Why I love Pride Month

I love Pride Month. I love that it exists in our society and is celebrated in many different ways.

Why? There are several reasons.

IT’S A RARE BIRD

Although there are examples of cultures that have been tolerant and inclusive, it’s rare in a global and historical context. Even today, it’s rare. Many cultures and countries are far less inclusive, and in several countries, it’s dangerous to be openly gay. It’s dangerous to be who you are. It’s dangerous for you to be authentic about something that nature has given you. It can get you imprisoned or killed. (As someone said, you will find homosexuality in hundreds if not thousands of species, and anti-gay attitudes in only one. So which one is unnatural?)

It’s a rare example of humanity, tolerance, and acceptance. It’s a rare bird. And just like a rare bird, it’s something to support and protect.

INCLUSIVITY MEANS INCLUSIVITY FOR ME

An inclusive society is better for all of us. We are all weird and outsiders in our own way, whether we notice or not, and whether it’s part of our conscious identity or not. We can all easily find ourselves as part of a minority group we previously didn’t belong to and never imagined we would.

We may find ourselves with a disability, we may become a refuge for any number of reasons, we may find ourselves in poverty, and so on. These things have happened to innumerable people who thought it would never happen to them, so it can happen to me too.

We all know that, whether we acknowledge it or not. So it feels viscerally safer to live in a more inclusive society. It means that I too am more likely to be included now and in the future.

MEDICINE FOR CENTURIES OF MARGINALIZATION

We live in a society that has a history of excluding and oppressing minorities of many different kinds, including gays and ethnic minorities.

Pride Month is the least we can do to swing the pendulum slightly over to the other side. It’s medicine for centuries of oppression and inhumane treatment of minorities. It’s medicine for gays who feel or fear they are wrong or excluded.

Equally or more important, it’s medicine for the old unhealthy attitudes that remain in all of us, gay or not, just because we grew up and live in this culture.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The way I treat others is the way I treat corresponding parts of myself. I exclude parts of me, just like our society has excluded minorities for centuries and millennia. Pride month is a reminder of this, and an opportunity for me to intentionally embrace more parts of me. To welcome them, as I wish to be welcomed.

There is a golden opportunity here: What do I react to about Pride Month? What stories do I have about it? What stories do I have about gays? What stories do I have about other minority groups? What do I find when I turn these stories to myself? Can I find genuine and specific examples of how it is as or more true?

RESILIENCE

There are also reasons that – at first glance – may seem more distant, while they – in reality – are equally immediate and personal.

An ecosystem thrives when it’s diverse. Compared to monocultures, a diverse ecosystem is far more adaptable to changing circumstances and disasters. It’s infinitely better able to adapt to and recover from wildfires, floods, and droughts, and it’s far more resistant to pests and diseases.

That’s how it is with our society as well. The more diverse, and the more inclusive of minority groups, the more rich and resilient it is. It provides us with more views and tools to deal with a rapidly changing world. Our toolbox is bigger.

We can easily find ourselves in collective emergencies where the solutions come from minority groups. (I would argue that we are in exactly that situation now: One essential solution to our global ecological crisis is found in the worldviews and attitudes of many indigenous cultures. Another set of solutions comes from hippies and treehuggers who have historically been marginalized and mocked. We won’t find all our solutions in these marginalized groups, but we find some of the essential ones there.)

IT SAVES LIVES

If all of that is not enough, it comes down to something very simple. As the meme above says: Pride is important because someone tonight still thinks they are better off dead than gay. It literally saves lives.

For me, that’s more than enough reason to celebrate Pride Month.

THIS IS WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON?

If I see someone criticizing or opposing pride, my first thought is usually:

This is what you choose to spend your precious time and energy on?

Of course, we are all allowed to have our opinions and views, but there seem to be infinite other issues in the world that are more important than a society – in a brief moment in time – choosing to value and support a minority that has suffered from bigotry and injustice for centuries.

Just to mention a few: Our global ecological overshoot, which is a disaster far worse than most imagine. Massive poverty around the world. Lack of access to clean water. Hunger. People who suffer and die from treatable diseases. Massive inequality between the few wealthy and the many poor. Lack of real democracy in many countries. And so on. The list goes on.

PRIVILEGE

In our current Western culture, it’s generally not acceptable to have open anti-gay or gay-skeptical attitudes. That means that those attitudes take other forms. It may take the form of: They are making too much out of it. It’s too much with all these flags on public buildings. Why is it a whole month?

These are often the views of people who have not (yet) experienced how it is to be marginalized because of their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. They represent the most privileged groups in our society, and since they are unfamiliar with the pain of being marginalized, they are less able – or less motivated – to imagine into the situation of these groups. That, in turn, means less empathy and understanding.

What they may not notice is that those attitudes hurt them too. It reflects how they relate to marginalized parts of themselves.

Some may also feel threatened by seeing previously marginalized groups elevated. They may feel that their privilege is threatened. They see the world as a zero-sum game where they lose if someone else wins. Their worldview does not include the many ways it benefits all of us.

See also Why I love Woke and Language, woke, pandemics & ecology: Snapshots vs the long view.

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Three aspects of science

I posted an article on social media about the methods of science and the importance of using solid data and logic in our own lives. Unsurprisingly, one of the comments seemed skeptical about science.

For me, it’s important to differentiate between three aspects of science.

METHODS OF SCIENCE

One is the methods of science. These are mostly common sense put into a system.

These methods help us gather and evaluate data for how solid it is, they help us evaluate the logic used to interpret and understand the data, and they help us recognize biases in ourselves and others.

This is very useful for all of us, even in daily life. We all use some version of this.

CONTENT OF SCIENCE & WORLDVIEWS

Another is what’s produced through science and the worldview we use to understand it.

The content of science is always changing, as it should. It’s updated with new information. It reflects society and culture. What’s valid today may well be seen as outdated tomorrow.

The worldview we understand science within also changes. These days, many still use a materialistic and reductionistic worldview. In some decades or centuries, something else may be the norm – perhaps one that’s more systemic, holistic, and/or integral.

Realizing this helps us hold it all a little more lightly.

HOW SCIENCE IS USED AND MISUSED

Science is performed and used by people, and it lives within society and culture.

Sometimes, it’s used to genuinely help people.

Sometimes, this is mixed in with a profit motivation and may still be mainly helpful.

Sometimes, it’s misused in a more obvious way and it’s used primarily for profit or power.

Sometimes, the name of science is used to promote something that’s not grounded in science at all, to achieve a goal someone sets higher than truth and reality.

Whatever it is, it’s not inherent in science. It happens because of society, culture, and people.

SCIENCE SKEPTICISM IS OFTEN NOT ABOUT SCIENCE

When people express skepticism of science, they are often rightly critical of how some people use science and the name of science. Unfortunately, they also often seem to mix up the methods of science and how science is used by some people and businesses. They see it all as one thing.

They are critical of some uses of science, and then automatically reject anything that comes with that label, including sound and useful methods of science.

Science is essentially about methods. The rest is more peripheral and belongs more to history and society.

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Inter-species communication

I have been fascinated by inter-species communication since childhood and early teens and have followed the research into dolphin and parrot communication. (For instance, Irene Pepperberg and the parrot Alex.)

COMMUNICATING WITH BUTTONS

I love the more recent approach of using talking buttons, developed by Christina Hunger and her dog Stella.

Having watched these videos over several years, it seems clear that our non-human friends function much as we do, and they find ways to use the buttons and a limited vocabulary to express what they wish to communicate.

HOW WE RELATE TO OTHER SPECIES

For centuries and millennia, we have trained ourselves to see ourselves separate from nature. We are somehow special, better, different in kind, and so on. We have also developed many justifications for how we treat other species, ecosystems, and nature.

One of these justifications is telling ourselves that other species are mute and dumb, inferior in every way, and even that they don’t have emotions or experience pain. This goes against basic common sense, but we needed this justification to treat them in the terrible ways we have done and still do.

This idea of separation has led to the ecological crisis we now find ourselves in.

Button communication is one piece of the puzzle in transforming how we see – and treat – other species and the natural world. And that will also change how we see and treat ourselves.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OURSELVES

How will it change how we see and treat ourselves?

It will help us see ourselves as part of the natural world and not apart from it. It will help us find a deeper sense of fellowship with all beings. We are no longer as alone here as we may have thought.

We may lose a sense of superiority (which was hollow and based on nothing real anyway) and find a deeper sense of belonging and community.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OTHER SPECIES AND THE NATURAL WORLD

It will, by necessity, change how we treat other species and nature.

If other beings have their own rich interior life, as we do, we’ll need to treat them with more respect.

We can no longer justify exploiting them for our own purposes as if their life and how they experience the world don’t matter.

They deserve a good life, just as we do, no matter where they are, whether they live with us or in the wild.

SEEING AND TREATING OURSELVES AS NATURE

In a deeper sense, finding more respect for other species and nature in general will help us find more respect for the nature we are.

It will help us see and relate to ourselves as nature, which can help us relate to ourselves with a little more understanding, kindness, and perhaps even wisdom.

We are learning to rewild ourselves.

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I was a student of Odd Nerdum in the ’90s

In the early 1990s, I was an apprentice of the painter Odd Nerdrum.

In general, I am interested in how it was to be an apprentice of well-known artists. That information is often lost, so I thought I would do those who may be interested a favor and give a brief account of my experience.

THE STUDIO

At the time Nerdrum had a house in Frogner in Oslo, and his studio was in another house (in Kristinelundveien) near Frognerparken in Oslo.

The studio had a large central space two levels high with large windows towards the north or northwest1. The walls were painted dark brown since it’s a good background for looking at paintings. The window had lamps to compensate for the fading sunlight on dark days or late afternoon and to give light at night.

He had a vintage couch there, one or two of his early and especially inspired paintings on the wall, and Persian rugs on the couch and nearby floor. He also had a good stereo where he would often play Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and similar kinds of music2.

Off that room was a smaller area where we students had our own space with easels and so on. There was a small bathroom there, and stairs up to a balcony around parts of the large space. Downstairs was a kitchen, the main bathroom, and a couple of bedrooms. He often used one, likely because he was in a divorce process at the time. Another was used by a friend of mine, who had been a student of Nerdum before me, and introduced me to him.

NERDRUM IN THE STUDIO

Nerdum would come in the morning, although the exact time would vary. He painted through the day, with brief breaks for food. He was there more regularly and for longer than most of his students.

He painted quickly and would put up the first layer in one or two hours. Most artists today would probably have been happy with that first layer, but he continued. I assume he used roughly a month on each painting, with variations depending on the size of the painting, and with most of the work on the details and texture.

He would work on more than one painting at a time, perhaps two or three, and sometimes also a charcoal drawing or study for a future painting.

He would use beautiful clear colors while painting, and cover it up with a brown varnish at the end. I assume he did it to mimic old paintings, and it was heartwrenching for me.

While painting, he would have conversations with the model and/or students or guests. The conversation was mostly about art, artists, music, or philosophy.

Sometimes, well-known people would come by – art historians, philosophers, TV personalities, adventurers, and so on. David Bowie came by one day to buy one of his paintings. (Unfortunately, I missed it!)

NERDRUM AS A PERSON

How was he as a person?

He was simultaneously an ordinary human being and larger than life.

He was deeply passionate about his art and art in general. I don’t hesitate in calling him a genius in painting and charcoal drawings. He was knowledgeable and unafraid to speak his mind.

He was socially smart and also unafraid of offending people.

He was happy to talk about the art of others, and he did talk about the aesthetic and visual aspects of his own paintings. One thing I never heard him talk about was the symbolism of his paintings. That was likely very intentional. He wanted to leave it open and available to the rich imagination of the audience. (I think he may have mentioned something about that, not sure.)

THE APPRENTICE SITUATION

When I was there, he had about five apprentices3 in the studio. The number was naturally limited by the space available, and he may not have wanted more anyway.

In my case, I was a model for one painting, I mixed his white paint, and I transferred a charcoal study for a painting onto a large canvas (using grid lines) so he had an outline to follow while painting.

My impression is that most students were models for one or more paintings, and they also did other tasks, likely depending on what Nerdum felt they would be good at or happy with doing.

There was no formal teaching. We were there to learn through observation, immersion, and conversations with him and the other students.

I assume most students came through either writing him directly or because they knew someone already a student. In my case, I had a meeting with Nerdum where I showed him some of my work. I also got the impression that he wanted me as a model.

We would occasionally do things as a group with Nerdum. For instance, we went to see a Spanish movie together at the local movie theater. I also went with him to Kjeller where they work with radiation (!). He was interested in knowing if radiation could help some of his paintings where the paint sagged over time.

NERDRUM, MODERNISM & NORWAY

Nerdrum received a lot of resistance to his approach to painting and drawing from the beginning.

His response was to develop an apparently deep-seated aversion to modernism and much of the art community in Norway.

His response is understandable. It’s a response to hurt. And yet, the whole dynamic was and is somewhat baffling to me. Why did he meet so much resistance just because he painted in a more figurative style? (Did other artists feel threatened because his skill was beyond most of theirs?) Why did he respond by rejecting their approach? (He probably just did what they did. They rejected him and his art so he rejected them and their art.) Appreciating one doesn’t mean you have to reject something else. It’s not a zero-sum game unless you make it so.

Life and art is rich, that’s the beauty of it. It’s very possible to love or appreciate a wide range of approaches to art and anything else. There is more than enough room for everyone, and finding appreciation for it all only enriches our experience, life, and art.

I can add one more thing here: Why does he call his art kitsch? I assume it’s to get ahead of his critics. If he calls his art just about the worst you can, what’s left for the critics to say? It takes the air out of them and their arguments.

MY SITUATION

I had been passionate about learning to draw and paint in a soulful traditional style since my mid-teens, especially the style of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and other Baroque artists. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the art of Nerdrum.

I went to art school for a couple of years after high school, got to know another student there who was also a student of Nerdrum, and she introduced me to him.

I was an apprentice for about a year (?), and during this time, I started studying at the university. First, art history and then psychology.

THE LIMITS OF MEMORY

I only knew him during this period, so other students at other times will likely have a different experience.

Also, this is the memory of one person, and it’s a memory – which is notoriously unreliable. Over time, some things fade and some things stay, and what stays is filtered by how we see the world in general.

Still, I think most of this is pretty accurate.

NOTES

(1) The light from the north is best for a studio since it’s more stable and you avoid direct sunlight.

(2) I happened to have a very similar taste in music as him, and a very similar taste in art in general.

(3) We were apprentices in the old-fashioned sense, more than students. When some talk about the “Nerdrum School”, they refer to younger artists inspired by his style, of which many were his apprentice at some point.

The painting is the one I transferred from a drawing to canvas so he had an outline to work with to begin the painting.

Another footnote: I remember Nerdrum once said that he painted so that he would be remembered after his death. He may have said it to seem interesting or to spark a dialog. He may also have used the thought as a motivation to improve and reap the benefits in this life. It’s difficult for me to imagine he believed the thought literally. After he is gone, he won’t be here so he won’t benefit from it. Also, people will remember a simplified image of him, not him.

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The beauty and madness of civilization: Thoughts as tools vs thoughts as truth

This civilization is immensely beautiful and immensely mad, like many civilizations I imagine.

It’s beautiful because we make use of thoughts to imagine and create things.

It’s mad because we hold thoughts as true.

BEAUTY FROM IMAGINING AND CREATING

Every piece of our civilization was once imagined by someone, and others then reimagined it a little differently.

It has created the immense beauty we see in art, music, dance, technology, science, and much more.

Thoughts – in the form of mental images and words – made it all possible.

MADNESS FROM HOLDING THOUGHTS AS TRUE

This civilization is also immensely mad. It has fueled immense suffering through ideas of power-over, separation, different worth based on changing characteristics, privilege, racism, sexism, anthropocentrism, a remote sky god, nature as infinite, nature as here for us, I am right and you are wrong, you are not quite human, I am unlovable, and so on. Worse than that, it’s ecocidal and suicidal. It has an economics that operates on the idea of nature as infinite, which has led to global ecological overshoot. Ecocide means suicide, so it’s also inherently suicidal.

Thoughts created all this too. Thoughts held as true instead of as questions.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

We are a young species and a young civilization.

We make use of thoughts, we believe thoughts, and we rarely examine thoughts or our relationship with thoughts or find their nature. We rarely consistently make conscious and wise use of thoughts.

Collectively, we have yet to learn to wisely and consciously make use of thoughts as the tool it is.

What’s the nature of thoughts?

They are imaginations. They are different in nature and content from what they point to. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their nature or purpose. They are questions about the world. They are here to help us orient and function in the world. That’s it.

A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION

I imagine a different civilization, one that has a more mature relationship with thought.

Here, children learn to relate more consciously with thought.

They learn to choose as guide thoughts supported by good data and avoid logical fallacies. They learn to find practically useful and grounded thoughts as guides.

They learn to identify the thoughts they operate on. They learn to examine and question them.

They learn to find what’s more true for them, which is that thoughts – even the ones that may seem the most true – are questions about the world. They are practical tools only.

The world is always more than and different from any thought about it.

They learn to hold thoughts lightly. They learn to use thoughts as tools to orient and navigate, and recognize their limits.

They learn to live in and as a deeper mystery.

Will this prevent the inherent problems of civilization? Not likely, but it will make life easier for many individuals, and it may make it easier for us collectively to identify essential problems and make changes.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

All this is literally stardust reorganizing itself.

It’s the universe locally forming itself into all of it – consciousness, us, feelings, thoughts, experiences, civilization, art, technology, suffering, inequality, wars, and so on.

There is an immense beauty in that too.

There is an immense beauty in the messy complexity and awesomeness of it all.

NOTE

There is another way we can see the madness of our civilization, and that it comes from thoughts. Our civilization likes abstractions. It likes things to be easily understood intellectually, and abstractions is a good way to do that. The only problem is, life is not like that.

This is reflected in how we treat nature. Here in Norway, people want manicured and sterile gardens. They remove trees, bushes, and previously wild areas of the garden, and replace it with a sterile lawn with a few exotic ornamental plants. This provides a habitat for almost no animal, bird, or insect. We grow food through monoculture. All of this is easy for our thoughts. It gives the illusion of control.

In contrast, nature is wildly diverse, that diversity provides a rich habitat for a range of beings, and it also balances the ecosystem. For instance, it prevents any one species – insect, plant, animal – from multiplying so much that it’s detrimental to the ecosystem. It’s far more life-supporting and wise than a monoculture.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Language, woke, pandemics & ecology: Snapshots vs the long view

Even if our culture often invites a snapshot view of things, a longer view can be far more informative.

LANGUAGE AND THE LONG VIEW

I remember my uncle would complain about changes to the language at family dinners.

Even as a teenager, it didn’t make sense to me. Language changes. It changes with each generation, and even decade by decade and year by year.

He has a snapshot view of language based on what he learned and was used to when he grew up. The generations that came before him would see his language as different and perhaps judge it as bad and wrong. And the generations after him will likely view his language as old-fashioned. That’s just how it is.

Our language today is the product of a language that has changed for not only centuries and millennia but over hundreds of thousands of years. I imagine even the ones who first used what we would think of as language were judged by the older generations. Why do they use these weird cryptic sounds instead of grunts and body language?

So when my uncle judged the language of young people today, and incremental changes to sounds and grammar, what would he use as a standard? What was, in his view, the correct language? Was it the one he grew up with, just because he happened to grow up with it? Does the world revolve around him and his generation? Or was it ten generations ago? A hundred? Did he want to return to a time before verbal language, when we used body language and other kinds of sounds?

For me, a long view makes more sense. It helps me be a little more informed, see things in perspective, and realize that language is supposed to change. People younger than me use a different language than me. Some would even pronounce my last name differently from how I do it. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK. That’s the nature of language. That’s how we have the language we have today. That’s how we have language in the first place.

WOKE AND THE LONG VIEW

I love woke. Why?

Because the intention behind woke – the wish for kindness and inclusivity – is remarkable in a historical context.

Many if not most cultures have not been that inclusive. Often, certain people are excluded or oppressed for things they cannot change: their ethnicity, color of skin, sexual orientation, caste or socioeconomic status, and so on. Woke seeks inclusivity and that’s remarkable and something to be applauded.

Of course, woke can take somewhat immature forms. That’s the same with everything and it doesn’t disqualify it as something remarkable and something to applaud and support.

So why do I love woke?

It’s not because of the more immature expressions of woke. I am happy to speak up against those and encourage more balanced approaches.

It’s because I take a long view. I know how unusual and remarkable woke is. Strong forces want to suppress it, now and historically. Many with privilege, including white privilege, feel threatened by such inclusivity.

It’s because I know that inclusivity helps all of us. It creates a more vibrant society and culture. It allows me to be more who I am, since I too am outside the norm in different ways. (As we all are.) It helps me be more myself and embrace more of myself.

Also, it’s because I know that the anti-woke attitudes and orientation originate on the far right, even if it’s sometimes adopted – somewhat naively and misguidedly in my view – by some of the left. Why do some on the left adopt those views? Is it because they don’t have a long perspective?

PANDEMICS AND THE LONG VIEW

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised. I knew that another pandemic was due any time since they tend to come about once a century. (That may change now with continued human incursion into previously mostly intact ecosystems and changing climate. The first brings more human exposure to diseases previously limited to other species. A warming climate spreads previously tropical diseases to new areas.)

I was also not surprised by the pandemic measures implemented by governments around the world. Since I am familiar with epidemiology, I know what’s considered best practices in a pandemic: quarantine, limiting contact and exposure, vaccines, and so on. These are measures that have been shown to work historically. (Some went a little too far, like the Chinese government, and some didn’t do quite enough, like Trump and Bolsonaro.)

I was not surprised by the backlash to these from some. There will always be a backlash when the government implements restrictions, even if these are temporary and based on epidemiology. There are innumerable restrictions in our society that most people accept. (Laws against theft, killing, driving too fast, and so on.) Why do we accept these restrictions? Because most of them make sense and help society function better. When some reacted to the pandemic restrictions, I suspect it was largely because the restrictions were new. Many also seemed unfamiliar with epidemiology and common and effective responses to pandemics. They didn’t have the long view.

I was not surprised by the conspiracy theories that flourished in some subcultures. History shows that conspiracy theories flourish during any pandemic in just about any time and culture. That’s how people work. I assume it’s a way to deal with fear. Through conspiracy theories, some feel they have some kind of control, if only imaginary. (In reality, conspiracy theories distract from far more serious and urgent big-picture issues that we all know are happening, including global ecological overshoot.)

When it comes to vaccines, I also take a big picture and long view. We know from history and epidemiology that vaccines have had a huge and beneficial impact on our collective health in general. We also know that at an individual level, they occasionally lead to serious health problems and even death. That’s the case with all modern pharmaceutical medications. In rare cases, some individuals experience a strong reaction to a certain vaccine or medication. That’s to be expected and it’s widely known. That’s why I support vaccines in general, and why I am very selective in which ones I personally take and (often) don’t take. (Some anti-vaxxers seem to think – or pretend? – that this information is somehow hidden or not included in the equation when health authorities decide to approve or recommend certain vaccines or medications.)

ECOLOGY AND THE LONG VIEW

With nature, we also often operate on snapshots. This is called the shifting baseline syndrome.

We grow up with our ecosystem looking and functioning a certain way, and that becomes the baseline for us. We may not be aware of how much this ecosystem has changed due to human impact, and how far it is from a state not impacted by human activity.

For instance, as a kid I loved being in the forest near our house. To me, it was nature, it was wild. Later, I realized that it’s cut down regularly and the trees are replanted. That’s why the trees are all the same size. That’s why there is not more diversity and life there. This forest, like most forests in the world today, is very different from a more untouched old-growth forest. It’s close to a monoculture.

I remember the garden from childhood full of insects of all types. Badgers and hedgehogs. Swallows and many types of birds. Today, it’s very different. They’re is almost no life here. I imagine many young people don’t realize the change that happened over two or three decades. They see the absence of life as normal.

This is why it’s important to learn about how nature has changed over time, where we are, and in other places. Visualizing how it used to be and comparing it to how it is now can be a shock, and it’s a useful shock. It can encourage us to support or work on regeneration and rewilding, which benefits not only the wider ecosystem but also humanity and ourselves as individuals.

I make a practice out of imagining how nature used to be where I am (approximately), and also visualizing how it can be with some efforts into regeneration and rewilding. I do this in nature and rural areas, and also in towns and cities.

BENEFITS OF THE LONG VIEW

In all of these cases and many more, the long view helps me find a more sober, informed, and kind view.

In addition to the examples above, there is one that’s even closer to home. When I look at my own behavior, trauma, and so on, it helps to see it in terms of culture and evolution.

My trauma is not (just) mine. It comes from my parents. Much of it has likely been passed on through generations, in variations of the same essence. It’s shared, not just in my family but likely among many in my culture. The essence of it is likely shared by many around the world.

When I look at behavior patterns I may not be completely happy about, for instance the tendency for comfort eating, that’s not just from culture and family. The stage was set by evolution. I am biologically predisposed to like fatty and sweet food. In an environment where that was scarce, the ones who craved it were a little more likely to survive and have surviving offspring.

“Read more” to see what ChatGPT has to say about some of these topics.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 70

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.

MOSKOW VS WASHINGTON DC, 1434

I saw this meme with an image of Moskow and Washington DC in the early 1400s. Moskow has churches and big buildings. Washington, D.C. has native American tents. There is no commentary, but I suspect the idea is to show that Russia had civilization back then and North America did not.

That’s misguided at so many levels.

NORTH AMERICA AND RUSSIA ARE BOTH EUROPEAN CIVILIZATIONS

The current North American civilization and Russia are both European civilizations.

What we see in North America today is not the civilization of the indigenous people. (Some of us wish it were.)

NATIVE AMERICAN CIVILIZATIONS

The image combination may suggest that the Native American civilization was somehow primitive or inferior to the Russian civilization at the time.

If so, that’s a questionable view.

The indigenous people in the Americas had their own civilizations.

Even from a conventional European view, many of these were sophisticated and advanced. For example, we can find democracy, equality between the genders, sustainable agriculture, sophisticated architecture, advanced languages and mathematics, large buildings and cities, and so on.

INDIGENOUS CULTURES CAN BE SEEN AS MORE ADVANCED

If we want to compare civilizations, the way we do it obviously depends on our own views and what we value. If we use the filter of traditional European values, then the European civilization will necessarily appear superior. But those are not the only valid and valuable views and values. Other values may be more essential and important, especially today.

European culture and civilization is, in many ways, unhealthy and damaging to nature and people. It sees humans as separate from the rest of nature. It has an idea of a remote sky-god. It sees nature as infinite and here for humans. It sees humans as superior to other beings. It values intellect over heart and the wisdom of the body. It’s traditionally racist and sexist. It has often been colonialist. It has an extractive mindset.

In contrast, many indigenous cultures see humans as part of the web of life. The divine is right here in and around us, which is more conducive to reverence for life. They often have a more ecological mindset and a more ecologically sustainable way of life.

The first is ecocidal and suicidal. The second is more life-centered.

Of course, is not always that simple. There is much value in European culture, and many indigenous cultures have views and habits that most of us wouldn’t like to be exposed to. But in general, European culture is profoundly misguided on some essential and basic things, and many indigenous cultures were and are not.

NOT MEANT TO BE SCRUTINIZED

I understand that these memes are not meant to be scrutinized like this. The people posting them do it for emotional reasons. In this case, the meme only works if you don’t think about it and follow racist logic.

Some pro-Russian propaganda can be surprisingly naive. Still, it’s sometimes adopted by some Western folks on the left.

Why? It’s likely because Putin and some Westerners on the left both like to criticise the US and Western Europe for their policies and how they sometimes treat the rest of the world. They use a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic.

I am also no fan of much of what the US and Western Europe have done and are doing. That doesn’t mean I leave my brain at the door and adopt the views of Russian propaganda.

A MORE SANE VIEW

For me, there is a more grounded and sane approach.

European culture – whether it’s in the US or Russia or anywhere else – is profoundly misguided on several essentials. It has a power-over orientation, an extractive mindset, it sees nature as infinite and primarily existing for human use, the sacred is separate and “out there” somewhere, and so on. That’s found equally in the US and in Russia, and it’s ecocidal and ultimately suicidal.

Indigenous cultures often have views and orientations that are more sane and ecological. These are one piece of the puzzle in transforming into a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

That’s far more fundamental and essential than any US vs Russia debate. And if I wanted to go into that particular discussion, I would certainly not adopt a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” orientation.

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Imagined futures & an alternate timeline where a collective of popes guide us into a more ecologically sound civilization

I cannot help imagining different futures and alternate realities, including the ones I would like to see.

When it comes to desired changes in society, imagination goes before transformation, so these imaginations can be hugely helpful and important.

I imagine something that will almost certainly not happen as I imagine it, and yet, these imaginations serve a purpose. They highlight what’s lacking in our current institutions. They offer an alternative. And that imagination may guide us. It may be a seed to something different.

For whatever reason, I imagine what a future institution of the pope would look like. What if ecological overshoot brings about a radical transformation of civilization? What if we realize that all our structures and institutions need to radically transform? What if we realize that most religions need to radically transform to take ecological realities into account? What if we want religions to be among what guides us into a more ecologically informed civilization? What then? How may it look? How would I like it to look?

What if an alternate reality of the institution of the pope looks radically different? What if it’s free from any particular religion? What if it is far more inclusive? What if its purpose is to guide civilization in a more ecologically sound direction? What if it’s earth-centered, life-centered, and future-centered? What if all life is considered sacred? What if it’s a collective of people from around the world? What if each is there for only a limited time?

Here is one vision.

I notice a part of me thinking that this is silly. It certainly won’t happen this way. It’s naive. It’s not grounded in reality. And yet, this is how social change happens. It happens through imagining possible futures and alternative timelines. It happens through imaginations most see as naive and unrealistic.

It happens not only through the imagination of writers, poets, artists, or philosophers. It happens through the imagination of people like you and me.

Images by me and Midjourney.

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AI is not intelligent

I have written about artificial intelligence (AI) a few times, and I love exploring AI image generation.

There is a lot of discussion about AI these days so I thought I would write a few more words and try to ground it.

There are always hopes and fears about new technology. That’s just how we humans are, it seems. It’s good since it helps us think through things at the beginning of smaller and bigger revolutions in technology and society. Usually, things turn out not as good as we hope and not as bad as we fear.

The term AI is a misnomer. AI is not intelligent. It’s predictive. It’s predictive text, image generation, music generation, and so on. It’s based on what it is fed. It reflects what it’s fed. It churns out a kind of average based on what it’s fed.

I imagine that if we called it for what it is – predictive whatever – there would be far less exaggerated hopes and fears about it. It would appear more boring, ordinary, and just one more thing.

It can mimic what humans produce in some fields, and that’s why it appears intelligent. Some may think it’s intelligent, or even conscious, if they are seduced by appearances and don’t much about how it works.

AI will replace some human jobs. Especially jobs that don’t require too much like summarizing, writing simple generic texts, creating generic illustrations, and so on.

It will create new jobs. Some will create and train AI. Many will use some form of AI as an aid in their work just like they use other tools.

There is no reason to suspect it will replace humans on a large scale. It’s one of many tools we have developed and it will be used by humans as any other tool. It will be used to support, seed, and supplement human creativity and work. And some will use it in harmful ways, just like some use any tool in a harmful way.

When CGI came on the scene, some said it was the end of practical effects in movies and perhaps even human actors. That turned out to be far from reality. These days, movies typically use a combination of the two, and some movies replace some people (crowds and stunts) with CGI but there is little to no interest in replacing central actors.

In general, we humans love what’s created by nature and humans. We may be fascinated by digital creations. We may find it useful for some things. But we want what’s created by humans. That’s not going to change.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Why I love vultures

A few days ago, I saw a dead dove near our house on Finca Milagros. It had been there for some hours and the vultures likely wouldn’t touch since it was too close to people. I moved the dove up the hill and put up a wildlife camera, and the vultures came after half an hour for their meal.

WHY DO VULTURES (SOMETIMES) HAVE A BAD REPUTATION?

Why do vultures have a bad reputation in some cultures?

I suspect it serves a function. Vultures are connected with dead animals and rotting meat. We are built differently and rotting meat tends to make us sick. So it makes sense, to some extent, for cultures to instill a revulsion against scavengers in general, including vultures.

The downside is that it can make us blind to their right to life just like us and how they serve us and nature in general.

I LOVE VULTURES

Why do I love vultures?

Vultures serve important functions in the ecosystem. They clean up rotting meat which benefits us, other animals, and the ecosystem as a whole.

As mentioned above, they sometimes have a bad reputation. Where we are in the Andes mountains, farmers sometimes put out poisoned meat to kill them. (This seems oddly self-defeating. It puts poison into the food chain which is bad for all of us, and the presence of vultures in our ecosystem directly helps us. Vultures are on our side.) I have a personality that tends to support and defend underdogs. I want to stand up for them and give them a voice.

They are likely consciousness like me. To themselves, they are very likely consciousness, and just like me, they function through a body. The only difference is the type of body. (They are pure consciousness, and the form it takes depends on the bodymind, the particular senses, the nervous system, and so on.)

They are living beings like me. Like me, they wish to avoid suffering and find (their form of) happiness.

They are expressions of this living planet, just like me. They are part of the same seamless living planet.

They are expressions of the universe, just like me. They too are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. They are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

VULTURES ARE NOT SACRED?

I posted a vulture video from my wildlife camera on social media, and received this story:

The Parsis of India depend on vultures to dispose of the dead. Soil is sacred so they can’t defile it by burying a corpse. Fire is sacred so they don’t cremate. Water is sacred so they don’t put bodies in water. Air is sacred so they don’t leave bodies to rot. The vultures are the ultimate recyclers.

Of course, this likely has a practical function as well. It obviously makes sense to not put dead bodies in water. As for the rest, I am not sure. Perhaps they didn’t want to use valuable food-producing land for cemeteries. Perhaps they wanted to use valuable firewood for the living. Offering dead bodies to vultures makes sense, it’s a good practical solution.

At the same time, the traditional explanation above doesn’t quite make sense. Is a dead body not sacred? Are vultures not sacred? I imagine there are annoying people in their culture pointing that out.

The video is from the wildlife camera I set up with a view to the dead dove

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Why do we focus on climate change and not global ecological overshoot?

Why do so many focus on climate change these days?

It’s good that ecological issues get attention, of course, and it is an important topic.

At the same time, it is a kind of distraction.

GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL OVERSHOOT

The bigger overarching issue is global ecological overshoot.

We have been in overshoot for decades already, and we haven’t seen the real consequences of it yet since we have been living off the “savings” provided by our planet. (To not deplete our ecological “savings” we would need two Earths to support our global population, and more than five if everyone lived as Westerners.)

We have not yet reached the bottom of the savings account.

When we do, we can expect massive unraveling and collapse of ecosystems and human civilization.

There is no other way it can end.

WHY DON’T WE FOCUS MORE ON OVERSHOOT?

So why don’t more people focus on ecological overshoot?

After all, overshoot is easy to understand. It’s undeniable. It’s far more relevant and serious than climate change and just about any issue imaginable.

I honestly don’t know. A superficial answer may be that people don’t know about overshoot, which is true enough. But the fundamental idea of overshoot is very easy to grasp, it is something anyone with a bank account knows firsthand and relates to on a daily basis. And many in the world do know about it and talk about it, but it does not make it into mainstream discussion.

The real question is: Why doesn’t it make it into mainstream discussion? Why is there an apparent resistance to it? It’s obviously a hugely important topic, more so than just about any topic already in our collective mainstream dialog and conversation.

Maybe it’s too big? Maybe it’s obvious that our usual solutions are not enough?

Maybe it’s more comfortable to focus on something more peripheral and less serious?

That may be one reason why climate change is getting so much attention. It’s apparently more debatable, more peripheral, and less serious. We can tell ourselves it has easier and more peripheral solutions. (Of course, none of that is really true. Climate change itself is serious and requires a profound transformation of our civilization and the worldviews we operate from.)

THE ESSENCE

We live in an ecocidal civilization that assumes infinite nature – infinite natural resources and infinite capacity of nature to absorb waste and toxins.

One of many expressions of this is climate change.

Global ecological overshoot is far more fundamental and far more serious.

And the only real solution to all of it is a deep and thorough transformation of our civilization and our most fundamental assumptions about ourselves, nature, and our relationship to this living planet.

(One practical expression of that would be a transformation of our economic system to take ecological realities and the limits of nature into account.)

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 67

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.

ISRAEL & PALESTINE

I posted this quote on social media without any comments and (unsurprisingly) received a comment about what’s happening between Israel and Palestine now. The question was: What would you do if you were the prime minister of Israel?

Here is my response:

There are many layers here.

First, I have posted this quote before (years ago, I think), because I love it and it’s a helpful pointer for me. I initially posted it again for that reason, then realized some may take it as an indirect commentary on what’s happening in the Middle East, so I unposted it, and then posted it again because I am not responsible for how other people interpret things.

I have also written something about how I see the situation.

As for your question, I would not be prime minister there for many reasons, including that my views are too far removed from those of the majority living in Israel. If I – through a miracle and against my will – was prime minister there, my first move would be to respect international law and human rights, and remove some of the reasons for the current hatred against Israel and the Israeli people. I would work on prevention, first of all, by trying to improve the lives of people both within Israel and also Palestinians and those in Gaza.

If I woke up today as the prime minister there, what would I say to those who want revenge? Probably, go screw yourself ? You won’t get it from me. (In the form of: “I understand your anger and pain, I am also angry and in pain from what happened, but more violence is not the answer”.)

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David Attenborough: Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist

We have a finite environment—the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.

– David Attenborough in an interview at the World Economic Forum 2019

I love David Attenborough and what he says, although I would say it slightly differently.

ASSUMPTIONS OF INFINITE RESOURCES AND CAPACITY

The problem is not growth in itself, since growth can be defined in many different ways.

The problem is to assume that our planet can provide infinite natural resources to sustain our civilization, and to assume it has infinite capacity to absorb the waste and toxins of civilization.

That assumption is clearly madness. That’s the assumption at the core of the economic system we have today. It’s at the core of the ecological crisis we find ourselves in. It’s at the core of why our current civilization will end. And it’s at the core of the crisis we as humans find ourselves in.

A TRANSITION INTO A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION?

Will we be able to transition into a different kind of civilization? How many of us will die before we do? How many species will go extinct? How much damage will we see to our life-support systems?

Will we make it all? Will our planet change so much that it’s the end of humanity? (It’s perhaps not as unlikely as many assume.)

OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM

How did we get ourselves into this situation?

There are many answers.

Our economic system was developed at a time when we could assume infinite natural resources and an infinite capacity of nature to absorb our waste. We were not that many and our technology was not as advanced, so we could live in that fantasy for a while.

Today, the situation is very different. We are far into overshoot. We are using far more resources than the Earth can recreate. We are putting far more waste and toxins into the planet than it can handle.

Just like using money from a bank account, it may look OK for a while, and then there is a sudden crash. We are seeing the beginnings of that crash.

ALTERNATIVES

Our current economic system is just one of many possible.

It’s easy to imagine an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and many have worked on developing and implementing versions of that.

We have the solutions.

The real question is: Do we have the collective will? Are we going to find it in time to avoid a massive collapse of our civilization?

OUR WORLDVIEW

Another answer is our worldview. We have a worldview that assumes separation – a separation between humans and the rest of this living system we call Earth. We assume a kind of superiority of humans and the right of humans to do what they want with the rest of this living system. We assume no limits to nature and what it can do for us.

We have a power-over orientation rather than power-with. In a power-over orientation, we see nature and sometimes even other people primarily as resources, as something we can make use of for our own benefit. In a limited sense and in some situations, that’s OK. But in our civilization, that’s the primary orientation. In a power-with orientation, we seek cooperation with others and nature. We seek to find mutually beneficial relationships. We seek to live within the natural limits. We seek to live in a way that benefits life as a whole and not just ourselves.

We also have an idea of a sky god, a god that’s transcendent and somehow outside of this universe. That too allows us to see nature as primarily a resource and something to use for our own narrow and often short-sighted benefit. If we saw Spirit in the universe and in Earth and ourselves, it would be very different. In this kind of worldview, we would treat others, ourselves, and nature with more reverence.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Our civilization will not last. All civilizations come and go. Humanity came and will go.

Everything that comes together falls apart.

Death creates space for something new.

In our case, another human civilization may develop in the place of our current one.

Or humanity may go sooner rather than later, and – given a few million or billion years – another species may develop another civilization.

It’s not wrong or bad. It’s how this universe works. It’s how we came to be here.

The death of stars created most of the elements of this planet that formed themselves into us and all we know. The death of species allowed our species to evolve as it did. The death of individuals created space for new individuals, including us.

We are transitory just like anything else, and something else – equally amazing – will take our place.

The larger whole we are a part of will transform itself into something else.

Are yokai real? (And a little about AI)

I recently explored what Midjourney would come up with in terms of yokai images, and it brought up some reflections in me.

ARE YOKAI REAL?

Yokai are supernatural entities and spirits from Japanese mythology and they come in great variety.

Is there any truth to the yokai?

The modern mind may say “obviously not” or go into a binary discussion. For me, that’s missing the juiciness of it.

If we go into that binary discussion of whether they are real or not, then the answer is “we don’t know” and “it’s a question for science”.

We can also say that if yokai are real to someone, then they are – for all practical purposes – real to that person. They live within a world where they exist and live their life accordingly.

We can explore what happens when people live within a world where yokai are real. How does it influence and color their decisions and life?

We can explore reasons for why people possibly invented and created stories about yokai. Was it to create a more rich and interesting world for themselves and those around them? Was it to scare children? To try to control the behavior of children and possibly adults? Was it to try to make sense of something that didn’t quite make sense, or where the randomness of life wasn’t a satisfying answer? Or all of those and more?

We can study yokai as possibly a real phenomenon. We can interview people who say they have seen and interacted with them. We can look for patterns. (There is an amazing documentary called The Fairy Faith that takes this approach.)

We can explore possible communication with and guidance from nature spirits. What do we find through interviews and case studies (e.g. Findhorn)? What alternate explanations are there? What do we find if we explore it for ourselves, possibly under guidance from someone more experienced?

We can look at how – to us – we are consciousness, and – to us – the world happens within and as that consciousness. To us, the world appears as consciousness and waking life and night dreams are no different in that way. If we don’t notice this directly, we may interpret it as “spirit in nature” (animism) and as if nature and objects have consciousness. And from here, it’s easy to imagine nature spirits and conscious spirits all around us.

We can explore whether, in any meaningful way, the universe IS consciousness (AKA Spirit, the divine, Brahman, God.) If so, maybe yokai fits more easily into our worldview. They would not necessarily be a surprise or anomaly.

Each of these views, and many more, has validity and invites interesting explorations. And exploring each one and all of them together requires some sincerity and intellectual honesty, which is an interesting exploration in itself.

AI IMAGES & “WOULDN’T IT BE COOL IF THIS EXISTED?”

Then a little about AI.

I wouldn’t call what I and Midjourney come up with “art”.

For me, it’s more of a fun exploration to see what comes out of it. And, for instance, in the case of the yokai images, it’s more “wouldn’t it be cool if these were real sculptures?”.

I create images with Midjourney of things I would like to see in physical reality, for instance, as a real sculpture or painting.

Image: Created by me and Midjourney and really the creativity of humanity as a whole and the universe expressed through and as us.

Meat, health, and ecology

The Norwegian government released new dietary guidelines with the health of humans and the ecosystems in mind.

In short, they recommend eating whole foods, eating low on the food chain, avoiding processed foods, and avoiding alcohol (there is no safe lower limit to alcohol intake). (This is the way I have mostly eaten since my teens.)

To me, this seems like basic common sense. It’s what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It’s the type of food our ancestors lived on and our bodies are designed for.

And, predictably, to some, it seems highly offensive. Are you telling us we can’t eat meat anymore? That we shouldn’t enjoy alcohol? That I can’t have my snacks and pizza?

There is also a discussion specifically about meat. The guidelines recommend reducing the meat intake as much as possible. Some point out that there is disagreement among scientists about whether red meat is problematic for our health. And although that’s an important point, it’s also missing the point.

Meat production is one of the biggest causes of deforestation, and it generally has a huge impact on our ecosystems. Our obsession with eating meat is one of the largest contributors to our collective and individual ecological footprint.

The guidelines explicitly take both health and ecological sustainability into account. Reducing our meat intake won’t harm our health. And it will help us reduce our ecological footprint. That’s more than enough reason to recommend reducing our meat consumption.

And in the bigger picture, our meat intake is intimately connected with our health. Without healthy ecosystems, we cannot be healthy. What happens with the Earth happens with us.

Although the finer points may be up for discussion, the bigger picture is not that complicated.

Image: Created by me and Midjourney

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Population, sustainability & margins

When it comes to creating a sustainable way of living for humanity, there are two major parts to the equation. One is how we organize ourselves. And the other is population.

If we have a small population, we can afford a way of life that’s not completely sound ecologically. At worst, we can move somewhere else. That’s what many of our ancestors did. They moved around according to the seasons, or over the generations.

And if we have a higher population, we are held to much higher standards. We have to live in a way that’s much more finely worked out and in tune with the ecosystems we live within and depend on.

Today, with a very high global population and a way of life that’s not at all aligned with ecological realities, we have created a very difficult situation for ourselves.

In spite of strong warnings from scientists, most people don’t seem to be aware of this. Many may have a vague understanding of it, but not enough to make or support the changes needed.

So what can we do? As I often mention here, it’s all about our collective will. Where there is a will, there is a way. We know many of the solutions, but we haven’t found the collective will yet.

Will we find it in time? It depends on what we mean by “in time”. It’s already too late for the individuals who have lost their lives and the species that are gone because of our ecological situation. It’s too late to avoid serious damage to our ecosystems – that happened decades and centuries ago. It’s too late to prevent massive problems in the future, including massive die-offs of many species, likely including humans.

And what are some of the solutions? The main one is to thoroughly transform our economy and economic framework to take ecological realities into account. We have to create a system where what’s easy and attractive, for individuals and corporations, is also ecologically and socially sound. Within this framework, we have all the smaller technological and social solutions we are already familiar with and some that are yet to be developed.

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The beauty of common expressions (AKA “thought-terminating cliches”)

I saw this quote posted on social media, and thought I would explore it and see what I find.

What the quote calls “thought-terminating cliches” I prefer to call “common expressions”.

HOW IT IS FOR ME

In general, I love taking idea fragments – from quotes, book titles, or common expressions – and using them as a pointer for my own exploration.

I assume it’s like that for many of us, and for most or all of us sometimes.

I hear or think of a common phrase, and see what I find. Typically, I find the validity in it, in the reversals, in other ways to look at it and the bigger picture, and also that all of that are questions about the world here to help us orient and navigate in the world.

SOME COMMON EXPRESSIONS

What do I find if I explore the phrases in the quote?

It is what it is. For me, this is a beautiful expression. It reminds me that reality is what it is, and my experience of it and ideas about it are very limited. It is what it is, and I cannot know for certain anything about it. My thoughts are questions.

It’s in God’s hands. Yes, in a way everything is in God’s hands. Everything happening locally is the expression of movements in the larger whole. Everything has innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of time and the widest extent of the universe. It’s good to be reminded of this now and then. (And not use it as an excuse for inactivity or harmful actions.)

YOLO. This too is a wonderful expression. I only live once. This moment will never return. What’s here in my experience is something I will never experience again. It’s something nobody has ever experienced before and nobody will ever experience it in the future. This moment, as it is, is infinitely precious. And it’s also all I have. My world is all I know, and I can only find the past, future, and somewhere else in my fantasies (sometimes very useful fantasies) happening here and now.

THOUGHT-TERMINATING CLICHES

What do I find when I explore the idea of “thought-terminating cliches”?

There is a valuable reminder in the idea of “thought-terminating cliches”, and that is that reality is always different from and more than our ideas about it. Reality is always far richer.

At the same time, the idea of a “thought-terminating cliche” can in itself become a thought-terminating cliche. We can agree with it and overlook the value and beauty of common expressions. We can overlook or reject the wisdom in them. We can overlook their value as a short hand to ease communication. We can overlook their value as a pointer and seed for our own exploration.

Perhaps most importantly, if someone hears or thinks of a common expression and doesn’t explore it further, then it says something about them. Not the common expression itself.

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Own inquiry: My body shouldn’t be so tired

It’s been a while since I have shared formal inquiry explorations here, including The Work of Byron Katie, so I thought I would restart that. (I used to write a lot more explorations.)

STATEMENT & SITUATION

Statement: My body shouldn’t be so tired.

Situation: Lying on the sofa five minutes before an inquiry session. (The Work on Zoom.)

INQUIRY

1. Is it true? Yes, in that situation it feels true.

2. Can you know for certain if it’s true? No, I cannot know for certain.

3. What happens when you believe that thought?

I feel extra tired. I notice the symptoms of tiredness. The tiredness comes to the forefront. It feels overwhelming. A part me of wants to cancel. I imagine others judging me. I judge myself. I see myself in the session unable to follow the question and inquiry. I see myself not being able to talk clearly and coherently. I see images of the facilitator judging me. I feel ashamed. I feel I am to blame. I tell myself I could have prevented it (through more resting, different food, taking more herbs). I blame myself for not being “more perfect” in how I take care of myself, especially the last days. I compare myself with others and how I used to be, and how I imagined I would be. I see them as energetic and active, and myself lying here unable to even do inquiry.

4. Who would you be without that thought? How would you be if you were unable to think that thought in that situation?

I notice myself as whole. I am curious about the inquiry and what will come out of it. I am looking forward to the inquiry. I notice excitement. I notice my thoughts and words come from more clarity. I feel lighter.

Turnarounds

TA1: My body should be so tired.

(a) It is. That’s how life unfolds. There are likely innumerable causes for it, and I am aware of only a tiny fraction. It’s how the whole of the universe moves locally here.

(b) It helped me do this inquiry. I had initially planned to do another one, and noticing the tiredness and this thought shifted me to do this inquiry.

(c) It has helped me do a lot of inquiry into identities, identifications, beliefs, and so on. It’s helped me examine the beliefs in my culture around this, as they are here in my own mind.

(d) It has helped me be more real with others.

(e) It has helped me understand and accept others as they are, especially if they have health challenges, and also more in general.

TA2: My thinking shouldn’t be so tired.

(a) I notice that unexamined thinking makes me feel tired, and when I examine and find what’s more true for me, I feel more clear, lighter, and engaged. I often find energy.

(b) The “should” thoughts are old and worn out. They are old and tired, in that sense.

TA3: My body shouldn’t be so energetic.

(a) I had sorted and organized earlier in the day and got into a slight adrenaline rush. I surfed on adrenaline, which is likely why I felt tired in the hour before the session. I am aware of this, and counteract it with rest and slowing down, but there is room for improvement.

(b) Also, looking at this thought makes it even more clear that the two complementary thoughts – my body shouldn’t be so tired / my body shouldn’t be so energetic – are both thoughts. They are literally imaginations.

REFLECTIONS

I did this inquiry during the session, and it was very helpful. I found a lot more than I wrote down here.

In the past, question three and the turnarounds were the most interesting to me, and I often couldn’t find so much with question four. These days, it seems that question four is the most powerful one. In this case, sitting in it felt rich and transforming.

I haven’t done The Work in a structured way for a while, and with a facilitator, so it feels good to come back to it. It feels more fresh and real, and something has shifted. (Especially really enjoying question four and what comes up there.)

Rumi: Things are such

Things are such, that someone lifting a cup,
Or watching the rain, petting a dog,
Or singing, just singing — could be doing as
Much for this universe as anyone.

– Rumi

Yes, that’s my sense of it as well.

VALUING PRODUCTIVITY

Does this poem have to do with value and productivity? It’s at least easy for us, in our Western culture, to see it that way.

There is nothing wrong with valuing productivity. We need some level of productivity to collectively and individually survive and thrive. (1) It makes sense that it’s part of our culture, and probably any culture. (2)

At the same time, if it goes too far it has downsides. In our Western culture, we have valued productivity to the extent that we often equate our worth with what we do in the world. We have lost sight of our value from just being who we are and being part of existence.

THE VALIDITY OF THE POEM

When I explore what Rumi points to, I find a few different things.

Doing simple things, or just being, does a lot for our universe. For the universe we each are. When I sit outside hearing the birds and looking at the trees and flowers, does as much for my universe as just about anything.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. So even the simplest of activities, or just the experience of rest, does as much for the universe as anything.

The idea of productivity or value is mind-made. It’s not inherent in reality. So anything does as much for the universe as anything else.

WHY IT’S APPEALING

So there is no wonder this poem, in this particular translation, is attractive to many in the modern world.

We are trained to (over-) value productivity and equate our worth with what we do. And that comes with downsides. It fuels over-work. It may lead us to ignore our deeper interests and passions. And if or when we are unable to be as productive as our culture tells us we should, our self-worth may take a hit.

So this poem is an antidote to that idea. It’s medicine for that particular condition.

NOTES

(1) And the right kind of productivity. The kind of productivity that puts food on the table, a roof over our heads, and so on.

(2) Although the form this value takes in different cultures probably varies enormously. It can take the form of degrading and devaluing those who are unable to be productive. And it can take the form of valuing everyone and each person’s unique contributions, even if they are not very active in a conventional sense.

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When scientists are the doomsday sayers

Throughout history and across cultures, there have been doomsday sayers. Rarely are their predictions grounded in anything solid, and it’s even rarer that it’s accurate.

SCIENTISTS ARE THE DOOMSDAY SAYERS

These days, scientists are the doomsday sayers. (1)

This time, their predictions are grounded in something solid.

And there is every reason to think it’s roughly accurate. (2)

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?

So why don’t more people take it seriously? Why don’t more people change their priorities and life?

I assume there may be several reasons.

We think we still have time. (We don’t since the effects of our collective actions won’t be clear until decades later.)

We think it will impact others and not us. (It’s true it will impact those with the least resources the most, but it will impact all of us, and it will certainly impact the lives of all our children and descendants.)

We misdiagnose the problem. (They may blame greed, or assume that piece-meal efforts are sufficient, while the real problem is in our economic system. It was created at a time when we, for all practical purposes, had unlimited natural resources and nature had unlimited capacity to absorb waste. Because of our numbers and technology, that’s not true anymore. And what’s required is a systemic change so we have a system that takes ecological realities into account, and where what’s easy and attractive to do is also ecologically sound.)

We take our cues from others. (Others seem blasé about it so we assume there is nothing to really worry about.)

We are caught up in everyday living. (Most of us have a lot to take care of in daily life. We don’t feel we have time or energy to do much beyond that.)

We expect politicians to do something about it. (Most may not since they operate on a four- or two-year election cycle, and these problems are on the scale of decades and centuries.)

We prefer to not think about it. (It may seem overwhelming. It may seem that we can’t do much. So we set it aside.)

We go into denial. (We assume scientists are wrong. Instead, we put our faith in people who deny the findings from science, and people who are non-professionals or people who have a background in another field.)

WHAT AM I DOING?

What do I do about it?

I have always voted for parties that take this seriously. (I am a member of the Green Party in Norway.)

I learn about it. I look for solutions.

I have been passionate about the mind and culture side of this since my early teens. (Deep ecology, ecopsychology, systems views, paradigm shifts, the epic of evolution, the universe story, practices to reconnect, etc.)

I worked for several years in sustainability and supporting people (organizations and individuals) in making real changes in their life that are enjoyable, rewarding, and more sustainable.

I have land in the Andes mountains and work on regeneration and sustainable food production. (Food forests etc.) We are collecting water, and we hope to use solar power. And we make connections with others in the area, which is vital for transformation and mutual support.

This transformation is collective as much as individual.

NOTES

(1) Here is just one of many examples from the last several decades: Scientists deliver ‘final warning’ on climate crisis: act now or it’s too late, The Guardian March 2023

(2) The reality is that we don’t even need scientists to tell us. Logic and our own senses will tell us the same. We are part of the seamless living system we call Earth and our existence and well-being is intimately connected with the rest of this living system. As it is now, ecosystems are unraveling and we with them. And we can see this with our own eyes.

I am now back at my parent’s house in Norway, and nearly all insects are gone. When I grew up, the yard was buzzing with life: Crickets, butterflies, bees, bumblebees, golden wings, and much more. If we had the door or window open during the summer and then closed, the windows would be full of insects. Now, I hardly see any. Without insects, most of our ecosystem unravels. And that means we unravel as well. There is a delayed effect, but it will happen. And anyone with a brain can see this and knows it. And yet, very few people prioritize it and do something about it.

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If you don’t like the outcome of certain policies, blame the voters and yourself, not struggling minority groups

I heard someone today blame struggling minority groups (refugees) for the lack of funding for certain groups of people in Norway.

To me, that’s absurd. This is a question of policies and political priorities. That group is not helped sufficiently because it has not been a priority. And it’s not been a priority because people have voted certain political parties into power.

If you want to blame someone, blame those voters. Blame yourself if you voted for them, and for not getting engaged to make a change. Take a look at the real cause of the situation.

Don’t put the blame on other struggling groups. They are not in any way to blame.

The people who tend to blame minority groups in this way are often the very same people who vote for political parties that created the situation in the first place. They blame struggling minority groups for the policies they voted into place. (Often by voting for conservative and libertarian parties.)

And the more shameless political parties do the same. They blame minority groups for the consequences of the policies they themselves put in place.

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Psychology 101: My culture is inside me

Throughout my daily life, I notice parts of me responding to situations, people, and trains of thought. Mostly, these parts respond with judgments. They are not aligned with my “global” or conscious view. And they come from my culture.

I notice them. Flash on where they come from. Notice what’s more true for me. And they are gone.

WHAT ARE THESE THOUGHTS?

As mentioned, these thoughts are mostly judgments.

She is fat. (And that’s bad.) He is ugly. (Bad.)

She is young, slim, and attractive. (Good.) He is well dressed. (Good.)

If I eat fast food, I am one of those people. (Bad.)

They are at that restaurant, so they must be sophisticated. (Good.)

He is Muslim. (Dangerous.) She looks unkept. (Not good.)

And so on.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

So why does this happen?

It’s because we learn from others. Our mind absorbs whatever is out there in the culture – from family, school, friends, media, movies, books, lyrics, and so on.

And the more often we are exposed to it, and the more charge it has (even if we just see it having charge for the other person), the more likely it is to go in and come up again.

The job of our mind is to absorb it all and then give it back to us whenever it’s relevant. (And sometimes when it’s not obviously relevant!)

It’s natural and essentially innocent.

RELATE TO IT MORE CONSCIOUSLY

Although if we join in with these thoughts and act on them, that can be quite harmful to ourselves (psychologically) and others (in life and society).

So it’s good to find a more conscious relationship to these dynamics.

I can notice these thoughts and reactions in me.

And I can find what’s more true for me than the stereotypes these thoughts typically reflect.

I can relate more intentionally to the way different parts of me respond to something.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

There is a bigger picture here.

The world is my mirror. Whatever characteristics and dynamics I see “out there” in others and the world are also here in me. They may be expressed in different situations and in different ways. And the essence is the same. (For instance, whenever I react with aversion to someone or something, the essence of that reaction is often the same as what I am reacting to. I am doing the same as what I see out there in that moment.)

And it’s all happening within my sense fields. To me, others and the world happen within and as my mental field and sometimes my other sense fields. It’s happening within and as what I am. It’s happening within and as the consciousness I am. “Out there” is really “here”. “He she it they” is really “me”.

INTERNALIZATION AND OVER-I

I like to use simple and ordinary language and avoid jargon, but I want to mention a couple of things.

This is often called internalization. We internalize our culture and it lives on in us. It’s how culture is passed on and it’s how we can have a culture in the first place.

And it’s also what Freud called the over-I or – through mistranslation – the superego. The essence of his insights is often valuable, although some of what comes from him are specific to his own culture, and there are simpler and more effective ways to do therapy.

Note: After writing this, a video on this topic popped up on YouTube. From 1-10 how racists are you (Cut). It’s good to see that many these days are aware of unconscious biases that we pick up and learn from the society we live in, and actively seek to be aware of them and counter them.

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Do you believe in…?

For as long as I can remember, I have been confused about this question.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

What does it mean to believe in something?

Does it mean to pretend I know something I don’t?

Or that I hope or fear that something is true?

Does it mean I find something likely, based on my limited experience and information?

WHERE DOES THE QUESTION COME FROM?

Why do some ask that question? Where does it come from?

I suspect it may have to do with Christianity and perhaps religions in general.

In Christianity, we are asked to believe something we cannot verify for ourselves. In other words, we either hope (or fear) something, or we pretend we know something we cannot know, and we call it “belief”. Christianity presents this as a virtue, as something good, and perhaps even as a gift.

And in that type of culture, it may be natural to extend this to other areas.

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe there is life elsewhere in the universe? Do you believe we have past lives? Do you believe that politician can help our country?

WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

There is an alternative, and that is to be more specific, which is also to be more honest and grounded in reality.

I don’t consciously and actively believe in anything. (Of course, parts of me believe all sorts of stressful stories but that’s another topic.)

Instead, I have hopes and fears. These clearly say more about me than reality. And I hopefully (!) recognize them as fantasies and I don’t mistake them for reality.

I find something more or less likely. I usually phrase this as “I wouldn’t be surprised if”. For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is life in other places in this galaxy and the universe. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is intelligent and technologically advanced, perhaps far beyond us. And I know that reality may be quite different from what I find likely. In the absence of solid data, it’s best to have the mindset that anything is possible. (Within reason, although reality something presents itself outside of what we previously found reasonable!)

I hold second-hand information lightly. If someone says something, and it’s not backed up by solid science or my own experience, I put it on the “maybe” shelf.

With some topics, I say “It’s a topic for science” and “It would be very interesting to see what comes out of a serious investigation”. Ghosts, UFOs, reincarnation, and so on are all appropriate topics for science, and there are some studies on these and similar topics.

With some topics, like our nature, it’s something I can investigate for myself. What do I find in my own first-person experience? Does it match what others report? If not, what are the differences and why may that be?

IS IT A BIG DEAL?

Does it matter?

For me personally, it matters. I get confused about the “do you believe” question because I don’t know what it really means. (Fortunately, people I know don’t tend to ask that question.) It seems far more interesting to be specific and honest about it. And when I say “I try not to believe in anything, but I find it likely….” then it’s a small part in creating a culture that is a little more precise and honest about these things.

Highlighting this also helps us examine how we relate to white areas on the map in general, whether it’s aliens, conspiracy theories, spirituality or religion, past lives, or what will happen tomorrow or next year.

Do I have hopes and fear, and do I recognize them as that? How do I relate to second-hand information not backed up by science or my own experience? How do I relate to what spiritual teachers or religious leaders say? How do I relate to information that’s not backed up by solid data? What do I hold as true, and can I know for certain?

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When grounding in reality = censorship and lack of fun

I am part of a Facebook group for one of the healing modalities I use.

A few days ago, one of the members announced he had set up a new group for the same modality and invited people to join. His reason for setting up the group was the “censorship and lack of fun” in the existing group.

This made me and others curious. We haven’t noticed any censorship or lack of fun. Any topic is allowed, and there are frequent posts with (often quite funny) memes and jokes.

That’s obviously not what he means. So what is he referring to? Why does he experience the group as censoring and not fun?

Most likely, because he has posted conspiracy theories, and those posts predictably receive comments disagreeing and pointing out logical fallacies and poor or non-existent data and documentation.

That’s one of the reasons I like the group. Many there are sober, grounded, and invested in reality. We want to stay as close to reality as possible, which means analyzing statements and claims and pointing out weaknesses in the logic and data.

For him, that may feel like censorship. And, of course, it isn’t. If you post something in a public forum, you have to expect people to disagree with you and pick apart your argument. Especially when your argument is not very strong and is not backed up by solid data.

It may also feel like “lack of fun”. For him, it may be fun to indulge in conspiracy theories without being hampered by more sober views.

For me, it’s important to point this out. What he calls censorship is just normal pushback when you make big claims without being able to back them up. And what he calls a lack of fun is what you experience when you want to indulge in speculation and meet a more sober approach.

It may seem tempting to create another group that has the rules you want it to have. (Or lack of rules.) But there will be challenges in that group too, and if you have loose or nonexistent rules, you may discover why well-functioning groups have clear rules. In addition, you risk splintering the community which comes with its own consequences. (As I have seen from being involved in community groups for a few decades.)

Personally, I am not in that group for “fun”. I am there to pick up tips about how to better use the healing modality and to ask questions if there is something I am unsure about. Censorship doesn’t really apply, and if I want fun I find it somewhere else.

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Language includes body language

YouTube suggested this short to me, and I thought it was a great example of how language includes body language. If we are bilingual, and the languages belong to relatively different cultures, then switching language also means switching body language.

In this case, she gesticulates when she speaks English and becomes far more still when she speaks Japanese, even if she speaks with the same person and in the same setting. She also does the little bow I associate with Japan and their body language. You can see the switch about 38 seconds into the clip.

We are endlessly fascinating creatures.

Reflections from an abstract expressionist exhibition

I went to an exhibit of early abstract expressionist art at the Munch museum today, and it brought up a few things. These are perhaps not very important but at least slightly interesting to me.

LIMITING WHAT WE DO BUT NOT WHAT WE LEARN FROM

When I was in the art world, in my late teens and early twenties, I noticed a pattern. Some created an identity for themselves that excluded certain categories of art. They rejected whole categories of art and didn’t seem interested in exploring or learning from it.

To me, that doesn’t make sense. Yes, since we have limited energy and time, we do need to limit what we do. (Although we can still explore a range of techniques, styles, and topics.)

But that doesn’t mean we need to limit what we appreciate and learn from.

Personally, I find art across times and cultures fascinating and often beautiful. I find nature in all its variety fascinating and often beautiful. And I find a lot of “accidental” art fascinating and beautiful. (Including urban spaces, junk yards, dilapidated buildings, and so on.) Visually, I learn from all of it.

TIME AND LOCATION MATTER

I posted a detail from an abstract painting on Facebook, and someone commented: “I can paint that”.

Yes, you can paint an abstract painting. But you cannot paint it three generations ago when that one was painted, and it was a new and revolutionary way of seeing and a new and revolutionary of thinking about and doing art.

The art in this particular exhibition is interesting because of the time and place and historical context. It’s interesting because these were the pioneers. I found only a few paintings interesting visually, and even fewer beautiful. But that’s not the point. They are records of a big change in how we collectively look and what we (most of us) appreciate visually.

It opened up a whole new world to us. And I would assume it opened up a lot more appreciation of what we find around us of “accidental abstract art”. I know I have a great appreciation for it, and I assume it has something to do with living in a culture where abstract art has been around for a while.

ABSTRACTION

Abstract art is not new. It’s just new-ish in European art.

We can find abstract art from a range of times and cultures.

And we can find abstract art in any art. If we zoom in on sections of figurative paintings (and sculptures), we find abstract colors and patterns. More in general, any representation is inherently an abstraction. It’s a representation of something else, and it is by necessity a simplification. It highlights some things and leaves a lot out.

The European abstract movement only highlighted and emphasized the abstraction inherent in nature and any art. And by doing so, it expanded the possibilities of how we do anything visual. It added something and didn’t take anything away. All the other ways of doing art are still here.

Personally, I only find a few examples of abstract art very interesting or beautiful. But I am very happy it exists.

MOM, I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS PAINTING”

I overheard a child say these classic words, unwittingly repeating what thousands of others have said before her.

A response came up in my mind: It’s not mainly about understanding it. It’s about what moods and feelings you have when you see it. Or what it reminds you of. (Perhaps an old painted door or something in nature?) It’s about opening our minds and hearts to the beauty in the visual abstractions all around us, whether we are in a human-made or natural environment. It’s about the historical context of the art and what the artists experienced and responded to.

EXHIBITION SPACES

I have to admit I thoroughly dislike the new Munch Museum building. Not because it’s edgy or innovative or unusual, because it’s none of those. It’s because it’s thoroughly boring. (And it blocks the view of the fiord from certain areas of Oslo which should be forbidden.) Even the Oslo airport and the main hospital in Oslo are more interesting and beautiful.

It is possible to make an innovative and beautiful building that people love. The Oslo Opera House next door, and the Astrup-Fernley museum across the harbor, are good examples. So why did they choose such a boring option? I am not sure. (Perhaps the architects were too persuasive for their own good?)

I would much prefer a lower building, perhaps partially underground. One that feels more human scale. One that uses more natural materials. (Stone, wood.) And one where many of the rooms are smaller and more intimate. I also enjoy spaces that have more angles and/or flowing forms.

The upside is that the curators and exhibition space designers seem to be doing a good job. Several exhibition rooms have low lighting, which creates a more calm atmosphere and highlights the art. And some of the walls are dark in color, which also highlights the art. (Some walls even complement the colors in the painting, for instance when a reddish-orange painting is on a wall that’s dark greyish blue.)

TAKING IT SERIOUSLY?

At the exhibit, they showed movie segments with a few early abstract expressionist artists. What struck me was how serious they all seemed to take it.

Why? It likely has to do with image. Appearing serious signals to others that this is serious business and should be taken seriously by others as well. Since they did go against previous European art, and against what much of the mainstream liked and wanted, that was perhaps even more important to them.

For me, artistic expression is also fun, play, and adventure. And I am sure many of these artists saw it that way as well, at least when they were out of the public eye and the cameras were not rolling.

Images: Detail of an early abstract expressionist painting. Detail from “Vampire” by Munch. (An abstract section of a figurative painting.) And two photos from the exhibit space.

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Idealism, realism, our economic system and ecological reality

In Norway, there is a tradition of calling it “idealism” when someone cares for the Earth or works for social justice. I have always found that odd.

To me, creating a society that takes ecological realities into account is realism, not idealism.

It’s our only way forward.

If anything, business as usual is idealism. It’s based on the fantasy that we can continue to ignore ecological realities or that small tweaks are sufficient.

OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM

We have an economic system that was developed at a time when we didn’t need to take ecological realities into account. For all practical purposes, we had unlimited natural resources, and nature had an unlimited capacity to absorb our waste. Humanity was small enough, and we had poor enough technology, so we could afford that luxury.

These days, with our much larger numbers and much more efficient technology, we still use an economic system that has those assumptions built into it. And that’s insanity. It’s suicidal.

That’s why we find ourselves in a situation where our scientists – and common sense – tell us we have to make drastic changes now in order to survive. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

And this is not just about our economic system. This is about all our human systems and institutions. All of it needs to deeply transform to reflect ecological realities. That’s the only way we can survive and thrive in the long term.

ANOTHER WAY IS POSSIBLE

We developed our current economic system in a way that made sense to us back then, over the last few hundred years.

And we can develop another system. One that takes the limits of nature into account. One where the actual cost is included in the calculations. One where what’s easy and attractive to do is also what’s good for our ecosystems and future generations.

And one where as many as possible, preferably everyone, has at least their basic needs met. That too is required for a more stable society that takes ecological realities into account. Desperate people create instability, and content people allow for stability. (Also, it just feels better for all of us to know that others have what they need.)

WHY DON’T MORE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?

Why don’t more of us take this seriously? Why do most live as if nothing special is happening? Why don’t politicians take it seriously? Why do people continue to call it “idealism” instead of realism?

The general answer is that this is how systems work. Systems have many mechanisms to stay dynamically stable and only shift when enough builds up so it has to.

And in this case, there are many of these mechanisms at play.

We have evolved to take seriously what’s clearly immediate and impacts our daily life. And so far, the consequences of the current ecological unraveling seem distant. (In other locations or in the future.) We can explain them away. (Occasional extreme weather.) Or it’s slow enough so we get used to it. (Loss of biodiversity.)

We have evolved to operate on the timespan of weeks, months, or a few years. We typically don’t operate on the timespan of decades or centuries, and that’s the perspective we need to realize and take in ecological changes.

Politicians operate on the timespan of one or two election cycles. To them, it makes more sense to focus on what’s more immediate and short-term. They have few to no incentives to operate on larger timespans. (This is built into our political system and not their personal fault.)

Non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations don’t have a voice in our system. They are voiceless. And they are hugely impacted by our current ecological unraveling. Including their voice in our system in a real way – in our economy, politics, and business operations – would make a big difference. We can do this by giving them legal rights and advocates with power.

We take our cues from others. We see others living their lives as normal, so we assume all is fine and we don’t need to take things too seriously.

We assume we still have time. Things are fine now, and we’ll take care of it later when it’s more urgent. In this situation, we are not seeing the consequences of what we are doing until decades later. And we will have to live with the consequences for centuries if not millennia. It has been urgent for decades already, and many don’t seem to realize it because they have not yet seen or lived with the consequences. (When we do, it will be too late to stop what’s already set in motion, but we can make an effort to keep it from getting even worse.)

We assume someone else will do something. Politicians will do something. Or business leaders. Or activists. Or our children and future generations. That’s not how it works. This is the responsibility of each of us. This is about you and me. Not just others.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

I don’t know what will happen any more than anyone else.

I imagine we’ll have to go much further into the crisis before we collectively take it more seriously. The words of scientists are not enough, it seems. And at that time, we’ll be far into dramatic changes that we’ll have to live with for centuries and millennia.

I imagine a lot of our resources will be tied up in dealing with the immediate dramatic consequences. It’s now that we still have the resources to make the bigger picture changes without too much hardship, so doing it now makes the most sense.

It may be a bottleneck for our civilization. I imagine many will die, especially those with the least resources.

I imagine there will be a diversity of responses, just as we see today. Many will just try to get by and focus on the immediate situation. Some will operate from a zero-sum view of the world. Some will take a bigger picture, a longer view, and focus on win-win solutions.

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AI images & what people like

Which one of these do you like most?

When I started getting into art in my teens, it was quickly clear that what most people like is often quite different from what the creator themselves like. And I am reminded of that again, with the AI images I have had fun creating over the last few weeks.

For instance, I recently posted one series of painted wood toys and another series of sacred sculptures. (See an example from each above.) I personally easily prefer the sculptures. They are far more interesting to me. And although I wouldn’t call the AI images I help generate “art”, I also know that these sculptures – if hand-crafted in real life – would be considered interesting and perhaps even good art. The wood toys, on the other hand, would be more playthings and curiosities and not terribly interesting.

When I post these, the response from others is the reverse. I typically get very little response to the sculptures, and people love the wood toys. On the main Facebook group for sharing Midjurney images, the wood toys got 300+ likes, and the sculptures one (!).

Why is that?

It may be because the wood toy is more relatable. It’s colorful. It’s something you can imagine having yourself. It’s more ordinary and familiar. And it’s easier to take in quickly since it is more colorful and familiar. On a social media feed, it “pops” more.

The sculpture, on the other hand, doesn’t stand out in the same way. It’s dark. It’s not colorful. It’s less familiar. It requires time and attention to take it in.

We see this in the art world too. Classic artworks are curated by experts, and people will go to museums to see them. They see some of the best classic art exactly because it’s curated by experts.

With contemporary art, it’s often a bit different. It’s not curated in the same way. And most people like art that’s relatable, pop, and easy and quick to take in. That’s not necessarily the most amazing art. For that reason, the best contemporary artists are often less known and less popular.

Note: As I have written before, I enjoy exploring AI images right now. It’s fascinating, and I can get out some of the images in my mind that I wouldn’t be able to create by hand. (I used to do art full-time in my teens and early twenties, but life took a different direction, and because of my disability it’s been difficult to take it up again to the extent I would like.)

I also see AI art as a reminder that all art is collective. The author is really humanity or existence as a whole. The AI is fed thousands or millions of images created by thousands or millions of people, and the prompts just get out some of the immense potential stored in the AI. I cannot take much credit for what comes out. All I am doing is coming up with the instructions, refining them, and curating the results.

Existence as a whole is the real creator. As is the case with anything the universe is creating through its local and temporary expressions we call humanity, culture, and individual humans.

The pandemic, epidemiology, and the importance of historical knowledge

I have written about this several times and thought I would revisit it briefly.

MY FASCINATION WITH EPIDEMIOLOGY

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by epidemiology. I read articles and books about it growing up, I learned about it in school, and it’s one of the topics I studied at university.

I found the history of it fascinating: How people have understood diseases throughout history and in different cultures. How people have tried to prevent or lessen the impact of spreading diseases. How ships were quarantined, even centuries before we had an understanding of germs. The early modern investigations into the spread of diseases, for instance, the infected well in London spreading cholera. The initial treatment of Semmelweis and others who argued for hygiene. How simple things like clean water, hygiene, and a better diet are responsible for most of the improvements in health we have seen over the last century.

And when it comes to pandemics: What has historically worked and not worked in times of pandemics. (Limiting travel and contact, quarantine, and good hygiene.) And how people tend to react in times of pandemics. (Some groups will react by fueling blame, scapegoating, and conspiracy theories.)

EXPECTED PANDEMIC AND RESPONSES

When the pandemic came a few years ago, I was not surprised. Pandemics typically come once a century, and this came just on schedule. (About one hundred years after the last major one, the Spanish Flu.)

I was also not surprised by the measures put in place by governments around the world. These are the typical measures put in place in times of pandemics, and the ones we know work based on what we have learned from history. Most governments followed established best practices. (WIth China and Brazil as notable exceptions.)

And I was not really surprised by the surge in conspiracy theories. That’s how some people react in times of pandemics. They want to find a scapegoat. They distrust the government. They oppose common-sense measures to prevent the impact of the pandemic. Even if these are temporary, protect vulnerable groups, and we know from history that these measures work. (I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed when people I personally know chose this way of reacting to the pandemic.) (1)

WHY DO SOME GO INTO CONSPIRACY THEORIES?

I also have some guesses about why some went into conspiracy theories.

They may not know much about the history of pandemics or of epidemiology. They may not know or understand – or want to understand – how and why the standard pandemic measures work.

They may not understand science and scientific methods very well. They may not know how to evaluate scientific articles and research. They may not know much about valid reasoning or how to avoid logical fallacies. (Most of the conspiracy folks I have seen use both bad data and bad logic.) (2)

Some may prioritize other things over being intellectually honest.

They may have a pre-existing distrust in governments, authority, and possibly science. (Even if just about everything that works in their lives is made possible by governments and science.)

They may want to reinforce an existing identity as an outsider and rebel. They may want to boost their self-esteem by telling themselves they know something most others don’t.

They may just have discovered something disturbing about how society works and draw exaggerated and hasty conclusions because they are not very familiar with the topic.

They may be naturally gullible. They may have heard things from people they think they should trust, and believe it.

Because of the pandemic, some found time to go into internet rabbit holes and spend time in virtual echo chambers.

Some intentionally took on the roles of trolls and fueled conspiracy theories they personally saw as ludicrous. (Some were paid to do this, others did it for more personal reasons.)

And most probably saw themselves as being on the side of truth and the good. (Even if it, in most cases, was misguided.)

WHEN WE DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY

This is an example of why knowledge of history is important. It’s important for the decisions we make today.

These situations – that have to do with science and public policy – tend to look very different depending on how familiar we are with history and science. Knowing a bit about history and science vaccinates us against being misled by paranoia, weak data, and weak logic.

THE VALIDITY IN THE CRITICISM

There is, of course, a grain of truth to a lot of the criticism and the essence of some of the conspiracy theories.

Most governments winged it, with some guidance from doctors and epidemiologists. They made mistakes. They over-reacted and under-reacted at different times and in different situations. They would have done some things differently if they had more time to prepare or had known more than they did at the time. That’s to be expected. We live in an imperfect world. We all wing it, to some extent.

The medical industry is in it for the money. Medical research is often funded by big pharma. Multi-national corporations own a wide range of companies, including medical and media companies. There is a lot of money influence in politics. That’s also to be expected. It’s not news.

And, at the same time, it doesn’t mean that the measures put in place by most governments did not make sense. They did, based on history and what we know works in times of pandemics.

(1) Why did some resist taking simple common-sense measures to slow down the spread of the virus? To me, this didn’t make sense. The main purpose was to prevent hospitals from being overloaded and we saw the consequence of overloaded hospitals in certain areas of the world. Did they want hospitals to get to the point where they had to turn people away? (Including, possibly you or your close family.) Did they assume the measures didn’t work? (Even if they obviously do. None of them are perfect, but they are not meant to the perfect. They are just meant to reduce the rate of transmission. And to reduce the viral load when someone gets infected, which is one of the main predictors of how serious the illness will get.) Did they act out of ignorance, reactivity, and lack of compassion for their fellow humans? Did they allow their reactivity to override their compassion?

(2) For instance, some refer to articles published on less-than-reputable websites, often written by people with no training or expertise in the field, and present it as if it’s solid science. Or they refer to an outlier article that goes against the mainstream view and presents it as if it means something. (Outlier articles and views are found in all fields of science. They need to be backed up with a lot more research to have any real weight or meaning.)

Some set up a false dichotomy and pretended that the measures had to be perfect or rejected. None of the measures are perfect. They are not meant to be. As I mentioned above, they were meant to slow down the spread of the virus so the hospitals wouldn’t get overloaded and had to turn people away. (Including people ill for other reasons.) And they were meant to reduce the viral load when we get infected, which is one of the main predictors of how sick someone gets. (Masks, for instance, hold back the spit that naturally comes out when we talk, this reduces the viral load when someone gets infected, and that can make all the difference for some people.)

Or they pretended that common temporary measures in a pandemic were going to be permanent. Or they presented themselves as victims just because they were asked to take a few common-sense measures to help prevent the hospitals from being overloaded. (This reaction was especially weird to me since we all already take a lot of measures to help society as a whole, including paying taxes, wearing a seat belt, driving on the correct side of the road, washing our hands, and so on.)

Some talk about “rights” when they seem to conveniently forget that we also have duties. In a time of crisis, duty comes into the foreground. In this case, our duty is to be responsible citizens and do our small part in keeping the hospitals functional and reducing the risk of serious illness for other people.

The conspiracy theory crowd seemed naive to me for several reasons. Not the least because they actively fueled distractions from the major and real crisis we are in: our ecological crisis. This is the one we need to focus on and do something about. So why allow yourself to get distracted in that way?

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The future of awakening

There are many ways to envision the future of awakening.

We may explore how it fits into maps of the mind and society (integral maps). We can see it as a part of the evolution of the universe. We can explore ideas of collective awakening. And so on.

Here is how I imagine it may look in society, if or when awakening is commonly accepted and is an ordinary part of our collective life.

I’ll write from the perspective of someone living in that world.

ACCEPTED

Awakening is commonly accepted as real and valuable. Since scientists and academia accept it, and many know people who have benefited from exploring it, most people in society also accept it.

Of course, people are interested in it to varying degrees, as with anything else. That’s good since we need people to specialize in different things.

UNDERSTOOD IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS

And there are a few different ways to understand it, which is also good.

Some see it in a spiritual context, or in the context of their own religion.

Others understand it in a more secular and psychological way.

And for those interested, there is a lot to learn from each of these perspectives. Each of them contributes something valuable and unique, at least to some extent and in some areas.

DEMYSTIFIED

Awakening is also generally demystified, at least to the extent that anything can be demystified.

Most people understand the general theory behind it.

The general understanding is a variation of this:

We don’t “have” consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we ARE consciousness. It can’t be any other way.

Similarly, to us the world happens within consciousness. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To us, the waking world is similar to night dreams in that it all happens within and as consciousness.

The consciousness we are is one. It’s a seamless whole. So to us, the world and all of our experiences happen within and as oneness. (We may not notice since we get caught up in mental representations of boundaries, but the reality that’s always here for us is oneness.)

The consciousness we are is a no-thing that allows our experience of all things.

The consciousness we are may take itself to be an object within its field of experience, and as a separate self in the world. Or it can recognize itself and metaphorically “wake up” to itself as consciousness and oneness, and what the world – to itself – happens within and as. And its metaphorical center of gravity can shift from the first to the second, often over time and through intentional exploration and living from this noticing.

Of course, most may not be interested or familiar with all of the intricacies here, but they have a very general and rough understanding of it.

THE ESSENCE OF WHAT MYSTICS DESCRIBE

It’s also generally understood that awakening is what mystics across times and cultures have described.

The essence of awakening is the same, and the way it’s talked about varies across traditions and cultures.

AVAILABLE TO ANYONE

Awakening is available to anyone. As much as playing the piano or learning any skill is available to anyone.

It’s something we can explore. It’s something we can have a taste of for ourselves. And having a taste is not necessarily very difficult or something that takes a lot of time. It can happen easily and within minutes, if guided by someone familiar with the terrain and effective techniques.

And as with anything else, getting proficient with it takes dedication and time. Those drawn to it can get very familiar with the ins and outs of the awakening process.

COACHES

In the past, awakening was typically the domain of certain religions and spiritual traditions.

These days, it’s treated more as learning anything else. Depending on how we approach it and what our intention with it is, it’s treated similarly to learning a sport, painting or drawing, playing an instrument, or even learning a profession.

We approach it with a combination of theory and practice, typically with the guidance of a coach, someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others. And exactly how that looks depends on how much in-depth we wish to go, and if it’s for our own sake, to use as an element in our profession (therapy, education, etc.), or if it’s part of training to become a coach.

We have a collective exploration of which approaches and techniques are most effective and appropriate to different groups and individuals. Coaches are generally expected to keep up with this and to learn and apply current best practices. There are, of course, individual differences and flavors, and some specialize in some aspects of awakening, in working with particular groups, or in using and developing some particular approaches.

This process is also, to a large extent, demystified and secularized.

The traditional approaches are still around and available, although just as the secular approach is informed by the traditions, the traditions are now often informed by the secular approach. They often include some of the approaches and techniques developed by the secular approach.

RESEARCH AND ACADEMIA

Awakening is generally studied by a few different branches of academia, including psychology, medicine, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. Most universities have also created departments specifically to study awakening, and these are typically interdisciplinary and use an integral approach.

They study any and all aspects of awakening: Psychology. (Mechanisms and dynamics, common phases and aspects, challenges, benefits, how it can transform people’s perception and lives, and so on.) Biology. (Changes to the brain and nervous system, changes to any part of the body.) How do most effectively coach and support people in the process. And so on.

EDUCATION AND ECOLOGY

Meditation and approaches to give students a taste of awakening is incorporated in many schools. For most schools, it’s one of many topics the students explore, and other schools specialize in it and make it more central. Students who want to go deeper have electives or can find classes and coaches in the community.

Awakening is also often used as an aspect of sustainability and understanding of ecology. It helps people have a direct taste of oneness, which tends to transform how we perceive and relate to the wider world.

THE BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF DEMYSTIFYING

There is also an ongoing discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of demystifying awakening and approaching it in a more secularized way.

The benefits are obvious: It makes awakening available to more people. It removes some of the old misconceptions about awakening. It grounds our understanding and approach.

And it does have some drawbacks. The traditions do have valuable insights and ways of doing things (praxis) that may not be picked up by the secular approach. Some assume that secular understanding is accurate and sufficient and limit their perception and explorations.

That’s why there is a smaller movement to revive and support the traditional approaches, and this is very helpful in the bigger picture. The traditional approaches are (in)valuable aspects of the larger exploration of awakening.

ABOUT THIS VISION

What are some of the limitations and benefits to envision these kinds of futures?

One of the limitations is that we cannot predict the future. This particular vision is an extrapolation of what we are already seeing in some western cultures, especially on the west coast of the US. (Where I lived for a while and was involved in these types of communities.) It assumes a kind of linear progression, and what unfolds is rarely linear.

If one thing is (mostly) certain, it’s that the future won’t be like this. Reality is far more messy. For instance, we may see this in some subcultures and some areas of the world, while other subcultures and other areas of the world may be completely different. That’s the diversity we have seen so far through history so we can assume it will be like that in the future as well.

This is not about predicting the future. This is about envisioning itself. It’s about bringing up in me what I would like to see in the world. It’s a way to inspire me to help bring it about, even if it’s in very small ways.

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Ecosystem collapse

The steady destruction of wildlife can suddenly tip over into total ecosystem collapse, scientists studying the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history have found.

– The Guardian, Ecosystem collapse ‘inevitable’ unless wildlife losses reversed

If we know sometthing about ecology, the history of Earth, and perhaps systems theories, we know that ecosystems can unravel fast and with disastrous consequences. (Disastrous for the beings dependent on the ecosystem, the living Earth will survive and continue to evolve.)

A system is relatively stable even when many factors are pushing it out its stability. At some point, these factors add up sufficiently for a dramatic shift. And the system eventually finds another equilibrium.

OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

We are in the middle of an ecological collapse and we will see more of the consequences in the coming decades. By then, it will be too late to prevent much of the damage. We will be occupied dealing with the immediate consequences of the collapse. And the process will already have gone too far.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Of course, there are still things we can do.

At an individual level, we can get ready for this collapse in whatever ways make sense to us. Creating good community ties is perhaps the most important.

At a collective level, it all depends on our collective will and that’s not here yet. If the will comes, at some point, we can perhaps reduce the severity of the unraveling but we will still find ourselves in a very difficult situation.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LIKELY CONSEQUENCES?

What are some of the likely consequences of this unraveling?

We’ll likely see human migration on a scale beyond anything before in history, with all the conflicts and struggles that will bring. We are already seeing more extreme weather. We’ll see more drought and flooding. We will have problems with food production. (At the very least, disruptions and changes.) We may have more frequent pandemics. (More exposure to unfamiliar pathogens.) We may also see far more serious shifts, including a collapse in the ocean ecosystems which would be disastrous for most land life.

Even the moderate scenarios are immensely costly in terms of money and human suffering. It would have cost us far less to make changes decades ago when all of this was forecast. (I was very aware of it in the ’80s in my teens, as would anyone moderately informed.)

WHY DID IT HAPPEN?

Why didn’t we take care of it back then? After all, it would have been the optimal time. We had the information, and we had the time and resources to make changes.

There may be several answers.

This has to do with the future, which is abstract to us and seems like something we can deal with later.

Politicians typically operate with a time frame of one or two election cycles. The system is set up so they have few to no incentives to think long-term. For them too, it’s easier to push it into the future.

Some may think that this is about someone else and not ourselves. We think we will be safe, and this will be the problem of someone else. (In other parts of the globe, for future generations, or for other species.) We may think we don’t need to take it seriously since others don’t seem to take it seriously. We may think there is still time. We may have other and more immediate priorities, and use our energy and time to take care of our daily life challenges.

Any system has mechanisms to stay stable. And so also society and our culture. There are many incentives and processes that preserve the status quo and resist deep change. That’s generally good, except in this situation where we face a dramatic collective crisis and don’t take it seriously enough.

Our current economic system was created at a time when the limits of nature were not such a problem. Because of low population numbers and less efficient technology, nature was for all practical purposes unlimited. We had apparently unlimited natural resources, and an apparently unlimited ability to send pollution into nature. Nature had enough capacity, so we didn’t need to include the limits of nature in our economic systems.

SYSTEMS CHANGE

These days, we are very much running into the limits of nature so we need an economic system that takes ecological realities into account. We need a system where what’s easy and attractive to do, at individual and collective levels, is also what is good for ecosystems, society, non-human beings, and future generations. That type of system is very much possible, we just need the collective will to implement it.

This is not just about our economic system. This has to do with all human systems, including transportation, energy production, food production, water use, waste, manufacturing, education, philosophy, and far more.

It’s a change that has to permeate every aspect of our individual and collective lives.

LOOKING BACK AT OUR TIMES

Of course, this living and evolving planet will continue even after this crisis. It has survived many crises in the past. (That’s why we are here.) Humans are also likely to survive. (Unless the more radical scenarios play themselves out.)

But we will go through an evolutionary bottleneck. Our numbers may be dramatically reduced, and our way of life will have to dramatically change and adapt.

Hopefully, those who survive will learn something from it. Hopefully, we will transform our systems – at individual and collective levels – so they are aligned with ecological realities. Otherwise, history will repeat itself and we’ll eventually have another ecological collapse.

How will future generations look at our time?

Since I am the one imagining it, I obviously imagine it similar to how I already see it.

I see a civilization formed at a time (1600-1800) with far fewer people and less advanced technology. I see a civilization with systems that do not take ecological realities into account. I see people confused about this and trying to live life as usual. I see people not taking this seriously enough, perhaps because they assume there is still time and others will deal with it.

I see heroes: I see environmental activists. I see young people and their school strikes. I see people who think deeply about this. I see people who develop alternative economic systems. I see people implementing solutions. These are the heroes of future generations.

I also imagine it will look weird how some people today see sustainability and environmentalism as naive and impractical. In reality, it’s the only way forward. It’s the only way for us to survive and thrive.

As science has shown us for decades, sustainability is the only realistic way forward, and that requires deep systems changes. (Far beyond what’s envisioned even by many in environmentalism and sustainability.)

And if anyone is out of touch with reality, it’s the ones who want to continue as before, or the ones who assume that technology alone is sufficient, or that small adjustments here and there are all that’s needed. That looks like wishful thinking. It looks like denial.

Stephen Jay Gould: I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain…

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

– Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History

For people who value human progress, science, and so on, this should be a solid argument for giving everyone – nationally and globally – a real opportunity for good education. (1)

For every Einstein, Newton, Rembrandt, or Bach, there are likely hundreds (or thousands) with equal talent who never had the chance to develop it because of their life circumstances. And it’s up to us to nudge our community – and the world – in the direction where more have that opportunity. (By voting for political parties that do a real effort in that direction, by supporting NGOs, through volunteering, and so on.)

As SJG suggests, it’s valuable to all of us to be able to benefit from the genius of more people. In general, it benefits all of us to live in a community and a world where people are better educated. And it just feels right to give others what we would like to receive in their situation.

And for those of us who value people no matter their skills and contribution, we don’t need SJG’s particular argument. Giving as many as possible a real opportunity for education is just the right thing to do.

I assume SJG mentioned this as a nudge to those in the first category (after all, they are reading his book) who may not have thought this through properly.

(1) What does it mean to give someone a real opportunity for a good education? One basic thing is to make sure they don’t live in poverty. If people have their basic needs met, they can send their children to school instead of having them work to help support their families.

Why do most scientists and psychologists ignore our nature?

To me, there is something that seems clear, both from direct noticing and logic.

And that is what we are to ourselves, and what the world is to us. It’s our own nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to us.

WHAT I AM IN MY OWN NOTICING

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that helps this human self orient and function in the world.

And yet, in my own direct noticing, it is what I most fundamentally am?

When I look, I find I am something else.

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what allows and takes the form of any and all of my experiences. I am what allows and takes the form of what happens in all of my sense fields, in sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and the mental field. (And any other sense fields we can differentiate out through our mental overlays.)

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I am the oneness the world, to me happens within and as.

We can call this different things. For instance, consciousness.

And that brings us to the logic side of this.

WHAT I AM LOGICALLY

In our culture, most say that “we have consciousness” as if it’s a kind of appendix we happen to have. There is an assumption here that we are primarily a physical object and this physical object somehow has consciousness as it happens to have arms, legs, and physical organs.

This is a third-person view, and it doesn’t really matter in this context how accurate it is.

The more interesting question for me is: What are we to ourselves, in our own immediate experience?

Logically, if we “have” consciousness, we have to BE consciousness. There is nothing outside of consciousness somehow experiencing consciousness. What experiences and has the idea of consciousness is consciousness itself. Not anything outside of it.

Any experience happens within and as consciousness. It’s consciousness taking the form of that experience.

So to us, the world happens within and as consciousness.

The world, and any experience, happens within and as what we are.

We ARE consciousness and the world and any content of experience happens within and as consciousness, within and as what we are.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHAT WE ARE

Both direct noticing and (this particular) logic arrives at the same answer for what we are to ourselves, and it also arrives at the same answer for the characteristics of what we are.

What are some of the characteristics of what we are to ourselves?

What are some of the characteristics of consciousness?

To me, what I am has no beginning or end in space. It also has no beginning or end in time. Any experience of space and time happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am one. I am the oneness the world happens within and as. I am what my field of experience, which my mental field differentiates in many different ways, happens within and as.

To me, I am the world and the world is me. The world happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world happens within and as consciousness. It’s like a dream in that way.

To me, any and all content of experience comes and goes. And this includes any ideas of what I may be within the content of experience (this human self) and what these ideas refer to. In some cases, I may not take myself to be this particular human self, for instance in a dream, and what I more fundamentally am is still here. What any and all experiences happens within and as is still here. (Including shifting ideas of what I am as an object in the world.)

When what I am notices itself, I find that my nature is what can be called love. It’s a love that’s not dependent on shifting states or emotions. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And this love is often obscured by separation consciousness, by dynamics and patterns created from when I took myself most fundamentally as a separate object in the world.

IS THIS WHAT I “REALLY” AM?

So is this what I really am?

Yes, it is. It’s what I am in my own direct noticing.

Outside of that, I don’t know. I don’t know what my nature more fundamentally happens to be from some kind of outside third-person view. And that’s also less important, at least in my daily life.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE?

If this is so obvious both in terms of noticing and logic, why don’t we always notice or take this into account?

Most likely, because we live in a culture and world where most don’t. When we grow up, we do as others do. We learn to take on and operate from separation consciousness. And that can be very convincing, at least until we start examining our assumptions – about what we are and what the world is to us – a little more closely.

IS IT IMPORTANT?

Yes and no. We humans obviously get by without noticing or examining our nature.

And yet, when the oneness we are notices itself, keeps noticing itself, and explores how to live from this noticing, it can be profoundly transforming.

It can be profoundly transforming for our perception, sense of fundamental identity, life in the world, and our human psychology.

WHY DO MANY OVERLOOK OR DENY THIS?

If this is so obvious, both in terms of noticing and logic, why do so many ignore or deny this?

Most people are not so interested in the question of what they more fundamentally are in their own immediate experience. That’s fine. They get by anyway. They have more immediate concerns to focus on and take care of.

And yet, for some people, this is their job. For scientists and especially psychologists, this is essential to their job and (I assume) interests.

So why don’t more of them explore this? Why don’t more of them take it seriously?

I am not sure.

The essential answer may be the same as above: We live in a world where we are trained in separation consciousness from we are born. It becomes the norm, so we don’t even consider questioning it. And if we do, we feel we are somehow transgressing and entering dangerous waters so we don’t take it very far or speak about it.

To elaborate a bit:

Exploring these things is a kind of taboo in our culture, especially in academic circles. It goes against our shared worldview. It goes against standard norms. (Although all of that is changing.)

Our western culture, and especially our scientific culture, value the more “objective” third-person view over first-person explorations. Again, this has been different in the past and will very likely be different in the future.

If you work as a scientist in academia or as a psychologist, you typically cannot stray too far from the mainstream. As a scientist, you risk losing (or not getting) funding. You even risk losing your job if you get too weird. And as a psychologist, you risk losing your license. (In Norway, psychologists have lost their license for exploring the possibility of past lives in therapy sessions, even if these explorations obviously deal with projections and don’t say whether or not the past lives were real or not.)

In short, cultures are systems and systems want to stay mostly stable. There are many mechanisms operating to preserve some kind of stability. There are many incentives to not explore this, and not so many opportunities or invitations to do so. (Which, again, is fortunately changing.)

At a more personal level, many people may not have the curiosity or passion for exploring this. They are happy exploring other things, and that’s fine. Not everyone needs to explore these things.

WILL THIS CHANGE?

Will this change?

It is already changing. More and more people, including in science and psychology, are interested in a more transpersonal approach and understanding.

I envision a future where the third-person and first-person approaches exist side-by-side and even hand-in-hand, including in science and psychology.

It will be a far more rich exploration of our human experience, and one that reflects a little more of the bigger picture.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE VALIDITY OF WHAT MYSTICS DESCRIBE

If or when this shift happens, something else will happen as well.

And that is an acknowledgment – in science and our culture – of the validity in what mystics across times and cultures have described.

If we look at the essence of what mystics describe, it’s exactly this.

We are consciousness, and the world to us is consciousness.

We are the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as.

Image: Created by me and Midjourney (AI image)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature?

I recently watched the last season of His Dark Materials, and find I have as much and often more empathy with the dæmons as I do with their human counterpart. (The dæmons are animals representing an aspect of the people, their inner self, anima/animus, or something similar.)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature? Why is it sometimes easier to find love for a non-human being than for some fellow humans?

There are many answers and they all (literally) come out of one.

Here are some that come to mind:

MISTREATED

Non-human beings are often mistreated by humans. I tend to side with the underdogs, and in this relationship, non-human beings are almost always the underdogs. I have a natural empathy with non-human beings for that reason. (I know this particular dynamic is rooted in my own history and experiences.)

INNOCENCE & DIFFERENT HISTORY

The natural world has everything from cooperation and care to fights and mercilessness.

At the same time, we see an innocence there. For all their savvy and specific skills, knowledge, and experience, many of them generally function cognitively at the level of human children or babies.

Most non-human species must have mental representations and use them as we do, to orient and function in the world. And yet, it seems they are much less likely to elaborate on and believe these imaginations. They use them in a more simple and direct way.

For many of us, it’s easier to find love for animals. They are simpler. In some ways, they are innocent like children. For that reason, we don’t experience the same friction with them as we do with humans. We don’t experience the clashes of hangups and worldviews we experience with humans. And most of us have been more hurt by humans than non-human beings, we have a different history with them.

For all of these reasons, it’s often easier to find love for non-human beings. And especially the ones we know personally and live with.

MIRROR

Animals mirror me in several different ways. I see myself in them.

They mirror my animal nature. They mirror how I am with a simpler mental field. They mirror how I am minus my more complicated – and complicating – human mental field with elaborate ideas, beliefs, identifications, etc.

And the different animals mirror different parts of me as well. Whatever story I have about any type of animal, I can turn it to myself and find specific and genuine examples of how, where, and when it’s true.

And since I wish to have – and have – some love and care for these parts of me, I have the same towards the beings mirroring these sides of me.

WE ARE CLOSELY RELATED

All Earth life is closely related. We are all, literally, part of the same family. We share ancestors. We are cousins. We are far more similar than we are different. We share far more than what’s unique and different.

We are “we” far more than we are “us” and “them”. And we all know this in our cells and bones and our mind when we subtract our complicated human mental field. Any ideas of separation come from our ideas, not from reality.

PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM

We are all part of the same living and evolving system we call Earth or Gaia.

We are subsystems in larger living systems.

We are subsystems in the larger systems we call the Earth and the universe and all of existence.

We are all expressions of the same larger living wholes.

We are part of the same metaphorical body we call life, Earth, the universe, and existence.

And that’s not just metaphorical or poetry or wishful thinking. It’s what current science tells us.

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

We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

EXPRESSIONS OF THE DIVINE

We can call existence and reality God, Spirit, or the divine.

Here, we can say that we are all expressions of God, Spirit, or the divine.

We are all the divine expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

We are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the divine.

We are the divine bringing itself into consciousness through and as us.

PART OF THE ONENESS I AM

There is also another oneness here, and one that’s far more immediate.

In one sense, I am this human being in the world.

Ehen I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

To me, everything – including any being – is part of the oneness I am.

And to the extent I allow this to sink and infuse and transform my human self, this gives birth to a natural love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

WORDS AND LANGUAGE

I use the word “animal” here since that’s the terminology most people use these days.

In reality, we are all animals. We are all living beings.

There is no reason to create a hard and imagined boundary between us and the rest of Earth life.

We are all closely related. We are all in the same boat. We are all embedded in the same larger living systems. We are all expressions of the evolution of the universe. We are all expressions of existence. We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself through and as us.

When I hear the word “animal” I am reminded of the old Greeks who used a similar mind-created division. They called any non-Greeks barbarians. I assume future generations may see our current human-animal distinction as equally quaint and old-fashioned.

Today, there is a growing awareness of all the many ways racism and sexism is expressed in society and our language. In the future, I assume there will be a similar awareness of how our anthropocentrism is expressed in our language and society, and a movement to change it.

CULTURE & OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

How we see humans versus the rest of life is obviously dependent on our culture.

In some traditional cultures, all life is seen as related and part of the same whole.

The irony is that in our culture, that’s the view of science. Science tells us all life is closely related and part of the same living evolving systems. And yet, most people operate on an outdated and misguided idea of the basic separation of humans from all other life. We operate on misconceptions while we know better.

Why? I assume it’s not just because of tradition and habit. It’s also convenient. It allows us to keep using and abusing non-human beings and nature in general.

And that brings us to saw over the branch we are sitting on. It’s out of alignment with reality, and operating on ideas out of alignment with reality has consequences. In this case, the consequence is the destruction of the living systems we are fully embedded in and dependent on.

NOISE

I’ll add one topic that’s been on my mind since my early teens.

I have personally never liked noise or loud music. I love silence and natural sounds, and less human-created sounds (apart from some music).

And, as far as I can tell from research and personal observations, it seems I share that with most non-human beings.

So why do some humans apparently love noise and loud sounds and music?

I don’t know but I assume it has to do with our noisy and complex mental field and what happens when we take certain (painful) ideas as reality. (Taking any idea as reality is painful in itself, no matter what the idea tells us.) Perhaps the outer noise masks the inner noise, at least for a while? Perhaps it’s a strategy to distract ourselves from our own discomfort and pain?

Perhaps it’s a sign we haven’t found peace with our own experience, as it is? A sign of war with our experience?

In our culture, we act as if we are at war with nature, and we act as if we are at war with our own experience. The two are closely related. They depend on each other. And they may break down together.

FINDING PEACE WITH OURSELVES & PEACE WITH NATURE

In most cases, if we find peace with our experience, we tend to find a deeper love for nature. And finding a deeper love for nature tends to be reflected in finding more peace with our experience.

Of course, both take work. And even if we find this peace, and wish to live in a more peaceful relationship with life in general, we are still living within a social and economic system that is inherently destructive. It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take the limits of nature into account. And now – with increasing human numbers and more efficient technology – it’s obviously destructive to life.

We can personally experience peace with life, but our life is not peaceful to life as long our collective human system is as it is.

It takes personal intention, skill, and work to find peace with our experience.

It will take a similar collective intention, skill, and work to find real peace in our relationship with nature – and transform our collective life so it takes ecological realities into account.

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Flying saucers

flying saucer

When the pilot Kenneth Arnold reported a UFO sighting in Washington state in 1947, it sat off the modern UFO craze. (Before then, we had foo fighters, weird airships, and so on, so it was far from the first sighting.)

This is also where we got the expression flying saucer from.

According to Arnold, he reported that the UFOs skipped like a saucer on water. He referred to the movement of the object, not its shape. A reporter misquoted him which suggested that the object was saucer-shaped.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF A MISLEADING NEWS STORY

That’s the story I have heard a few times, and if it’s accurate, there is something fascinating here.

If Arnold reported on the movement of the object, why did people in the months and years following Arnold’s sighting report seeing saucer-shaped objects?

Why did their reports conform to a misleading news story?

I can think of four different explanations.

The reports were imaginations and hoaxes influenced by the flying saucer description in the reporting. That’s why they correspond to the reporting and not what Arnold saw.

The phenomenon is responsive and mirrors, to some extent, our culture and what we expect. (It can seem that way, especially when we look at how the reports change over time.)

It’s an amazing coincidence.

Or what Arnold saw (or, at least reported) was something that both moved like a saucer skipping on water and had the shape of a saucer.

MORE COMPLICATED

As so often, the story is more complicated. Arnold may have later said he was misquoted. But in several interviews from 1947, he is quoted as describing the objects as saucer shaped. In a preserved radio interviews from June that year, Arnold refers to the objects as shaped like a pie plate (with a triangular part).

LESSONS

Unsatsifactory stories often have lessons in them.

One is to follow and explore the implications. IF the simple story was correct, the implications would be important. And yet, when I have heard people tell the simple story, they haven’t taken it further.

Another is to do a little reading before retelling a story. Don’t say that Arnold was misquoted and leave out that he is quoted in a similar way in other interviews from the time, and that he provably called it pie-plate shaped in a radio interview shortly after the sighting.

Image: Something I extracted from Midjourney v4 some weeks ago.

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AI-generated images: some misconceptions

A water person dreamt up by me and Midjourney

There are several misconceptions about AI image generation as it looks to me right now. And that may and will likely change, and what I write obviously reflects my own biases.

One of my biases is that I currently love AI-generated images. I have a decades-long background in both art and programming, and I love anything to do with the future, so I naturally love AI-generated images.

AI IMAGE GENERATION FUN

Some judge it as they would fine art. For me, it’s different.

I don’t see or present it as fine art. I see it more as fun, with a few specific applications.

Personally, I am exploring it because I am drawn to it. It’s fun. It helps me get in touch with different sides of myself and I explore my AI-generated images as I would a dream. (The image above is an example – it’s a water person, someone completely at home in the water which for me mirrors a wish in me to be more at home with my emotions which are watery like an ocean.)

Exploring it also helps me get in touch with my fire and passion, and image creation which I haven’t done much of for several years. It helps me get back into it again.

THE APPLICATIONS OF AI-GENERATED IMAGES

As far as I can tell, AI-generated images have a few specific applications, and I am sure this will become more clear over time and we’ll probably discover applications most of us – including me – are not yet aware of.

What are these applications?

An obvious one is illustrations, especially for blogs and smaller organizations and businesses. Many wouldn’t hire an illustrator for hand-made illustrations since it’s too expensive and not worth it for what it’s for. But we may use AI-generated images instead of public-domain images or nothing at all.

Many use AI-generated images for inspiration and ideas for illustrations, graphic design, and even handmade art. It can give us different ideas and angles than we would come up with on our own. It can expand our horizons.

And, as I wrote in another article, AI-generated images can be a blessing for people with disabilities. Many of us don’t have the energy or possibility to engage in handmade art to any real extent, so this is a good way to spark our interest in or passion for image creation. It’s far more easy to create AI images than spend hours and hours and days and weeks and months on handmade art. It’s far better than nothing, which is often the alternative. (For me, because of the limitations of my disability, the two realistic options are AI art versus nothing, and I make several of the images while horizontal.)

NOT AS GOOD AS WE HOPE, NOT AS BAD AS WE FEAR

Most things turn out not being as good as we (or some of us) hope, and not as bad as we (or some of us) fear. I suspect AI-generated images are like that too.

When photography came on the scene, some feared it would be the end of fine art. After all, why would anyone be interested in a portrait or landscape painting if we could just do a photograph? In reality, the existence of photography sparked an artistic revolution. Artists were free to move in a more abstract direction and it led to the modern art we have seen from impressionism to today.

I suspect something similar may happen through the existence of AI-generated images. At the very least, it will co-exist and inspire handmade art. And it will likely lead to a revolution few if any of us can envision right now.

PROTECTIVE ABOUT PROMPTS

Some folks into AI image generation seem protective about their prompts. One guy wanted to copyright his prompts (!) and I see folks in social media groups for AI images say “don’t even think about asking for prompts, nobody will tell you”.

First, it’s not entirely true that people won’t share them. Many seem more than happy to share their prompts, me included.

Second, the individual element in AI-generated images plays a relatively small role. Yes, I come up with prompts and often spend some time refining them to get an interesting result. But I often get my prompt ideas from others or the general culture and what I know about art history (which happens to be quite a bit since I studied it for years). And the AI that generates the image draws metaphorical inspiration from millions of images created by millions of people from many cultures and times. The AI reflects image creation from the whole of human culture.

Our individual role in AI image creation is quite limited and minuscule compared with the role of human culture as a whole. And for me, that’s one of the beautiful things about AI-generated images. It’s a reminder that culture is collective. What individuals create, whether through handmade art or AI images, reflects our culture as a whole and is colored by our (small) individual contributions.

One thing I love about Midjourney is that we can see the prompts others use. It’s a way for all of us to learn from each other and collectively learn and progress.

This is not exactly a misconception about AI art, just an oddity I find interesting. And I feel the prompt protectivity is a bit misguided for the reasons mentions above.

ONLY AVERAGE DRUMMERS ARE ANGRY AT DRUM MACHINES

In summary, I feel there are several misconceptions about AI-generated images in our culture.

The presence of AI-generated images likely won’t be as bad as some fear, nor as good as others hope.

It will take its place along with handmade art, photography, and other forms of digital image generation.

I see it more as illustrations than fine art, and that’s not at all a problem.

For myself, I use it to explore my inner life and images and I often explore them as I would a dream. I imagine many others do the same whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

AI-generated images are a blessing for many of us with disabilities. It allows us to give form to our imagination in ways we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. (And that goes for many without a disability too.)

And, to end, a quote from a social media group for AI-generated images: Only average drummers are angry at drum machines.

Good artists are not threatened by AI image generation since they can do things far beyond what an AI can do and there will always be a demand for their work.

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AI art and disability

Why am I fascinated by AI art? Isn’t it artificial? Cold? Impersonal? Doesn’t it steal from artists? Make artists superfluous?

I have some general answers and a few more personal ones.

GENERAL ANSWERS

The general answer is that it has come to stay, and there are many ways to use it that make sense.

For instance, many use it to inspire and get ideas for hand-made art and design.

People who normally wouldn’t hire human artists use it to spiff up advertisements, websites, and more.

Many like to explore it just for fun, just like it’s fun to explore a lot of different things in our culture. (And it’s more engaging and involving than some other common activities, including passively watching movies or series.)

And there is no reason to assume it will replace old-fashioned design and art. The two will likely co-exist, just like photography and hand-made art co-exists. I also suspect that the existence of AI art may make human-made art more prestigious and sought after.

PERSONAL ANSWERS

For me, it’s also fun. I find myself fascinated by it. Even if very few see what comes out of it, the process of exploring different styles and scenes is inherently rewarding to me, at least for now. It sparks my imagination.

There are also some other reasons I am fascinated by it.

It ties in with my background in programming (I started programming in the early ’80s and have worked with it in periods since). It ties in with my art background. (I did art full-time in my late teens and early twenties, and was a student of Odd Nerdrum.) It ties in with my formal and informal studies of European and international art history. It ties in with my architecture training and occasional work with graphic design. And it ties in with my fascination for the future, including technology and AI.

AI AND DISABILITY

More to the point, it ties in with my disability. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and that makes it difficult for me to engage in traditional forms of art like drawing and painting. It takes time and energy to engage in it to the point where it’s meaningful for me and I get results I enjoy. And my life is full enough so there are few resources left over for painting and drawing. It has fallen by the wayside, to my regret.

With AI-generated images, I get to explore and bring to life images similar to what I likely would have explored if I had continued with more conventional forms of art, and I also get to be surprised and explore things far outside of my what I imagined I would do by hand. It’s fun. It’s fascinating. And it doesn’t take that much time or energy to do it. Similar to photography, the results come quickly.

And similar to photography, the results are not quite as personal or human or full of character as we find in hand-made art. That’s OK. It’s much better than nothing.

I assume I am not the only one. I assume many people with different forms of disability have found making AI images fun and rewarding. It opens up possibilities for us that we otherwise may not have since our disability makes traditional art more difficult to engage in.

ABLEISM

I haven’t seen any mainstream articles on AI art including the perspective of the disabled. And I understand why: disabled people make up a minority and often don’t have the resources or platform to have their voice heard. Still, when the public discourse on AI art leaves out the perspective of the disabled, it is one of many examples of how disabled people are ignored by the mainstream.

The pandemic shifted many things to benefit people with disabilities: Many office jobs were now done from a home office. Many doctor appointments were done online. A lot of events were streamed. Classes and workshops were taught online.

All of these are things disabled people have requested for a long time.

I have personally asked for it more than once, and the answer in each case was: No, it’s not possible. (In each case, there was no curiosity about the situation, no further discussion about it, no acknowledgment that it would make it easier for me and for others with a disability, and a dismissal of the suggestion.)

When the pandemic impacted healthy people and society as a whole, then it was suddenly possible. It wasn’t just possible, it happened quickly. Funny how that works.

This is an example of ableism. If something is requested mainly by disabled people, it’s ignored or not possible. And when it’s of interest to healthy people, it’s suddenly relevant and possible.

The mainstream discussion on AI-generated images is another example of how the perspective of disabled people is left out.

Of course, the mainstream tends to focus on the mainstream, and most people don’t have disabilities. But many do, and it’s important to acknowledge the situation for those with disabilities.

We are people too. We are also part of society.

And for many of us, AI art is a small blessing.

Why rewilding?

Why am I embarking on a rewilding project for our land in the Andes mountains?

There are many answers to that question.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY REWILDING?

First, what do I mean by rewilding?

I am perhaps using a more loose definition than some others. For me, and in this case, rewilding means supporting the land in becoming more diverse and vibrant and a good habitat for a range of life from microbes to insects to birds to reptiles and mammals.

It won’t be the way it was before humans came here, or before Europeans came. That’s not possible. But we can use native plants to help the ecosystem recover and become more vibrant and thriving.

Rewilding for me means what the word implies. It means helping the ecosystem become more wild again, even if it will by necessity look different from how it has ever been before. It won’t be a copy of how it was, but it may rhyme.

WHY REWILDING?

And then, why rewilding? What’s the reason for it? Isn’t it better to make use of the land for food production or housing? Doesn’t it make more sense to sell parts of the land to make money on it?

Here are some of the answers that come up for me.

MOVED TO DO IT

The most honest answer is that I find myself moved to do it. Life moves to do it through and as me.

Beyond that, I don’t really know. I can have reasons and elaborate on those reasons, but I don’t really know.

MEANINGFUL

At a more personal level, I can say it feels meaningful. If this is a project for the rest of my life – and hopefully far beyond, continued by others – then that would make me happy and I would feel my life had meaning in a very specific way.

On a day-to-day basis, it gives my attention and energy direction. It’s a project I can put energy and time into as things move in that direction, and I can give it a breather when that feels more right. It’s a project with its own pulse and life and without a particular timeline.

EXPRESSION OF MY NATURE AND REALITY

It’s an expression of my nature and reality.

I am an expression of this living evolving system we call Earth, just like anything else here is. I am this global and local living system supporting itself.

INTERCONNECTIONS AND SHARED FATE

From a more conventional perspective, I also know that my life as a human being is intimately connected with the rest of this living system.

Although Earth will continue without me and humans in general, we also share fate to some extent.

My health and well-being and the health and well-being of society and our civilization is intimately connected with the health and well-being of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

It’s in my own interest, and the interest of all of humanity, to take care of our ecosystems and do what we can to help them recover and become more diverse and thriving.

LOVE FOR NATURE AND HUMANS

I love nature, and I have loved nature since very early childhood. I do it because I love nature. I love to see nature in a more healthy and vibrant state. It makes me happy.

I do it because I care about humans and the future of humanity. I love our amazing – and sometimes terrible – civilization and it would be a shame if it ends now. (Although if that happens, that’s OK too. Earth or the Universe doesn’t need humans, although we do bring something unique and beautiful to it.)

THE MANY BEINGS HERE

There are millions of beings on this land. This is their home. Many of them are born, live their lives, and die here. This is all they will know. This place is their life.

If I, as one person, can help millions of current and future beings have a good life here, I would love to do it. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful and amazing.

Each of these beings are their own world. They are their own cosmos. From the smallest microbes and up to the mammals here. What a privilege to support these worlds to have a life here.

I do it for their sake. It’s easy to imagine myself in their situation, and how much I would want someone like me to protect them and their habitat.

NEEDED IN THE WORLD TODAY

Biodiversity loss is one of the major issues in the world today. It’s one of the massive crises we are in the middle of, and one that’s tied in with the more popular climate change and equally if not more important.

If I can play a (very) small part in this global effort to protect our diversity, then what I am doing here is more than worth it.

Just by living in our current economic system, my life inevitably has a harmful effect on life. So this is my small part in making up for it.

LEARNING

I love learning and especially about sustainability and nature, and this is an amazing opportunity to learn.

We will hire two local experts to guide and help us with our rewilding project, and I am looking forward to learning as much as I can as we move forward with this project.

I also look forward to sharing it here and perhaps on social media and/or a dedicated website.

A MODEL

If what I am doing here can be a small local model, then that’s icing on the cake.

If it only inspires one person to do something else, that makes it more than worth it.

We sorely need these models today, in all aspects of society.

MULTIPLE REASONS

So although I most honestly don’t know the answer to this “why”, I can also find a lot of reasons.

Each one of these alone would make it worth it.

I am not doing this because I am especially noble. I certainly am not. I do it because I love it.

And I know there will be times I’ll be frustrated, fed up, tired, and want to give it all a break. I have already experienced that. (For instance, when workers cut down large areas of pioneer species allowing invasive grass to take over and did so after we explicitly told them not to.)

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Loss of biodiversity – Norway & the Andes

Many talk about climate change these days, although the global biodiversity loss we are experiencing is as – and likely more – serious.

NORWAY

I grew up in Ski, a village outside of Oslo, Norway. Growing up in the 80s, I remember that the garden was full of life. There were butterflies everywhere, grasshoppers, beetles, and all sorts of insects. A badger family lived next door. There were frequent hedgehog visits. We saw swallows flying around and eating insects. At night, there were bats. If we kept doors or windows open at night, the house would get lots of moths and moths inside.

In the last decade or so, these are all gone. I don’t see butterflies. There are no grasshoppers. I don’t see beetles. The swallows are gone. There are no bats at night. If we keep the windows or doors open, nothing comes inside.

It’s easy to think that this is because this village is more built up and the general area is more built up. That’s true to some extent, but it still has the same mix of rural and suburban. And the same has happened at the cabin which is in the woods outside of Oslo. This is an area that’s scheduled to become a national park, and here too, there is a noticeable loss of biodiversity and life.

A few decades ago, we have several swallow families nesting at the cabin each year. Last year, there were none. I don’t see bats anymore. I see some butterflies, but fewer than before. I don’t see all the insects that used to come inside when we kept the windows and doors open at night.

THE ANDES

I am now in Cañon del Chicamocha in the Andes mountains. The insect and animal life here reminds me of how it was in Norway two or three decades ago. And that makes me worried. Will the same happen here? The loss of biodiversity has been going on here too for centuries, and will most of what’s left be gone too in a while?

CAUSES

Why is it happening? The simple answer is that we – our culture and civilization – don’t prioritize biodiversity and life. We don’t value it quite enough. We have created a system that treats ecosystems as an unlimited resource for us and as having an unlimited capacity to absorb our waste and toxins. We see ourselves as somehow separate from the natural world and the Earth.

The more immediate answer may be a combination of many things: Loss of nature. Use of toxins in agriculture and homes. More manicured gardens and fewer flowers. Loss of key species. And I am sure much that doesn’t come to mind right now or I don’t know about.

We are currently in the middle of a mostly quiet and very serious ecological crisis, and we will all be impacted by it – likely far more than we imagine.

SOLUTIONS & WOLDVIEWS

What’s the solution? We can all do our small part in terms of not using toxins, replacing a manicured garden and lawn with a more natural and wild one, encouraging plants and flowers that support a diversity of insects and wildlife, raising awareness on this crucial topic, and voting for politicians who take it seriously (only a few politicians and political parties do).

Collectively, we need to change our economic and social systems. We need a deep transformation so our human systems take ecological realities into account. In our current public discourse, the vast majority of solutions are piecemeal and far from sufficient. ‘

CULTURE CHANGE

And we need to realize, in a more profound and visceral way, that our ecosystems are fragile when impacted by our civilization, and that our health, well-being, and civilization are dependent on the health and well-being of our local, regional, and global ecosystems. It’s all one living system. It’s all us.

“Us” is not only our family or local community or nation or humanity. It’s all of life. It’s Earth as a whole.

It’s existence as a whole.

That’s the mindset that will support a more sustainable civilization.

And the more viscerally we get it, the more it will naturally color our individual and collective life.

THE SHIFT

This shift in worldview and culture is crucial, and it’s not something that will happen through wishful thinking or shoulds.

We can explore it in our own life and deepen into it. We can make it available to others. We can help others explore it. We can also include it in the education of children.

And, most likely, it’s a shift that will happen because it has to happen. Life and nature will show us that we cannot continue as before, that a major shift is needed, and that’s how many will find it and perhaps how we’ll collectively find it.

The upside is that this ecological mindset is more aligned with reality so what’s needed is to shift our views to be more aligned with how it already is. The downside is that a worldview of separation has been ingrained in our culture and individual mindsets for centuries and millennia. Systems typically don’t change dramatically unless there is a big disturbance. And the upside is that life will show us when we operate on worldviews out of alignment with reality, even if the wake-up call can be harsh and difficult.

How I have learned to talk about an invisible and less-understood chronic illness

I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, ME) since my teens, although I had a period in my twenties and thirties where I functioned better.

Through experience, I have learned a bit about how to talk about it. If I say I have CFS/ME, it won’t mean much to most people. They think it means I am a bit tired, or – in the worst case, which I have experienced during my education – they will dismiss it or even see it as an excuse for laziness. (In my studies and work, I was anything but lazy.)

So I learned to talk about it in a different way. Now, I say I have a chronic illness, and I add whatever makes sense in the situation. I may say it causes me to need to rest a lot. Or it makes it difficult for me to think and it takes time for me to think through things. Or that it makes it difficult for me to talk coherently. (When I am extra exhausted.)

That makes more sense to people. Most people have a rough understanding of what a chronic illness means, even if there are many types of them. Most take it seriously, respect it, and don’t feel they need to question it. (Or give uninformed advice.) And that makes my life much easier.

As with so much, the way we frame it – to ourselves and others – makes a big difference.

Note: I don’t often call it a disability, even if that’s what it is. In some situations, I would probably use that term as well to bring home a point.