Scroll down: [Understanding Sustainability] [Learning Journe] [Making Sense of Spirituality] [Hard Lessons from COVID19] [Why 'Peace Studies' Need to Engage with Compassion
(1) Understanding Sustainability (2012/2015/2020)
"We inherit Mother Earth from the past and the future, from our acts and imaginations. We are neither the centre of the cosmos nor privileged beings. We are an integral part of whatever that exists. We are also part of the journey of life and share this planetary home with all other living beings (and the nonliving world). We all follow natural rhythms and patterns of interconnectedness, interdependence and balance. Since we are endowed with self-consciousness and the ability to immensely and extensively transform the world around us by designing and/or re-designing it, we need to do this meaningfully and mindfully so that we do not disturb the rhythms of balance that flow through it. Our activities, through social and/or technological innovations, guided by socially-engaged spirituality, need to be creatively directed at sustaining balance or actively re-establishing it. We need to be conscious of planetary limits and the impossibility of endless growth. We need to also ensure that we do not disturb or disrupt, but nurture, the futures of generations to come. " (Nadarajah, 2015/2016/2020)
Sustainability is distinguished from sustainable development here. Sustainability is a critical orientation and a way of Being. It is not about the nature of economic development or growth...It is about value creation for a sustainable way of Being within limits. It is about a critique of growth and for now a focus on letting go and de-growth. The distinction is similar to the distinction between spirituality and religion.
(2) Learning Journey
Undertaking a learning journey in an area of study (within a learning ecology) would constitute the use of some of the following guides/tools. (Apologies: Elaboration will come in later.)
- Political Economy
- Values Clarification
- Minimalist Methodology
- Spiritually-engaged Sustainability
- Reading the Signs of the Times
- Frame Analysis
- Critical Mindfulness
(3) Making Sense of Spirituality* (Nadarajah, 2013/2015/2020)
Basis of Religion
Spirituality is, normatively and in practice, the basis of religion, religiosity and religious institutions. It animates religious life. But spirituality is not religion. It is only the mystics of all religion who deeply share and inclusive spirituality.
Inclusivity and Cosmological View
Spirituality offers us an understanding of our place in the 'larger picture', our intimate and dependent connectedness to the larger cosmos, either as forms of matter or energy. It offers us a cosmological point of view, which is essentially an inclusive experience of an interconnected totality, linking Matter, Time and Space horizontally and vertically. To take this awesome path, we need to un-learn, to move away from our usual modes of thinking and being, that focus largely on disaggregating, through violent dissections, of the world around us. We need to also move away from the feeling-and-acting shaped (or trapped) by crude materialistic worldviews and lifestyles that contribute to the 'Good Life in an Unsustainable Consumerist Utopia' (of consumption and more consumption). We need to move away from a world of commodities in all its trappings.
Emphasis on Being Not Having
Spirituality gives us a sense of wonder and awe at Creation and its creative processes, and it evokes humility before its vastness and wisdom. It encourages love and compassion as states for all to live together in dialogue, peace and harmony, now and for the future. It is basis of existential reconciliation.
Spirituality encourages engagement with non-materialism and 'non-materialistic development'. It offers a different experience and understanding of communication, achievement, followership, leadership, accomplishment, learning, education, ownership, involvement, adventure and fun. The inner core of spirituality radiates an awareness of all-round sustainability -- our engagement with all living and non-living things, our personhood, our choices, our social and technology designs, and our place in the universe or 'multi-verses'.
To have a spiritual experience is to mindfully sense our being here and now. We are in one of the nodes in a centreless continuum in space and time. It is a self in deep interconnectedness and interdependence, inclusive coexistence and balance. This is the nature of spiritual engagement with the universe/multi-verses. We live and produce knowledge based on our separateness when in reality we are hardly separate but inter-being connected by the gentle ripples we create in the ocean of space and time.
Humane Society and Economy
Spirituality is a sure orientation to wean us away from the "business-as-usual and business-as-always" approaches to sustainable development i.e. a purely for-profit business approach. It is a way to re-cast the imperialistic profit-motive to one that grows an inclusive and humane society that focusses on well-being and happiness. It also helps us to go beyond the human world. It provides an orientation for value creation beyond the productivist paradigm. Thus, it transforms the economic profit impulse into sustainable value creation, distribution and exchange. Sustainable value creation is not about growth. It is about addressing our inter-connected humanity for inclusive coexistence by drawing upon our individual creative abilities and needs. It is rooted in our inter-being.
Dialogue and Active Spirituality
Spirituality, rooted in inter-being, helps us to move away from monologues to dialogues to 'multi-logues' in the journey to fully bloomed democracy. It opens and grounds inter-faith dialogue. There is an urgent need to come to terms with inter-faith spirituality and trans-faith beingness. It will free us from structures of educational/learning short-sightedness that produce 'products' for the exploitative economic system. Spirituality is not passivity in the face of exploitation. And it is not blindly inclusive in the face of sectarian interests and violence. The articulation of immanence and transcendence, aspects of spirituality, help us break internal and external sectarian boundaries to promote the social practice of critically self-conscious totalising inclusivity.
Compassion, Trust and Friendship
Spirituality forms people who authentically care and reach out. With it and the creative-dynamic socio-cultural spaces supporting it, we have the real opportunity to build a sustainable world by resolving all existential conflicts and focusing on compassion, trust and friendship.
* (1) There is a mistaken notion that any serious discussions on spirituality belong to the new age movement (NAM).
(2) There is also a mistaken notion that any discussion on spirituality must necessarily involve religion. Spirituality and religion are different and spirituality is the basis of religion. In a sense, there can be "secular spirituality" (though it a sort of the clumsy, monstrous combination).
(3) We cannot allow spirituality to be monopolised by religions or religious institutions. It should be articulated by social sciences, humanities, by environmentalist/ecologists or by anybody who is interested in our inter-connected (At a mystical level, when we move beyond semiosis, people of all faith share their spirituality.)
(4) There is a mistaken notion that spirituality is all about 'unconditional inclusivity". While inclusivity is crucial to spirituality, this does not mean there is no role for social critique or criticism of exploitative, unjust and unsustainable realities or deep structural transformation to further the cause of 'authentic', 'un-conditional' inclusivity.
(5) A section of 'traditional' Marxists/academics sadly continue to demonise spirituality for various reasons or because of a misunderstanding of Marx's view on religion. But Marx has given us two rich concepts that are germane for considering spirituality in Marxism -- alienation and communism. In fact, he allows us to flesh out the 'materiality of spirituality'. (See: Here, Here, Here and Here.)
(6) Consider Marx's own elaboration of "communism" in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscript of 1844: "Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social - i.e., human - being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of previous periods of development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be the solution." It reflects a future where all artificial 'man-made' barriers (within human beings, between human beings, between humans and nature and between humans and the cosmos) are all overcome. It is the imagination of a future whole that is critically self-conscious, totalising and a nourishing. It is inter-connectedness across the material, time and space.
(7) Spirituality, religion and sustainability are not reified realities. All are subjected to historical and social analysis. We may not at present have the tools or methodologies to adequately address a reality such as spirituality. The crude privileging of scientific knowledge as the only valid knowledge may also need to be challenged. Disciplinarity is inadequate to address such complexities as spirituality.
(4) Hard Lessons from Covid19. Also see here, the first video (2020)
A vaccination may keep us away from COVID19 infecting us. But it is not going to solve the serious problems mainstream development has caused and is causing us. COVID 19 has shown how broken our world is. We need deeply transform. Will we learn and do the needful?
(5) Why 'Peace and Sustainability Studies' Need to Engage With Compassion (2018/2019)
Compassion is foundational to our social evolution. It is connected to not only neuro-biology bit also our deeply inter-connected coexistence. In its evolution, compassion gives rise to peace and sustainability as existential realities for life to be possible. Compassion is nurturing Other-directedness particularly related those in pain and are suffering or those who may face such a situation in an unsustainable world. These are also the concerns of peace and sustainability.
Peace is about non-violent and caring coexistence of self and the other. In peace, the Self and Other: (i) live in a situation more than just the absence of war and violence, (iii) engage in a commitment to understanding, celebrating and learning from their difference, and (ii) do not just live in the absence of conflict with their ability to manage conflict constructively as an important opportunity for change and increased understanding, (iv) engage in a commitment not to harm, but also to nurture, each other. (Source)
Thus, within 'peace' is hidden the compassionate foundation, the caring Other-directedness of Self. Otherwise, peace has no bearing and is therefore not possible.
Sustainability is when Self and the Other co-design and co-create a caring and comprehensive non-violent world that nurtures generations of Self and the Other, along with all the associated natural and social contextual components required for their natural and social well-being as well as creative flourishing.
More elaborately, Self and the Other inherit Mother (or Sister) Earth from the Past and the Future (as present acts or imagination of futures). They are a part of a journey and share this planetary home with all other living sentient beings and the nonliving world, all of which follow rhythms and patterns of interconnectedness, interdependence and balance. Since Self and Other are both endowed with self-consciousness and the ability to immensely and extensively transform the world around them by designing and/or re-designing it, they do this meaningfully and mindfully so that they do not violently disturb the rhythms of balance that flow through it thus pitting all life in danger (as it is unfolding today when we are faced with an eco-socio emergency). The activities of Self and the Other can be creatively directed at sustaining balance, or re-establishing it so that they promote the futures of generations to come. This is the compassionate foundation of sustainability.
Again, within this relationship is the design of a future that is governed by caring Other-directedness. Compassion makes sustainability complete in that the Other is completely protected and nurtured, not destroyed. Also, it brings peace and development in critical dialogue and co-development.
Concerns/ Areas to Engage
(i) Compassion. (ii) Understanding and Reconciling Peace and Development. (iii) Peace in Peace Times. (iv) Trust, Care and Friendship Circles. (v) Peace and Non-Violence (vi) Peace in the Lifes of Great Teachers (vii) Peace, Faith, Education and the Media (viii) Peace in Times of Acute Strife (ix) Peace, Strife and Reconciliation. (x) Peace in a Time of Eco-Social Emergency. (xi) Practising Compassion, Peace and Sustainability: Difficult and Dangerous Journeys, Inspiring and Humanising Initiatives (xii) Communities, Networks, and the Ecology of Peace.