Notes and Aphorisms

September 18th, 2007

Here’s where to begin:

My head is filled with the words of other people, but the words on this page are entirely my own. My life is unique, though not always honorable or even uncommon. It is simply is unique, more or less by accident – if you believe in accidents. It did not happen to anyone else. Yet it is also in some respects universal (though what those respects are is sometimes not easy to discern). As a human being there is nothing about me that is not human, nothing that can truly be foreign to anyone; yet at times it seems to me that I literally share nothing with anyone else in the world.How far back does this go? My parents were unique, and their parents before them (though, to be honest, I know nothing about my father’s). My sister was (and remains) a unique, complex, unclassifiable character; and her children and grandchildren are strangers to me. My childhood friends, long abandoned, remain individual stories of mine, and have in reality taken on very different existences. I do not belong to a single country, or ethnic group, or profession. I have not grown up, or settled down. I have been and remain an “entrepreneur,” which is to say a sort of mountebank and intellectual adventurer who chooses to cloak his completely arbitrary preferences in the language of business.

But on the other hand everything that I am belongs not only to me but also to the world. It is one aspect of what it means to be a human being. It is a fact. Even if it is only a feeling, or a fleeting thought, or a false belief: it is a fact that humans have and are all these things, and my experience is simply a more or less representative sampling of this. Less, no doubt, but a sampling nonetheless. Each new individual reveals another layer of what it means to be human.

For the most part, everyone we meet is a hustler. If they’d already made it, they wouldn’t be where you are, since you’re only there because you haven’t made it.

In the end, no matter what we do, things will turn out.

Of course, they may turn out well or poorly. But there will be an outcome that will clearly be the result of our actions. (Some religious folks may want to dispute that, if they feel God is controlling everything anyway; but in most religions God also grants us free will, and merely manifests on earth how well we exercise that free will. So we are back to the idea that it will turn out as a result of how we act.)

If things turn out well, the planet will dial back its temperature, and we humans will reach a new equilibrium with nature. We will live in peace and harmony with each other, recognizing our differences and our past violent natures, and basking in the abundance of a limitless universe. We will learn to create energy from the sun, from the movement of the planet, and from the heat of its inner core. We will stop putting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, stop burying our wastes in landfills, and make every community, every company, and every individual “sustainable.”

But if they do not turn out well, there may be some pretty dismal days ahead for the planet. Things will get warmer, everywhere but most noticeably the further north or south you are… the ice will melt, the seas will rise, and hundreds of millions of people will be displaced. As the seas rise, the overall land mass of the earth will shrink, and coastal residents will be forced to higher ground. The vegetation around us will change, adapting rapidly to the new environmental conditions; but life will become much more uncomfortable for all of us.

As Kenny Ausubel (founder of Bioneers) says, it’s not about saving “the” environment, it’s about whether it will continue to support us. The planet has undergone many changes before we got here, and will continue to undergo changes with or without us – in part because of what we as an increasingly numerous species are putting into the water, into the earth, and into the air.

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