Constructive news

 

There are at least three ways of reporting news.

Today’s news tends to be drama and problem focused. They report on accidents, wars, and generally things that go wrong. (There is, of course, an evolutionary reason why that’s interesting to many, and why it sells.)

Another option is to focus on light entertainment. Something vaguely interesting, but without much substance or importance. The current media is quite good at this too.

The third option is much more interesting to me. News that focuses on practical and real-life solutions to serious problems. Yes! Magazine is a good example of this type of journalism, and it is occasionally found in mainstream media as well. (Today, perhaps especially renewable energy stories.)

Perhaps future media will balance these three more. We of course need to know what’s happening in the world, even if it’s not (yet) solution oriented. Entertainment sells, so that will probably be there too. And why not include solution-focused news? Why not include stories about real life, practical solutions to local and global challenges?

I once contacted an editor of a major newspaper in Norway, suggesting they have more constructive and solution focused news. He replied saying, in essence, that’s fluff, we are a serious news outlet. If that’s their view, I understand why that type of reporting is often ignored.

But it also seems obviously and patently wrong. It’s easy enough to do news stories on practical solutions to real problems, and do it all with seriousness and substance. Many do sometimes, and some do all the time. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it won’t become the norm at some point in the future.

Looking at it from another angle: The drama and problem focused news tends to play into our evolutionary predisposition to focus on drama and problems. It has aided, and does aid, our survival.

The gossip or entertainment stories also play into an evolutionary tendency to want to know what’s going on, and rest when we can.

The solution focused news may play more into higher brain functions, more related to planning and long term views. That’s perhaps why it’s been more in the background, so far. At the same time, we are living in a world where that’s sorely needed, as is becoming more and more clear to more and more people. Solution focused news offers information about practical solutions, potentially making them help spread. It may also feed a more optimistic outlook among people, creating a sense that – yes – much good is happening in the world, and we do have the solutions we need to the challenges we face today.

John Oliver on the climate change debate

 

John Oliver points out something I am repeatedly puzzled over, especially in the US media. Instead of reporting surveys as “one in four US citizens are wrong about climate change” or “don’t get climate change”, they say “one in four don’t believe in climate change”. And perhaps in the interest of creating drama and debate where there really isn’t one, they make it appear as if there is a debate to be had on that topic. The real debate is what do we do about it, and why are some dragging their feet? In other words, the US media play right into the hands of the corporations who think they have something to gain short term by confusing the debate. Shouldn’t the role of the media be to cut through that nonsense? Of course, the mainstream media is largely owned by the same who think they have something to gain by confusing the topic, so that may be a simple explanation of what’s going on.

Since I was a schoolboy in the ’80s, I have thought this whole debate is nonsense. It doesn’t matter if climate change is happening or if it’s human made (although there isn’t much doubt about either). We still have to shift from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy sources. We still have to dramatically change our economical system and thinking to take ecological realities into account. We still have to create systemic changes so what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and society – is also what’s good for life in the short and long term. We still have to change how we do transportation, waste, food production, and more. We still have to change our worldview and how we see ourselves in relation to the rest of nature and the Earth. There is no debate there. It has to happen. It’s a matter of our own survival. (Independent of the whole climate change topic.)

 

Filling in the gaps

 

The reporting about the missing Malaysian Airlines plane says quite a few things about us and the media. It’s been missing for about 10 days as of this writing, and the news is full of speculations about possible hijacking etc.

We have an evolutionary impulse to know and understand. It helps us survive. And in this case, it takes the form of a great deal of interest and speculation in the media about what happened. We try to fill in the gaps. We are also drawn to drama for the same reason. If something dramatic happens we seek to know as much as possible about it so we can protect ourselves and prevent it from happening again to ourselves or others.

At the same time, we can find peace with not knowing. Through inquiry, I get to see that we already don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain. Any story is provisional and of practical use only. It’s not a “truth” in any absolute sense. As I see this, over and over, and it sinks in, I find peace with not knowing. I will, of course, seek to know what’s important and helpful in a conventional sense. In the case of the missing plane, I see that my impulse to read about it comes from an attraction to drama, and I can explore that one. And I see that the only ones whose business it is to figure out what happened are the ones in charge of finding those answers, and doing what they can to reduce the chance of it happening again.

Another facet here is the media. The news media is a business, and they need and want more readers and viewers, so they naturally go for what’s sensational. They focus on dramatic stories that doesn’t really impact most of their audience, since that (a) draws interest and (b) is not unpleasant enough to turn people away. That’s one reason the media avoids many of the really serious and important topics that actually does or will impact their audience. (Corporate ownership of the media is one of those topics, what our current economical and social system is doing to our life-support system – the Earth – is another.)

Finally, the simplest – and most mundane – explanations are often the correct ones. In this case, why speculate too much on the more exotic possibilities when there are very simple ones that also are reasonably likely. See for instance this article from Wired: A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet.

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Fascination with scary stories

 

Why are we – some of us – fascinated by scary stories?

I find a few different ways of looking at it.

Evolution

In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that we are drawn to explore scary things through stories. It helps us mentally prepare for similar situations in our own life. We get more familiar with the possible situations and how we may react, we get a bit desensitized to these types of situations so we may be more calm if or when something similar happens in our own life, and we get a chance to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it.

Beliefs

When I take a story about something scary as true, my attention tends to be drawn to these beliefs and what they are about. Again, it’s an invitation to mentally explore these situations in a safe setting, and how I may deal with it if something similar should happen in the real world. It’s also an invitation to explore these beliefs in themselves. Are they realistic? What’s more realistic? What’s more true for me? 

An impulse to wholeness as who I am, this human self

What I see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. So far, I have found how each one of my stories of the wider world – including anything scary – equally well applies to me. As long as I think some human quality or characteristic is only out there in the world, or only in me, it’s painful and uncomfortable. When I find it both in the wider world and in me, there is a sense of coming home and it’s much more comfortable. In this sense, being drawn to scary stories in an invitation for me to use it as a mirror, to find in myself what I see out there in the world, and whether the scary story is from “real life” or made up doesn’t matter much.

Finding a characteristic both in the wider world and myself, I can also relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner, so this impulse to find wholeness also makes sense in an evolutionary perspective.

An impulse to clarity as what I am 

There is also an invitation to find clarity here. When I take a story as true, it’s uncomfortable. And finding more clarity on the story, it’s more comfortable. So when I am drawn to what I think of as scary stories, there is an invitation for me to identify and investigate any stressful belief that may come up. Through this, what I am – clarity and love, that which any experience and image happens within and as – notices itself more easily.

I also see that when I take a story as true I tend to get caught up in reactive emotions and one-sided views, and finding more clarity helps me function in a more healthy, kind and informed way in the world.

Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am

It makes evolutionary sense for me to be drawn to scary stories in all of these ways. (a) I become more familiar with the different scenarios of what may happen and how I desensitize to scary situations to some extent, so I can be more calm if or when something similar happens in my own life. I get to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it, in a safe setting and before it happens. (b) I am invited to investigate my beliefs about it and find what’s more realistic and true for me. (c) I am invited to find in myself what I see in the wider world, which helps me relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner. (d) And there is no end to the stories I can investigate, including my most basic assumptions about myself and the world, which helps me function in the world from more clarity, kindness and wisdom. Each of these support my survival and ability to reproduce and raise offspring.

All of these also make psychological sense. It helps me function in the world, and find a sense of wholeness as who I am.

It all makes spiritual sense. It helps this human self – the infinite experiencing itself as finite – survive and function in the world. It’s an invitation for what I am to more easily notice itself.

And all of these perspectives – evolution, psychology and spirituality – converge in one sense, and are the same in another.

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Fascination with the unpleasant

 

A quick look at the entertainment world – books, movies, songs, fairy tales, mythology – tells us that we are fascinated with the unpleasant.

Why is that? I can find several reasons for why I am drawn to it….

The most obvious is that these things (death, pain, cruelty etc.) are part of human life, and this is a way for me to get familiar with it in a safe way. I get to explore it without putting myself at risk. And I get to prepare for it should it happen to me or someone close to me. If or when something like it happens in real life, I am somewhat prepared.

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Shaking up boundaries

 

Imagined boundaries can be placed anywhere, creating the appearance of an inside and outside, and us vs them.

There are many benefits of imagined boundaries. They are practical. They help us communicate with ourselves and others, and navigate and function in the world. If ideas of better and worse are added, they can give a sense of cohesion within the boundary (whether as an individual or group) and it can help us feel better about ourselves.

And there are also some drawbacks. We may get so used to a particular imagined boundary that we take it as real, as something “out there” in the world. We may get so used to it that we don’t recognize it as imagined, and that equally meaningful and useful boundaries can be placed anywhere.

So it is good to shake it up. It is good to place boundaries at meaningful yet unusual places, as a reminder that these are just imagined boundaries and that other boundaries give meaning as well.

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Who speaks for Islam?

 

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Some things are more important than vacations, so here is a quick pointer to a new book: Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. It is based on a large scale Gallup study following 911.

For more information, here is a MPR interview with one of the authors, an article by and a Counterpunch interview with the other author, a summary of the findings, and a brief BBC story.

From the Georgetown University review:

[…] Based on more than 50,000 interviews conducted between 2001 and 2007 with residents of more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations, the poll surveyed more than 90% of the world’s Muslim community, making it the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.

The research suggests that conflict between Muslims and the West is not inevitable and, in fact, is more about policy than principles. “However,” caution Esposito and Mogahed, “until and unless decision makers listen directly to the people and gain an accurate understanding of this conflict, extremists on all sides will continue to gain ground.” […]

Some of the key findings of the research include:

  • Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
  • Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution and they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
  • Muslims around the world say that what they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.
  • When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
  • Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

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Eckhart Tolle at Oprah Book Club

 

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More than 700,000 have signed up for the Tolle/Oprah 10 week course, and it is also the most popular podcast on iTunes. Very impressive in terms of numbers alone, and even more impressive considering that Tolle is a genuine a mystic as any. His namesake had only a handful of listeners, at most.

I watched the first episode, and thought it was well worth it. I found it especially interesting to see how Tolle and Oprah helped bridge the gap between fundamentalism and a more open approach, and also between traditional religion and spirituality.

Sign up at the Oprah Book Club website and watch it there, or download the free podcasts.

Lookin’ good for Jesus

 

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I thought this was cute. Why not look good for Jesus?

Seems that it would be part of any comprehensive and integral approach 😉

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And it is always interesting to explore where I find the genuine truth in this, for myself. Where do I find the genuine truth in looking good for Jesus?

For me, it has to do with inviting guests.

Any content of awareness is a guest, so if we take a visit by Jesus to happen within content of awareness, we can invite it in.

We can do certain (second person) practices, find receptivity of the three centers, and more. We can invite Jesus in as alive presence in its many forms such just alive presence, or its aspect of luminosity, or infinite love, or wisdom, or the fiery heart quality I find when I do Christian practices, or for others, maybe as a vision or a voice, or something else. Or just the good old taste of an open heart at our human level.

And if we take Jesus, or Christ, or the combination, to be a noticing of what we are (that which experiences happens within, to and as), then that is also something that can be invited in. We can prepare the situation, as best as we can. And that guest may come as well, or not.

So by inviting in Jesus as any or all of these guests, we want to look our best. We want to look good for Jesus, inviting him in for a visit.

Of course, Jesus, as anything else, lives his own life, on his own schedule. And that is also part of the game.

Not just you

 

It is difficult to avoid the continuing saga of the McCann case, and from the beginning it brought up a few things for me.

It is obviously terrible for the ones going through it, and especially the parents. It is easy to empathize with them and wish them all the best.

But I also notice something about how they go about the case: they treat it as if it is only about their child, and it is a unique case.

It is true of course. It is about their child, and they are willing to do anything to get her back or at least know what happened to her.

At the same time, presenting it as only about them tends to backfire in a couple of ways.

It creates even more suffering for them, because it tends to make it appear as their situation is unique. It creates a sense of isolation, even in the midst of all the support they have. As they themselves said, they feel that they are the most unhappy people in the world. Nobody is going through something quite as terrible.

It also tends to erode or make more precarious the sympathy they receive from the general public. It is easy to think, well, lots of kids go missing every day. Why is there so much attention on just this case? Why do they get all that money from the public and wealthy folks, while others have to struggle through it on their own means?

An alternative approach, which some others take in similar situations, is to see that it is not just about me.

This is a shared experience. Everyone experience loss in life, including the loss of a loved one. Many experience the loss of a family member without having the resolution of knowing what happened to them. And many also have a child who goes missing, as they do.

They could take this to heart and use the publicity they receive to focus on missing children in general, and even use some of the money they receive to set up or support an existing fund or an organization to help find missing children. It is surely needed.

This would help alleviate their suffering. The loss would be the same, but the added suffering from feeling that they are alone in it would diminish or fall away. They would have a sense of their loss being an universal experience, shared by anyone alive.

And they would receive far more sympathy from the general public, including money if they set or supported an existing fund or organization.

These are two alternative ways of approaching the situation, but it is of course not always a choice.

If we generally have a smaller circle of care, concern and compassion, or take whatever happens to us as intensely personal rather than a flavor of an universal and shared experience, we tend to act as they do. And stress tends to make our circle smaller anyway.

If we have a wider circle of care, and see & feel whatever happens to us as an instance of an universal experience, we would tend to broaden our focus. We can put our effort into finding this child, within the context of it being something many experience. And this could even be more effective in finding this one child because it would tend to generate more interest and active support.

It seems that this also has a cultural component.

In some cultures, there is a tendency to more of an individual focus, as in Britain and many countries in the west. Something happens to me, and it is intensely personal and unique.
In other cultures, including some European ones, there is more of an emphasis on the collective and the shared. If something happens to me, it is within the context of it also happening to many others.

Top US official: I hate all Iranians

 

A delegation of British MPs visited the Pentagon, and got to see for themselves the level of intellectual and emotional maturity that makes the current administration stand out.

The six MPs were taken aback by the hardline approach of the Pentagon and in particular Ms Cagan, one of Mr Bush’s foreign policy advisers.

She made it clear that although the US had no plans to attack Iran, it did not rule out doing so if the Iranians ignored warnings not to develop a nuclear bomb.

It was her tone when they met her on September 11 that shocked them most.

The MPs say that at one point she said: “In any case, I hate all Iranians.”

Although it was an aside, it was not out of keeping with her general demeanour.

“She seemed more keen on saying she didn’t like Iranians than that the US had no plans to attack Iran,” said one MP. “She did say there were no plans for an attack but the tone did not fit the words.”

Another MP said: “I formed the impression that some in America are looking for an excuse to attack Iran. It was very alarming.”

I find it interesting how many talk about the Iraq war as a mistake when it from the beginning was pretty clear why the Bush administration wanted to invade: to gain a solid military foothold in the Middle East outside of Israel. From that perspective, it has been a great success.

It was the perfect target: A dictatorship which gave them an excuse to go in (as long as they ignored the UN and Middle East experts all saying the situation was contained.) And a precarious internal situation – an ethnic and religious powder keg – giving them a reason to bring in more troops and stay for the long term, at least for several decades.

And they are now dying to expand into Iran, if they can. Debra Cagan’s comments may well just be an expression of the general atmosphere of the Bush administration, and at the very least not out of line with it.

In their mind, no cost is too great for a strong foothold in the middle east, and they are not the ones paying for it anyway. Their reputation may be a little tarnished, but they are still respected by their own.

Computer thief moron

 

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This story has gone around the world: some computers were stolen from a Vancouver office, and a few days later the photo above was uploaded to flickr… to the account of the previous owner.

I posted this at flickr, but thought I would include it here as well:

To .eti: this is all a Rorchach test, as you noticed.

Most people jump to the conclusion that he is either the thief or know the computer is stolen. But do we really know? (It is possible, although admittedly unlikely, that he could be a visitor, using the computer innocently.)

And from there, they project all their ideas of what such a person is like, as seen in most of the comments above.

We have a story that he is (a) a thief and (b) not very technologically literate, (c) which is taken as meaning not very intelligent in general, so see him as stupid, a moron, and so on. All of this may be accurate, but the truth is, we don’t know.

What if we instead had the story that he just saved a child from drowning, or rescued a family from a burning house, or gave $10,000 to a good cause? How would we see this picture then? Probably quite differently. Maybe now, he looks caring, reflective, warm, someone you wouldn’t mind getting to know.

Forgotten story

 

Google news lists only one news story on this topic. If there is even a grain of truth to this story, it seems that it warrants far more attention by the media and FBI than it has received so far. Source: Salem News, Oregon.

P.S. If you read this, have a blog, and think this case needs more attention, consider posting about it there.

Slippery Slopes for Financial Mogul Charles Schwab
Tim King Salem-News.com

As the stock market falls and top federal officials resign, an Oregon man steps forward with strong allegations against an American financial giant. Allegations against Charles Schwab include computer hacking, and a suggestion that Schwab is guilty of insider trading.

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Electrons to enlightenment

 

I have enjoyed listening to the very well produced (as always) episodes on spirituality and science from To The Best of Our Knowledge.

As much as I have enjoyed the programs, it also strikes me how the discussions and interviews almost entirely leaves out an developmental approach and understanding of religious views and values in general. This is especially curious considering how many these days reads Ken Wilber’s books, which do an excellent job popularizing much of the research in that area, and also puts it into a larger framework.

Why do so many in mainstream media talk about the relationship between religion and science, and leave out that – crucial – aspect of it? Maybe they are just concerned about offending someone. (It cannot only be explained by journalists not being at a stage that “gets” the stage view, because they can know about it and decide to cover it even if they are not there themselves.)

It also strikes me that the topic is sometimes approached in a way that is both overly complicated and superficial at the same time, even by people who have explored it to some extent.

For instance, one person talking about the Kaballah talks about how God is the energy that animates the world. But if we look here and now, we find that what everything arises out of, within and to is the stainless awakeness, independent of any content, and that any form of energy is part of content itself. Of course, energy here may be used in a poetic way, referring to something that is not content.

And then the other person talking about how the timeless nirvana of Buddhism is incompatible with creations stories in general, as for instance Genesis in Christianity. But again, if we look here now, we find that the timeless Buddha mind is this crystal clear awakeness within which all forms arise, including the unfolding of the world of form, which in turn includes any stories overlaid upon it such as creation stories from religions and science.

By looking here now, we can find them completely compatible. One is about this timeless awakeness all form arises within, from and to, and the other about the world of form itself. Cleanly divided, yet both the play of the awakeness and not two.

Deep Time and EcoLogical Calendars

 

Whenever I get to it, I always find that it is worth listening to To the Best of Our Knowledge on NPR – with their orange/green, sometimes second tier, and always human look at just about any topic under the sun.

Most recently, they have a program on Deep Time, including a story about the ECOlogical Calendar which helps us connect with the natural cycles and the universe. It is beautiful, meaningful, and useful, and exactly what I have been looking for, both for myself and as a culture-change themed gift for others.

I also seen they have a five-part series on science and religion, which I haven’t heard yet but plan to find time for (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Reporters Without Borders Index for 2006

 

Reporters Without Borders have released their review of the state of press freedom around the world. Not surprisingly, the US ranking is falling under the Bush government.

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

[Source]