- The Mad Monk ManifestoA Daoist Cry for a Paradigm Shift Now1
You hold in your hands a manifesto for change, an 11th-hour emergency survival manual utterly devoid of bright-future reassurances and New Age pabulum. You will find nothing here about how thinking positive-thoughts will help you look great in tight jeans, how brilliant your children are, how the whales really love us for killing them, or how the work you do in your high-salaried corporate position is critical to the survival of the universe. Although I hope you will find my words as spiritual as they are political, I am no Pollyanna. I don't believe that all will soon be right with the world or that we are almost through the tough times. I don't accept social media as a substitute for reality, or that our evolving into half-digital cyborgs will take away all our pain. I believe in the transformative power of both meditation and love, but don't believe either or both will solve all our problems. I am a monk, not a carnival barker, and thus skeptical of quick and easy fixes; thus, I hope you will find the ones I offer in the chapters that follow to be substantial, meaningful, and worthwhile even though they may require effort. When contemplating these changes, please remember that change is the only constant our world offers. [End Page 229]
I begin with such straightforward urgency because our floating home, zooming through the galaxy at high velocity inside the wildly spiraling solar system that contains it, has become a watery blue purgatory.More slaughterhouse than paradise, more frenzied, violent battlefield than garden of enlightenment, more cesspool of fractiousness than temple to unity, our beautiful planet is dying and we are its murderers. Wonders remain, but the effects of global industrialization executed upon a foundation of Western values, guarantee such wonders won't last long. The values I refer to are mostly about what it means to be human, but also our greed, material excesses, species-centrism, the religiously-based notion of human hegemony over the natural world, and, of course, overpopulation.
The last item on that list may be obvious to those suffering traffic jams, polluted parks, and the disappearance of peace and quiet, but its global consequences are actually complex, underestimated, and inaccurately predicted. Wars over land, air, and water have already begun. The macro-organism we call Planet Earth, desperate to survive in its current, diverse glory, uses various methods to fight its way out from beneath the meaty weight of the human herd. These weapons include diseases, wars, automobile accidents, gender variances, and religious fundamentalism—anything and everything that pares our numbers. Even so, there are still those who believe that their god encourages them to have ten children or more.
And then there is climate change, another feature of our greed, lack of sensitivity, and the religiously fundamentalist notion that the planet is our playground. Regardless of how many political leaders label it a hoax, weather patterns are changing at human, not geological, speed. It's tough to wrap our minds around the size of the changes and how soon they will be here. I write this as a displaced victim of one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, having just watched the state of Texas suffer a thousand-year flood, and now seeing the state of California battling the largest and most deadly wildfire outbreak in recorded history. Tropical cyclones are growing more violent and frequent, ice caps are melting, glaciers and permafrost are disappearing, island nations are in existential peril. Tens of thousands of miles of coastline will soon be lost to oceans, which are acidifying so rapidly, jellyfish will be the only "seafood" they can soon support. Vast continental plains are becoming deserts while [End Page 230] deserts are becoming dustbowls, putting our food supply in jeopardy.Deforestation and marine algae die-offs suggest that the oxygen we breathe will eventually vanish. If all these challenges appeared in an apocalyptic Hollywood thriller, the screenwriter would be told to tone things down so as to make them believable.