January 19, 2018

Why Do We Do Harmful Things?

Never mind GDP - we need a measure for GNC, or Gross National Consciousness

As we approach all kinds of planetary limits, a few questions come to mind. Questions are a big favourite in my home. We have lots and lots of questions. Not so many answers, but we are working on those as well.

Why do good people do things that are harmful to themselves, others and the environment? And why do these behaviours persist even when up against ample evidence as to their harmful effects?

There is a common conception that something is right if everyone is doing it. It is easier to "bind together in the wrong direction, than to be alone in the right one". But right is right, even when no one is doing it, and wrong is wrong even when everyone is doing it.

Which leads to another question (they have a way of piling up).

How do we tell right from wrong? I could talk about educational and religious notions of these concepts. Or about the information gathering technique we know as science. But when it comes right down to it, one can feel in their gut the difference between what is effective and harmonious, and what is ineffective and unbalanced. All modes have something to offer.

However, our brains are involved as well, and our third largest organ must be taken into account as well. Just to show that I do have some answers, I will note that the second largest organ is the liver, and the largest is our skin. Unlike matters of the human brain, those are easy answers.

When it comes to the brain, there are no easy answers. But we do have some answers, and are finding out more all the time. Using what we already know can and should be used to train ourselves to recognize harmful habits, and work toward eliminating them for the good of all.

It is up to each of us personally to strive to eliminate our harmful ways. Taking control of our minds is essential in this pursuit, and there are many methods for doing just that. Spending time observing the mind is just as important as physical exercise.

Such a situation is preferred to having someone else tell us what to do, because insistence is always (initially) met with resistance. That is something I try to keep in mind.

It helps to focus on the things that I do that my body and my mind lead me to feel/think are harmful for me, others, and the planet. Hopefully my pursuit to live the best possible life for me, with the least possible harm, will be adopted by others if it makes sense and feels right.

What else can we do?

One other thing - practice forgiveness. We can practice being gentle with ourselves and others.

We must forgive all shortcomings, so that we can move forward together. Eckhart Tolle explains how this can be done. You forgive yourself and others, he says, "by realizing that nobody can act beyond their level of consciousness.”

So we continue to ask questions, seek answers, forgive, and along the way raise consciousness in ourselves and those around us. Together we nudge the way of things toward peace, harmony and balance.

This is a life-long project, but that is the thing about living the simple life - there is time. I can't think of anything more important or deserving of our attention. Eventually, if we keep on this path, we will all do less harmful things.


  1. Anonymous1/20/2018

    I like the Chinese concept of the Dao or way which flows through the universe. When people act in accordance with the Dao harmony occurs, when people move away from the Dao disharmony arises.
    Ways I found that have helped me include eating plant based, not using drugs which include alcohol and caffeine, using open source software - MX Linux 17 is going strong on my 10 year old PC, buying furniture from charity shops, buying fair trade goods as much as possible and voluntary simplicity.
    When starting let go of craving and attachment consciousness changes, when before human culture was the primary focus after these practices the relationship with nature changes. Awareness that there is a different flow with it's own rhytmn and consciousness where concepts such morals and ethics disappear with only the flow remaining, interestingly to access this connection voluntary simplicity and non attachment are essential which allow other beings and ecosystems to follow their path without hindrance.

    1. Alex,

      The love of money causes much disharmony. I am certain that is not the way.

  2. Here's to a long life of doing less harmful things! Much love, Michael

    1. Michael,

      Do less harm. It is my motto. What if everyone rallied behind this cause? What is the alternative? Do more harm? Who wants to do that? Yup. More questions.

  3. Is the liver really larger than the brain?

    1. J C,

      That is what it looks like. And it is an amazing organ. Or gland.

      Some fun liver facts:

      "The liver is classed as a gland.

      The liver carries out more than 500 roles in the human body.

      It is the only organ that can regenerate.

      The liver is the largest solid organ in the body.

      Alcohol abuse is one of the major causes of liver problems in the industrialized world."


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