Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Unpaid Debts

What do we owe successive generations? The generations born since WWII have used more of the world's natural resources than ALL preceding generations. This is an astounding statistic. What makes it to me even more astounding is that we have so little to show for it. Our architecture such as it is is almost without redeeming virtue. We have a country littered with massive big box stores, endless highways, and plastic houses full of plastic junk. Half our population is classified as mentally ill and a whole lot of us are taking some kind of legal or illegal drugs.
Many of us know the story of Savonarola, the cleric who convinced Renaissance Florentines to make a huge bonfire of their material possessions. I shake my head at that because they at least had good stuff to burn. We instead have garage sales where the bric-a-brac of our purchasing history goes on display before finding a new home in someone else's drawer.
So what will future generations think of our civilization? What artifacts will we leave behind that will cause them to marvel at our sense of design, our commitment to beauty? Will they puzzle over what made us despoil a landscape to put up storage containers for our overflow of "stuff". Will they examine the toys from happy meals and conclude that our desire for kitschy objects superseded any impulse to gain insight into our human condition? Will they huddle around desolate campsites cursing us for handing them a resource-depleted world?
The Vedic scriptures call it the Kali Yuga, an age of darkness when greed, arrogance, and the lust for power and material comforts displaces human virtue. It is said, "There is nothing you can do TO Kali Yuga. But there is a great deal you can do IN Kali Yuga." Individually our lives mean very little except to us and a few friends and relatives. Yet still it is worth our time and effort to reach out to the larger society to remind those few awakened beings that we are not so few after all.

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