Unlike an aquarium, this little world [a sealed glass globe containing shrimp and algae] is a closed ecological system. Light gets in, but nothing else--no food, no water, no nutrients. Everything must be recycled. Just like the Earth. In our larger world, we also--plants and animals and microorganisms--live off each other, breathe and eat each other's wastes, depend on one another. Life on our world, too, is powered by light. Light from the Sun, which passes through the clear air, is harvested by plants and powers them to combine carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and other foodstuffs, which in turn provide the staple diet of the animals.We work hard to survive, and often we work hard for our mutual destruction, too.
- Carl Sagan
Yet somehow we human beings, made of the same material as the stars, the eucalyptus, the jaguar, and the rose, we who inherit four billion years of survival have managed to create a culture in which the power of the mysteries has been denied and power itself has been redefined as power-over, as domination and control....In a warped way, such an achievement is almost grimly inspiring. We are like a friend I had in the sixties who, while wheelchair-bound, paraplegic, and needing constant care, managed to deal drugs successfully until he killed himself with an overdose of heroin. We have overcome every handicap and surmounted every obstacle to self-destruction.
Can you make a difference?
Stuck inside systems much larger than ourselves, it can feel at times that we have no power whatsoever. It isn't always obvious that any of us can make a difference even in our own lives, let alone in the lives of anyone else. But if we have no power, how, then, do we manage to survive or to self-destruct? This, at least, we do by our own power. It is possible to reach a conclusion that we can influence the larger systems, too.
"Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?" someone asks, as though he were asking: "Are you bullish or bearish about the market?" The only answer can be that, if we have as little control over our institutions as an outsider has over the fluctuations of the market, then we are all lost. We mold our institutions and are molded by them. We are the hammer and the anvil.If we reject this power and let the winds carry us, we may feel resignation and acceptance, but we may also feel frustration because we are letting other people's purposes replace our purposes.
- Max Lerner
More and more the individual feels himself frustrated and impotent in the midst of a mechanical world order which has become an irresistible "march of progress" toward ends of its own.What we do today matters because it defines our happiness right now, provides for our happiness in the future, and becomes part of the narrative of the past.
- Alan Watts
You are a historical agent. History is not something that has happened in the past and that is made up of names and dates and places of kings and generals, history is what you make in your home, in your place of work, in the streets, in your community and in the world and your actions--your actions or your inaction is directly affecting the fate of the world that you live in and should be treated with that gravity.
- Eddie Vedder
Carl Sagan. Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. Ballantine Books, 1998. p 66.
Starhawk, Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery. New York: Harper Collins, 1987. p 6.
Max Lerner. It Is Later Than You Think: The Need for a Militant Democracy. New York: The Viking Press, 1939. p 57-8.
Alan Watts, Nature, Man, and Woman (1958). New York: Vintage Books, 1991. p 96.
Eddie Vedder of the band Pearl Jam, in an interview with Ann Powers, "The Power of Music," The Nation, January 13, 2003. Posted online December 23, 2002.