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Barbara O'Brien

A Culture of Despair

By August 21, 2011

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This week Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and geneticist/ecologist David Suzuki met at the University of British Colombia and talked about despair. More specifically, they discussed human-caused climate change and our inability to face the problem and do something to stop it.

As described by James Hoggan, the talk touched on our consumerist culture, climate change denial, and mistrust in government. Even if we knew what steps to take to slow the pace of climate change, the barriers to actually doing anything seem overwhelming. According to Douglas Todd, much of the conversation was about how to overcome despair. You can watch the conversation at Vimeo.com.

Certainly Buddhist practice can overcome personal despair, but can that save the planet?

August 22, 2011 at 11:12 am
(1) David says:

I suppose only our descendants will know if we could have saved the planet or not. But clearly the first step is overcoming personal despair. I find that Buddhist practice involves a paradox (or what feels like one), namely that when one feels emptiness (in the Buddhist sense) and that there is ‘nothing to attain’, it is for some reason easier to face the things you are afraid of and do good things in the world. A very small example–yesterday I performed piano in front of a roomful of people, a thing I had a phobia of doing before I began my practice. Maybe a trivial thing such as playing music in front of others can grow into a bigger thing such as having hope for the world and fighting the political fights needed to stop catastrophic climate change.

August 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm
(2) Epi13 says:

The answer to the child, about his fathers smoking is…

Love your father >/= Trust that this is, and that it is not. Do not be afraid of what is and is not. Recognize that every moment includes the destruction of the previous moment and that it is the basis for the next moment to come. Do not seek to control; let go.

*So infinitely every word and phrase could be said in the place of that -which is the inherent problem with collective understanding. What is not ambiguous? ‘Here’..?

The world speaks as One. This One must purge the fears that have been created. Love is infinite; Love is Life. Trust that everything is as it should be -and see everything as it is.

I truly enjoyed watching that. Thanks.

August 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm
(3) Dennis says:

The Buddha told how he became aware of the endless cycles of worlddestructions and worldbirths so maybe we should accept the fact that probably we are in the downward spiral of the next worldestruction..,,that awaits the next worldbirth.
Of course it is a gift to be born as a human being as the Buddha told us but when this planet will destruct there will be other spheres to reach enlightment or not.
I sometimes believe people don’t really care about sustaining a balanced world but rather they cling to live, and are extremely scared for what we call dead..which is indeed a completely natural proces in this and all the other worlds. Everthing that has come into existence must die.

August 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm
(4) Barbara O'Brien says:

so maybe we should accept the fact that probably we are in the downward spiral of the next worldestruction

I don’t think we should “accept” any such thing. If we’re practicing compassion for other living beings, we take good care of the planet. Period. Whether the planet is or is not in some inevitable downward cycle is not something we can know, and thinking such a thing should not change how we respond to environmental distress.

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