Bad times for the United States economy.
Consumer spending is down. Economic growth is turning negative. We’re headed for a recession. Our politicians are desperate to solve this problem, to squeeze a few more micro-points of economic growth out of the American people.
This is not a crisis. It is an opportunity.
America, and the world, needs to chill out and slow down. We need to relax. We need to hug our children. We need to stop frantically racing around, constantly trying to get ahead.
We need to take a deep breath, walk down to the river or to the sea and watch the water and feel the sun. We need to remember that the world is beautiful and our needs are simple.
We must enjoy the easy pleasures of a rich, healthy, spiritually fulfilling life.
We can drive our cars less often. We can get by with hand-me-down jeans. We can let our brothers and sisters in Iraq come home.
More of us need to realize a single, essential, illuminating truth: Too much economic growth under the Wall Street model is not good. It is rapacious and deadly.
Breast-cancer rates are sky high. There is not much forest left. The air is becoming unfit to breathe. The wise people who understand the climate best tell us – they shout from the top of their lungs in fact – that we are headed for disaster.
America the Beautiful
Even in the United States – a wide, fertile country of temperate seacoasts and golden fields – we are beginning to feel the impact of our economic curse: the frantic, desperate consumption of earth and water and forest, devastated by engines of greed.
Worse than human greed, however, is the economic beast’s newfound ability to strip away the capacity for human reason and moral judgment.
Without reason and without morality, we begin to lose the spiritual grace that makes us human.
How does the economy remove our humanity?
Our Money At Work
Our money – the money we work for, the money in our retirement accounts, the money in our college funds – that money is working.
It is earning interest. It is feeding 6 billion people, but it is also poisoning our lands and poisoning our government.
The problem is that too often we cannot see what work our money is doing, or judge its merit for ourselves.
We are in our homes in America. Our money is in Shanghai and Dubai and Moscow and Baghdad. It is working hard. It is telling us we NEED a new SUV, that fulfillment is on the far side of a flat-screen TV.
Our money is spilling millions of tons of poisonous chemicals on our farmland. It is building bombs and voting machines and artificial hearts.
Our money is building the laptop that I’m writing on right now. I can use this laptop to read the Dhammapada, or to learn about, empathize with and perhaps even help the bloody children in Darfur.
Our money is not bad. Or good. It has no morals. It is merely a tool.
Good People + Bad System = Sick And Dangerous World
The stewards of our money – the bankers, the lawyers, the politicians and the producers of corporate media – are not bad people. On the contrary, they are often among the best and brightest people in society.
The poor who work so hard to join the rich are good, strong, moral people too.
But all these good people are in the thrall of an illusion.
They are human, and even as they die of cancer, car crashes, stress and car-bombs, they cling to the belief that more money will make them happy, that more economic growth is the only answer, the sacred balm that will heal all wounds.
This is ridiculous. In the words of a wise man, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” Or, put another way, “Money Does Not Equal Happiness”.
Here is what we must do.
We must simultaneously extend our compassion across the oceans and bring our money home to our hearts and hearths.
We must use our money well, to help each other, to communicate, to heal the sick, to grow healthy, delicious food, to refine the technology of solar panels and to make better filters for our water – in short, to work to cherish and protect all the precious bits of beauty in the world.
We must relax and be happy. We must love our neighbors (and love them like Jesus meant, not like in Desperate Housewives).
So take ten deep, slow breaths. Go on. See if you can do it.
Smile. Stand up. Stretch.
This Internet session is now over. Go outside and find something beautiful in the world.
What do you think of the future? Share your thoughts in the comments!