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Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

July 2, 2024

It’s politico season again. This is more than a little depressing. Two doddering old white guys, neither of whom can string together more than three words that make sense. Is this really the best we can do?

I find I have a very hard time caring. Yes, I know Biden is preferable in every way over Trump, but then I think an infestation of radioactive cockroaches would be preferable over Trump. Being preferable over Trump is not much of a selling point. If that’s all you have to offer… But still, it doesn’t feel like it matters all that much in practical terms. Trump has already happened. His existence has thoroughly poisoned the well. The assholes are running amok and won’t be going away in my lifetime, regardless of who lives in the White House now.

Yet apart from that nasty can of worms, which might have been the trend without Trump’s instigation, what is really different? Is there any lessening of hardship for most people, for the planet? Is anything being done about the myriad crises in which we are marinating? Is there any reckoning or reconciliation? Have we even seen a slowing of the increase in all the waste and harm? What is different?

I would say the only difference is belief. What people think they think… What people think those insane others on the other side of the aisle think. The difference between MAGA and woke is almost exclusively in the mind, with perhaps a side-dressing of labeling. Who of them are actually doing things that benefit this planet’s future? Who has reduced their impact? Who takes care of their own needs? Who cleans up their own damn messes?

In Gods-Speaking, Judith O’Grady talks at length about the difference between orthodoxy — right thinking or right belief — and orthopraxy — right behavior or right practice. She shows quite exhaustively that the real world does not care about right thinking, does not even recognize that there is such a thing. Thinking is immaterial, literally, and what you think has no physical effect on anything, not even yourself. You can devoutly believe that the sun is a blond humanoid drawn by really big horses across the sky. You can devoutly believe that you will live eternally with all your like-minded compatriots — and none of those Others. You can devoutly believe that an orange asshole has no business being POTUS. You can believe anything. Whatever you believe does not matter in the least to reality. Even if everyone you know believes what you believe, it does not become reality. What counts — to the natural world and to our own selves, being inextricably part of that natural world — is what you do. Then, and only then, do the thoughts in your brain become real.

Ideology is irrelevant to life. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian kookiness… None of that matters. If you believe that the biosphere is destabilizing around us, and yet you still own a full three car garage and have flown around the globe for conferences and have no clue where your food was grown or what misery went into your clothing, then you are no different from the deniers that make you sneer in superiority. What you believe does not even color what you do in a more pleasing hue. What you do is all there is.

And frankly, it is almost impossible to have a positive impact on the world and be in any sort of prominent political or leadership position. It is much harder to pass a camel through the eye of a needle and all that… It is hard enough to write this blog in the wee hours around doing what needs to be done for my own life. I can’t imagine having the time and energy to tend to your own needs in a local and low-energy fashion and still be able to jet around the country giving talks and holding important meetings. (Which, let me say… meetings are the opposite of work… they are the universe’s sole exemplar of actual negative work…)

Who gets elected this November does not matter at all to the biosphere. The rest of the planet can’t tell them apart. (Some days, I have a hard time, except for the hairpiece and the spray tan and the foul mouth…) The rest of the planet would very much like for us to elect nobody. For nobody to be seeking that kind of attention and causing that level of destructive resource use. For nobody to be leading and everybody pitching in with real work to tend to their own community’s needs. For belief to fade away and praxis to take precedence in all lives. The world wants us to be better, to do better, to act. The world cares not one whit what we say and think.

I will vote my conscience this fall. I haven’t yet seen what my Green Party is offering this time around, but I suppose that is where my vote will go. But how I vote matters not at all. It is an empty ritual, one I don’t even believe in. I don’t want there to be a president… I want to see people doing what is needed. I want there to be orthopraxy. And that isn’t going to happen anywhere in the realm of politics.

A Morning Meet-up…

If you must be up in the early morning, or even if not but you’d like a pretty thing to start your day, Jupiter and the crescent moon are in conjunction tomorrow morning. On July 3rd, look to the east at around 4:45am. The waning crescent may also exhibit earth-shine, with the entire disc illuminated, though faintly except for the edge. Besides Jupiter, Mars and the Pleiades will also be near the moon, as will the fiery orange Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus. All of these celestial bodies are bright enough to be seen even in city light and thin cloud. So it’s worth setting the alarm a bit early.

Eliza Daley

Eliza Daley is a fiction. She is the part of me that is confident and wise, knowledgable and skilled. She is the voice that wants to be heard in this old woman who more often prefers her solitary and silent hearth. She has all my experience — as mother, musician, geologist and logician; book-seller, business-woman, and home-maker; baker, gardener, and chief bottle-washer; historian, anthropologist, philosopher, and over it all, writer. But she has not lived, is not encumbered with all the mess and emotion, and therefore she has a wonderfully fresh perspective on my life. I rather like knowing her. I do think you will as well.