Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXV

 

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

A CONSPIRACY TO USE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS

I love this, although I would rephrase it slightly: “Just wait till conspiracy theorists discover they’re part of a conspiracy to use conspiracy theories to spread disinformation.”

If there is a real conspiracy out there, it’s that some intentionally use conspiracy theories – and conspiracy theorists – to spread disinformation.

And through that, influence politics (e.g. QAnon with Trump support), sow confusion and doubt around certain topics (petroleum industry with climate change), and generally create chaos and polarization (Russia with the US and Europe).

Conspiracy theorists are being used, and they often don’t realize it.

I love this one too. It’s true we are all the universe and Earth and – if we see it that way – Spirit. Our experiences are the experiences Spirit wants to have through and as us. At the same time, if I lived in the US, I would do anything I could – through voting and getting out the votes – to prevent a second Trump presidency.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXIV

 

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

WHAT DO CONSERVATIVES CONSERVE?

Politics doesn’t interest you because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well

– Edith to Sherlock Holmes in Enola Holmes

A question I often ask myself is: what do conservatives want to conserve?

It’s of course many things depending on the person and the brand of conservatism.

Some of which I personally wholeheartedly agree with: Conserving nature and God’s creation. Conserving our world so future generations can have a good life. Conserving some traditional elements of our culture. (Which doesn’t mean to exclude anything else.) Conserving freedom of speech and religion. Conserving – and ideally improving – our democracy. And so on.

And some of which I don’t at all support. Mainly, anything that has to do with conserving privilege for the few at the cost of other groups.

This includes different variations of overt or subtle racism, bigotry, and prejudice, and also preserving unjust economic, political, and social structures.

And it includes preserving the privilege of humans at the cost of ecosystems and other species, and preserving the privilege of the current generation at the cost of future generations.

From my perspective, policies that don’t take the big picture into account – and the interests of all life – seem profoundly and inherently flawed.

THE 2016 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FORECAST WAS WRONG?

I have written about this in 2016 and earlier this year, but it feels worth mentioning again: Some folks still say that the polling or forecast for the 2016 US presidential election was wrong.

I mostly listened to the 538 podcast in the lead-up to that election, and I usually avoid US mainstream media, so I don’t know what they all wrote and said.

But when it comes to what I have seen, it seems that the problem has to do with people not understanding even the basics of statistics more than the polling itself.

538 said (as far as I remember) that there was a 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 chance of Trump winning the election (25-20 percent). Those are not bad odds at all. It means that 1 out of 4 or 5 times the polling numbers looks like this, Trump will win. Nobody should be surprised that he won the presidency.

This year, most – two weeks before the election – say there is a 90% chance Biden will win, which means there is a 1 to 10 chance Trump will win. Out of ten times the polling looks like this, Trump will win once. Even that’s not terrible odds. (Nate Silver at 538 says Trump has between 1 to 5 and 1 to 20 chance.)

How can you be surprised when Trump’s odds are in a reasonably good range? Again, I assume it has to do with reporters and other people not understanding even the most basic statistics – the type of thing everyone should have learned the first few years in school.

And that, in turn, may say something about the US education system.

There is also an over-arching question here: Why are polls important? Why not wait and see the result after the election. I understand polls are important for the candidates to target their campaigns, but why is it important for regular folks? To me, it seems more like entertainment than anything very useful.

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Charities show us where society has failed

 

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

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

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

– my friend MB on social media

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

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

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXX

 

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

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

John Fuglesang

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUGUST 22, 2020

IDEALISTIC VS PRAGMATIC IN US VOTING

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

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

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

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

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Mia Werger: When our fight for the future is finally over, our communities will still be here – it will be a beautiful place to start

 

The world may be crumbling, but I am part of a generation—a community—that gets to tackle that problem. We get to take what we’ve been given, and design it in a completely new way. When our fight for the future is finally over, our communities will still be here. It will be a beautiful place to start.

– Mia Werger in How the Climate Change Generation Is Redefining Community in Yes! Magazine

My vision is of a world where we have passer through our current ecological-social bottleneck, and where our communities are stronger for it, at least in some regions of the world.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXIX

 

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

NORWAY’S REASON FOR NOT RECOMMENDING FACE MASKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS FEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JULY 31, 2020

ADOPTING THE RELIGION OF THE OPPRESSOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things XV

 

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

THE SUPERIORITY OF HUMANS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXVIII

 

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

WHY DO I CELEBRATE OUR NATIONAL DAY?

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

What can I find that feels genuinely right to celebrate?

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

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

JULY 5, 2020

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

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

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

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXVII

 

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

THE UPSIDE OF TRUMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE 6, 2020

POLICE BRUTALITY

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

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

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

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

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The banality of evil and our ecological crisis

 

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond ecology and 1800s structures: Power-over mindset

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXV

 

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

Who is it for?

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

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

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

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Nature spirituality in a oneness context

 

Nature spirituality is seeing – or experiencing – nature as divine. As an expression of the divine. The creation of the divine. Or as the divine.

This can be more of a thought or feeling. It can be a sense or intuition. Or it can be a direct and unmistakable experience and perception.

It can happen as a phase of the awakening process. Or it can happen within a more clear awakening.

It can happen outside or inside of traditional forms of religion or spirituality. Either way, it borrows language and ideas from the culture and tradition(s) we are familiar with.

A more nature oriented spirituality is perhaps especially important today since it helps us find love for and a wish to care for nature and Earth.

Some who are into nature spirituality may see humans as special and somehow apart from the rest of nature. Others see humans as an intrinsic part of the Earth community and all of nature as “us”.

Nature spirituality may focus on untouched nature or any nature. Or it can include humans and human culture and civilization. These too are – in a very real sense – nature and an expression of this living planet and of divinity. (Culture and civilization currently have an ecologically unsustainable form but that doesn’t make it less of an expression of Earth and divinity. It just happens to take this form right now and it can change.)

How does nature spirituality look in a oneness context?

It tends to happen as part of a more general awakening process, as I have hinted at above.

It can happen within separation consciousness with some glimmers of oneness. These glimmers can come as a sense or intuition of nature as the divine or an expression of the divine, and there can be an early sense or glimpses of oneness.

It can also happen within a more clear perception of oneness. Here, there is a recognition that all is the divine and nature is one expression of the divine. And one we chose to honor and emphasize, either from personal inclination or because we realize it’s important as part of the culture change we need in order to survive as a species.

Whether it plays out within mainly separation consciousness or oneness depends on the usual factors in awakening. For instance, a sense or glimmers of oneness and a gradual “thinning of the veils” and wearing out of identifications.

Since I have written several articles about the awakening process in general, I won’t go into it here.

How can we cultivate or open up for nature spirituality?

Several things may put us on a nature spirituality path. It may be an experience or glimpse of the divinity of nature. It may be a deep love for nature, perhaps from childhood experiences. It may be something we read or heard that sparked something in us.

We can cultivate it by being in nature. By finding a community of others exploring nature spirituality. By engaging in rituals and practices like the practices to reconnect by Joanna Macy. By investigating any beliefs and identities standing between where we are and a deeper connection with nature. By exploring and inviting in awakening in general.

My personal experience

After writing this, I realize I can add a few words about my own experience to put some flesh on the bones.

When I was little, I loved nature. My parents took me on many outings to fish, pick berries, hike, and ski. We spent many weekends and vacations at the cabin in the mountains or near Oslo. I often played and explored in nature, in the forest, and by and in lakes. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I often said zoologist.

In late childhood, perhaps around twelve years of age, I was mesmerized by Cosmos by Carl Sagan and would walk outside, look at the stars, know that I was starstuff looking at the stars and the universe locally bringing itself into consciousness, and feel a strong belonging to all of nature and the universe. Around the same time, I slept under the stars in the mountains in Norway and had a profound – and life changing – experience of belonging to the universe as a whole.

The spiritual opening happened in my mid-teens and this was an awakening to oneness. It happened when I walked along a gravel road under a dark starry sky with a strong wind blowing through the sky. It was as if the vastness of the universe – the infinitely deep darkness, the stars, and the big wind – opened up something in me. All was revealed as God, as consciousness, as Spirit, and nothing was not this. It was Spirit waking up to itself locally and through and as this human form. During this time – for the next many years – there was a profound sense of the divine as all there is – the stars, the wind, nature, humans, and human culture.

Eventually, all of this normalized. Now, all matter and nature and anything else is clearly consciousness – or the divine. There is an inherent sense of awe in it. But there are no bells and whistles. It’s familiar. It is, in a sense, ordinary. Something extraordinary and ordinary at the same time.

For the sake of transparency: During this time, I could see there were some identifications left and a slight sense of “I”. At the same time, I knew these didn’t point to anything ultimately true or real and I largely saw through it and saw it for what it was.

A confession

As I started writing this I got lost in describing the different elements of nature spirituality and more or less forgot about the oneness context. My brain is working less well today, probably as part of the usual brain fog and fluctuations that comes with chronic fatigue. I decided to just leave this article as is. Perhaps there is something of value in it anyway.

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Why do we love nature?

 

Why do most people love nature? Why do we experience it as healing?

One answer is that it’s because we are nature. We are an expression of this living planet as everything else is.

Another is that nearly all of our ancestors lived in nature. They were adapted to it. It was their home. It is our home. We are – literally – made to be in nature.

There is also a simplicity in being in nature. It helps us focus on the basics and we don’t need to pay attention to all the complexities of modern life. Food. Shelter. Getting from A to B. That’s the few simple things we need to focus on.

It also helps us prioritize and see our life in perspective. When I am in civilization, I am immensely grateful for electricity, running water, hot showers, and being able to go to the grocery store for food. These are not anything we can take for granted at all. Also, I get to see that I can be content with little as long as my basic needs are covered. My quality of life does not come from all the extra things that modern life offers. It comes from the simple things in everyday life, and especially in how I relate to my life and the world in general.

The simplicity of being in nature is also a kind of retreat. It helps us meet ourselves. And instead of going to distractions, we are invited to find another – and more kind and content – way of being with ourselves.

Is this love for nature only for ourselves? No. It can certainly enrich our lives immensely and also clarify our lives. But it also makes us into advocates for nature, and few things are as important – for us as humans and for all Earth life – than that today.

I am very aware that what I write here is a reflection of privilege. I can go into nature when I want. I have a home in civilization. I have my basic needs covered. I don’t need to collect or catch my own food.

I am also aware that since I am from Norway, and a deep love for nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, these views are somewhat influenced by my culture. In the US, I didn’t find the same universal love for nature, or at least not the love that makes us want to be in and experience nature first hand.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXIII

 

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

Climate crisis renaissance

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

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

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

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

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Outer space and spiritual explorations

 

Since childhood, one of my main interests has been space, space exploration, and science fiction. And I have had an intuitive sense of the connection between space exploration and spiritual exploration. Why is there this connection?

Here are some of the parallels I find:

Both involve exploration of (for us) unknown territory. Space exploration and spiritual exploration are both an adventure and an ongoing and endless discovery.

Space appears infinite and what we are the same. To us, outer space seems infinite. And when we discover what we are – what this experience happens within and as – this “space” too appears without end.

From space we see Earth as a single whole and a single living system. There are no border visible. We are in the same boat. Our destiny – of all Earth life – is interconnected. We are inspired to take care of all life and future generations to the best of our abilities. This recognition of the oneness of all life can also come through spiritual explorations.

Through the Universe Story – as told by modern science – we see that the universe and all of existence is one whole. It’s one seamless system evolving in all the ways we see around us, and as us and our experiences and life. As Carl Sagan said in Cosmos (paraphrased), we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe exploring itself.

Through spiritual explorations, we can find something very similar. We find ourselves as the One locally expressing itself as this human self and the experiences of this human self. We find ourselves as that which our experience – of this human self, the wider world, and the universe as it appears to us – happens within and as. We find ourselves as that “no-thing” that’s capacity for all of this.

So there is no surprise if I experience an intuitive connection between space exploration and spiritual explorations. Both involves ongoing and endless adventure and exploration. Both involves the appearance of something without end. Both gives us a realization of Earth and all life as a seamless whole. Both involves a recognition of Oneness and our human self as a local expression of this Oneness – beautiful and amazing in all its richness.

Note: As a child, I was deeply fascinated – and somewhat transformed – by Cosmos by Carl Sagan, and also read anything I could find about astronomy and science fiction. In terms of science fiction, I loved the classics like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and others.

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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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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Mother Earth: not just a metaphor

 

When you hear the words Mother Earth, what does it mean to you? A poetic metaphor? A reminder to recycle? Something a tree-hugger would say?

Or does it mean something more? Perhaps it’s literally true?

We are born from Earth. We are sustained by Earth. All we know is Earth. We are, in a very real and literal sense, Earth. We are a local and temporary expression of this living system we call Earth – amazing and beautiful far beyond what we can even begin to understand.

Our human culture and everything part of it is Earth. That too is a local and temporary expression of Earth. We and all we know and all we are and all we have created grew out of and is part of this amazing, beautiful, living, evolving system we call Earth.

Earth is not other. It’s not something to take care of as we take care of a possession. It’s what we are. When we care for Earth we care of ourselves.

This is the most obvious thing in the world. And yet, it’s not. And the only reason it’s not is that we live within a culture, a mindset, and a worldview that says we are separate. Earth is a commodity. Earth provides resources for our civilization. Earth provides space for our waste. Earth can be owned and used for our pleasure.

And we forget that we are part of this amazing living system. We are part of the evolution of Earth. We are born from and sustained by Earth. We are the local expression of Earth. We are Earth. We are the ones who can speak for Earth. Protect Earth as ourselves. Cherish Earth as ourselves. Love Earth as ourselves.

We need a profound transformation into a more sustainable and life-centered culture, and this shift in perception is part of it. It’s a change in how we see ourselves and Earth. We never were separate individuals wandering around in an environment. We are local expressions of Earth.

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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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

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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Taking in the “death of nature” and a synchronicity

 
I am at the cabin in Norway (by the lake Mosjøen in Enebakk), and a couple of nights ago, while falling asleep, I listened to an audiobook. The author talked about the loss of butterflies and other insect life at her home in Ireland, a gradual ecological devastation, the and the possibility of a very dystopian future for humanity. I have been impacted by the same – the very obvious loss of insect life in Norway and corresponding loss of bird life and a variety of other animals and animals – and how it is just a small local expression of the global loss of biodiversity and nature. In a very real sense, it’s a “death of nature” caused by us humans – and our current worldview of seeing ourselves as separate from nature, and a society that operates within frameworks that do not take limited ecological resources into account. After listening to this description of loss butterflies and insects in general, I was unable to sleep. I got up, and allowed the sadness, distress, and pain in the heart to be here and work on me. The more I am able to allow it all as it is, the more it is allowed to work on me and transform me. As I took it in more deeply and fully, I felt something in me realigning with the reality of what’s happening, and there was also a sense of a deeper healing. I don’t know exactly what happened, and I don’t really need to know. (Perhaps we never can know fully.) Although painful, it was  a beautiful process. The following day, there were a couple of synchronicities. I found myself surrounded by a huge amount of insects when I was down by the lake in the evening. (I have noticed the loss of insect life at the cabin too, even if it is in relatively untouched wilderness and soon-to-be national park, and the corresponding loss of bird life is very noticeable.) Later, I was down by the lake again to get water and saw several bats flying over the lake. (During the previous night, the absence of bats was one of the things that came to mind. I hadn’t seen any bats here for many years although they were abundant when I was a kid.) It was as if life was telling me: Yes, it’s good you take in what’s happening – the possibility of a dystopian future for humans and many other species, and that there is already a dystopian present for many humans and other species And also, see, there is hope. It’s worth working and fighting for a different future, one that is more life-centered. One that values life. One where humans organize themselves so what’s easy and attractive to do is also beneficial for other people, ecosystems, and future generations. You know it’s possible. Help others see it’s possible.

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.

Childish Gambino: Feels like summer

 

Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water,
it’s about to go down
Go down
Air that kill
the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing,
wakin’ up to no sound
No sound

Childish Gambino / Donald Glover

Another beautiful song from Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) inviting us to take a closer look at serious issues. This time, ecological destruction.

Just as the dancing in the This is America video showed how entertainment distracts us from serious issues impacting us all, here the video can distract us from the actual content of the song. I imagine the mindless activities of the celebrities in the video is a poke at them and their lack of engagement.  

Of course, most of us are aware of what’s going on. We just need ways we can engage that are relatively easy and attractive. We need structural change. We need to live within systems where what’s easy and attractive to do, for individuals and organizations, is also what supports and enhances life. And how do we get that? It’s hard to say.

Awareness is a good first step. Focusing on practical solutions is another. As is emphasizing the attractive sides to this change. And voting with our money and voting for political change. We have the solutions, we just need to implement them. Most likely, serious change won’t happen until we really get that we have to. It may not happen until things get bad enough close to home that we’ll have to change.

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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Deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, healing, sustainability, spirituality, nonduality

 
These are the types of articles that quickly mushroom into something that could be a book instead of a brief article. So I’ll try to keep it brief and succinct. The downside is, of course, that a lot of the richness and juiciness is left out. The upside is that it invites the reader to explore the richness and left-out connections for themselves. Rich explorations sometimes come out of very simple pointers. What are some of the connections between deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, epic of evolution, systems views, healing, sustainability, and spirituality? These are all areas that have been passions for me since my teens, and they are closely related, although often not explored in connection with each other. Deep ecology can help us change our conscious view and be more aware of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life. We are a part of nature and the Earth. All life has intrinsic value. Deep ecology practices, such as Joanna Macy’s Practices to Reconnect, helps us have a visceral experience of deep time and the deep interconnectedness of all life. Over time, this visceral experience of deep time and deep interconnectedness can become a new norm for us. It can become something we naturally live from in daily life. Ecopsychology can provide very helpful pointers for how to bring more people on board with sustainability, and organize society so that what’s easy and attractive to do is also something that benefits society as a whole, ecosystems, and future generations. Other branches of ecopsychology give helpful pointers for individual healing. Systems theories help us also change our conscious view to recognize the deep interconnectedness of all life, of society and ecosystems. Earth is one seamless system, and we can learn basic principles of how Earth as a living system – along with most or all other living systems – work. A systems view also gives us pointers for where to target what types of social interventions to invite systemic changes. Healing is essential for reducing reactivity, open for more flexible, pragmatic, and big picture views, and provide contentment and a sense of safety allowing us to act more consistently in the interests of the larger whole and future generations. As we heal, and if our basic needs are taken care of and we feel relatively safe, we tend to mature. And as we mature, we naturally tend to broaden our concern to include others, the wider social and ecological wholes, and even future generations. Our sense of “us” tends to broaden and be more inclusive. At the very least, as we heal and mature, we don’t feel as threatened if someone else acts from this more inclusive sense of “us”. Society and culture is another aspect of this and a big topic. Some cultures already offer a deeper sense of connection with all life, while our modern western one tends to teach us we are separate from nature and disconnected from past and future generations (however illogical that is). Similarly, I imagine that societies with good social safety nets tend to allow people the “luxury” of being concerned with sustainability. And, of course, ecological crisis – whether regional or global – will tend to do the same out of necessity. Ecospirituality can open for a deeper sense of all as expressions of the divine, and it can help us bring people from different religions on board with sustainability by using their existing religious language, values, and rituals. Depending on the religion, and the subgroups within the religion, we can say that all is the divine, or infused with the divine, or at least divine creation. And that we are not only part of but stewards of God’s creation and responsible for passing on an Earth to our descendants that will allow them to thrive. The specific language will depend on the religion and the subgroups, as will the rituals and practices aimed at deepening our experience of all as the divine, and how we bring it into our lives and society. Epic of Evolution uses science to help people shift into views and more visceral experiences of deep time, the deep interconnectedness of all, reverence for all of existence, and even Big Mind. As Carl Sagan said, “And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.” Spirituality and nonduality provide tools supporting all of these shifts in perceptions, views, and visceral experiences. Heart-centered practices help us reorient from indifference or aversion to befriending and finding genuine love and appreciation for ourselves, others, society and ecosystems as a whole, life as a whole, and future generations. Inquiry helps us heal from wounds and hangups created by identifications, and it also helps us see through and shift out of the sense of separation created by identifications. The Big Mind process, which is a form of guided inquiry, can allow us to have a direct and immediate taste of all as the divine which can also help us reorient and feel a greater sense of responsibility for how our actions impact all life. I should add the obvious, that natural and social sciences, and technology, are all vital components for us creating a more sustainability society locally, regionally, and globally. Effective global governance is another vital component. As is shifting out of neo-liberal views and policies aimed at benefiting corporations over people, nature, and future generations. When I imagine a more sustainable society in the future, at least in regions of Earth, I imagine all of these as important components and commonly found in different parts of society. And I imagine serious research being done in each of these fields. Of course, most likely only a small(ish) part of society will be actively interested or engaged in these areas, although that’s often enough for it to be reflected in mainstream culture, and it may be enough to bring about the changes needed. Read More

Dream: Cruise ship by the cabin

 

I am on a cruiseship on the lake by our cabin, which I find odd since it’s a relatively small inland lake. It seems to be a family gathering. Towards the end of the outing, people wash their hands and good deal of soap is released into the lake. I comment on it, but others don’t see it as a problem. I realize the ship will stay in the lake and continue taking people on tours. They are very focused on selling things, and they will continue to release oil, soap, and more into the lake. I realize it will destroy the lake but the others say it won’t be that bad. I see them as being in denial.

I wrote an initial response to this dream which you can read below. I didn’t publish it at the time since I felt something was off or missing. And now, several weeks later, I feel ready to rewrite my response and publish it.

This dream is about a lake in the forest south-east of Oslo where our family cabin is located. I spent a good deal of time at that cabin growing up and it is an important place in my life.

I had this dream just before waking up in the morning, and later the same day (at a Vortex Healing practice group in San Francisco), I learned it was Earth Day.

This dream seems to have represented a shift in me in how I experience the destruction of nature. I have always taken it seriously and even worked in sustainability for several years, but I have also held its impact on me at an arms-length distance. In the dream, there was very much a viceral experience of the destruction of the lake. It felt as I was the lake and the nature in that area. I felt it in my own body. There was no separation. And, somehow, that’s how it’s been since. I now feel these things viscerally, in and as my own body. It’s a welcome change since I knew the distance was artificial. It was created by my own mind as a protection. And it seems that’s no longer needed. For whatever reason, there must be a readiness in me to have a more visceral experience of what’s happening with Earth these days.

I have spent a few weeks at that cabin since the dream, and I notice a renewed and deeper appreciation and gratitude for all life there. Even the smallest insect is sacred and gives me joy.

A small footnote: I was at the cabin last week, and on the path to the outhouse I saw something resting on top of a shrub. It was a loose collection of feathers and fur, and I suspect it may be a wolf’s shedded winter fur a bird collected for a nest and then dropped. Somehow, it felt like a nod from nature. We are on the same side. I am on the side of the wolves and the birds. We are all part of nature. In a very real sense, and in a very visceral sense, I am that forest, those animals and plants, and that lake. The photo above this article was taken at that trip, just before midnight one night in the third week of June.

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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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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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Oneness understood in different ways

 

There are different forms or versions of oneness.

All as a system. The universe is a seamless system. Everything is evolving from, within, and as the universe. In the same way, the Earth is a seamless living system, and all parts of the Earth is evolving from, within, and as the Earth. (And, yes, that includes humans and our culture, technology, and society.) Everything has infinite causes. Our health and well being is intimately connected with the health and well being of the larger social and ecological wholes. This is a systems view of oneness.

All as consciousness. In our immediate experience, any experience happens within and as consciousness. Any experience is consciousness and cannot be anything else ever. It’s form empty of substance. Any appearance of substance of solidity comes from mental images or words combining with sensations, and that too happens within and as consciousness. (Images or words lend meaning to sensations, and sensations lend a sense of solidity to images and words.) This is something we can – if we explore it skillfully – agree on whether we come from a psychological view or a spiritual view.

All as Spirit. To us, any experience is inevitably consciousness. But is reality in itself – the whole universe – consciousness? (Or Spirit, Brahman, Buddha Mind, Allah, God.) It certainly appears that way to us, but that doesn’t mean it – in itself – is. As with anything else, we cannot know for certain. We can say that there are hints that everything, in itself, is consciousness, including synchronicities, various forms of ESP and knowing, and perhaps distance healing. But, in fairness, these can be interpreted other ways as well.

Is it so obvious? I have assumed that it’s obvious that all our experience happens within and as consciousness. I know that to many, the world appears to be made up of solid and substantial “things” that exist “out there” in the world. And yet, within one session of Living Inquiries, guided by a skilled facilitator, we can all have a taste of how the mind creates its own world. And that all of it happens within and as consciousness. A brief exploration will typically reveal it, even if most will revert to the “solid objects in a real world” experience afterward.

My view? To me, each of these three forms of oneness seems valid and useful. The systems view helps us organize ourselves so we are more aligned with reality, and it can also open for awe, gratitude, and humility, and a deep sense of belonging. The second helps relieve stress from recognizing how the mind creates its own experience. And although the third is perhaps a less needed addition, it does help us function in a more sane and mature way in the world.

Play of the divine. These three forms of oneness have an additional component for me. And that’s lila – the play of life, the mind, or the divine. From a systems view, the universe is the play of life. From the second view, our experience is the play of the mind. And from the third view, all of existence is the play of the divine. It’s life, the mind, or the divine, expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in a great multitude of ways. There is perhaps no ultimate “goal” to it all apart from the play itself, and that’s perhaps enough. Of course, within this play, there are apparent sub-“goals” or stepping stones, but it’s all happening within and as the play.

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