Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXII

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

From 2001: A Space Odyssey

AN ALIEN INTELLIGENCE WILL BE ALIEN TO US

I saw someone commenting that he doesn’t like the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey much because he doesn’t understand the alien aspect of the story. For me, that’s one of the brilliant things about the movie. The story is shrouded in mystery.

An alien intelligence will be alien to us. It will be mysterious. We won’t be able to make sense of it based on our own experiences, and our own experiences is all we have. It’s easy to imagine an initial alien encounter that’s a complete mystery and completely baffling to us. And even if we gather more information and think we understand more, we may discover we don’t understand it as well as we thought.

In most sci-fi, the aliens are us in another form. They have human drives and motivations, and they represent sides of us and are mirrors for us. Since that’s the explicit intention of most sci-fi, that’s completely appropriate.

If we want more realistic sci-fi stories, then we have movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Arrival. The alien intelligence here is alien to us. It’s mysterious, baffling, and confusing. It doesn’t quite make sense to us.

This is also one of the problems I have with some of the traditional alien-encounter stories. The aliens are too often just us in another disguise. They are scientists traveling through space to probe and examine us and tell us we need to take better care of Earth. In other stories, and especially the more shamanic or fairy-tale like ones, the encounters are truly mysterious and inexplicable, as I imagine is closer to how it may be in reality.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXI

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

POST-COVID ILLNESS & CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

Mainstream doctors and media seem to acknowledge occasional long term effects of C19 infection, including fatigue, brain fog, post-exertion malaise (PEM), and damage to lungs and other organs.

These core symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, and PEM are the usual symptoms of post-viral syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The physical damage to lungs and other organs seem more specific to C19.

Since CFS is a marginalized and often misunderstood illness, the C19 pandemic has the potential of being a turning point for CFS patients. The patients may be taken more seriously. CFS may be recognized as a mainly physical illness. And there may be more research into what causes CFS, what prevents recovery, and possible treatments.

It all depends on how mainstream doctors and media present it. Will they see the post-C19 problems as a subcategory of post-viral syndrome and CFS? Or will they see the two as separate and attribute the post-C19 challenges to damage to lungs, heart, and so on?

To me, it’s seems most reasonable to put it in the general category of post-viral syndrome and CFS, with some possibly unique problems like damage to organs. That’s also what will help the CFS situation the most.

BREXIT WOULDN’T BE DIFFICULT?

In a Norwegian article about Brexit, one of the experts interviewed said: nobody knew it would be this difficult.

Nobody could have guessed the specifics of what happened, but one of the supporting arguments against Brexit was exactly that it would be immensely difficult.

The EU rules are deeply interwoven with the British rules and regulations at all levels of government. It will take a long time to disentangle it all and redo it as they wish it to be.

Negotiating separate deals with – in theory – just about every single country in the world will be difficult and time consuming and will take years. (And they will be in a much weaker negotiating position than they were as members of the EU.)

And finally, as they have discovered, EU protects its own interests and they are not interested in making leaving EU easy or attractive.

The problems we have seen with Brexit isn’t so much from incompetence or political squabbles. It’s inherent in Brexit itself.

So far, they have mostly dealt just with the third of these points. After that’s done, they’ll still have the first and second to deal with.

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God is a black lesbian woman

 

God is a black lesbian woman.

Why not?

European Christianity depicted God as an older white man. Older white men were typically in the most privileged position. So for a church led by white older men, and where hierarchy and power was more important than supporting the marginalized, it made sense to make God an older white man. It gave legitimacy to the current hierarchy and power structure, and it gave legitimacy to racism, sexism, colonialism, witch-hunts, and systematic abuse of women, non-whites, and children.

In contrast, the Jesus of the New Testament was on the side of the marginalized. So why not depict God as a black lesbian woman? Or whomever is marginalized where we are?

If we see God as all there is, or if we see a spark of the divine in each of us, then God is also literally a black lesbian woman.

Image: Painting by the amazing artist Harmonia Rosales. (Who paints as I had planned to paint before I switched path.)

Vaccine communication & anti-vaxxers

 

In the past 40 years, Danish research has shown that the story of vaccines is not quite as simple as the World Health Organization, national health authorities and others portray it.

– from Vaccines – an unresolved story, Science News DK

Why do we see a backlash against vaccines these days?

I wonder if it’s partly connected with the way governments and doctors have communicated vaccine information. They tend to strongly push it and focus on the very real benefits of vaccines, while ignoring or glossing over the equally real complexity and occasional downsides.

Why would officials and authorities push vaccines in a one-sided way? It may come from thinking they obviously are needed and should be used so they don’t see the need to include the other side of the argument. They may want to avoid muddling the water or give ammunition to anti-vaxxers. Another factor may be lobbying from the powerful pharmaceutical industry since they obviously benefit from mass-scale vaccination projects.

As anyone who has ever been a child or teenager knows, one-sided persuasive communication creates a backlash. We know reality is not that simple. We know they are leaving something out. If we are a bit informed, we know what they leave out. So there will obviously be a backlash.

With a more balanced and grounded communication, it’s likely that the response also would be more balanced and grounded. Yes, vaccines are amazing and often a very good way to go. And yet, there are complexities and possible downsides that need to be addressed. Both are part of the picture.

We are used to accept risk. Cars help us get around but they also kill people. Pesticides may allow for an easier larger yield, but these too kill people. Medicines helps people stay healthy and alive, and they have side-effects and kill people in the wrong dosage. Hospitals help people stay alive, and hospitals also kill people – through mistakes, antibiotic-resistant infections, and so on.

We know about these risks, and most of us accept them.

And so also with vaccines. Yes, they often have some risks. And yet, their benefits often outweigh these risks. Most people are willing to accept the risk of some vaccines, especially if they are informed about these risks and feel the authorities are honest and open about it. In other cases, vaccines may seem less needed or the risks may be too high.

Through a more informed discussion, we could collectively be more discerning about when, how, and for whom any one vaccine is helpful.

This is an example of how conspiracy theories often have some basis in reality, although usually not in a literal sense. Yes, the issue of vaccines is more complex than authorities tend to acknowledge. And no, there is most likely no vast conspiracy behind it apart from the usual pressure and influence from those who benefit from it financially.

Charities show us where society has failed

 

Charities are mirrors. They shouldn’t exist in a healthy and functioning society.

The amount of charitable and non-profit organizations that are established to serve the underserved is a direct reflection on the brokenness of a society. […]

Find out what local and global legitimate charities exist, and we will know where the current system is failing us. There are other ways the system has to change but we can use charities as one index for what to get on the next ballot for change.

– my friend MB on social media

When I first came to the US, I was shocked to see that charities were trying to pick up the pieces of a failed society. They were doing a job, in a fragmented and piecemeal fashion, that wouldn’t be needed in a well functioning society. And they were trying to do a job that, if needed, should be done by us collectively, through governance and government.

And that’s what we see globally as well. Why do we have charities and NGOs working on poverty, clean water, hunger, basic medical care, animal rights, sustainability, and so on? Because we – collectively – through governance, have failed to take care of it.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXX

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

The only white people in the Bible are the ones who executed Jesus.

John Fuglesang

For Christians who hold racist views, there must be some cognitive dissonance. And perhaps especially for white Christians, as John Fuglesang points out in that quote.

One dissonance comes from the content of the teachings of Jesus where he – in words and actions – clearly spoke about love for everyone and actively supported the minorities, outcasts, and oppressed.

The other is that Jesus was obviously a dark skinned Jew, and the only Europeans in the Bible are the ones who executed Jesus, in addition to oppressing the Jews and other people in the area, stealing their resources, and occupying their land.

As usual, the question is how this applies to me. Where in me do I find this type of cognitive dissonance? Where do I generalize to whole groups of people and subtly – or overtly – dehumanize them?

Perhaps I am doing it towards the ones I see as racists and bigots? Perhaps I am overlooking the trauma it may come from? That their views may be a way for them to cope with their own pain? Or that they just adopted views from those around them without questioning these views or having life experiences that helped them question these views?

None of that justifies racism and bigotry. None of it makes the harm from it any less real. But it helps me see them as humans as you and me. It helps me see how we are all in the same boat.

AUGUST 22, 2020

IDEALISTIC VS PRAGMATIC IN US VOTING

One of the oldest polarities in politics is probably pragmatism versus idealism. And this is heightened in an odd way in the US with its two-party system. Instead of voting for the Democratic candidate, some progressives chose to not vote or vote for a third-party candidate.

As some say, this is a way to display ones privilege and disregard for the most vulnerable in society. People who vote this way, in reality, says that they would rather have a Republican president than have to vote for a less-than-ideal Democratic candidate, and they don’t care much for the people who will be impacted by the policies of a Republican president. (With Trump, the deaths and cruelty coming from his presidency is very real – through putting immigrants in cages, separating children from their families, mishandling the pandemic, attempting to do away with social safety nets etc.)

Another way to talk about this is to say that voting is less like a marriage and more like taking the bus. You can vote for someone without loving that person or their policies. As long as you go in a better direction than where you are, or a better direction than the alternative, that’s good enough. That is, in fact, very good.

The main problem here is the weird and less-than-democratic two-party system in the US. In most other democracies, we have the choice among a wide rang of political parties. There is always one or a few that fit our own views and values relatively closely, and these – most often – have a very real possibility of being included in a coalition government.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXIX

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

NORWAY’S REASON FOR NOT RECOMMENDING FACE MASKS

In the beginning of the pandemic, the Norwegian government decided to not recommend face masks to reduce the spread of the virus.

If they had said we don’t have enough high-grade masks for everyone, and they are needed for people in the health profession, that would have made somewhat sense. (Although even lower grade masks lower the viral load, which is important.)

If they had said there isn’t enough research to show their effectiveness, that would also have made sense if it was true, but it wasn’t and isn’t. Masks either protect against infection or reduce the viral load, and that reduction can make the difference between a severe infection or a moderate or mild infection.

Instead, they said they won’t recommend it because people won’t know how to use masks properly. Even on the surface, this seems a deeply idiotic flawed reason.

Let’s see how this looks if we apply that argument to other things in life. For instance, does it mean we shouldn’t take medicines since we can risk taking them wrong? Or that people shouldn’t drive cars because they may not operate them properly? Or that people shouldn’t use electricity since they may stick knitting needles in the electric outlet?

In all other areas of life, we use a simple solution: education. We educate people in how to do certain things. So why not do the same with mask wearing? People have learned all the other things, so why not also something as relatively simple as wearing a face mask?

I suspect the real reason was lack of preparedness and lack of high-grade face masks for health professionals. And instead of admitting their lack of preparedness, they instead gave a flawed reason. In some ways, I secretly admire people who are willing to look stupid in public, but in this case, it also puts people at unnecessary risk, and especially those already vulnerable.

At the very least, they could have recommended face masks for certain groups of people, for instance those at high risk if they should get infected, and those who – for whatever reason – are in contact with a lot of people.

WHAT CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS FEAR

What do liberals fear? And is it different from what conservatives fear?

It seems that traditional conservatives often fear too much change. They want to keep things mostly as they are because its familiar. Change requires adjustment and it comes with unintentional and unforeseen consequences. It’s good to be a bit conservative in this way.

Another thing conservatives often fear is to lose their privelege. They don’t want others to have a bite of the cake life happened to give them.

What do liberals fear? The essence may be a fear that some people and groups are seen as out-groups and their needs are not being taken care of. For this reason, they may fear bigotry, racism, intolerance, poverty, lack of education and universal healthcare, destruction of ecosystems, loss of species, and loss of opportunities for a good life for future generations.

Another difference is that conservatives tend to take care of “their” group and think others should do the same, and liberals tend to wish to take care of everyone – often including nonhumans and future generations.

Of course, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes, conservatives see all of life as their in-group, and liberals can have their own out-groups. And there are different types of conservatives and liberals. But for traditional conservatives and liberals, there may be some general truth to this.

I have my own bias which I am sure colors how I see this, but I also see the value in both general orientations. In their sane and healthy forms, they are both needed and they complement each other.

JULY 31, 2020

ADOPTING THE RELIGION OF THE OPPRESSOR

I know this is a sensitive subject and I am not the right person to talk about it when it comes to other groups, but the general topic is worth addressing.

One of the effects of colonialism – apart from slavery, extraction of resources, oppression and so on – is that the oppressed took on the religion and often general worldview of the oppressor.

We see this clearly in Africa where most now are Christians, and African-Americans in North-America who also have embraced Christianity.

Historically, it makes sense. They initially took on Christianity to survive, and then their descendants took it on because it had become normal to them. And I don’t question the sincerity of their faith today.

Still, perhaps this is something to look at. Although it was a very different situation, my ancestors took on Christianity because it was more or less forced on them, sometimes even violently. So is that a reason for me to take on Christianity?

Why should I, just because it’s part of my culture and my ancestors at some point were converted, often in very questionable circumstances?

When I decided in elementary school to call myself an atheist, this was one of the reasons. Why should I take on the religion in the culture I happened to be born into? It didn’t make sense to me.

It doesn’t make sense to assume that the religion I happened to be born into should happen to be the one right one, or even the one that was the best fit for me, or the one that would make the most sense to me.

I know there are many reasons for people to take on the religion of their community. For us, as social animals, it’s often genuinely more important to fit in and belong than examining and questioning religions more throughly. It’s natural and understandable. And yet, it’s good to be honest about it.

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things XV

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.

THE SUPERIORITY OF HUMANS?

His work is contentious, he says, because it calls into question the superiority of humans.

– from The secret life of plants: how they memorise, communicate, problem solve and socialise in The Guardian

Even since I was a kid, I have found the idea of inherent human superiority a bit (or a lot!) ridiculous.

The idea comes from our culture, and perhaps many cultures around the world. It comes from a power-over orientation and is used to support this power-over orientation. It’s how we tell ourselves it’s OK to imprison non-human beings, use them as slaves, eat them, torture them, and destroy their natural habitat.

The reality is that we are one species of animals among many. We happened to be one that developed symbolic language, technology, and more. And we are able to control and make use of other species for our own apparent benefit so we do, and we have found ways to justify it so we can pretend we feel better about it.

That’s about it. There is nothing inherently superior about humans. We are one of many species. We are a part of the living seamless whole of Earth as everything else. We are the local eyes, ears, feelings, and thoughts of the universe, as many other species are in their own way.

Last but not least, any sense of superiority comes from an idea of superiority. It’s not inherent in life or reality.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXVIII

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

WHY DO I CELEBRATE OUR NATIONAL DAY?

I have lived in Norway and the US, and on the respective national days, a question comes up for me.

What can I find that feels genuinely right to celebrate?

For me, it’s a mix of gratitude for what I have and have experienced in the country. An acknowledgment of the dark sides of the history and current affairs of the country. And the beauty of interdependence.

Why do I feel a need to examine this for myself? Because the usual reasons for celebrating the national day are not sufficient or don’t feel completely right to me. And I know there is something else there. If I look, I can find genuine reasons to celebrate, and that makes the celebration feel much better for me.

JULY 5, 2020

PANEDMIC AND CLIMATE CRISIS: WALKING INTO IT WITH OPEN EYES AND COMPLETELY UNPREPARED

We knew a pandemic would come. And yet, most countries were utterly unprepared for it. For instance, in Norway, the current conservative government had done away with extra ICUs and medical equipment that was needed to deal with a natural or man-made disaster that requires medical attention for a large number of people. Conservatism today means to be “efficient” and not to take care of people and the land.

This is the same with our current climate crisis. We know we are in the middle of it. We have known it for decades. And yet most countries do very little about it. We are walking with open eyes into a far larger disaster than what we are currently seeing.

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things XII

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.

OPINIONS & IDENTITY

Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.

– Bill Bullard

This is expressed in a somewhat judgmental way but it does point to something important.

When I interact with others, what’s my main purpose for the interaction?

Is it to connect? If so, any topic is fine. I can set aside my opinions and focus on topics that help us connect. Perhaps about something shared or not so charged. Even better, I can ask questions about the other and get to know them. For instance, what does he or she love or love to do? What’s meaningful for them? What are they passionate about?

Is it to get to know the other? If so, questions are most helpful, and perhaps especially questions about what they love, find meaningful, is interested in, and so on. (My own opinions are not so relevant.)

Is it to explore a topic? If so, our experiences, orientations, and opinions may serve as a starting point and we can engage in an exploration that moves beyond our starting points. We may find a way to look at it that includes more experiences, orientations, and viewpoints.

Is it to display my identity and get a sense of the identity of the other? If so, then putting out our opinions is useful.

These questions can be very illuminating. After a conversation, we can ask ourselves these type of questions to see where we were coming from. And also where we would like to come from in future conversations. And what may derail us.

What derails us? Do we miss or lose sight of our deeper intention? Do we fall into a familiar pattern? Do we get caught in some insecurity, fear, and wanting to be liked?

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXVII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

THE UPSIDE OF TRUMP

When Trump was elected, there were demonstrations in many cities in the US.

I never saw Trump’s election as “wrong”. How could it be? He was nominated through the usual process. He was elected in the usual way. It’s a democracy. Enough people wanted him as their president to get him elected.

He is a symptom as well as a problem. On one level, he is a symptom of racism, bigotry, people who feel their white privilege is threatened, and so on. On another level, he is a symptom of much deeper systemic problems.

He is a symptom of fear and despair among people who feel powerless because they feel their voice is not heard. He is a symptom of the fear and despair of people who don’t have the basics in life to help them feel more secure and safe, including universal healthcare and good social safety nets. He is a symptom of collective trauma created by a system that prioritizes profit – often for the few – over the well-being of the many. He is a symptom of news media that prioritizes profit and entertainment over social responsibility (most mainstream media). He is a symptom of news media that prioritizes political agenda and polarization over reality and what’s good for the country as a whole (Fox News). He is a symptom of a political system that allows the interest of big money take priority over the interest of the people. He is a symptom of a system where many are kept in ignorance of what’s really going on. He is a symptom of a system where kids don’t learn (enough) media literacy, critical thinking, and how to identify and address the deeper systemic problems. He is a symptom of a system where those in power are not interested in or able to address the deeper systemic problems.

Even more than this, he is a symptom of collective cultural trauma. He is a symptom of a culture that lives from power-over rather than power-with.

The upside of the Trump presidency – for all its horrors and damage – is that it highlights these deeper and more systemic problems. These were there before he was elected and will be there after he was gone.

With a more “normal” president, many can pretend that these deeper problems are not there. But we can’t do that so easily with Trump.

Cornell West recently described the US a failed social experiment. Trump is a symptom of this failed social experiment.

JUNE 6, 2020

POLICE BRUTALITY

In response to the demonstrations in the US these days against systemic racism and police brutality, the police has often responded with more racism and senseless brutality. It only shows how common it is and how certain the police officers are that there will not be consequences.

This Twitter feed has – as of this writing – more than 260 examples of police brutality and violence, mostly against peaceful protesters.

This is not only a serious problem within the police culture in the US. It’s a problem coming from militarization of the police. It’s a problem with the higher-ups in the system allowing this to happen. It’s a problem with politicians allowing it to happen. It’s a problem with voters electing politicians allowing it to happen. It’s a problem with the media allowing it to happen. It’s a problem that comes from centuries of racism and structural racism. It’s a problem that comes from a country built on colonization, theft, genocide, and slavery. It’s a problem that comes from a country that continues what it was built on and never really acknowledged it or deal with it.

Most of all, it’s a problem that comes from collective trauma. Abuse leads to abuse. Abused people abuse. Hurt people hurt.

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The banality of evil and our ecological crisis

 

As Hannah Arendt pointed out, in Nazi Germany, most of the atrocities were committed by good family men who followed orders. They just did what was expected of them. And they didn’t take responsibility to change or pull out of the situation.

The same is the case today in our era of ecological destruction. Most of the destruction is done by people just doing what’s expected of them – and that includes me and probably you.

In Nazi Germany, they lived within a Nazi system requiring them to imprison, torture, or kill large numbers of people.

In our society today, we live within a social and economic system that doesn’t take ecological realities into account. A normal life within this system “requires” us to live in a way that’s ecologically destructive.

The banality of evil doesn’t just apply to Nazi Germany. It applies to us today.

So what can we do about it?

To me, it’s important to realize that this is a problem with the system we live within. It’s not only or mainly about “evil” corporations or politicians or any other specific people. Our social and economic system was created in the 1700s and 1800s, at a time where natural resources and the ability of nature of absorb the waste of civilization seemed unlimited. This system doesn’t take ecological realities into account because it didn’t have to.

When we live within this system today, with a much higher population and more effective technologies, it’s predictable that it will have harmful ecological consequences – to the extent that our civilization is at risk.

This is about all of us. We all live within this system whether we like it or not. (Apart from a very few who have radically departed from it by choice or for other reasons.)

So it’s up to all of us to educate ourselves about the real problem – our current system and what the alternatives are, speak up about it, support the alternatives, and vote at elections and with our money to nudge changes in the right direction.

We need to create a new system where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and businesses – is what’s sound ecologically and takes future generations into account. And that’s very possible if we – collectively – decide to do it.

And it starts with you and me. Even small steps in this direction matter a lot.

Beyond ecology and 1800s structures: Power-over mindset

I intentionally focused on the ecological crisis and economic structures from the last two or three hundred years in what I wrote above, just to keep it simple. But that’s a bit misleading since the cultural roots of the ecological crisis goes back much further and those roots are connected to other social issues.

The ecological crisis does come from recent(ish) economic and social structures.

But it also comes from a power-over mindset that came with agriculture and has been prominent in the European and other civilizations. And this power-over mindset not only has harmed nature but women, children, animals, those who fall outside of the mainstream, and really all of us.

When we operate from a power-over mindset, we harm a lot of people, animals, and nature around us. And we also harm ourselves. We apply the same power-over mindset to ourselves – to our body, to parts of ourselves, and to ourselves as a whole. We all suffer from it.

This is part of the banality of evil. It’s the banality of evil we all live from and suffer from when we operate from a power-over mindset. And just about all of us in western culture, and in many other agrarian cultures around the world, live with and partially from this power-over mindset.

Stephen Porges: If you want to improve the world

 

If you want to improve the world, start by making people feel safer.

– Stephen Porges

What happens when we feel unsafe? We go into survival mode and tend to think mostly about ourselves or a small circle of family and friends. It may fuel us vs. them thinking, blame, radicalism, and even violence.

What happens when people feel safer? In general, we relax, can function better, and have a larger circle of concern. It tends to encourage we-thinking and a bigger picture view.

What are some things that will help people feel safer?

What can we do at a social level? A good start may be universal healthcare. Good social safety nets. Trauma informed teachers, doctors, and parents. Reduced economic inequality. Reduced poverty.

And what can we do as individuals, for ourselves? A good start is to explore how to be a safe place for the parts of us that don’t feel safe. Give love to the parts of us that feel unloved or unlovable. Listen to the parts that has not been listened to. Be there for the parts we have run away from.

Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things IV

 

This is a post in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.

HEART PRACTICES

If I was going to recommend one practice, what would it be? Inquiry? Meditation? Body-oriented practices?

It depends on the person and their situation and what they are looking for.

But, in general, I would say heart-centered practices.

Heart prayer. Ho’oponopno. Tonglen. Christ meditation. Or something similar.

Practices that helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves, others, the world, and existence in general.

To the extent we allow these practices to work on us, they can be deeply healing and transformative. They also support awakening, and they support living from – and as – this awakening.

CHRIST MEDITATION

I have gone back to heart prayer (Jesus Prayer) and Christ meditation over the last few days.

The heart or Jesus prayer is simple and from the Eastern church. Say in your mind a simple prayer, for instance: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Synchronize it with the breath so the first half is on the in breath and the second half on the out breath. And then synchronize it with your heart beats. (Lord Jesus Christ _ Have Mercy Upon Me.) Keep saying the prayer through the day.

It may be easiest to start with the words, then add the breath, and finally the heart beats. After a while, it becomes second nature. And after a while, it’s as if the prayer is saying itself. There may even be a sense of it continuing during sleep.

Give yourself over to the prayer. Allow it to work on you. Notice and allow.

A good informal introduction to this prayer is The Way of a Pilgrim. Some of the descriptions of the effects of the prayer may seem fanciful but most (all? I don’t remember anymore) are accurate from my own experience.

The Christ meditation is also from the Eastern church. Visualize Christ in whatever form works for you (for me, as light and consciousness) in your heart, in front and behind you, and over and below you. Perhaps 1.5 meters outside the body. Rest with this. Allow it to work on you.

And if Christ doesn’t resonate with you, use any expression of the divine that works for you. This practice is also found in other traditions, for instance in Tibetan Buddhism where you use your Guru or an aspect of Buddha Mind.

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things III

 

This is a post in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.

Allowing things to be

Colonel Brighton: Look, sir, we can’t just do nothing.
General Allenby: Why not? It’s usually best.

– from Lawrence of Arabia, 1962

I love that brief dialog from Lawrence of Arabia. It shows experience, trust, and an effective way of dealing with some situations.

In the particular situation in the movie, the Arab tribes had taken over Damascus without the skills and experience to actually run it. Allenby knew that if left to themselves, they would realize they needed help and that running Damascus was not what they really wanted. He allowed them to arrive at that conclusion for themselves. The alternative, which Brighton proposed, was military intervention which would only have galvanized the Arabs against the British. (I will refrain from commenting on colonialism and colonialist attitudes in history and the movie…!)

Sometimes, we obviously need to take action and get involved. We find ourselves in a situation that – if left to itself – will lead to undesirable consequences and nobody else may be in a better position to take charge, or our participation is required in another way.

But often enough, the situation will run its course without any problems. Our intervention is not needed. We can sit back, watch it unfold, and see it arrive at a conclusion that is desirable or at least not terribly undesirable. And if it should take a surprising turn and our intervention is needed, we can always get involved.

If I remember correctly, Jung would sometimes “accidentally” set fire to a piece of paper in his ashtray to see how his patient would react. Did they sit back and let the small fire run its course – knowing it would burn out without any risks? Or would they freak out and try to control the situation even if it was not necessary?

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How to live in an insane world?

 

If we hadn’t noticed earlier, in some point in the awakening process we realize that we are living in an insane world. Not the natural world, which is beautiful although in many ways merciless, but the human world.

A world where what we are doesn’t notice itself and take itself to be a separate human being. A world where people actually believe their thoughts. A world where people create a great deal of suffering for themselves and others only because they happen to believe crazy thoughts.

So what do we do? How do we live within this insane world?

For me, the answer is the usual one. Go further. Look more closely. Use it as a mirror for yourself.

Examine your thoughts about this insane world. Identify your beliefs about it. See what’s more true for you.

Identify emotional issues triggered by this. Invite in healing for these.

Reorient. See how it is to find love for what is triggered in you around this. See how it is to find love for these people and the suffering they create for themselves.

Learn more about the mechanisms behind this suffering and learn more about trauma and trauma behavior by exploring it in yourself.

Instead of feeling like a victim (which comes from a belief and emotional issues), why not do what you would like to see more of in the world? Why not do something, even if it’s small and local, to support life?

When we see insanity in the world, we see our own insanity. It’s an invitation to go further in our own healing and awakening and bring a little more into the world of what we would like to see in it.

Note: I intentionally wrote the two first paragraphs from the view of someone seeing the world as insane. It’s not so difficult for me since I went through that experience during the first few years after the awakening, and still connect with it now and then.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXVI

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

Gritty wholesomeness

I was very skeptical when I first started watching Outlander but I have come to love it. I love it mainly for its gritty wholesomeness.

It shows flawed yet fundamentally caring and healthy people dealing with a series of raw and gritty challenges. And there is something wholesome in the best way in that. It reminds us of those sides of ourselves.

In that sense, it’s a bit like The Little House on the Prairie for grown-ups, and especially season four and five since they are set in North America.

I also like that it shows modern people in a time that was far more tribal and eye-for-eye, and how they adapt and learn to survive in that situation. They needed to find their warrior as we all sometimes do.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

Who is it for?

I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a 2018 documentary about Mr. Rogers. A few times during the interviews, the question came up of whether his TV show had an impact on society as a whole and if it was worth it. He even seemed to have that question when he was asked to say something after 911.

To me, that’s the wrong question. For me, the question is: Does it have an impact on one person? And perhaps several people? That, in itself, makes it worth it. And that’s how society as a whole change, even if it’s just a little. Changed individuals changes society. And, who knows, his show may have impacted several of the people who later came – or will come – in the position to make larger changes.

That’s how I see this website as well. I write mostly for my own sake and that’s enough. And if just one person gets something out of something here, that’s icing on the cake. That too, in itself, would make it worth it.

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Conspiracy theory literacy

 

I thought I would write a few words about conspiracy theories.

What’s my personal relationship with conspiracy theories?

In general, I don’t have much time for them. But I am interested in the psychology behind conspiracy theories.

How do I see the bigger picture around conspiracy theories?

Historically, actually conspiracies have been uncovered by investigative reporters or government officials. Not by smallish online communities.

What we know is going on in the world is far more serious than the topic of most or all conspiracy theories. We know we are in the middle of an ecological crisis. We know huge portions of humanity lives in poverty while others have more than they need. We know large corporations influence policies to benefit themselves at the cost of nearly everyone else. We know we live within an economic system that doesn’t take ecological realities into account. All of this deserve our attention far more than most or all conspiracy theories.

How do I see them reflecting us?

I wonder if not conspiracy theories serve emotional needs.

For instance….

Does it feel better to think I know something others don’t? That I am a part of a small select group that knows?

Does it feel better to blame someone?

Does it feel better to think that a small group of people have done something instead of social and economic structures? (For instance, economic inequality, poverty, lack of political power.)

Does it feel better to think a few humans have done something instead of the randomness of nature? (For instance, the C19 virus.)

Does it feel better to think we know instead of not knowing? (Even if we cannot know anything for certain.)

Do the scary conspiracy stories feed into a familiar identity or set of beliefs? For instance, that I am a victim? Powerless? Abused? That those in authority always abuse their power. That important things happen that I don’t know about?

And I wonder if conspiracy theories mirror something in us that deserve attention.

For instance….

What are my stressful beliefs connected with conspiracy theories, or a particular theory? Whether I believe it, fear it, or am frustrated that people seem to believe it. What do I find when I investigate these thoughts? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

What does it say about me? That I am a victim? Powerless? Abused by those in power? Smarter than those who go into conspiracy theories? What do I find when I explore how my mind creates these identities? What do I find when I explore fears around this? What do I find when I explore compulsions in relation to this? (Living Inquiries.)

How can we relate to conspiracy theories in a way that makes more sense?

Media literacy is crucial here, along with awareness of cognitive biases and emotional reasoning.

Also, as mentioned above, if conspiracy theories trigger something in us – whether we get caught in them or react to them as nonsense – it’s good to take a look at what they trigger.

What’s the even bigger picture?

The even bigger picture is that all of this is the play of life, the universe, or the divine. It’s all part of life, the universe, or the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself – also as conspiracy theories and how we relate to them.

Reminding ourselves of this can help us shift out of us vs them thinking and into all of us thinking. It can give us a slightly different context that can make all the difference – whether we chose to pursue conspiracy theories or not and whatever we think about them.

See below….

For my initial and more detailed drafts of this article. I chose to make this version simpler where the essence isn’t buried in details.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXIV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

Wholesome

I watched A beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and although I initially was skeptical I loved it. I like wholesome approaches to life. For me, that means addressing serious problems in a way that’s kind, informed, pragmatic, and with heart. And although I grew up in Norway and wasn’t exposed to Mr. Rogers as a kid, I get the impression that he had just that approach to life.

I like that he emphasized how we relate to our emotions. That’s key to a good life. Do we relate to our own emotions with intention and kindness? If so, we are much more likely to have some peace and contentment and good relationships with ourselves, others, and the world.

This is also a reminder that much of what’s most important in life is very simple. It’s simple to understand. And takes a lifetime to explore and learn to live from.

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Dream: China as the post-pandemic superpower

 

I dream that in the post-pandemic world, China emerges as the undisputed world power. The strength of Europe and the US has crumbled because of lack of inner cohesion.

This is what many have predicted for a long time already. China is the next superpower. US have overextended itself and its time as an empire is over, and this is hastened by inner polarization – encouraged by Fox News, Trump, and so on. And lack of inner cohesion is also weakening Europe, exemplified and hastened by Brexit.

And yet, the dream had a different quality. It felt like a certainty. It felt like the few real premonition dreams I have had. And the dream also didn’t include me as regular dreams do.

It felt pretty terrible. Not because Europe and the US had lost their power and influence. But because of the authoritarian and undemocratic regime of China. In the dream, they used their power to influence the policies of other countries – away from an open and democratic process – for their own benefit.

Of course, any dream reflect what’s going on in us. And anything we see in the world mirror ourselves. How are parts of me like China? In general, any time I react to fear, my inner world becomes authoritarian. It wants to control and suppress dissent (the fear and what it has to say). And when I soften into the fear, bring presence into it, and hear what it has to say, there is more of a democracy. The night before this dream, I had gone into reacting to fear instead of meeting it.

Day seeds: Reading articles about how China is helping other countries with the pandemic, and how this sows seeds of discontent. For instance, in Italy where they don’t feel helped by EU (which is not true) and that the help is coming from other places. A more cynical view says this is a deliberate policy by China – and Russia – in order to continue to weaken Europe and the US and strengthen their own position.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXIII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Climate crisis renaissance

Are we in for a new renaissance? A climate crisis response renaissance? I wouldn’t be surprised, and we are already seeing the beginnings of it.

We already have the solutions. What we need is the collective will. And, as the current pandemic shows us, we have the ability to collectively turn around quickly when it’s (collectively) clear that we have to.

The only question is when it will happen and how much ecological destruction has to happen before we reach that point.

Note: It’s obviously a much wider ecological crisis and the climate crisis is just one part of it. But it seems to be the one that gets people’s attention.

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Notes on a pandemic

 

NOTE: What we collectively think we know about the pandemic is changing all the time, and I am not a doctor or epidemiologist (although I did study it while in university). So what I have written about here is likely outdated when you read it and it’s not expert advice. They are just some reflections from my side.

The initial notes are on the top and the newer ones at the bottom. I chose to keep all to show changing views over time as the pandemic progressed.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Why I love science fiction

I have loved science fiction since I was little, reading Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and others.

Why do I love it? Probably for the same reason as others love it.

It gives us an opportunity to think about different possibilities for the future. It highlights what can happen if we take different paths. It gives us visions for what’s possible – both of what we want and what we don’t want.

It mirrors back to us our own society, mindset, and worldview. It can show us ourselves by reversing roles – for instance by having humans treated as we treat other species. It’s a great setting for exploring different ethical dilemmas. And by setting the story in the future and/or another place in the universe, it creates a slight distance that makes this mirror more palpable to us than if it’s more direct, literal, and heavy handed

Science fiction may seem like an escape, and it often does have that element. And at the same time, it can be deadly serious – in showing us possibilities for the future, and showing us ourselves as we are now.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XX

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

A more formalized type of mirror. I am not much into astrology or tarot, although I recognize that it can be helpful. At their best, they combine archetypes, projections, and synchronicities in a powerful and potentially life-transforming way.

Both have systemized some basic archetypes and some of their dynamics. And since archetypes are universal, they will resonate with whomever is receptive to it.

Both can serve as very good projection objects. We see ourselves in the astrology charts or a tarot card or layout because we put ourselves into it.

Synchronicities can play a role in both. Something going on in our life – and especially in our mind – can be reflected in astrology and tarot.

In all of these ways, astrology and tarot can serve as a mirror for us. They can help us see and get to know aspects of ourselves.

It seems less useful if we have a simplistic and heavy-handed approach to astrology, tarot, or anything else. For instance, if we think they tell us something that’s going to happen. That can create stress, and even self-fulfilling prophecies (or the reverse).

And it seems more useful if we hold it all lightly. If we consciously use them as mirrors for ourselves. And if we are conscious of the archetypes, projections, and synchronicities.

Of course, the whole world is a mirror for ourselves. We don’t need astrology, tarot, or something similar to see and get to know aspects of ourselves. We just need to recognize that the whole world – and especially what in the world and our life currently draws our attention – is a mirror for what’s here now.

Astrology, tarot, and similar things are more formalized, structured, and explicit mirrors for ourselves. Life is the mirror we live with all the time, and we may need a somewhat structured approach to make use of it. For instance, some form of inquiry.

Unedited photos from Bryant Park, New York.

Editing photos. When I take, select, and edit my own photos, I need one or more pointers for myself to guide me. Here are some of the pointers I tend to use:

Something I would like to look at over time, and again and again.
Something that gives me pleasure.
Something that is interesting.
Something where I can keep discovering new things. 
Something that conveys a certain mood.
Something that conveys a certain way of perceiving the world.

Something that feels right at a deep level.

Of course, not every photo need to satisfy each of these. And a photo can be interesting for other reasons. But these are useful pointers for me, at least for now.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XIX

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Trump as the shadow. Trump represents shadow material for many people in the US and the rest of the world. He is one of the few leaders who happily and wholeheartedly seem to embrace qualities most of us see as undesirable. Qualities many of us try to avoid acting on (which is healthy), and perhaps exclude from how we see ourselves (less healthy).

That’s one of the golden opportunities with the Trump presidency. We can’t avoid seeing despicable behaviors from him. And that’s an invitation to find the same in ourselves. What do I see in him? (Make a list.) When and how do those descriptions fit my behavior? (Use specific examples.) Take it in. Allow it to change how I see myself.

The test for how much shadow material I have worked through – recognized in myself and included in how I see myself – is how I react when I see Trump. Do I react with reactivity, contempt, disgust, and so on? Do I see a human being like myself? (Although I don’t agree with his words and actions. If I see him with more empathy and perhaps as a confused and wounded human being, can I find that too in myself?

One of the best ways I have found to work with projections and shadow material is The Work of Byron Katie. The Living Inquiries is also good.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XVIII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Greed? I keep seeing people talking about “greed” as the cause of the problems today. (I even heard it from a professor in biology with interest in sustainability!) I have never quite understood it because people act according to the system they are in, and our current system rewards behavior that’s unintentionally harmful for the Earth, humanity, and future generations.

Why does it reward that type of clearly harmful behavior? Not because the people who created it were “bad” people but because they lived in a world where they didn’t have to take ecological realities into account. They lived in a world with relatively few people and relatively simple technology, so limits – to natural resources and nature’s capacity to deal with vaste – was not an issue apart from in some cases and very locally.

What’s the solution? To create a system – in all areas of society and culture – that takes ecological realities into account. A system where what’s easy and attractive is also what benefits society, Earth, and future generations. It’s fully possible to create this type of system. It won’t be perfect, but it’s something we can work on and refine as our situation changes and as we better understand how to live with Earth with our populations numbers and more powerful technology.

How do we get there? Perhaps through a small group of people realizing what needs to change and how (already happening), implementing examples (as many do), and then larger numbers of people supporting implementing it at a larger scale. There will be a backlash from those immeshed in our current system, as we see today with Trump and others. And it may well be that it will get worse before it gets better. Many may need the crisis close enough to home before they support the change needed.

The US obsession with the individual. I just watched the new Terminator movie and enjoyed it a lot. It had a good story and I loved the characters and the self-referencing humor (mostly from Schwarzenegger).

There was one thing that slightly brought me out of the Terminator-world. Why is a single person so important for the resistance? Typically, when the leader of a resistance is removed other come in and takes their place. I understand that some are more skilled and/or charismatic than others, but it seems that there is always someone who steps in and fills the gap.

It’s part of the slightly weird US obsession with the individual. We see it in the superhero stories (although it’s more common for them to team up now which is a nice change). And more disturbingly, we see it in the idea that anyone can succeed in the US if they only work hard enough. Anyone can escape poverty if they only want and work for it. That’s obviously not true. The system tends to keep those born into wealth wealthy (just look at Trump) and those born into poverty poor. This “upward mobility” idea tends to keep people from looking at the system, wanting to change the system, and actively working for changing the system.

Also, why can’t the machines send a lot of terminators back to make sure the job is done? I guess there is an answer within the Terminator-world I don’t remember or was never aware of.

December 3, 2019

Power-over vs. power-with. In a conversation, someone said that many or most of the problems in the world today comes from patriarchy. I partly agree but for me it’s much broader. Many or most of the problems come from power-over rather than power with. Power over nature. Power over women. Power over non-whites. Power over the poor. Power over animals. Power over our own body. And so on. It’s all part of the same mindset and orientation towards ourselves and the world. And it doesn’t work anymore. The problems created by it are too big and too global.

We cannot anymore use a power-over mindset the way we have. It damages the Earth, society, and ourselves too much.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XVII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Positive self-talk? The Norwegian Crown Prince happened to mention that learning positive self-talk can be helpful for young people, and now psychologists are competing in informing the public how “naive” and “dangerous” it is to recommend positive self-talk. And while there are different forms of positive self-talk, and some are more helpful than others, I generally agree with the Crown Prince.

Many of us have internalized “negative” or painful ways of dialoging and talking with ourselves, perhaps from painful experiences with family and friends, and what we see in our culture. We talk ourselves down. Noticing this, and learning more constructive self-talk is not only helpful but essential for a good life.

How would I talk with myself if I was a beloved friend or family member? What would a constructive and kind friend say?

This form of self-talk can be very simple, and it’s important to keep it realistic. For instance, if I have a test or job interview, I can tell myself “do your best, that’s enough” and “the worst that can happen is that you’ll repeat the test / find another job”.

If I notice that an emotional issue is triggered in me, and it’s telling me scary things, I can tell myself “this is an issue in me talking, it’s coming from reactivity and fear and it’s not realistic or telling me the truth”.

Another name for positive self-talk is re-parenting. We may not have internalized an optimal form of self-talk when we grew up, but as adults, we can re-parent ourselves. We can learn a more constructive, kind, and even wise form of self-talk. We can learn to more consistently be on our own side.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XVI

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Climate crisis is irrelevant….sort of. Since I first heard about climate change in my teens, I have had the same view on it as I do now. We have to change into a sustainable culture and society anyway, we have to do it soon, and we have to do it for innumerable reasons.

Climate change is just one reason so we don’t need to get too caught up in discussions of whether it’s happening (which it obviously is) and whether it’s human-made (which it obviously is). Focusing too much on those questions is a distraction. And that’s obviously why some – especially the petroleum industry – want to have that discussion. They want to sow just enough confusion, doubt, and strife to derail – or at least delay – action.

There are innumerable reasons why we need to transform our culture and society. Some have to do with what any sane person and society would want to avoid: toxins in our water, air, soil, and bodies; illnesses because of those toxins; death of insects and all the animals and plants dependent on insects; loss of ecosystems; loss of species; and so on. Some have to do with what we want: a society and culture that’s life-centered; that thrives; that recognizes that a society that’s ecologically sustainable, that is more socially just and inclusive, that takes care of those with the least, and where there is less gap between the rich and poor, is a society that’s better for all of us.

And there is really just one reason: We live in a system that doesn’t take ecological and physical realities into account and didn’t need to when it was created. And now – with a dramatically increased population and more powerful technology – we do need to.

In that sense, climate change is irrelevant. We have to make the same changes anyway and for a lot of other reasons. In another sense, climate change – or climate crisis – is important because it’s getting a lot of attention and it does show us that it’s urgent.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

Spending time nature. This is something many have written about so I’ll just say a few words. Since I was little, I have spent time at a family cabin on a lake in the forest outside of Oslo. (The area is on track to become a national park.)

The cabin is without running water and electricity (apart from a small solar panel to charge phones and iPads). We get the water from the lake, the firewood from the forest, cook food with gas we bring with us, and heat the cabin with one of two fireplaces.

When I go there, I notice it takes a few days to “land” and that continues to deepen the longer I stay. There is a sense of gradually becoming part of the place and nature.

When I am there, I inevitably become very aware of resource use. I need to plan what food to bring and for how many days. I tend to eat fresh foods first and then, after a week or so, have more of the lasting foods to eat. I notice the effects of the different foods on my body.

During the summer, even when the temperature gets over 30 degrees Celcius, there is never a problem with the heat. If I get hot in the sun or from physical activity, I cool off in the lake. And the cabin stays cool due to the breeze, open doors and windows, and the shade from the trees.

Early and late summer – when they days are warm and the nights cool – I warm the cabin during the day by opening doors and windows, and trap it during the night.

The rest of the year, when I need to heat the indoor space, I separate the cabin into heat zones. I mostly spend time in the new living room, and use the fireplace there since it’s a good heat sink (the stones and brick stores heat and gradually releases it even after the fire is out). I close off the room and allow the other parts of the cabin to stay cooler. The kitchen warms up from cooking. (On early cold mornings, I sometimes eat and read in the kitchen since it’s warmer.)

When I go to get firewood, I typically take the rowboat and go to one of the three or four places where I know there are beaver-houses. There, close to the lake, I find birch trees felled by the beavers. They do the initial work, eat the bark and leaves, and I take the trunks they are done with, bring them back to the cabin, and cut them up for firewood. It feels like a nice partnership with the beavers, although they don’t get that much out of it.

I also notice what they say about firewood warming three times: When I collect the wood. When I cut and split it. And when I burn it.

In early and late summer, I tend to go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when the sun comes up. This changes other times of year since the sun is up 18 hours a day during the summer and only six in the winter.

In the summer, I enjoy swimming in the lake. Sometimes, I put on snorkeling gear so I get to see what’s under the surface.

I notice the direction of the wind and the types of weather the wind brings from different directions. I notice how it’s often still in the morning and evening, and windier during the day. When I row across the lake and it’s windy, I often take the slightly longer path through a group of islands since its more sheltered.

I am grateful when I see butterflies, insects, birds, and other creatures. They and I share the space for a while. We are neighbors. (This awe, gratitude, and sense of fellowship is heightened by my awareness of the loss of insect, bird, and animal life in the area and the world in general.)

I wash from top to bottom each day, either in the lake or using hot water in the kitchen. After a few days without showering, I notice that my skin doesn’t feel dry anymore. It retains the natural oils.

By being there, I gradually and effortlessly feel more and more as part of nature. My days are simple and mostly focused on basics such as food, heat, water, and sleep. And I become very aware of resources in many different ways. All around, it’s healing and – to the extent I allow it to work on me – transformative.

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Unknown: Trauma is the gateway

 

Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug. 
Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. 
Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug. 
Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug.

Trauma is the gateway.
Childhood abuse is the gateway. 
Molestation is the gateway. 
Neglect is the gateway. 

Drug abuse, violent behavior, hypersexuality, and self-harm are often symptoms (not the cause) of much bigger issues.

And it almost always stems from a childhood filled with trauma, absent parents, and an abusive family.

But most people are too busy laughing at the homeless and drug addicts to realize your own children could be in their shoes in 15 years.

Communicate. 
Empathize. 
Rehabilitate.

— unknown, attributed to Russell Brand

This reflects the current understanding of addiction and compulsions and happens to be something I completely agree with. People with interest in the field know it but it has yet to fully filter into mainstream culture.

I’ll add a few words about trauma and addiction.

Trauma can be created from either ongoing situations (often family situations in childhood) or sudden events (accident, fire, war). Trauma can be serious or mild, and all-encompassing (engulfing our whole experience and life) or more isolated (triggered only in very specific situations). And trauma is something we all have. It’s part of the human experience.

When unhealed trauma is triggered, we may respond to the pain in it in a range of ways. We do something try to avoid the pain – or just the unpleasant feelings and thoughts – inherent in the trauma.

Trying to avoid the pain of trauma often becomes a habit. And that’s how compulsions and addictions are created. These compulsions and addictions can be what we conventionally view as serious or mild. And they come in the form of “inner” compulsions (reactivity, anger, depression, etc.) or “outer” compulsions (food, internet, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.).

As I see it, these dynamics are variously called trauma, emotional wounds and issues, hangups, beliefs (The Work, inquiry), and identifications (spirituality). They are all created by the mind to keep us safe. They all come from the inherent care and love in how our minds function. They all made sense when they were created. And we can find healing for them.

How do we recognize trauma in ourselves or others? As I mentioned, it can take many forms. Generally, it’s a combination of seeking refuge in something and feeling we have to defend it. And it reflects past experiences more than the current situation.

Sometimes, we seek refuge in anger, grief, guilt, overactivity, or hopelessness. Sometimes in blame, judgment, dehumanization of oneself or others, polarized thinking, or finding safety in ideologies, religion, or spirituality. Sometimes, we seeking refuge in food, internet, TV, sex, drugs, or alcohol. And none of these are, in a real sense, a refuge.

Our only refuge is finding healing in how we relate to the trauma and perhaps healing and resolution for the trauma itself.

Image: By D B Young from London – Russell Brand London Revolution Protest, CC BY 2.0, Link

Reflections on society, politics and nature XIV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

Lawns as a symptom of an eco-alienated culture. Lawns. Why lawns? Is it so we can pretend we are relatively well-off landowners a couple of centuries ago in Britain? (Even if we are not aware that’s where it began.) Is it because our neighbors do it? Is it because our infrastructure is set up to support lawns and not the alternatives? Is it because the alternatives seem more difficult?

It’s probably all of those. To me, the lawn is a nutshell representation of our eco-alienated culture. It’s sterile. It requires (often noisy) machines to maintain. It’s mostly not used. It’s there because others do it, it’s expected of us, and our society makes it easy to have one.

The alternatives make so much more sense. A food garden with low-maintenance berry bushes and fruit trees. A wildflower garden. A natural garden with native vegetation. Or perhaps a beautiful, alive, abundant garden that includes sections all of these.

Lawns are monocultures and inhospitable to insects and other animals. They are part of the reason insects are dying out. And instead, we have the option of creating alive, abundant, thriving sanctuaries for life.

What does it take to create this change? It requires a change in attitudes and culture. It requires an infrastructure that supports abundant gardens – for instance, local government support, classes, media information, incentives, and perhaps most importantly easy access to plants, seeds, information, and practical help. And it requires a few of us to set a good example before it catches on and becomes common on a wider scale. (I have little doubt it will.)

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XIII

 

Trauma-informed schools and society. There is a movement to create more trauma-informed schools. These are schools where teachers and students are aware of the symptoms of trauma and how to relate to traumatized students, and where knowledge opens for understanding, empathy, and healing. In the best case, it can help whole generations of students in all areas of life. And there is a similar movement to bring trauma awareness into some types of workplaces, including police, firefighting, and the military.

When we don’t know about trauma, we tend to react to it – in ourselves and others – in ways that may retraumatize or deepen the trauma. And when we know the symptoms and how to relate to traumatized people, we can create a safe space, invite in deeper healing, and people’s lives can change for the better in all areas of their lives. The more a whole culture – whether it’s at a school, workplace, for teachers in general – is trauma-informed, the more transformative this can be.

My wish is that we will, eventually, have more trauma-informed people, communities, and even societies. It’s already happening some places, and it will most likely spread. So much of what we see as problems in our society today is typical trauma behavior, including reactivity, recurrent or ongoing anger, anxiety or depression, extreme ideologies, dehumanization of groups of people, substance abuse and any form of addiction, violence, physical and emotional abuse, and homelessness and crime. All of these are often reactions to trauma, or rather to the pain of trauma.

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Reflections on society, politics, and nature XII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

One essential way Trump is no different.

But it wasn’t sane before. Obama was not sane; he was led by the same interests that put the corporate business ahead of people, with bread buttered by Goldman Sachs, only now, it is more brash” Sadier said. “For centuries the political class has been fucking poor people off.

This is a view I often hear from regular people, including most of my friends. But I don’t see it much from mainstream politicians, journalists, or social commentators. Of course, the job of the mainstream is to maintain the status quo, even if it benefits the few in the short term rather than the many in the long term. (Or perhaps just for that reason.)

Most politicians and political parties support neo-liberal capitalism, which in turn is designed to maximize profit for multi-national corporations at the expense of nearly everyone else, including nature and future generations. In this sense, Trump is no different from most other politicians, including Obama and both Clintons. He is just less subtle about it.

September 6, 2018

Strawman arguments
. This seems so obvious I haven’t mentioned it before but I wanted to say a few words. When American football players protest during the anthem, they are not disrespecting the US, they are highlighting a very real issue of racism and inequality. And when people criticize or disagree with Israeli policies, they are not anti-semitic. To say they respectively “disrespect the US” and are “anti-semitic” are strawman arguments and it’s transparent and childish. It’s an attempt to shame people into silence and deflect from the real issue by attacking the person. 

The golden rule in politics. Why should we treat others as we would like to be treated, even in politics? For me, it has to do with a couple of things. First, self-respect. If I treat others with respect, I can have respect for myself. The other is for strategic reasons. When I act and speak with respect, I invest in norms I would like myself and others to follow. I strengthen them. Also, if I don’t treat others with respect, I cannot expect others to do the same towards me (or politicians I support) and I am not in a position to ask them to do so. 

This came up for me today since the New York Times has an article about the resistance to Trump’s policies from within the administration. Some liberals seem to applaud this. And I understand the impulse to want to curtail some of Trump’s worst actions. But he is legally elected and the resistance described in the NYT article is actually a subversion of democracy. It sets a very dangerous precedence. And it’s definitely not something I would approve of if it happened in an administration I happened to personally support.

On the topic of the NYT article: The other side is that these unhappy civil servants would do better quitting and speaking out openly about their concerns, or try to get Trump removed if they think he is a danger to the country. It does seem a bit spineless, as Trump said, to anonymously complain in this way.

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Gnarly in Pink

 
I found this mini-documentary cute and funny, and also a sad and encouraging comment on the current “toxic masculinity” discussion. Even at that age, boys have learned to express toxic masculinity. It’s a feature of the US culture more than the Norwegian, and I sometimes wonder if toxic masculinity and that type of harshness is an occupational hazard of an empire. Dehumanization seems to be an inherent feature of an empire, and we see it in both English and US culture. I imagine the US culture got it first from the English, and then continued to developed their own brand. And it hurts the people living within the empire as much as anyone else, whether they are women or men, wealthy or not, privileged or not. The Norwegian culture has some of these features although to a lesser extent. Women and men are more equal and – in my experience – generally relate to each other as equals and with respect and appreciation. Note: I would normally put this entry in one of the ongoing series of Society and Politics post but WordPress has a glitch so the video disappears whenever I save the post. So I created a separate post instead. Read More

Reflections on society, politics, and nature XI

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general. For this one, I added nature as a theme.

Nature & Norway. Nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, and there is a certain culture about how to be in and relate to nature. In terms of sustainability, Norway isn’t that much different from or better than other industrialized countries (think of the oil industry etc.). But I do very much resonate with and appreciate the traditional Norwegian culture of how to be in nature.

My parents passed it on to me, and their parents passed it on to them, and as it must have been passed on through generations. They took me out skiing, hiking, berry picking, swimming and more throughout my childhood.

And almost invisibly, certain norms were passed on to me: Leave no traces. Use only dead wood for fires. Be quiet in nature. (To not disturb the animals, so you are more likely to see animals, and to not disrupt the peace for other people.) Take time. (There is usually no need to get somewhere quickly.) Be respectful. (To nature, animals, plants, other people.) Enjoy. (There is a deep enjoyment in being in nature – the sounds, sights, smells, sensations, and there is a profound enjoyment and nourishment in experiencing ourselves as part of nature, as not separate at all… whether we are in nature or in urban areas.) Maintain good spirits. (Set stressful thoughts aside and focus on the privilege and enjoyment of being in nature.)

Although not many would put it this way, nature is – in many ways – the cathedral for Norwegians. It’s the sacred place. The place where we are reminded of who and what we are, and our intimate connection to the larger natural world.

Loss of insects. When I started spending more time in Norway again, about ten years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the loss of insects. It seemed that my parent’s garden, which I remember as brimming with insects and life in general as a kid, now is mostly barren with just the occasional bumblebee or other winged creature. I considered that it could be because of the usual quirks of memory, but realized it must be something more. For instance, as a kid, I often saw crickets of all sizes in the yard, and now I haven’t seen any – not a single one – for years. Similarly, some types of birds seem completely gone. If that’s not a wake-up call close to home, I don’t know what is.

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Childish Gambino: This is America

 
Donald Glover’s new music video feels iconic and is understandably receiving a great deal of attention. Why does it feel so iconic? And what is it about? To me, it feels iconic because of its simplicity, depth, and universal archetypal themes grounded in a specific time and place. There is a strong contrast between the violence and the joyful song and dance. There is a simplicity in that it’s in one setting and mostly shot in one take. It has sincerity, depth, and urgency. The theme is clear but it leaves the interpretation and reflection up to the viewer. And what is it about? Most obviously, both the violence and the joyful song and dance reflect Black history in the US, and also the current Black experience in the US. Both are part of their history and lives. Beyond that, it’s part of the US culture as a whole, human civilization, and each of us as individuals. It reflects our human experience. We contain and experience both. It’s interesting that the sequential nature of the video suggests different ways of relating to this. We can bring fleeting attention to the drama of violence and then move on as if nothing happened. (As US society and media seem to do with the current gun violence, and as we as individuals sometimes do in our own lives.) Or we can acknowledge both as part of our history, our lives, humanity as a whole, and us as individuals, and engage with it more intentionally and responsibly and do something about it. Both of these are relatively privileged ways of relating to it. There is also a third way of relating to it, which is – I imagine – is the reality of many black people in the US. They live with both and compartmentalize the violence and pain so they can move on with their lives. Again, it’s a very simple theme. We all know that humans are capable of terrible things and wonderful things. We know both are part of our lives collectively and individually. We know that we often ignore the unpleasant things and move on to the pleasant ones. We know that can be fine in the short run but it creates problems in the long run. And yet, we often act and live as if we don’t quite know. And that’s why these reminders are so important, especially as they ignite reflection and discussion as this video is doing right now. Read More

Reflections on society and politics X

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general.

Burnout. Burnout is often presented and approached as an individual problem. Someone burnt out because of marriage problems, health issues, depression, and so on. And the approaches are often presented as individual as well, whether it’s exercise, counseling, mindfulness, yoga or something similar. There is a focus on the individual whether it’s the individual themselves doing something to prevent burnout, or the organization sets up an employee program.

And yet, it seems obvious that burnout is a systemic issue. It has to do with how we organize our society and organizations. It has to do with our collective worldview, our economic system, and organizational and business values and culture.

For instance, the more an organization sees it’s employees as disposable and something to squeeze as much work out of as possible, sometimes supported by a culture idealizing overwork, the more likely people are to burn out. And the more an organization sees it’s employees as human beings, take them seriously and listen to their feedback and concerns, sees them a resource to invest in and support, and aims for mutual benefit, then people are less likely to burn out.

The current focus on individual approaches to burnout is an example of systems acting to preserve themselves. We have a system – especially in the US and in certain professions such as the medical profession – that often leads to burnout.

The real causes are at the social, cultural, and organizational levels. And yet, the focus is typically on individual approaches for preventing burnout, perhaps because that’s the approach that involves the least change and effort. To take the systemic causes seriously is more effective, but does involve significant change to society, culture, and the organization. And not everyone is willing to go there.

Other things take priority. And that’s OK but it’s good to be honest, open, and explicit about it. We know that burnout has to do with the larger systems, but we chose to focus on the individuals since it takes less effort and requires the least change. Of course, that honesty would – eventually – require a change so that’s perhaps why most chose to not be quite that open about it.

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