Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Of Liberalism, Faith, Erik Lindberg and Earth Centrism

These days Leftist and Liberal gets bandied about as an insult with little thought given to what it actually means.

I believe in family, in community, civic participation and responsibility.  I believe we are an interconnected society and need to take others into consideration, even though I have a huge independence streak running through me, the two can go together.

Why do Republicans need to demonize me?  I believe economically all pockets need to have holes in them or capitalism becomes dysfunctional, as we see in America these days.  The rampant hoarding by the super rich is an abomination and self-destructive in the long run.  

I also believe that our planet’s biosphere is our life support system and deserves to be understood, appreciated, protected and nurtured with the future in mind.  What’s so demonic about all that?

Though, at the same time, when I’m listening to this or that liberal spouting off, too often I find it too easy to roll my eyes and understand why so many on the right are repulsed.  That’s why I’ve been looking around to see what thinkers have to say about liberalism in order to get a better handle on the term and how much of it still fits with my perceptions.

In stepped Erik Lindberg who wove together many threads to form an excellent coherent 3,600 word essay that resonated with my experience driven thoughts throughout.  His parting shot, 

with the historical conviction that something like true belief must be adopted

serves as an excellent segue into a review of Earth Centrism and recognizing the fact of Earth being our fundamental touchstone with reality, not to mention the origin of our birth and our destination upon death - and to consider what can be done with such an insight. 

First, lets review key excerpts from Lindberg’s What is Liberal?

Originally published by Resilience (I’ve added paragraph breaks, highlights.)

  • May 22, 2017 
  • (Note: Lindberg’s entire essay is well worth reading.)

Erik Lindberg received his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature in 1998, with a focus on cultural theory. After completing his degree, Lindberg began his career as a carpenter, and now owns a small, award-winning company that specializes in historical restoration. In 2008 he started Milwaukee’s first rooftop farm, and was a co-founder of the Victory Garden Initiative, as well as a member of Transition Milwaukee’s inaugural steering committee. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife and young twin boys.   [Link to his entire essay]

My own mental world order begins with my life long love affair with learning about Earth and her creation story, along with the humans who have come to so dominate her.  Being witness these past 6 decades of ever more amazing scientific insights and new understandings and reinterpretations of old assumptions has given me a visceral appreciation for the folds within folds of cumulative harmonic complexity flowing the down the cascade of time and presenting itself to us as a fantastical pageant of Evolution unfolding one day at a time.  

I am made of star dust and in my blood flow evolutionary, cellular and molecular vestiges that reach back millions and billions of years and without who’s ancient achievements I’d have never come into existence.  

For a spectator science has been a wild ride and the ever emerging new details never cease to blow me away.  We keep learning to see reality more clearly all the time.  Yet, people remain so dense and trapped within their egos, desires, fear - and then hundreds of millions actually mistake their own Ego for “God”.  People who have shifted to belligerent hubris and who must create enemies out of all who disagree and try to share constructive evidence in order to paint a more realistic understanding.

I understand Earth’s Pageant of Evolution as a complex dance between geology and biology - having a deep appreciation of that reality, supplies this particular person, along with my own petty ego and insecure spirit, with an inner solidity and peace in the face of life’s travails and my own impending death, that no pick pocket preacher or ancient holy book can touch.

Given what thin-skinned people I have experienced over the course of my life, and how defensive and angry people of all stripes get when told there’s more evidence out there that requires some good-faith homework and learning, it seems plain that my sort of foundational solidity is missing in many.  

Too many have no conception of this Earth and the flow of billions of years unfolding one day at time and the Evolution that created us and all we know and need.  Thus, they can’t gain the spiritual strength such a fundament relationship with reality offers.

I was born of this Earth and I shall meld right back into her.  I know this and it is good.

The spirit/soul, that my body and life fueled, can’t exist without the body that created it.  When I die, its energy will likewise be absorbed into Earth’s biosphere and I myself shall have a deep dark endless peaceful sleep.  

I learned to live my life today, heaven and hell were here on Earth, now, and it was my lot to do the best I could with what I had.  

I also learned that The Passion of Jesus was all about life here on Earth!  Here and now.  Jesus is a guide for living people, to help guide and support us through the steps required when facing our own trials, tribulations and punishments.  

Jesus’s Passion is about the promise of a rebirth that comes from honestly facing up to one’s own failings.  Looking your guilt straight in the eye, dying on the cross of your own making.  Then reawakening to a new dawn, changed, reborn, possessing a new perspective won through spiritual fire.  Jesus is there, for those who reach out to his spirit, to help guide and comfort.  Still, there are other guides and paths for other people.

After all, the God of Light and Time, Life and Love is beyond all petty vain human understanding, yet accessible to all who seek!

I am among the fortunately.  Not in stuff and a fat wallet, but content, rich in experiences and people and a life time of mysteries revealing ever more wonders and mysteries to absorb.  Gaining an appreciation for life’s nuances and it’s many wonders and having the sense to recognize and utilize my own good luck and good health. 

What I have is way more solid than a cross and a petty judgmental Lord.  I have a visceral appreciation that I was born of Earth’s Evolution and that my heritage can be tracked back millions, nay billions of years across the ever changing landscapes of this Earth, back, back to a terrible day when two small planets collided, back, back, to when fundamental particles where still figuring out what to do with themselves.  

Inside my body it’s an even more amazing journey, down to my muscles and organs, down, down to highways of blood and cells, down, down to molecules working together, doing uncountable mechanical functions, suspended in a quantum soup. 

Looking up at night I have a visceral sense of the universe as a four dimensional reality surrounding me, as I’m standing on the edge of this fantastical planet, whirling around the sun.  

Likewise I can look at the waves on a shore and appreciate the reality of time’s arrow.  I think about that shoreline having existed forever.  Always moving in and out, up and down, while the opposing landmass was doing it’s things, but that shore line, flat or cliff, and those waves, they were always there.  The pageant of Evolution flowing through my awareness.  I get ridiculed by the sillies when I try talking about such things, but it’s true and frankly, it’s fact based.

It’s all a matter of curiosity and I don’t know what all.  A fascination with the world, looking at it, trying to observe all of it and it’s nuances in the futile effort to ‘get’ it.  Never succeeding but always retaining a little more information and eventually some understanding.  Asking questions, pursuing answers, the years keep racing by as life’s mysteries are revealed one by one.

Hand in hand with this “Earth Centrist” perspective, is appreciating one of the most fundamental divides in our reality.

There is Physical Reality, stuff and processes, our bodies and all they hold and so on.  Apart and distinct from that is the product of our human minds, consciousness, for my more poetic purposes I like referring to it as our ‘Human Mindscape.’ 

Neither Science or Religion are part of the Physical Reality of ‘stuff’ - they are products of our mind, of whatever it is that happens at the other side of physical synapses and molecular cascades.  

Nothing Woo about this.  It’s all about perspective and appreciating physical reality’s boundaries.


seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our brain's mindscape. 


is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable.   

What’s the point?  I think it’s about better appreciating our ‘frame of reference’ - and especially recognizing that we aren’t the center of creation, which I believe too many people including scholars fall into without even recognizing it.  

This is important today because some others have convinced themselves that they actually have a personal Almighty God in their back pockets, when in fact our Gods are as transient as governments and the human species itself. 

Religions, heaven, hell, science, political beliefs, economy, even God, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.  

That is not to say they are the same thing, they are not!  Science is dedicated to honestly and objectively understanding physical reality while religion is concerned with the human imagination, our “soul” and spirit and our struggles through difficult short lives.  They are different, but both are necessary human inventions we rely on.

Still, both are destined to be swept away by the hands of time, while Earth and life and evolution will continue its dance.

Earth Centrism is about understanding and passionately appreciating Earth’s Evolutionary story and her magnificent interwoven layers and her folds within folds of harmonic accumulating complexity through time, to make up Earth’s biosphere at this moment.  An appreciation for what it took to achieve the marvels we people seem intent on consuming as fast as absolutely possible.

I know from my own experience that focusing on what you can learn about Earth and her story has a potential to create a visceral bond as strong as any saintly words – but only if you have a connection with the outside “natural” world and are receptive to her lessons.  

How can people in crowded cities possibly relate to the natural aspects of this planet, the part that makes our existence possible, the natural spaces I’ve spent most my life in and near and that have taught me my awareness.

How to trigger a passion for Earth’s story, Deep Time along with the love making of geology and biology that created us, along with a near infinite variety of other fantastical creatures and landscapes.  An Evolution that will continue moving forward no matter how murderously we, self-centered people, manage to batter and destroy Earth’s current human society sustaining biosphere, along with our own species. 

We could have done and been so much more, if only . . . . . . .

Valuable links

I would start with John Stewart Mill’s definition in On Liberty (1859). 

My question, then, is what to do with this same historically-minded, pragmaticsecularnominalistanti-foundational view of the contingency of human life on a planet that is not only finite, but that is well into ecological overshoot?

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