“If we continue abusing the earth this way, there is no doubt that our civilization will be destroyed. This turnaround will take enlightenment, awakening. The Buddha attained individual awakening. Now we need a collective awakening to stop the course of destruction.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
What would a collective awakening look like? In a world where comfort clashes with courage and security clashes with freedom, how does our civilization—dumbed down by bipartisan claptrap and anti-intellectuals with opioid-laced Big Macs for brains—discover the tipping point that could lead to a turning away from destruction?
Ad hominems aside, a collective awakening begins with a good understanding of what’s healthy and what’s not. And what could symbolize the subject better than the metaphor of water (healthy) and oil (unhealthy)?
Water cleanses; oil pollutes. Water filters; oil clogs. Water is clear; oil is murky. We need water to survive; we don’t need oil to survive.
And yet, similar to a yin-yang, there is a little good in oil, just as too much water can kill. Moderation is key. Oil powers our world. It runs our vehicles. It builds our plastics. Then again, it has propelled our species into an industrial behemoth that destroys other species. And there’s the rub: too much of a healthy thing is bad; too much of an unhealthy thing is really, really bad. And here we are.
And so the battle between healthy and unhealthy begins with a basic understanding of moderation. While entire books have been written on the subject of moderation, we will not delve too deeply into it, but we will use it as a launchpad that can launch us into three specific battlefronts: healthy community over sick society, selfless commitment over selfish greed, and collaboration over competition. Let’s break it down…
1.) Healthy community over sick society:
“Chaos and self-organization go hand in hand, and only if they are in a state of pre-established harmony do life and health exist.” ~Klaus Mainzer
How would someone born and raised within a profoundly sick society even know what a healthy community looks like? Might as well attempt to teach a fish how to breathe air. Luckily, we are not fish. We are human beings with the faculty of higher reasoning. Unluckily, most of us don’t use this faculty.
So how does someone born and raised within a profoundly sick society pierce the veil of ill-health and discover a healthy community? Through reason, yes, but also through an understanding of moderation and the difference between healthy and unhealthy.
Fortunately, the difference between healthy and unhealthy isn’t a matter of opinion. Rather it is a self-evident truth dictated by universal law. Unfortunately, most of us believe the opposite. And here we are: living in a profoundly sick society.
How do we know that we live in a profoundly sick (unhealthy) society, despite opinion? Easy. Any society that pollutes the air it breathes, the water it drinks, the food it eats, and the minds it engages, is a profoundly sick society.
So, it stands to reason, in the spirit of both health and moderation, that the path toward a healthy community begins with not polluting our air, water, food, and minds. Doing this alone would almost guarantee a victory for health in the battle between healthy and unhealthy.
The problem is that we seem to be addicted to lifestyles that promote exorbitant amounts of pollution. Whether because of willful ignorance, cultural conditioning, or a devil-may-care attitude, most of us don’t even know that we don’t know how unhealthy our society really is. What we need is a selfless commitment to health itself…
2.) Selfless commitment over selfish greed:
“If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it.” ~Socrates
How do we flip the script on a culture that has conditioned us to believe that selfish greed is commendable? How do we turn the focus from “want, want, want” to “need, need, need”?
Living in a world that’s focused on “I’ve got to be comfortable even at the expense of health,” how do we get to a place where we are focused on “I’ve got to be healthy even at the expense of comfort”?
Tough questions. But selfless commitment to a healthy cause might be a good answer. In order to discover the way toward a healthier life, and thus a healthier world, we must first get our unhealthy life out of the way. That is to say, we need to get out of our own way. We need to recondition our cultural conditioning. We need to reprogram our society’s faulty programming.
Our culture makes greed a virtue? Turn the tables on that shit and make commitment to health a virtue instead. Our society praises selfishness? Flip the script on that shit and praise selflessness instead. Krishnamurti said “it’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”? So be it! Take the measure of health into your own hands and defy that unhealthy society.
Rather than treat the world as a commodity, let’s interact with it as a community. Rather than praise selfishness and greed, let’s praise, compassion, merit, and prestige. Rather than encourage power-mongering, let’s encourage power expiation. Rather than codependence on a corrupt state, let’s practice interdependence and transform the state into a healthy community. Rather than blind comfort, let’s seek awakened adventure. Rather than squander our wealth on “things, things, things,” let’s transform our wealth into health.
Rather than sleepwalk through the apocalypse, let’s wake up and build something healthier than Armageddon.
3.) Collaboration over competition:
“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” ~The Buddha
Here’s the thing: we need each other. We became the dominant species on this planet because we historically made competition secondary to cooperation. It was less “might makes right” and more “collaboration builds inspiration.”
The problem now is that our sick society has somehow managed to convince itself, and us, that competition is primary to cooperation. And it is because we have been brainwashed into believing this that our societies have become unhealthy and a blight on the planet.
So, what do we do? Well, since we know that we need each other. And we know that healthy social relations are a fundamental part of our basic human needs, the answer is not to run away or become a hermit just because the rest of the world can’t seem to un-fuck itself. Just as the answer is not to give in and say, “fuck the world” and compete, and hoard, and stockpile money, or to “get yours” at the expense of everything else. These are the coward’s way out.
The answer is to adapt and overcome. Don’t run away. Don’t give in. Adapt and overcome. Once you’ve embraced healthy community over sick society, prove it. Challenge people to be healthy. Dare people to join you. Teach health. Teach community. Overcome the sick society by adapting and transforming it into a healthy community from the inside out.
If you’re at the bottom, work from the bottom up. If you’re on top, work form the top down. Collaboration builds inspiration. Choose communication over isolation. Choose compassion over competition. You’ll find more meaning in a teaspoon of cooperation and connection (water) than you will in a mountain of competition and one-upmanship (oil).
If “the journey is the thing,” then a healthy journey with a few like-minded individuals is a thingier thing. Find your healthy tribe by creating it. Create your healthy tribe by waking them up to what it means to be healthy despite the profoundly sick society that surrounds them.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (Water Versus Oil: The Battle Between Healthy and Unhealthy) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.