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 XXI

 

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.

From The Incal series by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius.

Jodorowsky & real imitation. The foreword to the current hardcover edition of The Incal mentions the many who have stolen elements from the story or the visuals. Of course, any good artist “steals” but some apparently have lifted whole segments out of The Incal for their own work.

For me, it’s a reminder of different types of imitation. One form of imitation is to steal – or be inspired by – elements of the final product. Another is is to imitate where it came from. To find in ourselves the courage, authenticity, realness, imagination, and so on that brought it into life. That takes longer and is ultimately far more rewarding.

Jodorowsky & shamelessness. On that topic, I admire Alejandro Jodorowsky for the range and diversity of his work (see his Wikpedia article). How did it come about? I imagine a big part of it was shamelessness, in the best sense of the word. He seems to be someone who is real, authentic, courageous, does what he is drawn to, and follows his guidance. Perhaps most importantly, he seems to not be afraid to create and and put it out in the public.

He probably has fears and doubts as we all do, but he has worked through it or does it in spite of these fears and doubts. And many love him for it because it’s what we want for ourselves.

The Incal & dreams. I haven’t read all the books in the Incal series yet, but I get the impression that these stories are like dreams. They are full of archetypes and archetypal processes and dynamics, and they are free-flowing like dreams.

Often, stories that consciously use archetypes and dream symbols feel clinical. They feel thought out more than something that grows more organically out of who and what we are. Jodorowsky seems to be able to allow these stories to grow organically without pruning and guiding them too much by intellectual understanding (although I am sure that’s there too).

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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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North Korea and the need for control

 

In watching a short BBC story about North Korea (Surprising images from inside North Korea), I was reminded of the need for control – and how it looks very similar in North Korea (and similar places) and in ourselves and our own lives.

North Korea is a country run by fear and they feel a need to control their citizens and anyone visiting. As the photographer in the video says, he could only visit approved locations, he had to stay in special hotels for foreigners (sometimes as the only guest), his “guides” were in the rooms next to his and emerged as soon as he opened his door, and so on.

In other words, North Korea is behaving as a terrified person. Everything needs to be controlled, often harshly. And if it’s not, there is the fear (I assume) that everything will fall apart. (That may be true. The totalitarian regime may well fall apart giving space for something else to emerge – perhaps a South Korean style modern democracy.)

Most of us have probably met people who seem a bit like this. Who tightly try to control a situation. Who seems terrified of things going “out of control” in themselves or their life.

And, if we are honest, we can probably find it in ourselves.

When am I acting like North Korea? Can I find examples of…. A time when I felt I needed to control a situation? When I desperately wanted to present a certain image of myself while keeping less savory parts hidden? When I felt a strong need to maintain a certain image? Or to maintain things the way they are? Or to avoid certain experiences I was terrified by?

In a sense, that’s the gift of North Korea. It shows us how a tightly controlled country – run by fear and through fear – looks. And, if we allow, North Korea can be a mirror for ourselves. When am I like North Korea?

What do I fear would happen if I am not like that? If I am more authentic and real and allow others to see me as I am (in all the humanness)? If I allow situations to unfold as they do with less of an attempt at tight control? How would it be to try it?

Some additional thoughts:

Why is North Korea the way it is? Of course, there are clear historical reasons (the war and connections with China etc.). Mainly, the leaders are terrified of giving the people are more free rein because it would – almost certainly – be the end of the current regime. There is a lack of trust that it would be OK or perhaps better than it is currently. Again, that fear may be justified since the few who benefit from the current regime most likely would benefit far less from a more liberal society and a democracy.

Again, that’s similar to us. We may fear that without a tight control – or attempt at control – in some situations and with some parts of ourselves, things would go haywire. We may fear to lose respect or admiration, or the image of being a certain type of person, or some perceived advantage, or perceived control over someone else or a situation.

So in exploring this, we need to address the fear, and we need to gradually find trust in ourselves – what’s in us, and in life in general. Mainly, we need to learn to trust that we are OK as we are – warts and all.

Dreams reflecting our ecological crisis: Boiled pigs

 

I am in a restaurant with friends. They are boiling two live pigs in hot oil to be eaten by some of the guests. I am horrified and shocked but nobody else seems to understand what I am reacting to. They see it as completely normal to boil pigs alive and then eat them.

– from Alejita’s dream a couple of nights ago

Since this dream is not my own (it’s from my beloved), and most dreams have a personal and a collective aspect, I’ll focus on the collective side here.

When I was told the dream, my first thought was that many today probably have dreams like this, and perhaps especially young people.

It reflects a growing awareness of how we treat nature, how cruel and damaging it is, and how it impacts ourselves – psychologically and our ability to thrive and survive.

These dreams shake us. They help wake us up to how we treat and relate to nature and ourselves as nature. They help us recognize our cultural power-over attitude towards nature, women, children, animals, and our own bodies and ourselves as animals.

We are in the middle of a global ecological crisis. We have created it ourselves, mainly through a too-often unexamined power-over attitude. It shakes us, including through these types of dreams. And we need to be shaken. We need to examine ourselves and how we see ourselves in relation to nature. We need to transform how we see ourselves and nature and how we organize ourselves within the larger ecological systems and this living planet as a whole.

At a personal level, these dreams may cause us to be more conscious of our behaviors in general. They may also be a small piece in transforming our worldview. They may change how we vote and what policies we support. And collectively – if we are lucky – these type of dreams help move us towards a more ecologically sound and wise civilization.

I am very curious about how many have these types of dreams these days – of cruelty to animals and nature and of ecological devastation. I imagine they are more common than we realize. It would be very interesting to collect some of them to get a sense of how our minds are processing the situation we are in and also as a historical record.

One of my own ecological-crisis dreams is recorded in this article.

As an aside, how do I see the situation we are in and how it was created? An early significant shift was transition to agriculture and the possibility of accumulating wealth and creating social hierarchy. With it came a power-over attitude towards nature, other human beings (especially women and children and those lower on the hierarchy), and ourselves.

On top of that, we created our current economic and social system (in the 1700s and 1800s) at a time where we didn’t need to take ecological realities into account. We are still using and living within that outdated system even thought our situation now is very different – we are far more people and our technology is far more powerful.

And that – agriculture, power-over, and an outdated economic and social system – explains the crisis we currently find ourselves in. The crisis is feedback. And how we respond to that feedback determines our own future and fate and whether and how we will survive.

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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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UFO reflections IV

 

Documentary: Witness of Another World

My interest is more: what happens to these witnesses? How can we help them? The witnesses, when they grow up, will integrate their experience within their life, as Juan has done. That process is very interesting, and these people have something to teach us.

– Jacques Valleé in Witness of Another World, 59:04 – 59:24

I enjoyed Witness of Another World very much and also listening to some interviews with the director Alan Stivelman (Podcast UFO, Open Minds, Richard Dolan). It’s a deeply moving story of a young boy experiencing something inexplicable, being traumatized by some of the consequences (people not believing him, precognitive dreams), and finding some healing through the process of participating in this documentary and meeting shamans from his ancestral tribe.

I share Jacques Valleés interest in the witnesses and how the experience – close encounters with something or someone alien – transforms them. It’s similar to the transformations people often go through following space travel (overview effect), shamanic journeys, using some psychoactive drugs, near-death experiences, spiritual openings or awakenings, and so on. I would love to see a more systematic study done on this, and the similarities and differences between people and between the categories of experiences.

January 2020

A oneness view on UFOs, synchronicities, and psychic sensing

I am listening to Mike Clelland’s Stories from the Stories from the Messengers: Owl’s, UFOs, and a Deeper Reality. I like it very much as it explores the connections between UFOs, alien encounters, synchronicities, shamanism, spirituality, and the personal transformation that often takes place following UFO and alien encounters. (This is a follow-up to The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee which I equally enjoyed.)

One thing I notice is how puzzling these connection are to many people. Of course, there is something inherently puzzling and baffling in many of these stories. They definitely elude conventional explanations. They make sense more the way mythology and dreams make sense. And we don’t know much about what UFOs and the reports of alien encounters actually are about.

And yet, from a oneness view, these stories do make sense in a certain way.

Synchronicities are movements within oneness and within the seamless system of the universe that we are inherent parts of. The different parts of the synchronicities only appear to be separate because thoughts can make it look that way to us.

It’s the same with psychic sensing. We are part of the oneness of all of existence so, naturally, we’ll sometimes pick up information outside of our physical senses. I suspect we all do it, now and then, and some of us may be more tuned into it than others for whatever reason.

From a conventional science view, it’s very unlikely that this planet is the only living one in our galaxy or the universe. More likely, the universe has developed itself into life many place, including what we see as intelligent life. And if so, some of these civilizations will likely be far more advanced than ours and possibly able to travel across or even between galaxies. (Using an understanding of physics and technology that is beyond what we can currently imagine.)

And from a oneness view, these civilizations and galaxies happen within and as the same oneness as we do. They too are expressions of the same oneness. They too are expressions of Spirit. They too are Spirit exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new and different ways.

If some humans encounter some of these aliens, and if or when we officially and collective encounter an alien civilization, that too will happen within and as this oneness. And that too will be Spirit exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in that particular way.

Note: In his two books on owls, UFOs, and synchronicities, Mike Clelland wonders about the connection between synchronicities and aliens. Perhaps the aliens somehow create the synchronicities? This is, in some ways, a natural question if we live within a mostly materialistic worldview.

But when we begin to notice that all is Spirit, or the divine, or consciousness, and that it’s all One, then it looks a bit different. Then synchronicities becomes a natural expression and consequence of oneness.

It’s a bit like watching seaweed moving with the waves along the shore. If we are unaware of the water, we may wonder what makes the seaweed move in synchrony. It may seem very puzzling and we cannot find a reasonable mechanism. When we notice the water it’s all moving within, it makes more sense to us.

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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Only lovers left alive: a dialog with someone who has lived for centuries

 

I haven’t seen Only Lovers Left Alive yet, but read enough about it to know that the two main characters have lived for centuries and have amassed a huge amount of experience and perhaps some wisdom in the process.

So I thought it would be fun to try a dialog with someone who has lived for centuries.

When we use Voice Dialog / the Big Mind process, we typically dialog with parts of us that are obviously here like the voice of appreciation, the victim, or Big Mind / Heart.

There is no part of me that had lived for centuries. Or is there? I can easily enough imagine how it would be to have lived for generations, and access that voice or part of me.

And in a quite real sense, I have in me something that had lived for that long. Something that has, through culture, accumulated experience and wisdom over generations.

In another quite real sense, as part of this living Earth, and as part of this universe, I am billions of years old. Everything in me is the product of billions of years evolution of the universe and this living planet, millions of years of evolution of pre-human ancestors, and hundreds of thousands of years thousands of my human ancestors.

So, yes, I can probably dialog with a voice in me that has the experience and wisdom from having lived for generations.


Dialog with one who has lived for generations.

Can I speak with the voice that has lived for generations?

Yes.

How do you see the world?

Not so different from you. Just from more experience. I am much less caught up in the daily fluctuations compared with you and others who have only lived for a short time. I have seen it all. It all comes and goes. Disappointment. Elation. Health. Illness. Birth. Death. It’s all part of life, and I have seen all of it enough to not get caught up in it.

Does it mean you are detached?

For a while, I tried detachment and distance, but that’s deadly boring in the long run. It’s much more juicy to feel and be engaged and play the game, but I am not caught in it. I know it all, including my responses, comes and goes.

It sounds a bit like the wisdom of the Buddha?

Yes, I knew him. Good fella. (That’s a joke, by the way. I was somewhere else back then.)

But yes, it’s pretty similar. I think that anyone who lives for generations will develop that kind of wisdom or view on life. It’s almost inevitable.

Do you have any advice for P.? (This interviewer.)

Well, let’s see. I think he knows it already but hasn’t taken it in fully. He doesn’t completely trust it or allow himself to live from it. So if I can help, here it is.

He allows himself to worry about things that are regular parts of life, it’s the universal ups and downs. And he sometimes takes it more personally than he needs, and get more caught up in it than he would if he had longer experience. Life is not about him. Life just happens, as it does for everyone. Stay engaged, play the game, and know it’s not personal and most of the details are not even that important in the long run. Just do your best.

How do you see the world today?

Most if not all of the problems come from people being short-sighted. They think locally and act short-term, and although that worked in the past when humanity was smaller and had less powerful technology, it doesn’t work anyone. There are too many people, with too powerful tools, for that to work.

Humans need to imagine bigger, or at least enough need to, so they can create new systems that take deep time and global situations (like ecosystems) into consideration.

Human nature won’t change, but humans adapt their behavior to the system they are in.

(I should add: Human nature does change, but not very quickly. Not on the scale of centuries or decades.)

Is there a question you would like to be asked?

Hm. I like that question. Ask me what I enjoy the most.

What do you enjoy the most?

The changing seasons. The seasons of nature, of human life, of generations and human history.

The very small things, the ordinary. A cup of tea. Saying hello to a stranger. Waking a dog. Reading a book. Weathering an illness.

The new. A new dish. A new sunrise. A new here and now.

It’s there anything you are tired of?

Not really. Perhaps the predictable, or at least thinking something is predictable. I have seen enough to know it’s not. I guess that’s something I am still learning.

Is there anything else you are currently learning?

I am not sure. I think it’s mainly noticing how everything is fresh.

The mind sometimes tells me that this is something I have experienced more times than I can count, and although that’s true in a way, it’s not the whole picture. This experience is fresh.

I guess that’s another parallel to what Mr. Buddha and others have talked about. And it is the only way to stay fresh and keep enjoying – and not only enjoying but deeply enjoying — life when you live and live and live as I do.

What music, art, and books do you like?

Anything. Anything from any culture and period. What’s familiar and what’s new. High culture and trash. It’s all juicy.

Is it possible to make a mistake?

Well, it depends on what you mean. Of course, we sometimes make mistakes in a small perspective. We bungle things. Make poor decisions. Or make good decisions that turn out badly.

In a bigger perspective, those are not really mistakes. We do what we can based on who and how we are and the situation we are in. And we get feedback from life and have an opportunity to learn. So in that sense, nothing is really a mistake.

What do you think about conditioning?

That’s something I have a lot of experience with. Conditioning is the operating system of humans or at least a large part of it.

Patterns are passed on through the generations, with some variations. Patterns of what’s seen as good and bad, right and wrong; and patterns of likes and dislikes, cultural and family hangups and traumas; ideas about heaven and hell, gods and demons, how the world works, and just about anything else that’s part of how humans function.

When you take a generational view, you see how it’s not personal. It’s all passed on. And then we make it personal, and we have a chance to not take it as personal if we realize what’s going on.

Even how we function as a body is conditioning, passed on with some variations through all our ancestors back to that first single-celled organism.

And how this universe works is conditioning.

Some talk about conditioning as if it’s bad or something we need to get rid of, but that’s a superficial view. We are made up of conditioning. Our bodies wouldn’t function without it. Our society wouldn’t function without it. We would have no chance to function, or survive, or exist, without it. It’s the fabric of what we are.

The only conditioning we need to be concerned about is the one of wounds and hangups, and even here how we relate to it is more vital than getting rid of it. Of course, we can do some of both.

And a part of this conditioning is the beliefs and ideas passed on through the generations that creates pain for us, and an unnecessarily limited life when we hold them as true.

How do you see non-dual spirituality?

I hoped you wouldn’t ask. Yes, it’s pretty close to reality. And in the modern western version, it’s often taken as a belief, something to hold onto to feel secure and try to stay safe. For many who are into it, it’s a security blanket. They just exchanged traditional religion for neo-Advaita. That’s fine but if they are not honest about it, they are deluding themselves.

If I am honest, and I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, many would do better to heal their emotional issues. They would find more ease and real contentment that way.

That sounds a bit harsh?

Well, yes. It’s just that I have seen versions of it so many times, in so many periods and cultures. People are in pain. And they seek and latch onto a belief – a religion or philosophy or political system – that promises to give them relief. And the real relief is in healing the pain, not getting obsessed about a system or philosophy.

To be continued…

A note: When I wrote this, I imagined dialoguing with a relatively average person who has lived for centuries. My partner dialogued with the version of herself that has lived for eons. And it can be fun to explore even more versions: the mystic, the poet, the wise man/woman, the scientist, the warrior, the one who loves earth, the one who loves humans, the one who loves life, the one who has lived innumerable lives in places around the whole Cosmos.

Awake people don’t hurt life?

 

Awake people don’t hurt life.

Said to me a few days ago

Is it true that awake people don’t hurt life?

Not really. It’s more complex than that.

We still have hangups, wounds, trauma, and sometimes act on it like anyone else.

We still live in a social and economic system that’s deeply harmful to life and Earth, so our everyday life is harmful to life, Earth, and future generations.

At our human level, we are still a living organism that needs to eat other living organisms to survive. Even if we eat only fruits, nuts and vegetables, we still hurt life. (Just the production of these is often harmful because of modern agriculture.)

We are still a human being who makes mistakes, and who don’t know or cannot predict the consequences of our actions. We cannot really predict the local or short term consequences, and we certainly cannot predict the far-reaching and long term consequences.

There is another side to this, of course.

It’s probably true that we generally harm life less the more embodied awakening there is, especially if it’s combined with healing of emotional issues.

And in the bigger picture, it’s perhaps all Lila, the play of the divine, and nobody to get hurt and not really any hurt.

And yet, that’s no excuse to not live as well as we can, and minimize harm and support life as well as we can.

And there is yet another aspect to this. If we are very concerned about not hurting life (which is impossible although we can do or best to minimize it and make up for it), it may point to an emotional issue or a belief that’s not quite aligned with reality.

It’s natural and healthy to have it as a guide and orientation, but if it gets stressful and bordering on an obsession, it may be worth looking at a little more closely.

How to deal with ecological grief

 
Joanna Macy: Befriending our Despair

As our eco-systems keep unraveling, ecological grief will only go more into the mainstream as an experience and topic.

How do we deal with our ecological grief?

Here are some things I have found helpful for me:

Recognize it’s natural and even healthy. My ecological grief – for what I see happening locally and globally – is natural, understandable, and even healthy. It’s an expression of recognizing what’s happening. It comes from caring for myself, those close to me, humanity, future generations, non-human beings, species, ecosystems, and Earth a beautiful and amazing-beyond-comprehension living whole.

Share with likeminded people. Share as a confession.

Deep Ecology practices – like the Practices to Reconnect. These help us befriend our grief, find nourishment from our deep connection with all of life and past and future generations, and renew our hope and motivation for action. They can be done with a small group of friends or larger and more organized groups. I have led them myself with one or two other people and up to groups of ten or more.

Channeling the grief into action. This is not only how we transform society into a more Earth-centered one, but it also helps our own mental health. Even small actions are valuable, especially when I do it with others. (A while back, I helped start up neighborhood eco-teams and NWEI groups and these transformed people’s lives at many levels.)

I can support politicians and policies that help us transform into a more life-centered society. I can donate to organizations. I can make changes in my own life. I can join a local organization. I can communicate with politicians, businesses, and corporations. I can inform myself about what’s happening and win-win-win solutions. I can choose to focus on the solutions. I can envision the world I want to live with and share my vision.

I can choose to focus on systemic solutions because that’s where the problems are (not in individuals or “human nature”) and that’s also the best strategy for getting others on board (avoiding blaming individuals or particular groups of people).

Changing how I see it. I am not (only) an individual stressed out or in grief from witnessing the destruction of nature. I am nature reacting to its own destruction. And when I channel it into action, I am – quite literally – nature protecting itself. (Deep Ecology, ecopsychology, eco-spirituality, Deep Time, Big History, Universe Story, etc.)

Clear up stressful beliefs and identifications, and find healing for triggered emotional issues. When we respond to ecological destruction – whether it’s local or global – it inevitably ties into our own personal wounds and hangups. I can use my reaction to what’s going on in the world as a pointer to my own personal issues and I can explore and find healing for these. That not only improves my quality of life, it also makes me a more effective agent for change in the world. I act more from clarity and kindness and less from reactivity and wounds.

Yugen and beyond

 

yugen – a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe

Wikipedia article on Japanese Aesthetics

I don’t speak Japanese so I know I am bound to get this slightly wrong. It seems that yugen often refers to something evoked in us related to our own past (as most poetry does), although perhaps also something evoked in us about nature itself?

Here, I’ll be selective and use it in the sense of something evoked in us about nature itself.

If we talk about that, and a feeling or sense of nature as sacred, then we have nature mysticism.

Nature mysticism can refer to this feeling or sense of the sacred in nature and the universe. It can refer to a deep sense of belonging to nature and the universe. And it can refer to a sense of oneness with it all, that we are all one and the same and part of a seamless reality. (Which is obviously true even from a modern science perspective, and this sense of oneness happens when we realize it, take it in, and perhaps live more from it.) Either of these can come over us, often when we are in nature. Or it’s more stable and with us most or all of the time.

Is this just something that happens on its own or can we invite it in and deepen in it? For me, both seem true.

Yes, it can certainly happen on its own. (For me, all three happened from early childhood on and later became more stabilized in the oneness. The mysterious feeling was stronger earlier on and now is rarer, but that’s natural since the oneness is independent of any feelings.)

And yes, we can invite it in – through being in nature, poetry, deep ecology readings and practices (Practices to Reconnect), eco-psychology and eco-spirituality readings and practices, inquiry to help us remove mind-barrier to a sense of oneness with it all, and so on. (I have been deeply involved in this too over the last three decades.)

And we can go beyond nature mysticism. It can become much more clear and – in a sense – simple.

We can taste and stabilize in oneness. In noticing, realizing, and living from all content of experience happening within and as what we are. (Whether we chose to interpret this in a big or small way, or a spiritual or psychological way, as I have written about in other articles.)

Here, any sense of being a separate self is left behind.

This too can happen spontaneously or through practices and exploration. Usually, it’s a combination of both. (The practices are the usual spiritual ones like meditation, prayer, heart-centered practices, inquiry, energy- and body-centered practices and so on.)

There are a few things it’s good to clarify.

Nature mysticism does often refer to a feeling. A feeling of nature and the universe as sacred, and perhaps even a feeling or sense of oneness with all of existence. Here, there is usually still a sense of being a separate self. (Which is fine and natural, it’s the mind creating this experience for itself.)

Even when oneness is more clear and stabilized, this feeling can come and go. As mentioned above, for me the feeling was much stronger earlier in my process although it still comes very occasionally. Now, there is usually just the noticing of oneness.

And all of this, whether it’s a variety of nature mysticism or some level of oneness, is typically translated into profound shifts in our worldview and – yes – in our lives and how we live in the world.

That’s why I write about it. It can be cool and help us as (individual) human beings in the world. And yet, what it can do for the world is equally or more important. The world today needs this. It needs more people experiencing it, being transformed by it, sharing it with others, and – in turn – transforming humanity (even if it’s just a tiny bit) and how we are in the world.

Image: Hiroshige, View of a Long Bridge Across a Lake

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

The importance of space exploration from human, Gaia, and Spirit views

 

I have always loved outer space, astronomy, space exploration, and science fiction. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ll write a few words about it at the end.

The moon landing happened 50 years ago on July 20. So here are some ways the moon landing and space exploration, in general, is important from the view of humans, Gaia, and the Universe, and also in the context of Spirit.

Human view

At the time, the moon landing was important for US politicians to show the superiority of their own technology over the Soviets. And, by extension, the superiority of their political and economic system. (The Soviets had reached earlier space-exploration milestones before the US.)

The space program was and is important in order to develop technology and understand our near neighborhood in space, and it was a good way of employing a large number of people (some say 400,000).

The moon landing inspired many young people and brought some of them into science and technology. It showed that technology and science can be cool and glamorous.

Space exploration is an expression of our need for adventure and exploration, built into us through our evolution.

The space program allowed us to, for the first time, see photos of the Earth as a whole and from the outside. This, along with testimonials from astronauts, helped us get a more visceral sense of the Earth as a seamless whole and a fragile living system we need to take care of. (This is part of the Overview Effect.)

As Carl Sagan and others said, the moon landing and early space exploration is a necessary step in humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. And this is essential for our long term survival. (Elon Musk is talking about this today as a motivation for his space technology business.)

Gaia view

The view from Gaia – Earth as a seamless living system – gives space exploration a different context.

Human space exploration is Earth’s space exploration. Earth has developed itself into ecosystems, the human species, human technology and science, and human sense of adventure. And it has done so over time, within itself, and as part of itself. It’s all part of the evolution of Earth.

Space exploration is the living Earth exploring beyond its borders. It’s beginning to explore its neighborhood.

Through space exploration, Earth is seeing itself from the outside and as a whole for the first time.

And through humans, Earth may eventually reproduce. Humans may terraform planets, making them into Earth’s offspring. They won’t be identical to Earth, but they come from the living Earth. (In this sense, humans may function as the reproductive organs of Earth.)

Gaia means Earth as a seamless living system. It doesn’t mean that Earth is conscious in the way we think of it. And it doesn’t mean that space exploration or anything else was intentionally planned at the level of Earth as a whole. It’s more something that naturally and organically grew and continue to grow out of Earth as a living system.

Universe view

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the Universe. We are the Universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Spirit view

All of this is Spirit – the divine, God, Brahman – expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

The evolving Earth. Ecosystem evolution. Species evolution. Human evolution. Cultural evolution. Development of science and technology. Human sense of adventure (and wanting to be better than the other tribe). Human space exploration. It’s all part of Spirit and Spirit exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways.

Some background…

I’ll add a few words about my own interest in this.

Early on in my childhood, I had a deep love for exploration and adventure, anything having to do with the future, and anything to do with deep space and deep time.

I also had an early sense of belonging to all of existence including the universe as a whole. I remember going out into the yard after watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan when I was about ten. Looking up at the infinite space and the stars. And experiencing profound awe, gratitude, and sense of not only belonging to the universe but being the universe in awe of itself.

Later, through the spiritual opening or early awakening when I was sixteen, it became clear that all of it happens within and as consciousness. It all happens within and what I am, and everything is. It all happens within and as Spirit.

And in my mid-to-late teens and early twenties, this evolved into a deep interest in systems views (Fritjof Capra), Deep Ecology (Arne Næss), the Gaia view (James Lovelock), the Overview Effect (Frank White), ecospirituality, ecopsychology, the Universe Story, and similar approaches.

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What is evil?

 

What is evil? What does it refer to?

As usual, there are many answers – each with some value.

Personally, I don’t find the word very useful and rarely if ever use it, apart from when I explore it in inquiry or as I do here.

So with that caveat, here are some answers to the question: what is evil?

The easy answer is that nothing is inherently evil, and nothing is what we call it. Evil is in the label. The idea of evil is created from a mental overlay.

We could also say that it’s intentionally causing harm to others, whether as a byproduct of getting to another goal or for its own sake. This is tricky since we all cause harm to other living beings in our daily life – especially to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations.

And that’s a reminder that what’s evil depends on who we are. If we are a human, then evil can be seen as what other humans do to us when they act in ways that systematically harm us. If we are a non-human or an ecosystem, we can say that the current behavior of humans is evil since it systematically harms non-human life. Animals are imprisoned and killed just so they can provide food or other products to humans, and they often suffer immensely in the process. Ecosystems are systematically damaged and destroyed so what’s extracted from them can temporarily support human activity. And if we are any being in the future – any future human or non-human being or ecosystem – then the current human behavior is evil. It’s destructive for all future generations. This means that, in a sense, we are all evil. Each of us is evil to someone. And our current human society, the way it’s organized, functions in an evil way. If we chose to use the word evil, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to include this view.

And, related to “it’s all in the label”, evil – as anything else we see in ourselves or the wider world – is a projection. It’s an idea we put on something in the world. And the idea, as any other idea, is made up by our own mind by a combination of mental images, words, and sensations. We may feel that something is evil, because it’s connected to sensations in our body that makes the idea seem solid, real, and perhaps even true. And that, in turn, is happening because we have learned it from our parents, friends, subcultures, and our culture in general. (That’s probably why I don’t find the word very useful or compelling: I didn’t grow up in a culture where it was used much or was seen as meaningful.)

In a more pragmatic sense, what we conventionally label evil in humans is often their reaction to their own trauma and pain. Hurt people hurt people. When we see someone acting in a way we can call evil, it’s often because they themselves have deep wounds they don’t know how to deal with in a constructive way, so they react to their deep pain by inflicting pain on others. Or, at the very least, by not caring very much if they inflict pain on others. (This gives us some understanding and empathy for people acting in this way but doesn’t in any way condone their actions. It’s still our duty to do what we can to stop harmful actions.)

This lack of caring can also happen if we are very removed from the consequences of our actions. If most humans today can be seen as evil from the perspective of non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations, it’s not because we wish to inflict pain and suffering on these. It’s because the consequences of our actions are often far removed from us. We don’t see the consequences and don’t get immediate feedback. And it’s also because we live and operate within a social system that’s created in a world (in the 1800s) where the resources and garbage-absorption capacity of the natural world seemed infinite and is still – for the most part – considered infinite in our economic system. It’s not, in itself, evil, but the consequences can certainly be experienced and seen as evil.

How can I work with this in my own life?

I can explore my ideas of evil in this way, and through inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process etc.). I can find in myself the qualities and characteristics I see as evil, and see “out there” in the world and other people. (Even if what I find are perhaps much smaller or even just seeds and potentials.) I can put myself in the place of others – including non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations – and ask myself how they would see my behaviors, and perhaps use that as a correction. I can inform myself about the far-reaching and distant consequences of my actions and use this as a correction and guide for my own life. I can invite in healing for my own traumas and wounds so I am less likely to create and operate from ideologies aimed at protecting me from my own pain (racism, sexism, uncaring anthropocentrism, general dehumanization etc.), or lash out when my pain is triggered and harm myself and others.

Personally, I find my actions are evil from the perspective of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. It’s not intended to be evil, but I know it can easily be seen that way. After all, I operate within a system that doesn’t take the long term and distant effects of our actions much into consideration. It’s not incorporated, because it didn’t need to be when our system was developed. I also know I my actions have caused suffering for others, especially when I have not been able to be completely honest or in my own integrity because of my own pain and fears. That is something I am working on, both in terms of finding healing for my issues creating this behavior and preventing it by being honest, taking care of my own needs (some of it has happened because I didn’t), and be more in integrity.

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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The other climate change denial

 

When we talk about climate change (or climate crisis) denial, we usually mean denial of it happening or that it’s created by humans. Although this gets a lot of attention, it’s fortunately not so widespread. When it happens, it’s typically fueled by money from the fossil fuel industry, based on misinformation, and mostly involves people who – based on what they have heard and emotional reasoning – think they know better than people who have devoted their life to understanding and studying it.

There is another climate change denial that’s as or more important. This is the denial of the seriousness of the crisis we are in. It’s a denial not only if the seriousness of the climate crisis, but of the wider ecological crisis we are in.

Here are some of the views characterizing this denial:

It won’t be very serious. For decades, this was the default approach. Some years ago, I read news stories about a 10-30cm ocean level rise while anyone who had thought about it (the amount of land-based ice that would melt) realized it could easily be in the several meter range. 

Other things are more important. Again, this is a typical default view. Short-term interest are more important. Group interests are more important. We sometimes also assume that issues that are important – education, healthcare, infrastructure etc. – are more important. They are obviously important, but to prioritize it over creating a truly sustainable global culture and society is misguided. Currently, the young climate rebels are among those who really gets this and act on it. 

We have time. No, we don’t have time. We needed to make the changes yesterday, or a decade ago, or several decades ago. We can’t put it off. 

It requires only a few peripheral adjustments. No, it requires profound and deep systemic changes in all social systems, including economics (how we think about economics and our framework for it), transportation, energy production and use, education, and more. It requires deep changes in how we see ourselves in relation to the world as a whole and how this is reflected in our intellectual frameworks and social infrastructure. 

Others will do it. Others may take the lead, but we – each one of us – are required to participate. This is about humanity as a whole. 

It’s mainly about climate change. No, it’s equally or more about shrinking natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, toxins in air, water and soil, lack of clean drinking water, and social injustice. 

It’s true that the denial of the climate crisis – or denying it’s created by human activity — is serious and needs to be addressed.

But the real climate denial is the one most of us participate in. It’s the denial of the seriousness and acuteness of the issue and that it’s about a lot more than just climate change.

Rammstein: Deutschland

 

In the mind apart
In the heart united

– from Deutschland by Rammstein

This is another epic song and music video, similar to This Is America by Donald Glover (Childish Gambino). Both highlight issues of conflict, division, violence, and dehumanization in their countries, and bring these uncomfortable and often politely ignored issues right in front of us.

The music video for Deutschland follows these themes through German history, and I won’t go into the specific references since it’s easily found online. (Red thread, Germania, high technology co-existing with primitive cruelty, etc.)

In the lyrics, I am especially struck by the phrase…

Im Geist getrennt / In the mind apart
Im Herz vereint / In the heart united

That’s the human condition in a nutshell. We often find ourselves divided in the mind while united in the heart.

Just by being human, and being part of existence, we are united in the heart and our being. And as soon as our mind believes its own ideas about the world, we are often divided in the mind, and this is what’s behind (most of) the violence, conflict, and division.

And then…

Du / you
Ich / I
Wir / we
Ihr / you (plural)

…. which I take to mean that this applies to all of us. We are all in the same boat. We cannot blame some of us and pretend we are not part of it.

Rammstein are masters at the occasional epic and unforgettable lyrics, music, and music videos, and also of marketing. They know how to upset some people just enough so they get more attention. In this case, it’s the hanging scene that’s controversial, although they cast themselves as the jews (again, the theme that this is about all of us) and the lyrics and video are obviously critical of the themes of cruelty and dehumanization running through German history. And not only German history, but the history of humanity.

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Why isn’t there more research on what happens after this life?

 

Why isn’t there more research on what happens after this life?

After all, it’s clearly an important topic. All of us will die. It has a direct bearing on what worldview we adopt as a consensus worldview in our modern society. And it is possible to study. (And some do, as outlined in – among other books – Surviving Death by Leslie Kean.)

So if there are good reasons to do this type of research, and a few already do, why isn’t there more research?

The most obvious answer is that it’s (still) taboo in our modern society. It goes against the consensus atheist view of modern science. (Which I mostly agree with apart from when it creates a taboo.) And it steps into a minefield of opinions from religions and religious people around the world. For both of those reasons, you risk upsetting people if you enter this field through research.

That’s perhaps why it has become a taboo. And why most scientists leave it alone. They see it as a field for personal opinion and not something to explore through research.

Of course, it’s also irrational to maintain this taboo. As mention earlier, it’s an important topic with great ramifications for how we see ourselves and the world and it’s well within what we can do research on. There are no good reasons to not do research in this field, apart from the taboo itself.

And yet, taboos have a way of maintaining themselves. People acculturate and adopt the taboo, sometimes without even knowing what’s happening, and then ridicule and reject those who go outside of it. In this way, scientists are not necessarily more rational than anyone else.

This goes for any research on topics outside of the current mainstream view on the world, including research on ESP and the effects of energy healing.

Will it change? Probably. I can easily imagine a world where this type of research is more widely performed and accepted, and where the findings inform our consensus worldview. After all, it is important. And we can do good research on it.

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God as WE

 

Afterwards, my friend shows me a book called “God as WE” and asked me if I know of other authors on that topic.

From Dream: A New Dance, a post from 2007

This is from an old post that showed up in the sidebar today.

God as WE. That’s still alive for me.

All of existence is the divine. And so are all beings – the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as individuals and communities, and as evolving species and societies.

It’s already that way. God is already WE. And yet, when God recognizes and notices itself as WE something else comes in. A new dimension in our experience of ourselves as WE.

To me, this WE is not only all human beings, it’s also the whole Earth community. It’s all of life. It includes any beings other places in the universe, whether we know about them or not. And it even includes all of existence. All of it is WE.

This larger WE is what we connect with through the Universe Story or the Epic of Evolution, and through many forms of rituals and forms of spiritual openings. And the WE as a society is something that comes when we find a sacred context for how we see each other and society as a whole, and it can be supported by Big History and practical approaches to create a more real and deep democracy.

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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Life 101: How we think about the world (philosophy of science)

 

There are some essential Life 101 topics. Things that are fundamental to being human and can serve us for a lifetime.

One of these is learning how to think about the world, also known – when more formalized – as philosophy of science.

It’s something we all can explore for ourselves. And, as I see it, it’s a bit shocking it’s not included in a more systematic way at all levels of formal education – adapted to each age level and made fun, relevant, and with the ordinariness of it emphasized.

It’s what we already know, this is just a way to bring more awareness into it and investigate it more consciously.

Here are some ideas of what could be included in formal education.

When it comes to exploring the world, there is the basic approach of observation, hypothesis, testing, revising, testing by others, etc. And how each step is influenced by our underlying assumptions and worldviews. What are some examples of how we use these steps, often without thinking about it, in our own life? What are some examples in our history? What do we find if we apply this approach to an area of our own life?

Equally or more important is how we more broadly think about the world and our understanding of it.

We don’t know anything for certain. This goes for us as humanity, as a culture, and in our own life. Our statements or assumptions are practical guidelines for orienting and functioning in the world. They are questions. They are not the final word. What is an example of an assumption we made – about the world, ourselves, others, a situation – that we were convinced was true, and then it turned out it was not? What are some examples from history and science?

Our understanding of specific things in life changes over time. Our collective understanding changes, and our personal understanding changes. Over time, all of it may change. What are some examples of you seeing something a certain way, and then change your view? What are some examples from history?

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about the world change over time. What are some examples of worldviews changing over time? What are some examples of different worldviews from different cultures? What are the most basic assumptions about the world in our culture? Could these change in the future?

There are other understandings and other worldviews that may fit our experience (data) equally well as the ones we are familiar with, and some may even fit them better.

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world is the water we swim in. It’s hard for us to notice these. And if we do, it’s often hard for us to question them. What are some basic assumptions we – in our society and culture – have about the world? What are some examples of assumptions that we usually wouldn’t even think of questioning? Are there taboos around questioning some of them?

Our background colors our understandings, values, and worldview. Our background – – as a species, culture, and individual – color what we see as important, what we see as right and wrong, and our assumptions about the world and ourselves. What are some examples of how our background influences how we see something? What are some examples of cultural differences? Imagine an intelligent species very different from us (bird, reptilian, fish, etc.). How would their perceptions, inclinations, and perhaps values differ from ours?

What is cognitive bias? What are the most typical cognitive biases? Take one and see how it plays a role in your own life. Is there a time you realized you made a wrong assumption because of bias? Which cognitive biases do we most see in our society? How can I be more aware of these? How can I counteract them? What may happen if I don’t notice or question my biases? And what are the benefits of noticing and questioning them?

How do we discuss well? Do we go into a conversation with the intention to learn from the other? Or do we just want to keep our initial ideas unchanged? (If so, what’s behind it?) What is the outcome of one and the other? Roleplay both and see how each one feels.

What are some common logical fallacies? What are some examples of logical fallacies in public discourse? And in our own life? How can we notice and counteract them in ourselves? How can we – with kindness and effectively – point it out when someone else uses a logical fallacy? When is it appropriate to do so?

This ties into trauma education since traumas often influence our perception, ideas about the world, and how we hold onto them (often for dear life when traumas are involved).

It would be a fun challenge to adapt this to each age level, and also develop (potentially) engaging, fun, and illuminating exercises and activities for each of the areas listed above. (And other areas I inevitably have left out.) Of course, it’s even better when the kids/teens develop this on their own.

And it is important to show that this is a fundamental part of being human. It’s something we already know and apply, at least to some extent. This is just a more organized exploration and application of it.

I personally learned some of these in school. Some on my own in my teens through reading books about science (especially the Fritjof Capra books). And some at university. (Philosophy of science courses are mandatory at universities in Norway, although why not at earlier levels?)

I am a bit surprised that this is not a more integral part of education at all levels. It’s useful in all areas of life and throughout life. Essential for nurturing a more well-functioning society. And today, with the internet echo-chambers, it’s more important than ever.

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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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Janeway: In my time, no human being would dream of endangering the future

 

In my time, Mister Starling, no human being would dream of endangering the future to gain advantage in the present.

– Captain Kathryn Janeway to Henry Starling in Star Trek Voyager, Future’s End II

Star Trek is loved by many exactly because it’s optimistic about the future. It shows a future where we have solved many of the “childhood diseases” of humanity and where society is more life-centered. As Janeway says, they wouldn’t dream of (knowingly) endangering the lives of future generations to gain advantage in the present.

To many, this is inspiring and shows us the direction we want to move in. We can make small steps in the present to live more like this in our own lives and in creating this type of society.

It’s out of fashion to talk about steady or continued social progress, and for good reasons. (What is progress? Who decides? Who says it continues indefinitely?) And yet, we have seen a gradual progress in terms of who we include in the circle of us. Outright slavery is no longer acceptable. And in the future, animals, ecosystems, and future generations of all species may very well be included in who we see as “us”. It may well have to happen for us to create a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

Most likely, it will happen through a combination of changing norms and expectations, a realization that it’s in our own enlightened self-interest, and structural changes at all levels so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term is also what supports life in the big picture.

And, of course, we may never get to that place. Or it may continue to happen within subgroups of people, as it already does. I think what’s most likely is that eventually we will collectively do the minimum to have a more ecologically sustainable civilization, and it will include some of these norms. We will, by necessity, include more of life in who we see as us. As they say, it likely won’t be as bad as we fear, nor as good as we hope.

A footnote: It seems obvious that a society where we take all life into consideration, including the welfare of future generations, is what’s best for us and everyone. Even a child knows it. And yet, it seems it’s not so obvious when we see what policies we support and implement.

This is where some forms of ecopsychology comes in. How do we present the case so people see it’s in their own interest? How do we get to the structural changes needed so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term, for individuals and groups, is also what’s life-supporting in the bigger picture and longer term? What are the practical steps we can take?

One pretty obvious step is to focus on attractive solutions, make it personal, speak to their existing values (shows how it fits into their existing values and identities), and offer concrete and practical steps we – individually and collectively – can make.

Some already do take these steps. Elon Musk comes to mind. He, almost single-handedly, made electric cars cool and attractive. People want those cars even if they have no interest in sustainability. He is developing batteries so buildings more easily can be off grid and create and store their own energy. And he is also thinking further ahead, working towards us becoming a multi-planetary species. (Which may be needed for our long-term survival, and is a way for Earth to reproduce and bring all kinds of Earth life and ecosystems to several planets. As I have written about before, with terraforming we function as the reproductive organ for the Earth.)

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Civilization and its discontents

 

A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.

We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.

There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.

Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.

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The social and cultural benefits of genetic ancestry testing

 

I received my 23andme results a few weeks back and it has reminded me of a few things about genetic testing. Depending on how it’s used, it can definitely have some drawbacks. But it can also have many personal and social / cultural benefits.

Here are some of the possible social and cultural benefits that come to mind.

We are reminded that we are all overwhelmingly alike. Only about 0.5% of our genetic material has to do with our particular geographic or ethnic history. We are overwhelmingly alike as human beings, and as Earthlings we are also overwhelmingly alike. As human beings, we share almost all our history and ancestors, and as Earthlings we share a great deal of our history and ancestors.

Many of us, and especially in North America, have a far more mixed ancestry than we may expect. For instance, some who identify as “white” may have Asian, North-American, or African ancestry mixed in.

Same or similar genetic sequence-patterns are found in most or all human populations. So when the different companies assign an ethnic group based on particular patterns, they do it based on statistics and probably. Any particular pattern may be more prevalent in some groups but are found in other groups as well. So the analysis is not always accurate. Again, it’s a reminder of how similar we are.

Our official family history isn’t always the same as the genetic one. We have an official set of ancestors. We have a genetic set of ancestors. And the two are not always the same. This may help us hold our identity more lightly. We can (learn to) embrace and appreciate both.

This all makes it more difficult to justify or hold onto racism. (Although I am sure some will be able to if they really want to.) We are all Africans. We share almost all of our DNA. Many of us are more mixed than we think. Any differences are, in the big picture, very superficial.

As genetic testing becomes more common and our understanding improves, it may well have an impact on culture. And, if we want, it may help us see how closely we all are related. It may widen and deepen our sense of “us” as human beings and even as part of the Earth community.

As mentioned, there are also possible drawbacks. For instance, it’s easy to misinterpret or hold certain interpretations as more solid than they are. And some may get stressed out by certain interpretations of their health or ancestry data. They may realize one or both of their parents (or grandparents) are not the ones they thought they were. Or they may mistakenly think that’s the case based on misguided interpretation of the data. Or they may think that a slight statistical increase in likelihood of a certain illness means they are actually likely to get it (which may not be the case at all). With all of this, it’s important to be informed before jumping to conclusions, and in any case take it with a big grain of salt.

I guess there is also some risk that employees or governments can use certain data in unfortunate ways. (I don’t think it’s happening much or at all now, but there is always the risk.)

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Spoilers?

 

Many seem concerned with wanting to avoid “spoilers” for movies, and that’s fine.

In my case, I notice that the more I know about a movie in advance, the deeper and richer my experience is. I don’t care about being surprised. I want a richer experience.

So perhaps those who enjoy the surprise prefer to avoid “spoilers”, and those who want a richer experience don’t mind advance knowledge?

Either approach is fine, of course, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s connected with personality traits. And it’s clearly influenced by culture and sub-cultures.

Life is set up so it’s a mix of likely spoilers while inherently being spoiler-free. We may have ideas about what’s likely to happen but what actually happens is a surprise – either in the details or even the main plots.

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Shared secrets out in the open

 

Shared secrets of this kind is the norm for certain issues, and I assume one reason most people don’t speak about it because others don’t speak about it. Also, many don’t like to have their inconsistencies pointed out and in the open because it means they (or we) would have to do something about it.

The quote is from a previous post.

I think there are a great number of shared secrets in our culture. We know but don’t speak about it because it would rock the boat. We know but, for whatever reason, don’t want to know so we don’t speak about it. Or we would know if we paid attention to it, but since we haven’t yet we don’t have anything to say about it.

If we know but don’t speak about it, it may be for several different reasons. Others don’t so we would go against norms and taboos. We may not want to hurt someone’s feelings. It would put the spotlight on us and make us vulnerable to uncomfortable attention. We may be expected to do something about it.

Here are a few examples of these types of shared secrets:

We accept certain ingroup behavior more readily than similar outgroup behavior.

We give reasons that are not the real reasons for our behavior. (To appear better to ourselves and others, to not hurt ourselves and others.)

We pretend we know when we don’t know. (And that we can’t know anything for sure.)

News in the media is not so much about news as entertainment. They sell a product. It’s not about shedding light on the really important issues in our society and culture. (There are some exceptions, such as The Guardian.)

We pretend it’s ethical to imprison other beings, use them as slaves, eat them etc. We justify doing medical research on them bc they are similar to us while justifying enslaving and eating them because they are different from us.

We pretend it’s ethical or OK (or wise) to not take the interests of future generations, nonhuman beings, ecosystems etc. into consideration in our policies and decisions

Some accept a religion just because they are born into it. Not because it makes more sense than anything else. They do it for social reasons.

Some go into a religion for emotional comfort.

And things I noticed later….

International and national policies are often aimed at lining the pockets of the wealthy.

We pretend that an economic system and ideology (in our time, neoliberalism) aimed at benefiting the wealthy is in the interest of everyone.

None of these are necessarily bad or wrong, but it’s better to be open about it. To admit to ourselves and others what we already know and see the inconsistencies in it. That’s when change can happen.

Is it true we pretend? Yes and no. In many cases, we may know but not know that we know. We need to be reminded or have it pointed out, sometimes by life itself. And I am also very aware that these reflect my own experience of the world and may seem different to others.  Read More

Pastafarians

 

When I first encountered the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster several years ago, I thought it was a brilliant satire over religions. Through their own obviously absurd beliefs and rituals, they highlight the often equally absurd beliefs and rituals in different religions. And they also highlight how society often silently agrees to not point out the absurdity.

And yes, I know that religions serve many functions. They give people a community and sense of belonging. They serve to regulate behavior. They give power to small groups of people. They instill fear and/or hope in people. They create problems (f.ex. original sin) and solutions to these problems.

Some of these functions may be partially helpful and some certainly are not (apart from for the small groups of people benefiting from it in a limited way).

People sometimes complain that Pastafarians mock religion. But that’s their whole reason for being. And religions, let’s face it, often deserve to be mocked – or, at least, have their inconsistencies pointed out.

As with most things, I think religions are mostly OK and that it’s not a problem to belong to one. (I have variously been involved with Unitarians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Zen.) But it is a problem if we are not honest about what’s really going on, at least to ourselves.

For instance, if we are honest we may admit that we chose a particular religion because we were born into it. That the beliefs are just something we (try to) hold as true because we are told to. That we don’t really know. That we are involved for social reasons or emotional comfort. That parts of religions reflect a particular culture at a particular time more than any universal truth. That the purpose of any religion perhaps is to perpetuate itself more than anything else. That we are involved only to explore certain practices and their effects and don’t care about the rest (as was the case for me with Buddhism). And so on.

Are religious people delusional?

 

Are religious people delusional? That’s a question addressed by a recent article in The Guardian.

It’s a complex question and, as usual, it depends. Here are a few angles.

In general, what’s common and shared in a culture is not seen as unusual or a problem. (Although people from another background and culture may well see it differently.) Common religious beliefs and behaviors won’t be seen as delusional, even by people who disagree or have another view. And since most human cultures accept religions, we tend to give religions and religious people more leeway than we do in other cases.

If religious views or behaviors seem too much out of the ordinary we are more likely to wonder what’s going on. The views may be stronger than usual. Their views or behavior may be out of the ordinary. Their identity may be seen as unusual. And that may be considered a disorder or delusional.

Mystical experience is a subset of what I just mentioned. Some religious traditions and cultures accept mystical experiences (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism), and some see it as more unusual  (Protestant Christianity). In the latter, mystical experiences may be viewed with more suspicion although it depends on how the person interpret their own experiences.

In general, from a mainstream psychological view, it depends on how the person views their own beliefs and experiences. If they have a reasonably rational and mature relationship to it, and their interpretations are not too much out of the ordinary, they are likely to be seen as sane. If they seem to have unusually strong beliefs, or very unusual interpretations, they are more likely to be seen as delusional.

I understand this approach. As social and group creatures, we absorb the views and norms of our culture. And whatever is ordinary is also normal and generally seen as sane. And yet, it’s possible to take a more dispassionate view. We can take a step back and imagine we see it from the outside.

From a more dispassionate view, I would say religious beliefs are delusional. If we adopt views and beliefs (a) unsupported by our own experience and solid data, (b) just because someone else holds them, that is – in a strict sense – delusional. It may be understandable and ordinary but also delusional. It makes about as much sense as believing in Santa Claus.

So why don’t psychologists see religious beliefs as delusional? There are many reasons. Mainly, the beliefs are understandable and ordinary and they want to give people some leeway. Also, they don’t want to antagonize large groups of people. And if religious beliefs are seen as delusional, then any belief will have to be seen as delusional.

And, of course, that’s actually true. When we hold our own imagination – which our thoughts are – as representing reality in any final or absolute sense, then we are delusional. Any belief is, in a strict sense, delusional. That’s why it’s also stressful. It’s out of alignment with reality.

Fortunately, there is a way out. And that way may include many forms of explorations including various forms of meditation, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, and inquiry.

Perhaps in the future or in some society somewhere else in the universe, the norm is to take thoughts for what they are. As imagination only helpful in a practical sense to help us orient and navigate in the world. And not as a pointer to any final or absolute truth or reality. In such a society, religious belief – as any other belief – may be seen as delusional. Understandable but delusional.

Just to make it clear: I am talking about religious belief here. Not necessarily spirituality. Spirituality – as anything else – can and does get mixed in with beliefs. But it can also be a more open and pragmatic exploration. It can be a reporting on direct experiences, in an as honest way as possible. It can be a practical exploration through using pointers and practices to see what we find. It can be an exploration of reality, just as (other forms of) science. And that can be done outside of or (sometimes) within a religious context.

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Trump reflections IX – aka reflections on society and politics

 

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

Emotionally motivated reasoning. A good portion of our reasoning is emotionally motivated. I sometimes think that in a Life 101 track for young people, learning to recognize emotionally motivated reasoning (EMR) – and it’s strengths and pitfalls – would be included. It seems a basic and useful life skill.

Emotionally motivated reasoning is reasoning based on emotions. We use thoughts to match our emotions, or to justify and support our emotions. We feel empathy so have a view of egalitarian inclusiveness. We feel angry, so we come up with a reason we are angry and perhaps why someone else is to blame. We are afraid, and do the same. And this influences our political views and reasoning.

What are some of the signs of EMR? Reactivity. Defensiveness. Blame. Appearing unreasonable. Uninterested in alternate views. Discounting data that doesn’t fit.

We can learn to recognize this in ourselves and in others. When we recognize it in ourselves, it’s a reminder to stop. Notice our emotions. Be honest with ourselves what we feel. (Perhaps anger on the surface masking fear.) And reconsider our view. It can be difficult, but it has many rewards. It’s a practice in honesty. And it’s a practice in being more interested in reality than our cherished views and identities. We will always operate from EMR in some situations and areas of life, but we can learn to recognize and be more honest about it.

And when we recognize it in others, we will then be more able to use a similar process. Sometimes, it’s  appropriate to directly address reactivity and irrationality, but it can also make positions more entrenched. Another way is to approach it with genuine curiosity. What are the emotions behind it? What’s the fear? What do they really want and need? Perhaps there are other strategies for them to have their needs met? (This is similar to Nonviolent Communications.)

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