Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 69

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.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI

When I lived in Oregon in the 2000s, I was aware that we were roughly due for another major (8 or 9) earthquake. If I remember correctly, they seem to happen about every three or four hundred years and it is about that time since the last one.

I made sure to have earthquake insurance on the house and was surprised when the insurance agent said it was very unusual.

This is another example of people not taking science seriously. There will be another major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. It’s roughly due, although it’s difficult to say exactly when. It could be within our time or in one, two, or three generations.

For me, that’s all I need to take precautions and be prepared. And it seems that for many, it’s a reason to not do much and hope for the best.

For instance, in Japan where they have more of a living memory of tsunamis, they build tsunami towers where people can go to be safe. In the US, they only have three (!) so far.

If Europeans had lived in the Pacific Northwest when the last major earthquake and tsunami happened, they too would have a memory of it, and they would be more likely to do something about it.

As it is, there is only the information from the scientists, and that does not seem to be enough.

Image by me and Midjourney

MASTERS OF THE AIR

I have watched the three first episodes of the Spielberg/Hanks production Masters of the Air which follows Band of Brothers and The Pacific. I remember I thought The Pacific was exceptionally good and I also liked Band of Brothers. With this one, I am not so sure. I’ll watch it to the end, but I am somehow less invested in it.

I get the sense that the storytelling is not aimed at making the audience care about the characters. The interactions seem superficial and I haven’t learned much about any of them so far. I know next to nothing about their background, their relationships with people at home, their hopes, dreams, and passions. I have seen short movies that have made me care far more about someone within a minute than I care about any of these characters after three hours.

With Spielberg and Hanks involved, it’s difficult to understand why this is so. Was it an intentional choice? Did they hire writers who are not good at making people care about the characters? Did they get distracted by the technical challenges?

Update: I have seen a couple of more episodes, and although I find it worthwhile to watch, I am not very invested in the series. For me, it would have been more interesting if I got to know the main characters more as humans – with relationships, dreams, hopes, fears, talents, passions, and so on. It would also have been interesting if the series followed both Allied and Axis airmen, humanizing both sides.

Update: I am now watching episode 6, and it seems they are slowing down the pace a bit and making it more personal.

THE IMPACT OF CIVILIZATION

Our civilization and the world we live in impacts us hugely.

It’s obvious, of course, and an important aspect of just about any field including therapy.

We are impacted by our society. In our society, there is an emphasis on working many of our waking hours, the work is not all that fulfilling to many, we live on our own or in small units, and so on. It’s far removed from how our ancestors lived and what’s natural for us. We crave community, nature, a flexible schedule, and meaningful work. (Of course, life wasn’t always easy for our distant ancestors, and their society had it’s own problems, but it was at least more community-oriented, in nature, and the work was simple, concrete and meaningful.) In addition, we have hierarchies, systemic racism, and bigotry, systemic increase in the gap between the few wealthy and the many poor, and so on.

We are impacted by what we know is happening in the world. We see wars, famine, disasters, suffering, economic problems, and so on. We see nature being destroyed, warnings about the collapse of ecosystems, and so on.

We are impacted by what we see happening around us. In my case, in Norway, I am hugely impacted by seeing the loss of insects and birds, and also seeing how the gardens that used to be full of larger and smaller trees, bushes, and flowers now are sterile lawns with just about nothing else.

We are impacted by our culture and the worldview(s) embedded in our culture. In our case, we are impacted by a worldview of separation, power-over, and a distant sky-god. It harms us as it harms others and ecosystems.

We live with all of this and it impacts all of us whether we notice or not.

To me, this is a major factor in understanding what’s going on with us individually.

Family dynamics and individual experiences play a role, and it’s happening within a much larger social and ecological system. All of it plays a role.

FEBRUARY 6, 2024

WHEN DISCONNECTED FROM NATURE, IT’S EASY TO TURN TO CONSUMPTION TO FILL THE HOLE

When I am in nature, I feel whole and full. I don’t need to go to consumption to fill a hole in me. Right now, I am at our land in the Andes mountains, and the life around me – the forest, birds, insects – brings life to the place and to my life.

When I am in civilization, and especially cities, I sometimes go to consumption to fill a hole. In my case, usually small things, crafts, occasionally clothes, and a tea and something small at cafés.

I can see two reasons for this. One is that nature makes me feel whole and cities do not. The other is obviously availability. In cities, everything is oriented around buying something. In nature, I can buy things online but not so much locally.

THE MYSTERY OF HIKIKOMORI IS PERHAPS NOT SUCH A MYSTERY

I saw a mini-documentary about hikikomori, young Japanese men who isolate from society for years. The documentary presented it as a mystery that needed more research. They also focused on individual interventions to help them out of their homes.

Of course, research is good, but I am not sure if it’s necessarily such a mystery. I am also not sure if it’s primarily an individual issue.

To me, it looks like depression and hopelessness, perhaps mixed with social anxiety. They isolate because they can and it’s more comfortable (in the short term) than going out in society and try to participate in society in the way that’s expected of them.

I am no expert on Japanese society, but it looks like there is a strong focus on success, status, hierarchy, tradition, and so on. If that’s the case, then isolating makes sense. It’s an understandable response to such a society, especially if you may not be able to live up to what’s expected of you.

If their society was more inclusive, accepting, warm, and supportive, would they isolate? My guess is not.

Some would say it’s a healthy response to an unhealthy society. I would say it’s an understandable response. A more healthy response would be to question the assumptions and rules of society and find your own way through it that makes more sense to you. I understand that’s easier said than done.

To me, there is an amazing opportunity in the hikikomori situation. It’s a symptom of unhealthy aspects of their society. It’s an invitation for everyone to question and have a dialog about their society and what works, what doesn’t work so well (and for who), and how they would like it to change. I am sure some are taking that opportunity. That’s someone that can benefit just about everyone and society as a whole.

QUANTUM PHYSICS & SPIRITUALITY

In my teens and early twenties, I read all I could get my hands on in terms of quantum physics and spirituality. Some of what comes out of quantum physics seems aligned and compatible with insights from Eastern philosophies.

I understand it can be fun and interesting to explore these connections. It was for me.

I understand the temptation to use quantum physics to lend some sort of credibility to Eastern philosophies. That may have been part of my motivation at the time.

At the same time, there is an obvious pitfall here. (Which Ken Wilber has pointed out.)

The findings in quantum physics, and the theories and models used to make sense of it, are very much a child of our time. They belong to the early infancy of quantum physics. It’s all tentative questions. It will change. The quantum physics one or a few decades into the future may be very different from now. It may even change to something that does not look so obviously compatible with Eastern philosophies.

The essence of much of Eastern philosophy is a perennial philosophy. It’s about our nature. The essence is timeless. (Although the expression and wording will change with time and across cultures.)

So it doesn’t make sense to connect the two too closely. Yes, it can be fun to explore. And it’s good to hold it all lightly and know that quantum physics can and will change a great deal, perhaps in a direction away from the perennial philosophy.

Also, it’s not necessary. The perennial philosophy doesn’t need to be propped up in that way. It stands on its own feet.

Note: I was deeply into both quantum physics and systems theories at the time. (Mainly through Fritjof Carpa and the ones he referenced in his books.) Both seemed very much compatible with the perennial philosophy. These days, I find systems views useful still.

FEBRUARY 10, 2024

LIVING OUTSIDE OF WHAT’S NATURAL FOR US

Yes, this is true for both body and mind.

We are made to live in nature, in daily physical activity, in a small community, doing things that are meaningful and give visible results, wthout clocks and schedules, and so on.

In our modern Western society, we often find ourselves living contrary to this.

Many of us are sedentary in daily life and need to add artificial periods of exercise. We live in cities where we don’t know our neighbors and many are isolated. Many have jobs that are not very meaningful. We have to follow the clock and schedules without regard to our own rhythms. We live separated from nature and the aliveness of nature. We eat food grown with toxins. We eat hyper-refined foods. We see huge portions of nature being destroyed. We see the suffering of people and non-human beings in the news daily. We know of the huge inequality in the world and the many living in poverty.

No wonder there is a lot of illness of both body and mind.

Many of our illnesses are symptoms of a civilization that has removed itself very far from what our mind and body evolved to live in.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND WHAT I CAN DO DIFFERENTLY

With any new and big project, there is going to be a lot of mistakes and learning.

With the Finca Milagros projects, there has certainly been a lot of challenges, many of which seem cultural and some if not most of them could have been avoided if I had been more on top of it and had more experience.

For instance, I have some guidelines for myself:

  • Slow down and get to know the place before making any big decisions that will have consequences decades into the future. (If you feel pressured to rush, it’s better to drop it, wait, and do it later when you can do it without pressure and at your own pace and in peace. If you feel pressured, it’s a pretty good indication to not do it.)
  • Don’t do business with friends. (Don’t risk the friendship. Avoid feeling that you have to hold back in order to protect a friendship. Avoid risking doing things differently than you otherwise would because it’s a friendship, including getting everything in writing.)
  • Get everything important in writing, do it through written contracts. (Seems obvious but some just trust what people say, including when it comes to price.)
  • Be there during construction to oversee the process and make corrections as needed. (Again, seems obvious. Even if you trust the architect and builders, you have to be there personally. They have different preferences and views from you. They are not the ones who are going to live there, you are.)
  • When it comes to any decision that has moderate to big consequences for the future, it’s good to slow down, gather as much information as possible (talk with several people who have experience), look at all the options, and then let a decision emerge organically from all of it in its own time.

The others in this project have a different mindset and have often done the reverse of this, which has created problems. The reason for these (to me) common-sense guidelines has become clear, and it has a times created some friction between us.

[more to come]

  • didn’t allow to design, insisted on not being there during construction, started new project too soon, didn’t want meeting to look at the big picture, impatient / impulsive on things that have consequences decades into the future and are very difficult/costly to change,
  • workers operating on destructive mindset / cow farming,
  • what I could have/can do differently

FEBRUARY 15, 2024

IS EARTH AN INTELLIGENT BEING?

I see articles on the kinds of topics I was into in my teens in the ’80s.

For instance, is Earth an intelligent being? (I didn’t read that article.)

As I see it, Earth is clearly a living system. It’s a living seamless system.

There is a kind of intelligence inherent in the dynamics and systems of Earth. It’s a kind of intelligence that’s inherent in the universe and its systems, and that has evolved over the billions of years of the evolution of the universe (13.8?) and the billions of years of evolution of Earth.

There is nothing mystical or magical of any of this. It’s science.

I prefer to call Earth a living system. It’s sober and accurate. We can go one step further and call it a being, which is fine but can be distracting.

I prefer to talk about a kind of inherent intelligence in the dynamics and processes of the universe and Earth. This is an intelligence that has evolved over billions of years and it doesn’t require consciousness or self-consciousness.

CARBON CREDITS AND GREENWASHING

The carbon credit business is a kind of greenwashing, as many point out. Businesses release huge amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and then pay someone to, typically, plant trees to absorb CO2 from the air.

It’s the modern version of the Catholic indulgences. You can do terrible things and pay your way out of it.

Why is it greenwashing?

It doesn’t resolve the real issue. We have to prevent the problem from occuring in the first place.

The trees planted are often not native. Native trees support the local ecosystem. Non-native trees often don’t. (Also, a young forest doesn’t do nearly as much as a mature old forest.)

There is often not much diversity in what’s planet. It becomes a kind of mono-culture which is not good for the ecosystem.

Trees release CO2 back into the atmosphere when they die. It’s a temporary “solution”. (Also, it seems that a lot of the carbon storage happens underground due to the fungus in mature forests.)

That said, I also love carbon credit schemes when they do good work. For instance, when they plant diverse native forests. That’s obviously a very good thing. It doesn’t cure the problem, but it does something very good in the world.

We are hugely benefiting from this at our finca. There is a chance that the popularity of these carbon offset schemes will wane at some point in the future, so I hope we can get as much done here – regrowing the forest with a diversity of native trees – before that happens.

FEBRUARY 20, 2024

USING PORTABLE FANS TO BLOW THE HOT AIR OUT OF THE HOUSE

It’s the hot season at Finca Milagros. (It’s 6 degrees from the equator so the seasons don’t follow neither the north or south).

Fortunately, the house is in a forest (still maturing), the wind is coming up from the canyon, and the house has thick rammed earth (tapia pisada) walls. All of that helps to keep it cool.

I also use fans. We have a couple in the ceiling, and I have a portable Vornado fan.

Many years ago, when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, I learned something important about fans.

If you put it to blow toward you, as most people do, it may help but the wind can be uncomfortable and it only helps that one one spot.

If you put it in a window or door to blow the hot air out, and you strategically have other windows and/or doors open, it gives a nice breeze through the whole house. It helps everyone everywhere and it’s far more comfortable.

I am doing it here, and the difference is like night and day.

SKIN COLOR AND SOCIAL STATUS

This is pretty obvious, and also sad and shocking in its consistency.

I live in the Andes mountains, and there seems to be a strong correlation between skin color and social status. The lighter the skin, the more money and education. And the reverse is also sadly the case.

This has to do with history and colonialism, and not much seems to be done to change it.

FEBRUARY 22, 2024

THE TRUTH IN FICTION, THE FICTION IN TRUTH

Storytelling is storytelling, whatever name we give it.

There is truth in fiction, and there is fiction in non-fiction.

The truth in fiction is that good fiction is based on lived human experience. There is a human truth in it. It reflects something in us and we recognize ourselves in it. In the best case, it can bring something to the foreground that we hadn’t been consciously aware of before.

The fiction in non-fiction is that that too is storytelling. We make a story out of something, even if we try to stay as close to reality as possible. That’s the case even in science. We understand something within a certain worldview, knowing that with other worldviews we would understand it differently. By necessity, we highlight a few things and leave out an infinite amount. We take a certain angle, knowing we could take innumerable other angles. We may get some things wrong. Other worldviews, angles, and ways of stringing it all together may make as much or more sense to us if we had access to it.

This is not wrong at all. It’s inevitable, and there is even beauty to it. It’s part of what creates an infinite richness in how we can experience the world and ourselves.

It also doesn’t mean that stories are equal in their truthfulness. Some stories are more grounded in data, logic, what can be verified by others, and what would hold up in a court, than other stories.

It just means that it’s good for us to hold our stories lightly since that’s more aligned with reality.

FEBRUARY 29, 2024

ACTION GIVES HOPE

Action gives hope. When I act to support life and create a more life-centered civilization, in however small ways it may be, it gives me hope. I feel I can make a difference. I feel we all can make a difference.

This is one of those things that seems obvious when we know it from our own life and may not occur to us before we experience it.

As usual, there are a lot of wrinkles here.

When we notice our nature, and examine our relationship with thoughts, hope is not as important anymore as it may have been before. We don’t really need hope. We have here and now, which is more than enough, and hope is revealed as a story about the future we cannot know anything for certain about.

It’s also helpful to come to terms with death – the death of ourselves, our loved ones, this civilization, and even humanity. What comes together falls apart. Death is what allows anything to be. Death and impermanence is what gives space and birth to all we know, and all that was and will be. We wouldn’t be here without it. For all the grief and pain we may experience because of it, it’s also an immense and immeasurable blessing. It helps to let all of that sink in.


DRAFT FRAGMENTS

Some would say it’s a healthy response to an unhealthy society. I would more say it’s an understandable response. A more healthy response would be to question the assumptions and rules of the society and find your own way through it that makes more sense to you. I understand that’s easier said than done]

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