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Re: [ishmael_discussion] Neo-Abo Creed

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  • wclary5424@aol.com
    Interesting, but there s a lot in there that seems (at least to me) to be questionable. Also, if we have to codify beliefs such as this, IMHO, that s pretty
    Message 1 of 7 , Apr 2, 2005
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      Interesting, but there's a lot in there that seems (at least to me) to be questionable.   Also, if we have to codify beliefs such as this, IMHO, that's pretty good evidence that they cannot be considered "universal truth."   I've added some observations about the individual clauses in the creed below.

      BC



      In a message dated 3/30/05 11:19:47 AM, stephen@... writes:


      I would have expressed many of these points differently (probably in e-
      prime and as free from judgment as I could make it) but I didn't find
      any really surprising points and pretty much agreed with the
      observations Haney makes.  

      -Stephen


      What the Neo-Abo believes about Nature:

              1.  Nature is One--at a very basic, fundamental level, every
              thing in Nature is in some way connected to every other thing.
      I think this is the central point.  It manages to convey the organizing idea behind ecology into one sentence, and I wholeheartedly agree with it.
             
              2.  The Earth can be viewed as one big, living organism.  Even
              so-called “inanimate” objects are to some extent imbued with
              part of this life.

      A radical extension of the so-called "Gaia" hypothesis.  I am sympathetic to the idea, but IMHO, it is not necessary to claim that inanimate objects are "alive" in order to respect their value.   In what sense is a stone alive?  Is my car alive?  And if so, what does this imply?
             
              3.  Everything in Nature has a purpose, a reason for being, a
              place in the grand scheme of things, even if we do not know it.
      Why is it necessary for the Universe or any of its particular parts to have a purpose?  And what does that mean, anyway?  A star is a ball of gas.  If it has a "purpose," that implies that either, a), the star itself is capable of volition, or, b), it was created by someone who gave it a purpose.   Either, or both, of those hypotheses may be correct, but they are also beside the point.   I do not need to subscribe to this sort of metaphysical thinking in order to understand that tampering with natural systems may not be in the best interests of myself or the ecological web in which I am embedded.
             
              4.  There is more to the Universe than most people can
              ordinarily perceive and than can be expressed by science and
              logical reasoning.
      Again, this may be true, but it is also beside the point.
             
              5.  People cannot truly “own” the land in any but a superficial
              sense; they can only be its caretakers for a time.  It is truer
              to say that we are owned by the land.
      The concept of private property is, at least IMHO, nothing but a socially contrived fiction, but, of course, it's deeply embedded in our way of looking at the world.  There is a deed book at the county courthouse that says I "own" the land upon which my house stands.   I know that this is a totally arbitrary statement, and the only reason why it is respected is because society,at some level, has agreed to abide by these particular rules.   Without courts of law and the force implied behind them, the whole structure would collapse.   At the same time, the concept of property rights tends to arise spontaneously in all materially complex, sedentary human cultures.  Such fictions may be "necessary" for people to live settled lives.   Other social mammals are territorial; our property rights are territorialism on steroids. 

      To say that we are "owned" by the land is a nice play on words.

             
              6.  We have a sacred responsibility to take care of the land and
              leave it in better condition than we found it, for our children
              and all those to come.
      I agree that I have this responsibility, but it is because I assigned it to myself, not because of anything "sacred." 
             
              7.  We do not have a right to kill other living things (plants
              or animals) unless we need them to survive.  We especially do
              not have a right to kill other things just for our own human
              convenience. To do so is not to respect other living things and
              thus, not to respect Life.

      We unavoidably kill millions of living creatures (mites and other insects, microorganisms, etc.) every day.   There are also insects and other small creatures that most of us will kill without a second thought, even when those deaths can be avoided.   Few of us are willing to go as far as some members of the Jain religion, who go to elaborate lengths to avoid killing insects.   All of us put a hierarchy of value on life.  It is more of a "crime" to kill a wolf or a redwood tree than it is to kill a fly simply because of social convention, and because of a calculus that humans have made that the former are more important to us than the latter.  Perhaps it would be better to say that we should not go out of our way to destroy life, and that, frankly for our own good, we should respect the integrity of ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.
             
              8. If we kill something so that we may live, we have a
              responsibility to use every part of it so that nothing is
              wasted.
             
      I agree with this sentiment, however it is more difficult to practice than it seems.  Many "Leaver" cultures have such an ethos, but others were and are more than willing to kill a creature for one specific use, and leave the rest of the remains behind to rot. 

              9.  Everything in Nature has an intrinsic value, above and
              beyond any value that people may place upon it.  Nature was not
              put here for us to dominate, or simply as a supply of natural
              resources for us to consume.

      I agree.
             
              10.  Separation from Nature leads to not understanding Nature.
              Not understanding Nature leads to not valuing Nature.  Not
              valuing Nature leads to destroying Nature.  Destroying nature
              leads to death.  So, separation from nature leads to death.
             
      It simply is impossible for people to separate themselves from "nature".  New York City is as much a part of nature as a coral reef.   IMHO, the beginning of the slippery slope is when we adopt the illusion that we are separate from nature.
       
      What the Neo-Abo believes about Humanity:
       
              1.  Humans were not meant to live a life removed from Nature and
              cut off from her life-giving forces.  To do so is unnatural.

      See above.
             
              2.  The modern ideals of consumption, consumerism, and the
              accumulation of wealth are antithetical to a natural way of
              life.  They are weaknesses to be overcome.

      As above, the way we live today is just as "natural" as any other way of life.  It is more accurate to say that the modern lifestyle cannot be sustained, and our continued adoption of its practices will be ultimately ruinous to ourselves or our children, and will wreak great havoc on the larger ecosystem.  Eventually, it will be corrected.  Far better to start correcting it now.
             
              3.  The desire for constant comfort is a modern disease that
              “civilization” has inflicted upon the world.
             
      I would wager that comfort is just as important to a "Leaver" as it is to a "Taker."  The desire for constant comfort is not a disease, and there is nothing particularly noble about suffering.  It is possible to be comfortable with far less than what we take for granted in our society.  It is our presumption about what is necessary for comfort that is the problem, not the desire itself.  Hunter-gatherer peoples live a more leisurely, and in some ways, more comfortable existence than our own, at least in times of plenty.

              4.  Awareness is the key to survival.
      No argument there.
             
              5.  In all interactions between Man and Nature, the first
              guiding principle should be Respect.

      Because failure to respect the rest of nature ultimately leads to undermining the basis for our own survival.
             
              6.  In all interactions between men, you should always speak the
              truth. 

      No, you should always strive to do what's in the interests of the greater good, at least as you understand it.     For instance, if a man bent on murder asks you the location of his intended victim, telling the truth is probably not the best response.    Although Immanuel Kant attempted to "prove" that statement number 6 is a categorical imperative, there are sometimes greater goods than honesty.
             
              7.  Man must learn and live within the Laws of Nature, not try
              to ignore them or go against them.

      It is not possible to "break" the laws of Nature.  We can postpone the reckoning for a while, but eventually, nature wins every time.  Better to say that we should strive to understand the laws of nature, so as best to avoid unpleasant, unintended consequences.
             
              8.  Selfishness is born of ignorance and fear and is the root of
              evil.
             
      A nice platitude.
              9.  Modern “Individualism” is a form of selfishness.

      Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that much of today's "individualism" is probably not sustainable because the material base that makes it possible is probably not sustainable.


             
              10.  The True Person always put the needs of his tribe (family,
              community) above his own desires.

      Always?  I am always wary of universal moral dictates.  And what is a "True Person," anyway?   I realize that many primitive societies referred to themselves in such a manner, but we do not live in the same circumstances as they did.  To say that I am a "True Person" implies that someone else is a "False Person."  This is tantamount to saying that the way "we" live is superior to the way "they" live, and is really not that much different from racism, religious bigotry,and all the other pernicious "isms" that have caused so much suffering over the long course of humanity's history.
             
              11.  A person should strive to live every day as though it were
              his last, for it well could be.  You should make each moment
              count.
      No argument here.
             
              12.  Elders should be respected for the knowledge and experience
              they possess.  Obsession with youth is a weakness to be
              overcome.

      Obsession with youth is no worse than obsession with elderhood.  In primitive societies, elders are valuable resources because of their wisdom, gained through years of experience.  In their circumstances, living to old age is prima facie evidence of success.  But it is the wisdom that is valuable, not the old age itself.   In our society, old age doesn't necessarily imply any greater wisdom or knowledge, in and of itself, because in our culture, it is possible to live to a ripe old age without facing any life threatening challenge other than illness.  There are probably as many foolish old people as there are foolish young people.   I'm close to 60, and I think I have enough perspective to honestly make that point!

      Rather, we should respect everyone, and give value to wisdom from whatever source. 

             
              13.  Every person's life is inherently valuable and each has a
              place within the whole.

      Yes.
             
              14.  A person has choice in everything that they do and in every
              view that they form.

      Maybe, maybe not.  The jury is still out on "free will", but that discussion would take us far afield.
             
              15.  To live for oneself is the lowest level of existence, to
              live for your family or community is higher, to live for all of
              humanity higher still, and to live for All That Is is the
              highest state of existence.

      Another platitude.
             
       
      What the Neo-Abo believes about Truth:
              1.  Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to
              death.
      Hate is usually a bad thing.   Ignorance can ultimately lead to hate, but hate has many parents, unfortunately.

             
              2.  Knowledge leads to understanding, understanding leads to
              love, love leads to connectedness, which is the basis for Life.

      Knowledge doesn't necessarily lead to love.
             
              3.  If a Way says that it is the Only Way, or that you should
              try to convert others to the Only Way, then it is wrong.  There
              are many paths that will lead to the same place on the
              mountaintop.

      An interesting observation from an author who attempts to write universal moral truths...
             
              4.  You should respect another person's deeply held beliefs and
              not try to change them to match your own.

      From a practical standpoint, I would agree.   Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."   But I would also assert that not all beliefs are worthy of respect, and a person's sincerity doesn't change that.  Many of the people who carried out the Holocaust were among the most sincere individuals in recent history.
             
              5.  No person has to have someone else to interpret Truth for
              them—they can directly experience it themselves without any
              intermediary.

      This opens up a metaphysical argument that we have neither the time nor space to examine.  This clause assumes that there is some sort of Platonic truth that can be uncovered.  Who decides such things?   How is this truth apprehended?   Many years ago, I spent a great deal of time exploring psychedelic substances.  Those experiences have a deep meaning for me, but with the passage of time, I have come to realize that I assigned the meaning to the experiences, and their ultimate reality is impossible for me to judge.  The only thing that I can say with any certainty is that my senses give me e realistic enough facsimile of the world to allow me to survive, assuming that I am not a prisoner of Descartes' evil demon, or that I'm living in some sort of simulation, a la "The Matrix," both of which seem to be unlikely. 
             
              6.  Other people cannot lead you to Truth, but they can be
              helpful in pointing the way.
      See above.

             
              7.  The true test of a purported truth is whether or not it
              works in the Wilderness, the Temple of Creation, away from the
              distractions of the society of man.

      Or as William James put it, the only way to test a philosophical argument is to see whether it "works."   That is late 19th Century, early 20th Century American pragmatism.  I have studied "primitive" people my entire career.  I don't think many of them would agree with this statement.  Most of those I am familiar with have fairly complex metaphysical ideas...many of which they accept blindly...not too different from ourselves, actually.
             
              8.  Meaning is found within—purpose is found without.


             
       
      What the Neo-Abo believes about Spirit:
              1.  All things have Spirit and thus, everything is sacred.

      No argument with this, although I don't think there is any difference between the sacred and the profane....but this is a personal quirk of mine.
             
              2.  The best place to directly experience Spirit is the
              wilderness, away from the distractions of man and society.

      Ascetics of any and all descriptions have said the same.
             
              3.  No person has to have someone else to interpret Spirit for
              them—they can directly experience it themselves without any
              intermediary.

      See above.
             
              4.  Normal perception can be extended to paranormal perception
              by quieting the mind and practice.

      This may be true.  I also appreciate the Buddhist sages admonitions that one shouldn't take such "paranormal" experiences too seriously. 
             
              5.  Quieting the mind is the key to living and experiencing in
              the moment.  Living and experiencing in the moment is the key to
              experiencing Nature as it really is.  Experiencing Nature as it
              really is is the doorway to Spirit.

      Enough of the world's primal people, and various religious masters have expressed this idea over the yeas that I take it seriously.  Many of the Sengoi people of Malaysia used to believe that with training, one could learn to "see" the world differently when one learned to quiet the chattering of the mind.   However, they also believe(d) that the world in which we spend our everyday lives is just a shadow of the "real" world that can only be visited in dreams. 
             
              6.  Silence is the very Voice of God.

      Or, perhaps, it allows one to actually hear the voice of an inner self. Or, the voice of the world..., etc., etc.,
             
              7.  Death is not the end but merely a change of worlds.  Thus,
              death should not be feared.

      Some of our fear of death is probably hardwired by natural selection.   Since nobody knows whether any aspect of ourselves survives physical death, there's not a whole lot one can say about this.  From a practical standpoint, adapting a less fearful attitude toward death helps one live better here and now, but it's easier said than done.  I find accounts of near death experiences interesting...not because they show us a glimpse of what happens after death, because they may or may not...but because many of the people who have such experiences have such a profound change in the way they look at life thereafter.  
             

    • Scott Carter
      Hi. I m new here - been lurking a while and it s finally time to start getting in on the discussion :-) I just noticed one thing in your comments to the creed
      Message 2 of 7 , Apr 2, 2005
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        Hi.  I’m new here – been lurking a while and it’s finally time to start getting in on the discussion J

        I just noticed one thing in your comments to the creed that jumped out at me:

         

                2.  The Earth can be viewed as one big, living organism.  Even
                so-called “inanimate” objects are to some extent imbued with
                part of this life.

        A radical extension of the so-called "Gaia" hypothesis.  I am sympathetic to the idea, but IMHO, it is not necessary to claim that inanimate objects are "alive" in order to respect their value.   In what sense is a stone alive?  Is my car alive?  And if so, what does this imply?
               
         

        I don’t think its “necessary” either, but allow me to further expound on the implications of the Gaia theory.  I think we all accept (to some degree) that the people, animals; the living things on our planet are all part of the same thing.  The life-energy that makes up all of these things might be thought of as a single, interconnected source, a pool from which we all draw our power, our energy, our prana, whatever word you like to use.

         

        But to further the notion, we step lightly into the world of quantum physics:  All matter is energy.  All energy exists at a certain frequency or wavelength.  The existence of a concentration of matter brings with it an energy field.  We can then look, completely separately at the inanimate objects that make up our planet – the rocks, cars, buildings, asphalt, lava, water, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. – as a single mass of a different type of energy.  This mass has a frequency; it becomes it’s own energy field.

         

        For all intents and purposes, when it comes to physics and its application to the Gaia theory, our planet is a closed system.  Sure, we rotate around the sun and have a satellite that rotates around us; we feel the tug of gravity (a completely theoretical field, immeasurable by any objective means, and generated by masses of inanimate particles) of the other object in our system, and our system is subject to the gravitational (and millions of other physical laws we haven’t the faintest of) laws of other solar systems, and indeed of other galaxies.  However, this influence is so slight and it’s effects so negligible on our “system” that we can think of the system as closed.

         

        So in our closed system, we have our animate life force, our prana, and our inanimate life force.  But although these two energy sources come from different places, do different things, maybe even mean different things, they are intertwined on a level that goes slightly beyond our understanding (sorry.. my understanding).  This intertwined mesh of energy; life energy and inanimate energy – this is what makes up the system.  The prana energy might be more important to us, to the living, breathing denizens of our planet, but neither energy form/force can be extricated from the system – from the energy that makes up the planetary potential as a whole.

         

        But, as you said… what does this imply?  I’m not sure it implies anything at all, other than maybe this:  Anything we do to this planet of a destructive nature – and I mean anything; strip mining, atom splitting, weather seeding – will and does have energy repercussions throughout the system… the system from which we all draw our life and breath.

         

        Hope I didn’t stray too far off topic.

         

        Scott

      • Stephen Figgins
        ... Hi Bill! Scott focussed in on this question (Hi Scott!) I wanted to provide another take. I don t know the author personally, but as a fellow tracker I
        Message 3 of 7 , Apr 3, 2005
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          wclary5424@... wrote:
          > 2. The Earth can be viewed as one big, living organism. Even
          > so-called “inanimate” objects are to some extent imbued with
          > part of this life.
          >
          > *A radical extension of the so-called "Gaia" hypothesis. I am
          > sympathetic to the idea, but IMHO, it is not necessary to claim that
          > inanimate objects are "alive" in order to respect their value. In what
          > sense is a stone alive? Is my car alive? And if so, what does this imply?*

          Hi Bill!

          Scott focussed in on this question (Hi Scott!) I wanted to provide
          another take. I don't know the author personally, but as a fellow
          tracker I believe Haney means this in an animistic sense. I don't see
          him claming this as necessary, he presents it as a part of the
          neo-aboriginal point of view.

          I expect it also comes more from his experience than from any radical
          extension of the Gaia Hypothesis. A stone has a structure, a form
          shaped by time, it has a history and a future, a birth and a death. If
          you know how to listen, the stone will tell you its story, maybe more as
          well. We have much to learn from the stone people.

          In a primitive survival situation we depend upon the stone people. They
          give us tools and building materials, they heat our food, purify our
          water, they give us warmth at night. Without the stone people we could
          not survive most places on the earth.

          So think about the Lakota people, who have the same word for Creator,
          Grandfather and Stone. Tunkashila, grandfather stone, created the
          world. They still pray to the stones. For them, stones live and they
          give their lives to help us live.

          Today we depend upon cars for our survival. Many people name their cars
          and talk to them. "Come'on baby, start for me. You can do it." Some
          would say their cars have a personality as well, happy cars, angry cars,
          sad cars. A car might feel ill, or well. In an animistic sense, if
          you know how to listen, a car can tell you stories as well. Tales of
          older days or tales of great ambitions, tales of sorrow.

          So do they live? To the animist, yes they do. I see Haley here
          attempting to describe the animistic point of view that he sees as a
          crucial part of the neo-aboriginal experience.

          > 3. Everything in Nature has a purpose, a reason for being, a
          > place in the grand scheme of things, even if we do not know it.
          > *Why is it necessary for the Universe or any of its particular parts to
          > have a purpose? And what does that mean, anyway? A star is a ball of
          > gas. If it has a "purpose," that implies that either, a), the star
          > itself is capable of volition, or, b), it was created by someone who
          > gave it a purpose. Either, or both, of those hypotheses may be
          > correct, but they are also beside the point. I do not need to
          > subscribe to this sort of metaphysical thinking in order to understand
          > that tampering with natural systems may not be in the best interests of
          > myself or the ecological web in which I am embedded.*

          Again, I think this comes from Haley's experience as a tracker. yes it
          does imply both volition and creation. When you pick up one thread in
          the great tapestry of life, you find it connects to all the other
          threads. You pull here, and you get everything. Stones, trees,
          squirrels, people. And constantly, the tracker asks what does this
          mean. Why does this occur here. What does it tell me? The tracker
          sees the myriad connections that hold everything together. They see
          relationships between living things. And in the answers to their
          constant questions, they see purpose.

          I also think here of the Iroqouis people who often speak of the original
          instructions, the instructions the creator gave to each being at the
          beginning of time, and Stars too, had their original instructions.
          Elder brother sun was given the task to light our days, to warm the
          earth, to hold this planet in its orbit, to provide us with energy, all
          instructions the sun follows to this very day. In an animistic sense,
          the star does have volition. It could choose not to follow these
          instructions, but it follows them and for that we give thanks.

          This turns their thoughts to their own purpose, and haney too think of
          our purpose when he writes of our responsibility to care for the earth.
          I expect Haney would consider this our original instructions, to care
          for the land, to give thanks.

          I agree we don't need to see things this way in order to respect the
          value of things around us, in order to care. And we don't need to
          subscribe to this sort of metaphysical thinking to know not to tamper
          with things.

          To the tracker these beliefs have a pragmatic application, however.
          When you think in these ways you become a better tracker. You sense
          things you would not otherwise have known. You expand your awareness to
          all the things around you. Every movement, every sign, every track has
          meaning for you to find.

          Because Haney writes from the tracker's point of view, most of what he
          says may seem beside the point, unnecessary. These ideas do have
          pragmatic application for the neo-aboriginal, for trackers.

          Bill, you also had something to say about separation from nature I would
          like to explore:

          > 10. Separation from Nature leads to not understanding Nature.
          > Not understanding Nature leads to not valuing Nature. Not
          > valuing Nature leads to destroying Nature. Destroying nature
          > leads to death. So, separation from nature leads to death.
          >
          > *It simply is impossible for people to separate themselves from
          > "nature". New York City is as much a part of nature as a coral reef.
          > IMHO, the beginning of the slippery slope is when we adopt the illusion
          > that we are separate from nature.*

          While I agree that we cannot separate ourselves from nature, I also see
          something Haney means to get at here. Haney means the elements here,
          and he means the forests, prairies, wetlands, jungles... all those
          spaces not occupied by asphalt and air conditioned buildings. The
          civilized person walls himself off from this other, less controlled
          aspect of nature. When the civilized do walk into the woods, they carry
          civilization on their backs.

          I do understand Quinn's point, and your point about recognizing we
          always have this connection to nature, we create an illusion of
          separateness until a tsunami comes and tears the illusion down. I also
          agree with Haney though, that we put our technology between us and our
          direct experience of the world, and so have no true understanding of it,
          and so we do not value it in anything other than an abstract sense.

          In Quinn terms, we do not place our lives freely into the hands of the gods.

          Again, realize this comes from a tracker/neo-aboriginalist. It comes
          from a person who throws civilization off his back, walks naked into the
          woods and places himself humbly in the arms of mother earth, into the
          hands of the gods. He constantly pushes his limits so nothing comes
          between him and this direct experience of the more than human world.

          -Stephen
          http://www.plainscraft.com
        • education@justice.com
          I think that this is a matter of respect. If one (IMO - and it s easier said than done) can offer genuine thanks to whomever/whatever provided what you are
          Message 4 of 7 , Apr 3, 2005
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            I think that this is a matter of respect. If one (IMO -
            and it's easier said than done) can offer genuine thanks
            to whomever/whatever provided what you are taking, chances
            are what you are doing is OK. If not, something is wrong,
            maybe in your mind, or maybe in your actions.

            peace;
            rm

            On Thu, 31 Mar 2005 12:04:52 -0800 (PST), Jim Linder wrote:

            > Nature7. We do not have a right to kill other living
            > things (plants or animals) unless we need
            > them to survive. We especially do not have a right to
            > kill other things just for our own human
            > convenience. To do so is not to respect other living
            > things and thus, not to respect Life.
            >
            > How hard do I need to work in order not to call something
            > a convenience? If I put in a pipe from
            > the stream to my house, is that a convenience? If I try
            > to protect my garden and animals from
            > predators as opposed to simply planting more when it
            gets destroyed, is that convenience. This
            > word convenience is tricky to me. Seems most anything I
            > do, until I am just about to die, could
            > be seen as a convenience. Anything above bare survival
            > could be called convenience.

            "True form is formless"
            Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching
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            I think that this is a matter of respect. If one (IMO - and it s easier said than done) can offer genuine thanks to whomever/whatever provided what you are
            Message 5 of 7 , Apr 3, 2005
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              I think that this is a matter of respect. If one (IMO -
              and it's easier said than done) can offer genuine thanks
              to whomever/whatever provided what you are taking, chances
              are what you are doing is OK. If not, something is wrong,
              maybe in your mind, or maybe in your actions.

              peace;
              rm

              On Thu, 31 Mar 2005 12:04:52 -0800 (PST), Jim Linder wrote:

              > Nature7. We do not have a right to kill other living
              > things (plants or animals) unless we need
              > them to survive. We especially do not have a right to
              > kill other things just for our own human
              > convenience. To do so is not to respect other living
              > things and thus, not to respect Life.
              >
              > How hard do I need to work in order not to call something
              > a convenience? If I put in a pipe from
              > the stream to my house, is that a convenience? If I try
              > to protect my garden and animals from
              > predators as opposed to simply planting more when it
              gets destroyed, is that convenience. This
              > word convenience is tricky to me. Seems most anything I
              > do, until I am just about to die, could
              > be seen as a convenience. Anything above bare survival
              > could be called convenience.

              "True form is formless"
              Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching
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