Energy. Developing systems to collect resources when abundant, we can use them in need.
3. Obtain a yield – Ensure that you are getting useful rewards from your work.
4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – Efficient or resilient systems require noting and correcting inefficient or nonresilient practices.
5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – as opposed to non-renewable resources.
6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not.”
7. Design From Patterns to Details – Observe patterns in nature and society. Test their appropriateness broadly, rather than losing yourself in detail.
8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop, creating efficiencies and resiliences.
9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – Small is beautiful.
10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” -- be resilient.
11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
The principles are applied in seven "domains" that have been elucidated. These : The Natural Realm, Building(s), Tools (Technology), Education/Culture, Health (Well-Being), Economics ("as if people mattered"), Governance (participatory democracy preferred).

I'm aware that some leaders in Buddhism and Permaculture have historically and have continued to fall short of the ethics enumerated here, particularly in the treatment of women by men in positions of authority. So what's new? I'm all for rooting out the predatory. But I'm going to practice as long as I see the utility of practice.

You are here for only a moment, less than a moment in the universe's time. Clear the mind, open the "heart," open the hands, work for and with and not against. 

Primum non nocere.

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