Thought for the Week: How Do You Harmonize with the Past?

I believe we all harmonize with the past, both consciously and unconsciously. We are taught to do that by our families, by what we’re taught in school, by what we need to do to succeed in whatever society we live in.

If we want more harmony in the present, we often need to change how we “harmonize” with the past.

In this week’s video, I’ll be sharing ideas from the book The Dawn of Everything A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow, published in 2020.

Here’s a video of my Mindful Earthkeeper Thought for the Week:

If you prefer, you can read more below:

I’m going to review the book, The Dawn of Everything, A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow, published in 2020, as a way of opening our eyes to how we harmonize we the past through ideas.

Let me start by saying that the Dawn of Everything is an intellectual tour de force, which is often academic. Unfortunately, I suspect most read this over .

The authors of the Dawn of Everything would probably agree that none of us, no matter how learned we are, knows everything there is to know about the past, especially ancient history.

But an anthropologist and archaeologist have things to teach us about how to ask questions about the past.

As human beings, we tend to come to conclusions about what can be learned about the past and create general rules or myths about the past.

This quote from Andrew Carnegie, a famous entrepreneur and philanthropist of the early 20th century encapsulates what many of us have been led to believe:

And while the law of competition may sometimes be hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.

Andrew Carnegie

He probably was familiar with Darwin, who talked about survival of the fittest this way:

In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.

Charles Darwin

The Dawn of Everything challenges what many of us were taught to “harmonize” our lives with this idea, and many others.

Most of us who care about the sustainability of the planet need to deal with myths and partial truths that keep us from harmonizing with the rest of life on earth in the wisest ways.

A big thread in The Dawn of Everything is questioning the role of freedom and equality in shaping history.

In a way it is difficult to summarize the book. It discusses everything from the sophistication of indigenous tribal leaders and their views on freedom and responsibility to the role of women in innovating agriculture for thousands of years, and the realization by the authors that domination and exploitation seems to occur in cycles, as do hundreds of years of relative peace. The movement towards either dystopia or utopia is not a linear path.

One of the ideas in the book that I think we should consider as we look at how to be more sustainable in the world describes three types of freedom (page 503):

  1. The freedom to move away or relocate from one’s surroundings.
  2. The freedom to ignore or disobey commands from others.
  3. The freedom to shape entirely new social realities, or shift back and forth between different ones.

From a sustainability point of view, we are in a state of discord with nature in many places in the world, because people live in places that can’t support the amount of human population.

With climate change progressing as it is, more people will need the freedom to move. That’s what people had to do or were able to do at other times of climate change.

We live in a time when millions of people may need to move, and we don’t have plans for addressing that very real possibility.

When I helped create the sustainability plan update for the City of Aurora, Illinois a few years ago, I was successful in adding a focus area on resilience. My reasoning for wanting that in the plan was because I believed then and still do, that we need to plan for people moving to the Chicago area in the next 50 years. That sounds like a long way off, but it’s not.

A little less than 20 years ago, I watched a presentation for City of Chicago leaders talking about what was expected to happen in the Chicago area by 2100. We were told then, which was in 2004 or 2005, that by roughly 2100, the Chicago area (where I live) is expected to have the climate of Houston Texas. Many of the predictions those scientists shared have happened more quickly than was predicted then.

We already have climate change refugees. Many people attribute, many of the wars in the Middle East to droughts caused by climate change. When drought conditions occur in countries that have no ability to import more food and water, situations like what is happening in Somalia, Syria and Yemen occur. This is just the beginning.

If we stick to the survival of the fittest mentality, millions if not billions of people will face starvation in the next twenty years. This is one of the reasons that climate change scientists worry about the future being dystopic.

In my view, we need to create new harmonies with the past. For instance, we can discover and align with the collaborative and innovative models of the past, which have existed since ancient times, often at the same time that greed-driven and exploitative social systems occurred.

The Dawn of Everything challenges the ideas about what was truly successful in the past.It begins by comparing the Iroquois and Wendat cultures of North America to the European culture of the same time. The Native Americans saw Europeans as barbaric, greedy and horrifying. Often, we have been taught the opposite history seeing indigenous people as savages.

Whether we like to believe we do it or not, people “harmonize” with what we’ve been taught about the past.

So, how do we change our views of the past?

Even when we intellectually separate from views that we know are harmful to us, our community, or the earth, sometimes an unconscious part of us has a strong pull to be in harmony with the predominant world views that we were taught.

That’s why a book like The Dawn of Everything can be helpful. Because it offers a different view of the past that we can begin to harmonize with and build up.

This week I suggest you consider three actions to help you change the way you harmonize with the past:

  1. Read the book The Dawn of Everything. It’s been out since 2020, so you can probably find it at a library.
  2. Ask yourself is there any way that you are “harmonizing” your life with collective ideas and myths about the past that keep you stuck? This may be hard to do, but look for areas in your life where you allow yourself to be exploited, where you feel powerless, or that you have less value than other people. There’s probably a myth you’re harmonizing with or being forced to harmonize with.
  3. Choose to harmonize with the past in a way that inspires you, helps you to be more innovative, and free.

Next week, I’m going to offer another way of harmonizing your past with the present, involving working with your imperfect passions.

Thanks for being reading or listening to this message, and being an important part of the Mindful Earthkeeper Community!

Join the Mindful Earthkeeper Newsletter to get more tools, insights and tips in the coming year. And access to the free weekly Mindfulness practice on Wednesdays.

Thought for the Week: Will You Create Utopia this Year?

Most of us have been led to believe that utopia is something that can not be attained, or if it is attained, it is not a way of living that can be sustained. Yet, dystopia seems like our probable future.

I created a video sharing ideas about the human behaviors that create dystopias and the human behaviors that support utopia. I challenge us all to look at how we can choose utopic behaviors, at the very least within our own lives.

Here’s a video of my Mindful Earthkeeper Thought for the Week:

If you prefer, you can more below:

There are certain drives and behaviors that lead to the creation of dystopias. There are other drives that create utopia.

A. Human Drives and Behaviors that Create Dystopia (Discordant)B. Utopian Drives and Human Behaviors (Harmonic)
Group Think/TribalismCompassion/Universality/Healthy Individuality
Hyper Individualism/NarcissismInterconnectivity
Figure 1: Dystopic versus Utopia Human Behaviors

If we look across the earth, we can see evidence of both dystopia and utopia.

Human beings have been creating dystopic and utopic communities and tribes since prehistoric times.

Next week, I ‘ll be sharing some rather revolutionary anthropological ideas from a book that looks at the distant past with a different point of view.

This week, I want you to consider the possibility that you are creating utopia if you choose to live from the human behaviors that create harmony.

When you are living a discordant life, you can be creating dystopia.

We don’t control everything that happens in the world around us.

We do have the ability to embody utopia.

Sustainability need utopic stories.

One of the things that I believe needs to change about the field of sustainability is our lack of stories that are utopic.

There are an abundance of dystopia stories. We tend to see those as realistic.

When you think about it, where do you go to see utopic stories?

The first thing that came to my mind is the Hallmark channel. There are a lot of people who watch Hallmark shows because they’re looking for signs of attainable utopia.

There is a sense in which Hallmark sells utopia.

Many years ago, I was working with the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (USBCSD). This was in the 2000’s. Hallmark was one of their members, but they weren’t promoting themselves heavily as a sustainable company.

A few times that I’ve seen Hallmark movies, I’ve noticed they have stories with people who are creating green businesses or caring about the earth in some way.

The stories are predictable, often silly, you know where the stories are going.

We need some of that in sustainability. We need that in our lives.

Next week, I’m going to share ideas on how to take utopic ideals and behaviors and weave them into your life to create your unique kind of utopia.

This week, I simply want you to consider how you might already be creating utopia by the ways in which you are generous, nurturing, honest, wise, compassionate, responsible and free.

Join the Mindful Earthkeeper Newsletter to get more tools, insights and tips in the coming year. And access to the free weekly Mindfulness practice on Wednesdays.

Thought for the Week: The Guiding Song of Sustainability

Have you ever played with the idea of having a guiding song for your life? 

Here’s a video of my Mindful Earthkeeper Thought for the Week:

Thought for the Week, January 23, 2023 – The Guiding Song of Sustainability

If you prefer, you can read the idea below:

I believe as human beings we live out many songs throughout our lives, but only one guiding song is predominant at a particular time in our life. We can choose a guiding song of sustainable or restorative living.

At a certain point in the past few years, I kept hearing the song I’m Still Standing by Elton John on repeat in my mind. I also seemed to hear it everywhere I went. That was definitely my guiding song, for awhile. It was a helpful song on challenging days. 

Maybe the song of your life is currently one of survival, or overcoming struggle.  A song of survival is a good one. Sometimes, we think we should be doing more than surviving. As if we should always be positive, happy and healthy. That’s not how life’s journey works.  

For most people across the earth, the last few years have been rough. Our collective song has been something akin to Climb Every Mountain from the movie, The Sound of Music.

A global pandemic, social unrest, rising inflation, rising greenhouse gases, the War in the Ukraine. Our 401Ks going down in value. The crypto crash. External challenges intensely affected all of us for the last three years. 

Humans have not been the only ones struggling.

The literal songs of the earth, birds, are in danger. 

Forty nine percent of bird species have declining populations. One in eight bird species is under threat of extinction now.  An Audubon Society study of 2019 concluded that two thirds of bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change in this century.

Birds are not the only creatures that sing.  Whales do as well, and those beautiful creatures and their habitats are also under threat.

We humans can sing too, and many humans on this planet are under threat from climate change and other human driven environmental and social issues.

For thousands of years, some humans, usually men, have sung the song of exploitation, greed and destruction.

We need a new healing guiding song for the earth.

Whether the birds in the air or the whales in the seas, or the song(s) of our lives, we need to pay attention to song more than we have been doing.

Unlike birds who have instinctual songs that they don’t control, we can sing many songs as human beings.

Songs are an indicator of health.

Our songs can uplift ourselves and those around us, or tear ourselves apart as well as the world around us. 

The guiding songs of our lives are powerful, and often unconscious.

But we can change our song.

One good question at this early point of the year, maybe for you, is:

What is the guiding song of your life now?

Sometimes a guiding song is obvious.

You might reading recognize that a a certain external song could represent this time of your life. 

You might not notice your guiding song, because you’re too busy with your life to notice it.   

Or you might not want to listen to your deepest songs of longing or dissatisfaction or fear. 

Right now, maybe all you need is to just honor the song that you have to move through right now. 

Especially if you’re moving through a song of grief. 

Many of us need to be able to listen to and honor our song(s) of loss, struggle and fear from the past few years.  

Maybe your guiding song is one of survival, and you can’t do anything more than you are doing.

Possibly, you may be ready for aligning with the song of sustainability.

As I have been thinking about the song that I want to guide me this year, the literal song I am choosing is the song Morning by Grieg. It’s a classical song without words. I like it because it reminds me of upbeat new beginnings.

Click on the player to hear Joe Malambri’s rendition of Morning:

What song might you choose to guide and inspire yourself this year?