You know how there are some crystal clear moments from your past that don’t seem to be particularly important, but nevertheless they come to mind at odd times and seemingly from nowhere?
I remember hearing that at some point in our lives each of us will breathe an atom of oxygen that was breathed by Leonardo da Vinci. It wasn’t that da Vinci breathed more oxygen than others, it was that there is a finite number of molecules of oxygen, we breathe in so many during our lifetimes, and air movements over time (as well as the life cycles of oxygen) that the odds are we have breathed at least one molecule of oxygen that was breathed by almost everyone before us.
Whoa! Pretty amazing. To think that each if us has shared atoms with virtually everone who has lived before us. And with the plants, too, because of course they are part of the cycles of life and death.
A simplification, of course, but later in my life it led me to think about the implications of finite amounts, and of limits, and it led me to a perspective I was never taught in school.
There are limits to the Earth’s resources. It does not take a great mind to understand that. And yet we act as if there were no limits.
We pollute the air. We poison the land. We contaminate the water. We destroy the forests. We have developed a species that lusts for more, more, more.
We have lost our understanding of enough.
A very smart sales manager once told me that in the course of my work in estate planning I would meet two kinds of people: those who worked for a living, and those who already had all the money they would ever spend. Most of us are in the first group. For the second group, money is not about paying the bills, or even about being extravagant – it is about power and control.
As I have written many times before in this space, money is not wealth. It is a tool to manipulate wealth. Wealth is access to clean air, pure water, and nutritious food. Wealth is having adequate clothing, safe shelter, reasonable health, satisfying companionship and meaningful occupation.
So long as money aids in the transfer of wealth between those who have access to wealth or who produce wealth, money is an effective tool, and worthwhile.
But when those who make bread no longer accept money for the bread, money becomes valueless in relationship to bread. Money only works as a tool to manipulate wealth when money can be traded for wealth.
And yet we live in a culture that worships money, and the possession of money.
And it is killing us.
Polluted air is killing us. Poisoned land is killing us. Contaminated water is killing us. Deforestation is killing us. Our lust for more, more, more is killing us.
The United States has the most overfed and undernourished population in the world, with the most expensive health care and the worst health of any “developed” nation.
We are a dying culture, and we are rushing into our death with open arms and cries of “More! More!” on our lips. Our vaunted knowledge and technology cannot “save” us. They not only do not offer us solutions, in pursuit of ever more stuff they are the core of the problem.
Isn’t it time to re-learn the lessons of history, and live within our means? Isn’t it time to learn to live in balance with the rest of the Earth: the air, the water, the land, the flora and fauna?
Isn’t it time we regained our perspective? Isn’t it time to look at the reality of our self-destruction and say, “Enough!”
What do you think?