Here we have someone who is on top of very profound truth but still groping for a larger, clearer picture.
First of all, I cringe at the use of the term "simplicity" here. The Illusion of Simplicity is ever present. Yet there is nothing "simple" in the Universe. As the author, himself, admits, we don't even understand the building blocks of the Universe: subatomic particles. If we can't explain an electron, how are we to conceive the most complex thing we know of (yet) in the Universe - the human brain - is "simple?" To voluntarily embrace "simplicity," arriving at the intellectual and ethical place of renouncing gross and greedy materialism and rapaciously consumptive indoctrination, actually represents further complexification of the self, a deeper/higher way of being in the world. To develop the self-control to defeat the innate desire, jealousy and egoistic neediness that our culture does its best to inflame, as well as the development of any semblance of care and compassion and nurturing drive beyond the self toward other peoples, species, Mother Earth, or the Universe, are each derived only by complex self-examination, consideration of true virtue, and determined personal growth and actualization. Nothing at all "simple" about that journey. Relatively-speaking "simple" would be living the unexamined life, remaining conformist, conservative, greedy, intellectually and spiritually lazy, and mired in blind faith to whatever belief system they were inculcated with by their particular society. "The happiest man needs the least to be happy!" "Love your neighbor!" Simple enough, right? Wrong. Try living these great maxims. Likewise, to clear the mind through meditation is not simple; it's a difficult and complex technique that the vast majority of people who have ever lived have never come close to achieving, living instead within the constant noise and chatter of their own simplistic mind-games.
So "simplicity" in and of itself is not our goal, our goal is to continue to grow as a species, continue to mature and complexify so we can fully realize all our materialism is not the way to happiness for ourselves or our culture. The word we should use is "balance." Especially in an over-the-top materialist culture, less is best, or at least Buddha's "Middle Way," but embracing that wisdom suggests a self capable of complex thought and self-control.
Another misuse of language is the concept of a "rebirth."
“Like it or not, we are going through a planetary birth process.” No we’re not. No matter what we humans do, the planet is not going to be “reborn.” Our old Mother Earth has her own history. She has seen many things, including mass extinctions, so nothing new there. It’s an utter insult to Mother Earth’s story to claim that somehow she is going to be reborn because of something we puny humans do. Mother Earth doesn’t need saving from us; she will long outlast us, and a new crop of animals and plants will emerge to colonize whatever wreck we leave behind. Now there could be a “species rebirth,” so to speak, if we ever flip our script. Humans could be metaphorically “reborn” into virtue. Perhaps he is only referring to the human layer upon the planet, but that’s bad use of language… “planetary” means the whole planet. And last I checked, humans were but a small percentage of Planet Earth.
The notion of "birth" or "rebirth" for humans doesn't really fly either, because we humans cannot be "reborn" (sorry, religionists); we can only continue our story, our journey, individually and collectively. The metaphor of humanity being like an adolescent or early adult, fully grown in body and strength but certainly not in maturity or wisdom, is far more accurate. As with birth, there are difficulties, challenge and pain involved with leaving childhood and adolescence behind to step in to more responsibility and a more complex reality. Sometimes there are jarring realizations; sometimes we have to leave behind childish but sentimental beliefs and behaviors.This can be very painful, but through the process, hopefully, we learn and grow.
But those objections are pedestrian compared to my consternation at yet another philosophical, spiritual, ethical, moral teacher explaining how dire our predicament because of our rapacious consumption and otherwise non-virtuous culture, and how "sacred" all life is and how it is imperative that we develop a "new relationship" with Earth, the rest of life, and the universe itself... and yet still clinging to participation in surely the most abominable of all human rapacious consumption: animals!
I'm always somewhat dazzled by "vegetarians" who also eat "a little" meat, or fish (which is meat) or dairy and eggs. It's like they have intellectually processed that a plant-based diet is far more natural, healthy and virtuous for them (and the planet), but they just can't quite commit. "I'm mostly vegetarian, but I still like to keep my finger in that totally unhealthy, environmentally devastating, immoral, cruel, violent and utterly selfish and unsustainable tradition I grew up with. I just can't quit the TASTE!" That's what Duane is really saying.
A "flexitarian!" I call utter B.S. there. "I think it’s important to not be dogmatic. I was a strict vegetarian for 10 years. Then I said, I could really use some more protein. So I gave myself permission on occasion to have some, say, chicken or fish." More B.S. Or should I say S.D. (Self Delusion).
First of all, “dogma” is a belief system based NOT on fact or true virtue but on institutional/traditional “truth” and/or blind faith. So adhering strictly to a belief or behavior that is based on actual fact and true virtue is NOT dogmatic. You could call it rational or wise or compassionate or virtuous or good, but not “dogmatic.” Otherwise, “Hey, I like to be honest and non-violent and compassionate… but I don’t want to be ‘dogmatic’ about it… I want to go for that, you know, 'balance'... so I give myself permission to lie to and smack around my girlfriend from time to time”
And whenever someone says they need animal products for protein, I must roll my eyes. That is Myth No. 1 in the pantheon of carnist excuses! Where do these people think that ALL vegetarian animals get their protein, including some of the largest and most powerful animals on Earth: gorillas, rhinos, elephants, cape buffalo? When you eat a cow or a pig or a chicken you are simply removing yourself one-step from the original protein they consumed (and willingly paying the personal health, environmental and moral and spiritual cost for that inefficiency). The idea that humans need animal protein is, in fact, the "dogma" (and ruthlessly defended meme for the billion dollar animal farming industries).
Duane is on the right track but hasn’t thought it out that deeply, or else he’s just not ready to fully walk his talk. How do you seriously worry about global warming, killing off species and fishing out the seas, and continue to support, even occasionally, the rapacious, hyper-violent animal exploitation industries that are the major cause of these problems? What is the No. 2 cause of Global Warming? What is a major cause of water pollution and water resource depletion? Why are the oceans being fished out? Why are species disappearing? Why is there still hunger in the world? Why can't we stem our violent natures? In each of these cases the Big Finger points directly at the immorality and violence we ignorantly participate in three times a day in our most fundamental and personal choices: animal exploitation and abuse and harvesting and killing!
I am getting more and more militant about this particular issue, for I have come to see animal rights as a piercing lens that strips bare the pretentions and contradictions of those who would speak about world peace, non-violence, balance, ecology, environmentalism, sustainability, living "simply," morality, ethics, philosophy, religion and certainly spirituality. "Don't speak of peace and love when you're chewing on the dove."
Thanks, Duane, for spreading these messages of a more beautiful future... now... I ask you point-blank, "Do you really believe in the world you are imagining?" If so, you must renounce that "flexitarian" and even "vegetarian" gross contradiction because there is NO WAY that world comes to be unless we step up into the highest of all complexity... Love for the ALL... and that level of virtue will certainly prohibit the harm of animals for no particularly good reason and in spite of every bad reason.
Pluck the plank out of thine own eye, then come back and tell us more... from a more complex platform of conviction!