Not too long after I first came into contact with Paul K. Chappell via Facebook, I posed a question to him, it is one that I have found must be answered for anyone to acknowledge the need for change and to actually act on it.
That question is the subject of this post: Why bother? Why bother suffering the pains of growth and change, either as an individual or as a society?
For instance, say I have a habit of diet that tends to cause me to be overweight. I look around and see that there are many people who are just as overweight as I am, some even more so. At this point, I can still do most of the things I want to do, so I don't see my weight having a significant impact on the quality of my life. Let's say I'm in my mid 40's so I only have another 40 years or so to live anyway and I believe that "When you're dead you're dead", so if I can just hold out for the rest of my life, any suffering that might be caused by my being overweight will be "over" at death. Furthermore, while I am still alive, should I suffer more consciously from recognizing my being overweight as a "problem", I can always and almost immediately distract myself with any number of the activities available to me: drugs, alcohol, television, the Internet, playing video games, partying with my friends, or giving more attention to my spouse or children, listening to music, taking lots of sight-seeing trips, shopping, reading, getting involved in political discussions, etc., etc., etc., and, of course, eating.
And why not? Isn't that exactly what everyone else is doing?
Then again, maybe I don't believe that "When you're dead you're dead", but instead I believe that when I'm dead I will be given a New Body, one that doesn't have "problems" like becoming overweight due to diet, or suffering other chronic diseases, or even terminal diseases due to life-style choices, or due to an environment that has become full of poisons in order to satisfy the needs of "consumers", myself included.
Maybe I also believe that the whole world is coming to an end soon, or at least the human species, either through "apocalypse", or nuclear holocaust, or chaos brought on by economic collapse, and, again, like so many other people in the world, I should simply live like there is "no tomorrow", indulging my body's capacity for experience in whatever way I choose until that fateful day comes.
Now I know there are many people who are not going to like what I am about to say. And they are free to agree or disagree with me and I am okay with that. I have friends from all walks of life, representing many different "points of view" both religious and secular, so I am familiar with all of these - including the points of view or beliefs I have offered above.
My question to everyone is: What if...all of that kind of thinking, the beliefs expressed above are simply wrong?
For instance, there are many people around the world who believe in some form of reincarnation. They also believe that the choices we make in this life-time have an effect on our experiences now as well as in future life-times...maybe many future life-times. Different teachings from different religious traditions give different descriptions of the cause-and-effect relationships between our current actions and future consequences.
I came to the conclusion many years ago that people tend to believe what they Want to believe and that those beliefs serve each person in their efforts to cope with the complexities of human existence. A recent conversation made me consider the belief in "apocalypse" more closely and I came to the following conclusion: There are many people in the world today who simply want this to all be over. One way or another, through nuclear holocaust or the coming of Jesus, or some magical or metaphysical "shift", they just want all the "problems" of human existence to be "solved"... with no more effort of their own.
They are not that different from someone suffering from severe depression, someone who has been fighting the good fight but finally gives into suicide...except...these same people do not want to see just the ending of their own lives, they want to see the ending of all of life (or at least human life) on this planet, (or "most" of it for those who feel they will be the "chosen ones" who survive to rule on Earth or in "heaven").
But again, what if None of the beliefs in "apocalypse" are True, whether they are religious or secular in nature?
What if there is no "escape" from this world as we know it, even through death, or "suicide", whether that is an individual or collective event?
What if we are reincarnating here, life-time after life-time, and the Only Changes we will ever experience, either individually or collectively, will come from Our Choices and Our Actions, and not the actions of some "other" force or forces over which we may feel we have no control?
At the beginning of this interview, American Unity Project, Episode #2, Santa Barbara, Paul Chappell speaks of a point in his own life when he realized he had three options in dealing with his own suffering: 1) Suicide, 2) Madness, or 3) To commit to the harder path of "climbing out of hell, inch by inch".
I feel now that we must all start to think more seriously about "climbing out of hell, inch by inch", both as a personal goal and as a global one. How different might we all act if we new: Death is Not the End of Anything. There is not going to be an "apocalypse" in Any Form, Any Time, in the near or even far distant future? And that even individual death does not bring "escape" from the challenges of this world?
What if every choice in thought, feeling, and action is part of a "pattern patterning", and while we are in these human bodies, we have the option to change that pattern by choosing to think differently, by choosing to feel differently, and by choosing to act differently? What if there is No Real individual or collective end ahead? What if we are all in this world together and we will ALL keep coming back to this world Together? If we do not solve the problems we are facing now, if we do not resolve the conflicts we have with the people in our personal lives or in the world, then they will still be here waiting for us the next time around?
Although many might believe that their beliefs are superior to Reality Itself, if this is actually what is happening here, no amount of "belief" is going to change that. Whether you believe in life in "heaven" or "hell" after death, or whether you believe "when you're dead you're dead", you could very well be wrong, and you could very well be coming back here, to what you Actually Know and what you have Actually Experienced.
So, based on what you Actually know about, and based on what you have Actually experienced, would You want to come back to this world, and the patterning of your own life, physically, relationally, practically, socially..and do this whole "trip" again pretty much the same way you've experienced it in This Lifetime? If that is the "pattern patterning" of your existence, do you really want to do it all over again, exactly the same way?
What if the changes you experience or help to create in your current lifetime are the Only Changes You Will Ever Experience? In other words, it is not in dying that such changes take place, but only through LIVING...And only while you are alive, in a physical human body, do you have the opportunity to Change the Pattern Patterning, both your individual pattern and the collective patterning of the world.
That to me seems like the greatest motivation anyone can have to do whatever they possibly can to change the patterning of their own lives, to change the patterning of their relationships with others, and, to the degree that they are capable, to change the patterning of the World Itself, No Matter What Their Current Circumstance! (In other words, it is Never too Late to Change.)
That's how I answer the question: Why bother? Maybe it's not the only answer, or even the best answer, but... it's working for me. It is keeping me motivated to not lose hope, to persevere against the odds, and to Live My Life not only to enjoy all the pleasures that can be experienced here, but to help preserve this world itself, where we are all connected, and possibly even "locked in", for many, many, more lifetimes to come.
Pedaling for Peace
On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.