Act: Inspiration

Introduction to Being Alive: A Guide for Human Action

April 6, 2022

Being Alice coverThe problems of the world – war, disease, wealth inequality, injustice and environmental destruction – are presented to us by the media, and as consumers of media we are mere spectators of the troubles.  Yet increasingly people are getting into the action, with many working within the established system to fix its innumerable flaws.  At the same time there is a growing sense that we need wholesale system change defined by a new ideology.  Such transformation is already underway among the people who are choosing to get real by directly facing the facts of our existential crises and concentrating on protecting, cultivating and knowing life.

These folks are rejecting the prevailing worldview that defines nature as separate from humanity and the target of human domination.  Eschewing reductionism and interpretations intended for control, their attention is on life, living beings and their relations, emphasizing awareness of the living unity among things.

But what is this awareness and what guidance does it provide?  The instincts of these people are correct, but our need is nothing less than to save the whole earth, so how can we apply life’s wisdom to act at all the levels that require attention?

What is called for is a life-centered method for tackling issues great and small which, most importantly, will motivate people to take the necessary action.  Presently we have a false and destructive ruling narrative that the majority of people believe, so we need not just a replacement, but a compelling one.

Being Alive: A Guide for Human Action presents a new worldview that validates elements of Eastern and Indigenous wisdom as it follows the Western tradition of philosophy in rationally demonstrating its position.  Advertising and propaganda notwithstanding, people generally still demand evidence, if not proof, of novel insights.  Indeed, rational understanding is a good thing.  My system is founded on self-evident facts of experience from which inferences are drawn using simple reasoning.  It doesn’t dismiss science, but rather offers a parallel and specifically moral outlook for the conduct of life.  Further, although this new explanation of the world is concerned exclusively with nature, it is compatible with spiritual beliefs that share its objective of justice for all of creation.

My examination of common experience reveals an inherent desire for that experience to be good, that is, to be of a good world, which is precisely the ecological civilization.  Also, in contrast to the standard view that we are separated from the world in our experience, I explain how we are in fact immediately aware of our unity with the environment.  Though functionally conjoined with the objects around us, we are nevertheless individual living agents displaying a distinctive human nature and purpose.

The universe is by nature organized into innumerable nested and intersecting living wholes  and parts, so in addition to being individuals, humans are organic parts of certain larger wholes.  These structures include the biosphere, ideally local ecosystems plus social bodies comprising families, communities, humanity as a whole and so many political units.  Being parts of these living wholes imposes additional identities on individual persons.  This fact is commonly understood in terms of roles like those of actors which they can take on and off at will, however the multiple identities established by nature are intrinsic and integrate people into the total functioning of the world.

Parts of organic wholes perform their particular functions while also supporting the whole and every other part, for the well-being of all the parts depends on them each properly serving themselves and each other.  Such functioning is multi-dimensional, as each thing is the indivisible unity of all its functions relative to all of its identities.

Living beings don’t operate in a mechanical manner, but manifest will, that is, desire, to live and perform all their functions to the best of their ability.  As parts of the whole universe, all things by nature seek the well-being of themselves and all the other parts, which means the harmonious functioning of them all.  Among humans this impulse is their supreme desire for the justice of all things.

This book lays out the reality of nature as a living whole composed of so many indivisibly interconnected parts of innumerable nested and intersecting orders.  It rationally articulates into a system the intuitive awareness of the many people now getting real.  As pioneers, they are to be applauded, but the time has come for everyone to give up their false consciousness and get real as well.

Ecological living is typically viewed as an immense sacrifice of human achievement and comfort that nevertheless has now become necessary for our survival.  Examining the self-evident facts of experience, I find that it is precisely the ideal which by nature we not only desire, but actively strive for.  Treating humans as parts of nature, I also explain how our species got off track onto its present planet-destroying trajectory, sinking into a degraded condition with its members failing to act according to their fullest and highest nature which in fact delivers their greatest satisfaction.

Presently people are living in the all-encompassing neoliberal structure in which they function mostly as wage-laborers and consumers in service to the political economy dominated by the global corporate elite that is fast running people and all of life into the ground.  Much greater human actualization and a far better world are possible, and this is what we truly want.

The means to closely approximate the ideal exist now, so all that is needed is the active will to put them into effect.  By offering an explanation with a valid demonstration of what human nature is, I aim to awaken people’s natural desire to live according to it.  We have a very long way to go before we reach our goal, so my book includes some initial steps and the essential principle to follow all along the way.  This is expressed in the ancient words of the Torah: “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” which is the perennial formula for the good life that we must now apply in our actions toward all nonhuman as well as human beings.

I urge people to fulfill their true nature which consists of acting multidimensionally – as an individual human being, a member of their community, a citizen and an indivisible part of the living world – to achieve the just ecological civilization.  This is being alive, which goes far beyond individual or species survival, for as Victor Hugo wrote, “The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.”

Time is running short for us to save humanity, the earth and especially the democratic institutions that are necessary for tackling all the other problems.  My message is urgent, and it is  addressed to everyone, so this book is intended to reach the greatest number of people quickly.  It is written for a general audience, is fairly short and available as a free ebook at BeingAlivegooglebook.


Teaser Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Phila Back

Phila Back is an issue and electoral campaign organizer and independent philosopher.  Issues that she has worked on include land use and preservation, water, air, energy, mining, endangered species, public lands, climate, education, fair trade, healthcare, campaign finance reform and voting rights.  She has participated in an anti-poverty commission, revitalization plan committee and community garden project in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 2015 and 2016 Back published a series of articles on neoliberalism in The Lehigh Valley Vanguard. This work is the product of decades of training, experience and thought about how to get large numbers of people engaged in the democratic process.  She was a candidate for delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention pledged to Bernie Sanders. Back has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Reed College.

Tags: building resilient societies, connection to nature, ecological civilizatiion