I’ve Changed My Mind


Human beings, it seems, change our worldviews — what we value and believe to be true — pretty slowly. When I started this blog 12 years ago, my worldview was pretty left-of-centre orthodox, as you can see on the left side of the above sketch.

A dozen years later my worldview has radically shifted, as shown on the right side of this sketch (see the footnote if you want a little more elaboration on these ‘new’ views). Some of the shifts came about from personal research and study, or from reading. Other changes came from some place deeper, an intuitive sense and knowledge that was not intellectual, and which I have come to trust more and more as each new intellectual discovery confirms what I intuitively already ‘knew’. Whether we’re conscious of it or not (and we’re mostly not), we are connected with all life on Earth and constantly ‘learning’ from it. I don’t see that as spiritual; it’s how life on that planet has evolved so successfully and in such a nuanced and balanced way over two billion years, largely without the dubious benefit of large ‘individual’ brains. This planet has a collective intelligence, and it’s a lot smarter than we can ever hope to be.

These radical changes in my worldview have been difficult to internalize and come to grips with. But what’s been even more challenging is how dramatically they have altered my take on just about everything I encounter, think about or do in my life. Everything looks utterly different through this raw new lens. The cognitive dissonance between what I see through this lens and what almost everyone else seems to believe (and the media present as ‘truths’) is staggering.

So I can appreciate that our political, economic, health and education systems are dysfunctional, grossly inequitable and substantially corrupt, but (through my new worldview) given the importance of preparing for a world in which these systems will soon have utterly collapsed, I can’t get excited about attempt to reform the present ones, or even stirred to outrage at their failings. The bridge is falling; what does it matter now who’s to blame and what might have been done to strengthen it?

And through my new worldview, I can’t bear listening to idealists tell us about how This Changes Everything, when I know how complex systems function and how nothing (within the capacity of the human species, anyway) changes everything (or really anything very much, at any scale or for very long or even necessarily for the better). Have we forgotten what happened after the Arab Spring, the fall of the Soviet Union, the “liberation” of Afghanistan and the Obama Campaign of Hope already?

But for those whose current worldviews mirror what mine was in 2003, I can appreciate why they believe, urge and do what they do. And I’m not arguing that my current worldview is ‘better’ than my old one, or than anyone else’s, because, as I say, we’re all on our own lonely path to trying to make sense of the world, and if we come to the conclusion that our worldviews are in sync and we make sense of the world the same way, we’re probably deluding ourselves. We can’t be other than who we are.

And in any case, our worldviews are only placeholders, parts of a flimsy and transient and indefensible model of a reality that will ever remain far beyond our understanding. They are playthings, not of much real use in the world anyway, and we take them far too seriously. If we are lucky, some of us (probably not humans) will vaguely appreciate that there is just one presence, one consciousness, and that all the lovely and sacred and sickly and destructive manifestations of that consciousness are just brief walk-ons in the play of life, of no enduring consequence.

But then, that’s just how I see it through the lens of my current worldview. Ask me again in another 12 years.


Note: Here’s a bit more on the elements of my ‘new’ worldview, in case you’re curious:

1. Our civilization will have completely collapsed by 2100. This collapse is part of the 6th Great Extinction of life on Earth, which began with the extermination of large mammals 12,000 years ago, and it will be accompanied by runaway climate change, the exhaustion of easily and inexpensively accessible natural resources, and the collapse of the unsustainable debt-driven industrial ‘growth’ economy.

2. Most human activity occurs within massive, unfathomably complex, self-perpetuating, change-resistant social and ecological systems. As such, we have very little control over our lives, internally or externally, and can’t hope to predict or significantly influence our future or our society’s trajectory. Complex systems evolve to resist attempts to reform or replace them (their equilibrium has been hard-won), and it is only when they become unsustainable and collapse that space is created for new systems to emerge.

3. We are all doing our best, suffering and trying to heal from the fierce and chronic stresses of Civilization Disease. The enormous stress that civilization culture imposes on us inevitably makes us physically and emotionally ill, but this culture’s cruel messages are that (a) ours is the only way to live and (b) we are responsible for our lot in life. Healing begins when we realize these messages are untrue and that we are all struggling to heal, and in the meantime all trying to do our best, what we sincerely believe is best for those we love and for the world, under trying conditions.

4. Our sense of self, mind, self-control, separateness and time are all tragic illusions. Our brains evolved to help the trillions of cells that comprise ‘us’, to detect features and dangers and hence ensure their collective survival; our sense of a separate, in-control ‘self’, centred in the mind, is an unintended consequence of this evolution of large brains, an accident, that our culture has learned to exploit to keep us all in line so this culture can continue. We’ve hence lost the sense of connection and of being a part of all life on Earth, and this has allowed us to unwittingly destroy the systems that all life depends on. And by our nature we do what’s urgent in the moment, not what is important in the longer term, so we have no capacity to change what we are doing.

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19 Responses to I’ve Changed My Mind

  1. Paul Chefurka says:

    Bravo, Dave.

  2. Don Vande Krol says:

    Seems we’ve been on a parallel path for at least 12 years.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks my friends. Always surprised at which of my posts resonate. Don: heh, don’t worry, that probably won’t last ;-)

  4. Rebecca says:

    It is with a heavy heart that I applaud this post. It’s impossible to spend time diving deeply into the 3 Es without winding up here. There’s a freedom in letting go and facing the hard truth that we’ve really screwed the pooch. It isn’t a comfortable place to be, but I’m much less agitated and panicked than when I was more hopeful.
    Thank you for expressing this. It’ll be easier to point people to your eloquent and concise explanation than try to explain it myself. It gets tiring trying to explain to people why I’ve given up hope.

  5. Sara says:

    Yes, I agree with much of what you say. But when you say “all the lovely and sacred and sickly and destructive manifestations of that consciousness are just brief walk-ons in the play of life, of no enduring consequence” I have to say I agree more with the last sentence in “Ms. Ladybug and Mr. Honeybee”: ” Because in the end, (only) love remains.

  6. Randle says:

    What took you so long?
    But seriously, yeah, I see it too.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Our ‘big brains” have led us down an anthropcentric path leaving irreversible damage to our home planet. The autonomous “I” is a myth.

  8. -Ghung says:

    Sanity and sapience come at a price. Too bad many of history’s greatest thinkers and seers discovered that. Keep your chin up, though; a clear view of things, no matter how surreal they may seem, beats the crap out of the alternative.

  9. Mark says:

    I do not take issue with anything you’ve said in your post. I do think the human species is sufficient adaptable that some element of it may well survive the death of civilization.

    We are too selfish to do anything to save the biodiversity of the planet and it will ultimately be to our detriment that we lose so many incredible and beautiful species. If we allow the establishment of Canfield Oceans, then I would give the human species low odds on ultimate survival. And I would hate to see us triggering a runaway warming that would create another Venus.

    I have heard the advice of the most hard core realists who are climate scientists and they say “focus on what gives you the greatest happiness in the immediate moment because nothing you do will make any difference in what is currently happening on a global level.”

    I chose not to have children, but my brothers did not keep their libidos in check. Consequently I have over 20 nephews and nieces and grand-nephews and grand-nieces. Their futures will most likely be awful, and their descendants’ lives will likely be horrific. I can’t help them. But it doesn’t mean I have to be silent or entirely inactive. It is a case of minimal mitigation. It’s like the child who throws a starfish dying on the baking sand back into the water with thousands more still laying on the beach. When the well-intentioned adults says “why bother saving that one starfish”, the child responds “well, it mattered to that one starfish”.

    If you can ameliorate the suffering of even one person, of even one animal, it is worth it.

  10. Harvey Chess says:

    At 77, I am grateful not be my grandchild, thankfully able to move slightly beyond only reconciling myself to the perspectives you offer that I so admire. This entails gathering with friends and neighbors as old or older on a regular basis to share our beliefs and feelings about dying and, equally important, making the very best of those days that will lead us to that place. I am also gratefully a member of the local version of a large, worldwide support group where we gather regularly to share our experiences of living life in recovery from perniciously mind and mood altering, sickening and spiritually deadening lives. The opportunity this affords for a sense of genuine compassion and love allows me to embrace life in a microcosm. Much more than that frankly horrifies me. Parenthetically, I have just published a book on pursuing resources for people who earnestly and righteously stay at it in nonprofits, and this reinforces in some measure my feeling of gratitude for having walked that path. Thanks for what you offer us.

  11. Mike says:

    Dave Pollard at his best. Thanks Mate.

  12. Russ says:

    About change or no change in ‘world views’, take for example the end of the month mega-climate event in Paris where 40,000 are expected to show up spending as much a $1 Billion to acrimoniously, avariciously argue about how to create a new world order underpinned by trillions of dollars of carbon tax every year. This is COP21, the 21st in a series of such events having taken place over more than two decades, with no demonstrable environmental saving results. Nothing has changed save the unmitigated crisis of CO2 has wrought ever more damage upon this blue planet.

    One other thing that has not changed is the proposition out forth by the late great John Martin in 1989 that restoring the ocean ecosystems, the ocean pastures, to the condition of health and abundance they and we once enjoyed before the onslaught of anthropogenic CO2 would for a tiny fraction of the Paris party cost manage and mitigate billions of tonnes of CO2 every year. The ocean plants, Martin noted ( and he showed his math) might be sustainably restored and revived with a mere ship load of iron rich rock dust. For decades the argument was afoot until in 2012 I performed the world’s largest ocean ecosystem restoration project, and the results? The fish came back.

    While the Parisian partiers carry on for 11 days starting at the end of this month to the tune of a billion dollars in expense money that same sum of money, indeed a fraction of it, could sustain, restore, and replenish ocean pastures in all of this blue planets Seven Seas. In doing so those once again healthy and abundant ocean pastures will annually convert billions of tonnes of CO2 from it’s present ocean killing form into ocean life itself and deliver every year billions of additional fish to feed the world’s hungry. IT JUST WORKS! http://russgeorge.net/2015/11/05/paris-cop21-eat-fish-cake/

  13. liliana says:

    Thanks Dave. I wish great serenity and great love for your life.

    My path and changes are parallel to yours. Over fifteen years … and is still very difficult in heart (emotions, feelings, sense of ethics, love)… so like to the intelligence… (of conscience; physical universe; -maybe the answer about the Whole can not be given to us-; mankind and sense )… Although we have already achieved some wisdom about History or cultures and about psyche of the human-animals.

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  16. sarah says:

    Hi Dave,

    Have you read Mark Boyle’s new book ‘Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi’? I’m really connecting with it and think you might too :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


  17. Dave

    Do you think the #goodcountry approach (under construction) would contribute to try to save what remains to be saved?

    Peter J.

  18. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone, for the comments and suggestions.

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