Israel & Palestine: Hurt people hurt people

The drama in the Middle East keeps unfolding. These days, with the horrific attack by Hamas on civilians in Israel, and the response by Israel inflicting larger-scale horrors on the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Why is this happening? It’s obviously very complicated.

And yet, the essence may not be that complicated.

THE ESSENCE

The essence is that hurt people hurt people.

The Jewish people have undergone a lot of traumatic experiences throughout history, including the unimaginable horrors of the holocaust.

The creation of Israel displaced or made a minority out of the non-Jewish people living there. (Of course, the Jewish people deserve and need their own country, but it still has consequences. Nobody likes to be displaced from their own country or be made into a minority.)

Since then, Israel has engaged in ongoing human rights violations and violations of international law. They got away with it because the US and large portions of the international community largely have turned a blind eye to it.

The Palestinians have been hurt for decades by this treatment. They respond to this hurt and mistreatment in different ways, often through silent suffering. And some of them respond with violence. What Hamas did is not surprising. And the equally horrific response by Israel is equally predictable.

Many have hurt the Jewish people throughout history. The international community hurt Arab people by creating Israel. Hurt Israeli people continued to hurt Palestinian people over the decades. Some hurt Palestinian people hurt some Israeli people. Hurt Israeli people respond by hurting Palestinian people even more severely. This hurts new generations of Palestinian people who, likely, will continue to hurt Israeli people. The cycle of violence continues.

TRAUMA / FEAR / ANGER / REACTIVITY

Trauma creates fear and this fear is often expressed as anger and reactivity, and sometimes by hurting ourselves and others. (We cannot hurt others without hurting ourselves, and the way we treat others is a mirror of how we treat ourselves.)

This happens everywhere in human life – in ourselves, in families and other small groups, and in large groups and politics.

THE LAYERS

How do I know about this? It’s not just because it’s been part of my training and work. It’s because these dynamics play themselves out in me and my life as well. The world, as it appears to me, is a mirror of me. I am a mirror of the world.

And how do I respond?

A part of me wants to speak up for the Palestinians – especially the civilians living in Gaza in a horrific situation – since they are the underdogs in this situation.

More essentially, I see traumatized and scared people hurting others and themselves and responding in confused and very understandable ways.

More essentially, I see myself in what’s unfolding.

Even more essentially, I tap into love for all of us and all life, as confused and hurting and amazing as we all are.

Image by me and Midjourney.

Note: When I hint at the history here, I know reality is far more complex. For instance, the creation of Israel was messy and complicated, as is the history of Gaza.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 63

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

A FEW IMPRESSIONS FROM RETURNING TO NORWAY

I am just back in Norway, and a few things strike me.

I love being here. It’s quiet, safe, and civilized. The nature is beautiful, as is spring. The public transportation is great, at least where I am. (Oslo area.) I am looking forward to spending time at some of my favorite areas here. (The forest near where I am. The harbor in Oslo, Frognerparken, the botanical garden, the museums, Hovedøya and other islands, Bygdøy, and to go swimming in the ocean.) I am also very much looking forward to going to spend time at the cabin which is at a lake southeast of Oslo. (Østmarka.)

I also notice…

The abundance of insects, birds, and wildflower fields from my childhood is gone, along with the wild edges that used to be in people’s gardens. Now, people have lawns, few flowers, no wild edges, and they seem to love a manicured desert. I rarely see any insects, apart from a few bumblebees. The flowers I see have very few insects on them. And the swallows and many other birds are gone. There are probably many reasons for the dramatic loss of insects over the last couple of decades: industrial agriculture and insecticides, loss of nature, loss of meadows and flowers, and more.

This loss of insects is hugely concerning. It’s part of a continued and increasingly dramatic unraveling of our ecosystems and our own life-support system. So it’s baffling to me that so many seem oblivious to it, that there is not more focus on it in the media, and that it’s not one of the main priorities in politics and for the voters. (I have written about this in other articles.)

The food is noticeably more expensive, as I knew it would be. Also, there is still very little organic food in the grocery stores, and it’s more expensive than chemically produced food. Considering the dramatic loss of insects, and that insecticide use in agriculture likely plays a big role, it would make sense for the government to subsidize organic food and organic food production. Why are they not doing it? I am not sure.

As an aside, I also took a look at some popular history magazines read by a couple of family members. Ironically, these magazines seem out of touch with history. They largely focus on the history of Western Europe, war, technology, and famous men. And they leave out just about everything in history I find important and interesting: The history of ordinary people and the marginalized. The “green” history of the world and human interactions with ecosystems. The history of worldviews and orientations. The history of other cultures. And so on.

Of course, these magazines reflect and are aimed at more folks with a conservative mindset, and I am coming from a more progressive mindset, so it’s predictable that I would have that reaction. And it’s still a bit surprising to me that they take such an old-fashioned approach to history.

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The Lost King – following your passion, trusting your guidance, and don’t judge a book by its cover

About a decade ago, Philippa Langley found the grave of Richard III. And there is a lot to this story I find fascinating.

She has CFS/ME, like me. And she found a way to still do what she loved and was guided to do.

She followed her passion, which – when done with some discernment – can lead to a deeply fulfilling life.

She followed, trusted, and followed up on her inner guidance. (She sensed where his grave was. Trusted it because it fitted what she knew from history and guidance from sympathetic historians. Followed through by raising money and asking the archaeologists to dig out a skeleton they found there. And found Richard III.)

She wanted to redeem someone vilified by history, and she went against the agreed-upon view of most historians. (Richard III was vilified by the following Tudors, and most historians took their presentation of him as accurate, even if it goes against contemporary accounts of him.) She showed kindness, even if it was for someone who lived several hundred years ago, and she had the courage to stand for what made sense to her.

The story is a reminder of an unfortunate tendency in our culture (or humanity), and that is to judge a book by its cover. Many stories, including the Tudor and Shakespearian story of Richard III, equates a physical distortion or unattractiveness with psychological distortion or unattractiveness. That’s obviously not how life is. And it’s unfortunate that some contemporary movies and books still use this lazy and outdated association. Why is this seen as OK when sexism and bigotry are not? They all fall into the same category. They are false equivalences that hurt people.

I saw The Lost King a few days ago, which is a fiction movie based on this story, and I thought it was an enjoyable watch.

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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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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 60

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.

JUSTIFYING INJUSTICE WITH SPIRITUALITY

Religion and spirituality have always been used to justify injustice.

The most recent one I heard was from a wealthy woman in a country with many living in poverty. She justified her wealth, and her inaction and support of conservative politicians that wants to keep people in poverty, with karma. The poor are just reaping what they sowed in past lives. And she also added that they chose that life to learn something. So she doesn’t have to do anything to help or to righten the injustice.

To me, it’s very different. Yes, it’s possible there is something like karma that continues across lives, but it’s more about mind patterns, and if there is some kind of karma as she talked about, it would mean we all have infinite amounts of an infinite variety of karma.

And what it comes down it is how I relate to the lives of others. I don’t justify my own relative wealth and I certainly don’t justify poverty. I know it all comes from what we happen to be born into in an unjust system. And I do what I can to change that system, including by supporting policies and politicians working for that change.

ADOPTING THE MINDSET OF THE COLONIZERS

Some modern societies pat themselves on the back for giving indigenous people some autonomy and for honoring, to some degree, their culture.

That is, of course, a step in the right direction. But it’s good to keep the larger picture in mind.

The larger picture is that colonizers and the mainstream Western culture have oppressed the indigenous culture for centuries – through genocide and violence, and by banning their religion, forcing Christianity on them, separating children from parents, and so on.

Now, they have lost so much of their original culture that the little that’s left is not a threat anymore. So it costs almost nothing to allow them some autonomy and allow them to have the little that’s left of their culture.

The oppressed have adopted the mindset of the oppressor. They have internalized the Western culture sufficiently to no longer be a threat.

DISTRACTIONS AT A CRUCIAL TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY

We are in the middle of a huge ecological crisis that will – and already is – impacting the whole of humanity, and especially the ones with the least resources. This crisis is created by human systems that don’t take ecological realities into account, and this especially applies to our economic and related (production, transportation, etc.) systems. And the solution is either a profound systems change brought about by a collective realization of what’s going on and a will to change, or a massive die-off of humans along with many other species.

This is undeniable. We have know for decades that this would happen. We know this is without comparison the major issue of our time.

And yet, it’s not prioritized. Media have occasional stories on this topic, but don’t weave it into just about every single story as they should considering its importance. People still vote for politicians and policies that don’t prioritize this shift. Most continue to live their life as if nothing is happening. (Partly because they may now know what to do.)

And some actively chose distractions and try to get others involved in the same distractions. One of these meaningless distractions is conspiracy theories and anti-science views. Why on Earth spend time and energy on this what we KNOW is happening is far worse and more dramatic than any conspiracy theory? Why spend time on it when we know that the major challenges in our time – ecology, poverty, and so on – are systemic and the consequences of systems that made sense, to some extent, when they were created and now absolutely don’t anymore.

When I see this lack of action, and the active distractions by some, I have to admit I feel less encouraged. Will enough of us come to our senses in time? Will we identify the systemic causes and what needs to be done? Will we take the actions needed?

CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND LACK OF INTELLECTUAL HONESTY

It’s no surprise that the conspiracy world is riddled with a lack of intellectual honesty.

For instance, when it comes to the covid vaccine some take the inevitable examples of a few who have a serious reaction to the vaccine and use that to discredit the vaccine in general. We know some bodies react to certain vaccines strongly, that’s not a secret. This is about the bigger picture.

They pretend that vaccines should prevent illness and say they don’t work since they don’t, and dismiss the real reason for taking the vaccine which is to prevent serious illness and death. (Which it does well.)

They talk as if vaccines are mandatory while they obviously are not. You are perfectly free to not take them.

They pretend that since masks don’t work 100% it means we shouldn’t use them. And I am sure they too know perfectly well that here too, life is imperfect. Nobody says masks should work 100%. That’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to reduce viral load, which they do well and which is crucial for how severe the illness becomes. Also, they obviously reduce transmission from the inevitable spit that comes out of our mouths when we talk. And the good ones do prevent transmission well. (I use the best ones from 3M.)

They pretend that the common-sense pandemic measures taken by many democratic countries not only unduly restrict their freedom, but is a step in some conspiracy to keep restricting their freedom. To me, this seems childish to the point that I am baffled that adults would want to appear so stupid. We already live with a large number of restrictions and responsibilities that helps society function, and most people are happy with it because we are used to it and we know it works. And there is absolutely no reason to assume that this is a step in keeping restricting freedom. When it comes to pandemics, we know what works and what doesn’t from history and epidemiology. And the vast majority of the measures we see in democratic countries follow what we know works. And to me, responsibility is as or more important, especially in these types of situations. I am happy to change my life if that means the more vulnerable among us are more protected. This is not about me, it’s about the more vulnerable.

We know that harebrained conspiracy theories flourish in pandemics. So why repeat history? The conspiracy theorists in pandemics in the past now look pretty stupid to us. Or, rather, uninformed and scared and reacting to their fears by trying to find safety through conspiracy theories. (By going into these conspiracy theories, they feel they know, they have human scapegoats instead of living with the inherent unpredictability of life, they have something to distract themselves from their discomfort, and so on.) So why do these people willingly mimic the people of the past? Probably because their need to escape into a sense of knowing and having someone to blame is greater than their interest in intellectual honesty.

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 59

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

THE ZEAL AND IMMATURITY OF THE NEWLY CONVERTED I: CONSPIRACY THEORIES

When I see conspiracy theorists, I often see the zeal and immaturity of the newly converted.

Often, these are people who may have discovered some grains of truth that are public knowledge but they were not aware of before. And they go overboard with it without understanding much of the history, context, or how to use this information in a more nuanced and reasoned manner.

And then they want to educate others about it. They become self-appointed missionaries.

This is the zeal and immaturity of the newly converted.

It’s not wrong or bad. It’s understandable and most of us have done it at some point with something we discovered that was amazing or shocking to us. But it is good to have some perspective on it and know that it is the zeal of the newly converted, and there is a more mature way to relate to it.

THE ZEAL AND IMMATURITY OF THE NEWLY CONVERTED II: HEALING & SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

This can obviously also happen when we find healing modalities and approaches to spirituality that works for us.

In my case, I tend to not do it since I know there are lots of approaches out there and what works is often individual. But I do fall into this pattern in the reverse: I tend to not talk about things that are relevant, interesting, or even useful just because I don’t want to proselytize. (This also ties into a pattern of wanting to hide, even if what I hide could be interesting or useful to others.)

STORY ARCS

Stories, at least in our European-influenced world, have a certain format. We have a beginning, middle, and end. We get to know the characters and setting, there is struggle and conflict in some form, and then resolution. And so on.

Most stories in our mainstream culture follow this format.

And I understand why. These types of stories feel satisfying. They feel complete. And they mirror inner processes when they reach a kind of completion. (Which is always temporary and part of larger processes.)

At the same time, it gets boring when most stories have to tie up loose ends and reach a kind of resolution and completion. Why not leave some mystery? Why not leave it more open-ended?

This comes to mind since we are in the next-to-final season of Stranger Things. (Which I love.) I suspect the story is reaching a kind of resolution with more and more loose ends tied up. That’s fine. But I suspect I would have enjoyed it even more if they left more unresolved.

When they want to give the readers or audience a neat ending, the resolution is often a bit disappointing. Leaving it open leaves more room for imagination. And it’s also closer to real life where a lot is not tied up in this way.

CIVILIZED AND BARBARIANS

This is an old classic and sometimes worth repeating.

If we see ourselves as civilized and others as barbarians, it’s often so we can dehumanize them and do terrible things to them – rape, pillaging, genocide, theft of land and natural resources, and so on.

In that case, who are the real barbarians?

Calling someone a barbarian is clearly a projection. We call others barbarians to dehumanize them and justify injustice, and we are the ones acting in barbaric ways.

There are many synonyms for barbarians in this context: uncivilized, brutes, heathens, non-Christians, poor, foreigners, and so on.

Today, this is especially relevant to how we treat non-human beings. We call them animals, make a strong mental division between humans and animals, and justify treating them terribly through that mental division and by seeing them as less than us.

JUDGING A SYSTEM BASED ON THE LEAST FORTUNATE

This is another classic that is sometimes worth repeating.

How do we judge a society or political system?

I judge it based on how the least fortunate are treated and live.

If a system mainly works to the benefit of those who already have what they need, and leaves the rest to live in poverty and struggle, it has already failed.

And if it provides good safety nets and real opportunities for the least fortunate, then it has some merit.

LONG COVID

Like many others in the CFS world, I thought one of the worst consequences of the covid pandemic would be post-viral syndromes, now known as long covid.

I assume this will keep getting attention as we are more aware of its prevalence and seriousness.

There are several reasons to be cautious here. For instance, it seems that even with vaccines and having had covid and recovered, it’s still possible to get long covid from a new infection. And there is always a chance of new mutations that increases this risk.

Personally, I have been relatively lucky. I had covid in February (four months ago), and still have Covid brain – especially when it comes to memory. Of course, most recover fine. And I also know a couple who still struggle with relatively serious and debilitating after-effects of their covid infection at the beginning of the pandemic (almost two-and-a-half years ago).

BROTHARIAN?

I find that when I have bone broth regularly, I feel deeply nourished and my cravings in general are diminished or fall away. I have a much-reduced craving for sugar and often feel a slight aversion to it. And the same for meat.

It seems that my ideal diet may be bone broth with otherwise mostly vegetarian food.

What should I call this? Maybe brotharian?

JUNE 18, 2022

VOTING ON BEHALF OF THE NON-HUMAN SPECIES

There was just a presidential election where I am, and the one elected has the interest of the less privileged at heart.

For me, when I vote, I vote on behalf of the less privileged. (Who often vote against their own interests based on identity.) And I especially vote on behalf of non-human species and future generations.

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 58

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.

REGENERATION AND CULTURE

My wife and I became stewards of some beautiful land in the Andes mountains. It’s been heavily grazed in some areas, so we wish to help the land return to a flourishing and vibrant state. And that includes allowing a natural succession of native plants until – over some decades – the ecosystem reaches more maturity.

We hired some locals to clear paths through the land and gave them very clear instructions of only clear walking paths, wide enough for one person to pass. What they instead did was to clear-cut one large area, leaving only the more mature trees. This is apparently what the locals do, and our instructions probably didn’t make much sense to them.

Although it was a painful lesson, we also learned that we need to be present to oversee these kinds of projects. And we need to find local people to work with who understand what we wish to do with the land. (This happened back in February or March this year.)

PUTIN AS VICTIM AND SAVIOR

Since Putin is in the public eye these days, he is a good mirror for all of us.

Putin seems to identify with two particular archetypes: victim and savior.

He sees himself – and Russia – as a victim of historical events (e.g. the dissolution of the Soviet Union), of the West and NATO, and a possible victim of just about anyone around him.

He also sees himself as a kind of savior, as the new great leader of Russia and a new Russian empire.

Victims can be reactive and violent. And saviors can be ruthless. (Including through invading and occupying neighbors.) In his case, it’s a dangerous combination.

And the question here is: How does this mirror me? If I take my stories about Putin and turn them to myself, what do I find? How am I a victim in how I see him? (I see myself, Ukraine, the people in Russia, and the world as a victim of Putin’s actions.) How am I a savior in how I see him? (I see myself as taking a more sane and sober approach, which is better than his.) How does this play itself out in other situations in my life? It may not look as extreme or obvious as with Putin, but it’s likely here.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 57

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.

SURVIVOR BIAS 

I listened to an old interview with a Norwegian saboteur from WW2 and his story was of one amazing lucky escape after another. I have heard similar stories from other surviving saboteurs from WW2.

Why this apparently amazing series of lucky turns?

It’s an example of survivor bias. The ones who survived did so because they were lucky in all the situations that mattered, and they told their stories. Those who died were not so lucky when it mattered, and cannot tell their stories.

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Pandemic-related conspiracy theories: Why do we repeat history?

From history, we know that pandemics and times of crises, in general, tend to fuel a lot of conspiracy theories. And from the many pandemics in the past, we know some of how this played itself out and what type of conspiracy theories flourished.

In general, it seems that people get scared, don’t trust authorities, and make up their own stories about what’s going on – which often involves blaming certain people or groups. And the people who get into these conspiracy theories are often the ones who already have an outsider identity, feel left out from the mainstream and/or the elite, and feel generally powerless.

In hindsight, these conspiracy theories seem a bit silly and misguided. It’s clearly something scared people engaged in to make sense of a confusing situation.

Knowing this, why do some repeat history? Why do they engage in the same types of conspiracy theories that some did during past pandemics?

Why do they, knowing that their views will likely seem equally silly and misguided?

One answer is that this is a natural expression of some dynamics in the collective and individual psychology.

Another answer is that these people likely don’t know much history. If they did, I imagine they would hesitate to engage in the same type of conspiracy theories we know from history.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 50

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.

ART HISTORY

In the early ’90s, I studied art history for a year (full time) at the University of Oslo. Since they called it “art history”, and since I was young and naive, I was looking forward to WORLD art history. The history of art from the earliest times and across all cultures. That was what I expected, hoped for, and wanted.

To my surprise and disappointment, the course turned out to be the history of WESTERN art, and really just the art of Western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I was left with several puzzling questions:

Why didn’t they have a course for WORLD art?

Why did they call a course that had such a limited scope “art history” without any qualifiers?

Why didn’t they address or acknowledge this obvious discrepancy?

The answer is probably a kind of ethnocentrism. They – consciously or not – may have seen “real” art as the art of western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I imagine that now, 30 years later, they are a little less provincial and more conscious of this. Hopefully, they include the art of the world and not just a small section of the world. Or, at the very least, they label the course accurately.

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The right side of history & the need for deep systemic changes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EIFDSb7tWc&list=WL&index=8

This is perhaps obvious, but worth mentioning.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

The early suffragettes were ignored, ridiculed, attacked, and then won. At least, they won women the right to vote, even if the overall process of equality between the sexes is still ongoing.

WHAT ARE WE IGNORING, RIDICULING, OR ATTACKING TODAY?

So what are people ignoring, ridiculing, or attacking today?

The most obvious is people like Greta Thunberg. She is admired by many, but she also belittled, ridiculed, and attacked by people who don’t see or care about the big picture, and don’t want our civilization to shift and become more ecologically sustainable.

She is smart, her message is sober and grounded in reality (listen to the scientists), and she is getting attention, so of course she will be ridiculed and attacked.

We also see that the very real need for thorough systemic changes is ignored by the media, politicians, many scientists, and most people in general. In order to survive, we need our systems – economic, production, energy, transportation, and so on – to be aligned with ecological realities. It seems obvious, but it requires deep and profound changes in almost all areas of our lives, so most people seem to prefer to ignore it. They pretend this need is not here. They engage in the fantasy that small changes here and there will be sufficient.

It’s likely that as this need for profound systemic changes gains more traction, as it will, then this too will be ridiculed and attacked, until it’s eventually implemented.

What else is ignored, ridiculed, or attacked by the mainstream?

The rights of ecosystems and non-human species are largely ignored, with a few exceptions. There are some laws in place, although many of these are anthropocentric in nature and we use anthropocentric arguments to gain support.

As the idea of the rights of nature gains traction and we see more real-life examples, this too will be ridiculed and attacked. To the extent ecosystems and non-human species get legal rights and real political and legal representation, it will be seen as threatening to some, and they will use this familiar strategy to try to sideline it.

These are some of the large issues that involve Earth as a whole and all life.

There are also some smaller issues. For instance, ESP, reincarnation, and UFOs have been ignored and ridiculed for a while now by mainstream media, science, and much of the general public. As there is more solid research into these phenomena, and to the extent we find that there is something to these phenomena, it’s likely that this too will become more accepted and move into the mainstream.

WHY DO WE IGNORE, RIDICULE, AND ATTACK?

Why do we ignore, ridicule, and attack these ideas and social movements?

It’s easy to ignore. We may not know what’s happening. We may see it as insignificant. We may not think it will amount to anything.

We may ridicule for a few different reasons. It may be an intentional strategy to belittle, shame, and sideline an idea or movement. If we ridicule it, we don’t have to address the substance of the issue, and we may hope that others will hesitate in agreeing and joining.

It can also be a more unconscious reaction. We see something that’s unfamiliar and fringe, so ridiculing it makes us feel more normal and mainstream. The ideas may threaten our own familiar views and habits, and ridiculing allows us to not take a closer look.

The reason we may attack these movements is similar. Some feel that their interests or identities are threatened by the movement, and they see that they are gaining traction, so they attack it.

It’s good to be aware of these dynamics. If we are part of a social change movement, it helps us predict these responses, deal with them, and not be discouraged by it. If we are prone to react in these ways – ignoring, ridiculing, and attacking – it may give us pause and find another way to deal with it.

SOME CAVEATS

When we talk about these topics, it’s good to take a look at some underlying assumptions that may color how we see and approach them.

For a while, we had an idea of inevitable social progress in our culture, and it’s clearly not that simple.

Our ideas about what constitutes “progress” differ between people, eras, and cultures. And no long-term historical trend continues indefinitely.

Also, some social movements are ignored, ridiculed, attacked, and then accepted, and they are not exactly what we want to see if we value human rights, democracy, social justice, sustainability, and so on. The Nazi movement in the 1920s and ’30s Germany one example.

When we talk about the right side of history, we usually mean according to how we see it today. Suffragettes and abolitionists were on the right side of history since we today have voting rights for both sexes, we have abolished slavery, and both conform to our current values. So although I sometimes use the phrase myself, I am also aware it’s a slippery concept.

Is religion & spirituality opium of the people?

Yes, it certainly can be, if it’s used that way.

When Karl Marx called religion opium of the people, he talked mostly about organized religion. It’s true that organized religion often has been used to pacify people and make them accept unjust social structures. This is a well-trodden territory so I will only mention a few things about it, and then explore how it may apply to our own life.

The distracting and numbing function of religion and spirituality

In Christianity, people are taught to accept second-hand views as true even if they can’t verify it for themselves and it may not make much sense. Traditionally, people have also been taught to not question authority, to accept hierarchies, and to wait for their reward in the next life. Many religions have a similar history, and this is one of the ways religion is used to control people and protect those who benefit from the system.

This is often “invisible” to those within the culture because it’s so familiar, and that’s why contrasting traditions and outside views are valuable – and sometimes perceived as a threat.

This happens in society and culture in general, not just connected to religion. Why do we accept royalty? Because of tradition. Why do we accept that some accumulate wealth that’s taken from the commons and goes far beyond what any person would ever need? Because we are taught it’s OK and even admirable. Why do we have a fascination with celebrities? Because celebrities and media benefit from it, not because there is anything particularly fascinating about these people.

The comforting function of religion and spirituality

There are some benefits to the comforting function of religion and spirituality. At a personal level, we sometimes want – or need – comfort more than shaking things up. That’s natural and even healthy, although it’s good to be aware of what we are doing.

At a social level, this comforting function of religion can be used to justify injustice and protect those in power, and this is the opium Marx referred to.

Traditions can also shake us

There is another side to this, and that is that religion and spirituality can intentionally shake and wake us up. They can help us find and reprioritize our values. (Although the prioritization may be colored by the values of the tradition.) Some segments of traditional religions invite us to actively work for social change to benefit those in the weakest position in society. (Liberation theology and more.) Some traditions – like Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism – actively invite us to discover what we are behind our assumptions.

Religions and spirituality can also unintentionally shake and wake us up, and especially if we use them that way. They can inadvertently bring us to question the underlying assumptions behind the tradition, and by extension the assumption of other subcultures we are part of and the general culture. That’s what happened to me and some of my friends when we were required to take Christianity classes in elementary school.

In our own life

The world is our mirror, and these dynamics also play themselves out in our own life.

In a practical sense, that’s as or more important since it’s right here and something we can do something about.

Do I identify and question underlying assumptions in religion and spirituality? Do I use pointers from religion and spirituality to explore deeper?

Do I use religion or spirituality as opium? As something comforting? Do I use something from it to tell myself I’ll get my reward later? Or that a comforting idea is true even if I cannot verify it? Or that I don’t have to be a good steward of my life here and now?

In a broader sense, what do I make into my religion? What beliefs and identities do I feel I need to defend? How do I use these to feel safe or comfort myself?

Any thought I hold as true – whether it’s conscious or a part of my system holds it as true – becomes my religion. I identify with it, defend it, and hold onto it for safety.

A note about Marx

This is perhaps obvious but worth mentioning.

Marx had many very valuable insights. And he got an undeservedly bad reputation in the West – and especially the US – during the cold war since he was associated with the horrors of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union may have been communist in name, but not so much in reality. The atrocities of the Soviet Union had more to do with authoritarianism and dictatorship than communism.

Rammstein: Deutschland

In the mind apart
In the heart united

– from Deutschland by Rammstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then…

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

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

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

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Second sleep

I find myself naturally going to bed early (often 8 or 9pm), awake for one or two hours around 1 or 2pm, and then waking up early (5-6am). It feels very natural and comfortable. And after I noticed this pattern for myself, I realized it may have been a very common sleep pattern for some of our ancestors. It’s often called segmented or biphasic sleep.

In my early twenties, I did experiment with sleeping four times one hour daily, and it worked very well – apart from socially, and that’s why I didn’t continue. I found myself needing my hour of sleep, but couldn’t or wouldn’t for work or social reasons. This is called polyphasic sleep.

Historical perspectives: Including nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations

I just listened to the Revisionist History episode of Stuff You Should Know.

As they suggest, all history is by nature revisionist. We always change how we see and interpret the past, based on what’s important to us now (and sometimes just new information).

For a while now, historians have looked more at economy and class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and more. They have used these as filters, and looked at history from the perspective of groups previously left out such as women, children, non-European ethnic groups, the working class and poor, and religious minorities.

Two things were not mentioned in the podcast:

First, the difference between focusing on “ordinary” people vs. extraordinary people in history. Both has it’s value, and more historians are now focusing on the history of the ordinary people. How was their life and conditions? (This was a big part of my history classes in school.)

The other is looking at history through the filter of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. If history is, at least partly, about giving voice to the voiceless, and giving focus to the previously invisible, then this has to be included. How has our actions through history impacted nonhuman species and ecosystems, and also future generations? How have we treated these? How have they been ignored, or included and valued, in our decision process? 

A Green History of the World by Clive Pointing is an example from the 90s, and many people in the Deep Ecology and ecopsychology world have addressed the topic, but it’s still not included in mainstream history. It will, most likely, and perhaps sooner rather than later as ecological and sustainability issues become more and more obviously important to us.

Some green history questions that come to mind:

How have we (humans, at different places and times through history) treated the nonhuman world? How have we treated nonhuman species, nature, ecosystems? How have we treated future generations? (Both human and nonhuman.)

Have they been ignored? Included in our decision making? Respected? Have we been blind to them? Have we justified mistreatment of them, and how?

And why? How has our world view, values, fears, survival needs and more influenced this?

What can we learn from this? How does it apply to our current situation? What are the lessons?

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Did Jesus exist?

Did Jesus exist?

The reality is that we don’t know. There are hardly any historical sources suggesting that he did exist, apart from Christian sources.

Looking at the data, it seems that it’s very possible that he didn’t exist.

And yet, most historians and theologians seem to gloss over this question. They don’t mention it, or perhaps say of course he existed, don’t be silly. (As one theologian did when I asked.)

Why this lack of intellectual honesty and courage? It’s perhaps because aspects of Christian theology, as it was created in the centuries after Jesus may have lived, depends on Jesus having existed as a historical person.

And yet, maybe there is another way. A way where we can be intellectually honest about the historical question, and still benefit as much if not more from the Jesus story, and Jesus’ teachings.

The Jesus story is, as many have realized and pointed out, a metaphor for the awakening process we all may go through. Adyashanti’s Resurrecting Jesus is a clear and insightful book on this topic.

Jesus’ teachings applies to us whatever label we put on ourselves – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever else it may be. As any good wisdom teachings, they are pointers. Questions. Experiments.

And, it seems, we can connect with the Christ energy whether or not we know if Jesus existed as a historical person. The Christ presence responds, as it seems to have done for centuries or millennia, to prayer and Christ meditation. (I experience it quite strongly, and know that many others do too.)

Note: Was Jesus a Pagan God, by Freke and Gandi, is an interesting exploration on this topic.

Note 2: Some say that the mutual disagreements between the texts in the New Testament is an indication that Jesus didn’t exist, but that seems a weak argument. Disagreement between historical sources is expected and inevitable, even if they refer to something that did happen.

Also, some point to the striking similarities between the Jesus story and stories from religions and mythologies in the middle east prior to Christianity. It almost seems that someone did a cut & paste job when they created they Jesus story. Again, that doesn’t seem that this is a good argument for the non-historical Jesus.

Finally, there is the Shroud of Turin. From what we know about it today, it’s possible that it’s real. Science can only determine if it’s a fake, and haven’t been able to conclusively do so yet. In any case, it’s an interesting question.

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Internet

As usual when there is a new form of information technology, some see it as unfortunate, as something that will damage the young people.

It’s very predictable, and it has happened throughout history….. when we went from a oral tradition to writing, when radio and cinema arrived, when we got TV, when we went from black-and-white TV to color (here in Norway, there was even a heated discussion in parlament concerning how color TV would damage people), and now it’s the same with the internet.

It’s good to take a sober look at this.

First, we see that some – perhaps those with a fear of the new – will have these opinions. It’s very predictable. It has happened thorughout history.

We also know that, in most cases, it won’t be as bad as some say, and it won’t be as good as some others say.

Also, it’s a tool. It all depends on how it’s used. A hammer can be very useful, and it can also be harmful. It just depends on how we use it.

We are adaptable. Our use of it changes, and the technology itself evolves. We see what works and doesn’t work, and we make adjustments.

And there is always a heightened facination with the new technology at first. I see that for myself. The use of and fascination with it reaches a saturation point, and the use becomes more moderate and appropriate to long term use.

Note: Yes, I know about “digital dementia” and that discussion. And I still find it helpful to see the bigger picture, and keep a sober view. There is an advantage and a drawback to any information technology. For instance, books allows us to be absorbed into a different world, and use our imagination to (re)create this world in our minds. At the same time, they are ridiculously linear, and makes us a slave of what the author wants us to imagine and feel. Books, movies and radio are forms of information technology where the recipient is expected to be quite passive in this sense. They are quite linear and authoritarian forms of information technology, and the information typically only goes one way – from the author to the recipient.

Even if it has its own drawbacks, the internet allows the user to be more active and intentional, and often create, share and participate more actively. That is a dramatic advantage of the internet over previous technologies. It levels the playing field for those with access to the internet, and dramatically lowers the threshold for contributing. Few could and can publish books, and even fewer can have their own traditional radio program. But anyone with access to the internet can have their own website, or blog, or podcast, or YouTube channel. Of course, many in the world do not have this access.

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Basic images about nature, animals, our body, gender, future generations etc.

In our western culture, we have tended to see parts of our world as inferior – nature, animals, our bodies, women, children, future generations – and treated it accordingly. We split the world in our minds, take this imagined split as reality, see one part as less valuable than the other, and then take this imagination as true as well.

There are historical, cultural, philosophical and religious reasons for this.

More immediately, it’s about the images we have in our own minds. Images transmitted from our culture, and that are there whether we consciously agree with them or not.

So it can be very helpful – and illuminating – to explore these images, for instance through the Living Inquiries.

When I bring my body to mind, what images do I see? What words? What sensations are connected to these images and words?

What do I find when I bring animals to mind? Animals vs. humans? Women? Women vs. men? Children? Children vs. adults? Future generations? Future generations vs. our current generation?

I see this as an important part of illuminating the stereotypes we all carry with us, and – at least somewhat – live our lives from, whether we are aware of it or not.

Note: In our western culture, influenced by a certain version of Christianity, we tend to split the world into good and bad, less valuable and more valuable. And the dividing line has been drawn between body and mind, women and men, children and adults, nature and humans, future generations and the current generation, with the former of each of these pairs seen as less valuable, less important, less respectable. And that’s behind many of the troubles we see today. For instance, we couldn’t have developed such a deeply unsustainable way of doing business, economics and production if it wasn’t for images in our minds telling us that (a) there is a split between humans and nature, and (b) humans are more important than nature. This is what has allowed us to pretend, for a while, that we operate separate from (the rest of) nature, and that we can mistreat nature without mistreating ourselves in the same way.

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Exploring the origin and history of concepts

I notice I explore the origin and history of concepts in at least three areas:

Historically. For instance, what’s the origin and history of the idea of a split between humans and spirit? The different ideas of God or Spirit in the different traditions? Good and evil? Even good and bad? What we see as right and wrong in our culture? A particular custom? (This is explored through history, archaeology, anthropology, history of religion, history of science, history of philosophy etc.)

In my own life. When did I first have the idea of perfection? Of something being wrong? Of illness and health? (This often goes back to parents, school, friends and/or media, and sometimes I cannot remember and it’s more a matter of guessing.)

Here and now. The two previous ones are conceptual explorations, explored within the world of ideas – of history, time, origins etc. This one is here and now, and a direct looking. How is my experience of my world created? How does [anything] appear in my sense fields? In sensations, images and words, sight, sound, smell, taste? When it appears real, what gives it that sense of reality?

All three forms of explorations have their value.

The historical exploration helps me see that what we sometimes takes as a given in my culture is not really a given. The idea has its history, development, and – if we go far enough back – its origin. Someone – a human being just like me and anyone I know – made it up. And then other people took it on, developed it, perhaps took it as true and real, and passed it on.

The individual exploration helps me see when I took on certain ideas, from whom, and perhaps even why. I see that it was innocent, and from confused love. It was well intentioned, and perhaps somewhat misguided.

And exploring how my world is created here & now is even more valuable to me. It helps whatever stickiness is here soften and eventually release. What appeared solid, real and unquestionable is revealed as created by a combination of words and images, sensations, and images of these sensations.

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Hess

I listened to The Psychiatrist and Rudolph Hess, a BBC Witness podcast, and it seems the British psychiatrist evaluating Hess was quite eager to label him insane and even weak. I wonder if this comes from a desire to see him as much as possible as “other”? It seems that some try to do something similar with Breivik.

It’s understandable, and yet, the drawback is that the normalcy of it may be overlooked. Their actions makes a great deal of sense from within their worldview. It’s quite logical, as it is for most of us. And both of them mirror each of us. When I turn around each of my beliefs about them, I’ll find examples of how I do the same. (Of course expressed, on the surface, in a different form.)

Journey of Man

I gave my parents each a genetics test for their birthdays, which revealed – not surprisingly – that our maternal ancestors on either side came out of Africa, through the Middle-East, and then respectively journeyed through Central Europe and Eastern Europe, and eventually into Scandinavia.

I also recently joined Geni, a social media/family tree site, mostly to help my father with his genealogy research.

In either case, whether it is historical or genetic genealogy, it reveals how hugely interconnected we are as soon as we go back just a few generations. It is our collective history that is revealed. Going back a few hundred thousand, or one or two million of years, it gets even more collective, including other species and eventually all of earth’s life. And going back some billion of years, it includes stars, galaxies, and all of the universe.

It’s funny how something that is traditionally viewed as a personal and family matter – genealogy – turns out to be that which reveals how interconnected we are, and that our history is shared and collective.

Honesty and the historical Jesus

Do we know whether Jesus was a historical person? If we are honest, we would have to say that we don’t know. We cannot know. The historical data is far too sparse. There is hardly any mention of Jesus as a historical person outside of the Christian sources, and whatever support is found within these Christian sources is indirect at best.

There is also  a plethora of earlier non-Christian mythologies that are closely aligned with the Jesus story. So the Jesus story may be just another in a line of similar mythological stories, all reflecting important inner truths. Or if such a person as Jesus existed, it is likely that the version we have now is highly mythologized and influenced by these earlier stories.

The evidence for Jesus as a historical person would not hold up in a court of law, nor would it be close to convincing in the “hard” sciences.

Yet, most Christians, theologians and historians seem to assume that Jesus was a historical person. Few bring it up even as a topic. Why is it so? Why does it seem to be almost a taboo? A non-topic? Why do some even try to brush it away by calling the possibility of Jesus as a non-historical person a “thoroughly dead thesis” when the historical data is so sparse?

Are they concerned about the implications for Christianity? Are they concerned about questioning assumptions that are shaky in the first place? If so, the solution seems a simple one: Develop – or find – an approach to Christianity that does not depend on Jesus being a historical person. The Jesus story is a powerful story in itself, as a basis for religion, a source for ethical guidelines, and a reflection of an inner process we each may go through in different ways. None of that is dependent on a historical Jesus.

If religion is about truth and honesty, this seems to be one of the first places we need to be honest and truthful.

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Living our past

Again, simple on the surface but it has profound implications the more clearly it is seen – and lived.

We are all living our past.

This personality, with all its likes and dislikes, is a product of its history. It is a product of my personal history, that which is more or less unique to this individual. And it is a product of culture, evolution, and how this universe happens to be put together. There is really nothing personal about it. It all comes from somewhere. Anything this human self does has infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of the universe and out to its widest reaches.

Also, all my stories are based on my past, and these guide how I orient and act in the world now. They are about the past, whether they appear to be about the future, past or present, and I live from them – whether I believe in them or take them as guides only.

There is a great liberation in seeing this, to the extent it is investigated in daily life and in more and more areas of my life.

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2012

strieber_2012_100407a

What will happen in 2012?

Will the mysterious planet Nibiru enter the local solar system and wreak havoc with Earth?

Will the sun rise in conjunction with the milky way and strange things happen?

Will the completion of the thirteenth B’ak’tun cycle in the Long Count of the Maya calendar coincide with a major shift in collective human consciousness?

Will nothing special happen, proving the folks holding those beliefs as kooks?

2012 – like UFOs and other good projection objects – is fertile ground for exploration.

First, what are the practical effects of taking certain stories about 2012 as true or as guidelines for actions? Do I relate to others and myself differently? Do I become more or less engaged? Do I become more receptive or more entrenched in holding certain perspectives and identities? These stories are just tools anyway, so what type of tools are they and what are the effects of using them?

Then, whatever stories I hold about 2012 or others’ beliefs about 2012, I can find it all right here.

I can notice that it all happens within my own world of images. My own stories about it and what I see in others, the wider world and in 2012 is all happening within my own world of images.

I can find the characteristics and dynamics I see in others, the wider world and in 2012 right here as well. How do they happen right here, as I hold onto these stories? How do they happen in my life otherwise?

I can notice all as happening within and as awakeness.

Another way to explore this is to identify and inquire into my beliefs around 2012 and others holding certain ideas about 2012.

2012 is doomsday. 2012 means a major shift in human consciousness. People who think 2012 is doomsday or means a shift in consciousness are flaky kooks, with little or no grasp on reality and science. I know what will happen. My views are right. I am right, they are wrong.

When 2012 arrives, I can notice what happens whether my expectations are met or not. If my expectations are met, do I take it as proof that I was right all along? That I am better than others? If my expectations are not met, do I try to explain it away? Do I take it as an opportunity for inquiry?

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Norwegian resistance and two thoughts in the head at the same time

Since the movie about Max Manus is coming to the theaters in Norway these days, there is a resurgence of interest in the Norwegian resistance during WWII. A couple of things has puzzled me about it. One is why the communist resistance continues to largely be ignored, even after the fall of the Soviet Union and so many years after the war. The other has to do with how the Norwegian resistance is sometimes talked about, as if it had more – or different – impact than it really did. (Not that I am a historian.)

A recent essay in Aftenposten addressed the last issue and led to some controversy.

But it seems that this too doesn’t have to be so complicated.

The Norwegian resistance acted in genuinely heroic ways, giving everything – including often their lives – for a free Norway. Their existence lifted the morale and gave a sense of purpose and hope to many in Norway. And their actions did have an impact, although often local and limited.

It is also pretty clear that their activities were often no more than a nuisance to the occupying forces. Mosquito bites. Not contributing significantly to the outcome of the war. And quite often, the Nazi retaliation against civilians (executions) was predictable and maybe not justified by what the resistance achieved.

As they say in Norway, it is possible to keep two thoughts in the head at the same time. We can greatly appreciate and value their efforts and sacrifices. (If I had lived then, I hope I would have joined them.) And we can also acknowledge that their actions led to needless loss of civilians, and didn’t contribute significantly to the outcome of the war.

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Max Manus

A movie about Max Manus, one of the resistance men in Norway during WWII. My family has a cabin a few hundred feet from one of his hiding places during the war, and I read his books as a kid, so he was one of my childhood heroes. 

Here is an interview with him and Jan Baalsrud from 1951.

Kidney stone Entertaiment

Who would have thought that kidney stones could be so entertaining? It is quite an adventure to have one, as I have discovered. And the history of kidney stones is surprisingly interesting as well. It illustrates that you can take any subject, even the most mundane one, and discover how it branches out into some very interesting areas….

The medical history is fascinating. The psychology around pain is rich and meaty. Kidney stones have been a topic in the entertainment industry, as above. And kidney stones have changed the course of history on more than one occasion.

For instance, at the Wikipedia’s Kidney Stone Formers page, we learn that Napoleon III may have lost the Franco-Prussian war due to a kidney stone, and that a vanishing kidney stone is one of the miracles used to promote sainthood for Mother Theresa.

History is what somebody wants us to think happened

I have enjoyed watching Terry Jones‘ (yes, the Monty Python guy) documentaries about the Crusades, Medieval Lives, and the Barbarians. They are all very well done, and give a different perspective than the traditional historical view, for instance pointing out that the way we see barbarians today is largely Roman propaganda, still effective 1500 years later.

(Watch the Crusades, Medieval Lives and the Barbarians online.)

Another excellent documentary is When the Moors Ruled in Europe, showing how the Renaissance – and what we know as modern European culture – was born out of the Islamic Golden Age. (Watch it here.) Islam and Islamic culture has traditionally been seen as an enemy in Europe, and this is a good antidote to Islamophobia and a way to nuance the picture somewhat.

We all know that history is “often what people want us to think happened” as Terry Jones says. History is constructed by those in power, often to protect their own interest.

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The Jesus story

From New York Times today:

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

Of course, the Jesus story has parallels with not only Jewish myths, but also myths from other earlier traditions of that time and region.

Some examples are given in The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandi where they outline the following parallels of the Osiris-Dionysus and Jesus stories:

  • Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh, the savior and “Son of God.”
  • His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin.
  • He is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before three shepherds.
  • He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.
  • He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.
  • He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him.
  • He dies at Eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
  • After his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.
  • His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.
  • His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.

Why is it so? The obvious answer is that the Jesus myth picked up elements of existing myths to make it more familiar to the people of the time.

But another answer, as Freke and Gandi points out, is that these stories are about an inner truth more than an outer – historic – truth. They reflect an inner process of growing and waking up.

And that is why similar story elements not only appear in traditions of that place and time, but around the world in many different cultures, and also in dreams and visions of people today.

None of this really touch whether Jesus was a historic figure or not. He may well have been, and the specific events of his life may or may not have followed the lines of the Jesus story as we know it today.

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Bamyan Buddhas

Giant Buddhas - Christian Frei

I watched The Giant Buddhas earlier today, a documentary about the Bamyan Buddhas shown as part of our local/international archaeological film festival.

It is a very well made movie, weaving together several different stories and perspectives: A Chinese monk traveling along the Silk Road around year 630. A woman from Kabul visiting the Buddhas that her father has visited in his youth. A family living in a cave between the Buddhas, and then relocated by the current regime. A French archaeologist searching for the location of a 300 meter long reclining stone Buddha in the same valley. An Al-Jazeera reporter who filmed the destruction in 2001.

Some of the information is not so well known in the west, such as the claim that Saudi Arabian engineers were called in and helped with the destruction. And that the destruction of the statues was ordered in response to western money coming in to restore artifacts, instead of as much needed aid to the people of Afghanistan. (It may be just a way to blame the west for something people in the west were upset about, but there could also be a grain of truth in it.)

When I first heard about the destruction in March of 2001, I thought of how well it illustrates the essential teaching of Buddhism – impermanence.

If we really get impermanence, if we see it and feel it, over and over, not only in stories of impermanence but as it happens here now in immediate awareness, there is no foothold for identification within content of awareness. And this invites a shift into Big Mind, into finding ourselves as that which experience happens within, to and as.

Exploring impermanence, thoroughly, over and over, as it happens in the sense fields here now, is one of the many ways to discover what we really are, and probably a sufficient one as well.

Also, it is an invitation for me – and us all – to see what stories we cling to as true, and examine them and find that is already more true for us.

It is a reminder that iconoclasm is maybe not so useful when targeted at artifacts, but has more value and meaning if we target the real icon worship: Taking stories as true. Making a thought – a story, an image – into a God for ourself.

And a reminder that we all are at different places in regards to all of this. Some of us take a modern western view on it, emphasizing the value of culture, art and tolerance. Others take a more fundamentalist view, seeing literal iconoclasm as a pretty good idea. And others again see it as a reminder of impermanence, and of iconoclasm having its value if targeted with some wisdom and applied with gentleness.

And if we want to be practical about it, we see the validity in each of those views, work on ourselves with impermanence and investigation of beliefs, and in the world in trying to prevent these things from happening using whatever – hopefully skillful – means seem appropriate.

Btw: Here is a link to the German version of the movie, although it is also available in English.

History of Mysticism available as ebook

I just received this comment on one of my previous posts:

I thought you did an excellent job of encapsulating the book. However, as you may have noticed, it is no longer available on amazon.com, as it is Out of Print. The good news is that I am offering History of Mysticism (with some additional text in the Chapter on Gnosticism) as a FREE Ebook in PDF format on my website at:  www.themysticsvision.com. Check it out. And, if possible, please publicise its availability.
Best wishes,
Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout)

As before, I can highly recommend this book. It is among the clearest and most inspiring books on the history of mysticism I have read, and I am looking forward to reading the new sections on Gnosticism.

And what an honor to receive a comment from the author!

If you would like a copy of the free ebook, send an email with “History of Mysticism” in the subject line to abhayanand [at] aol [dot] com

Inner and outer truths

freke_-_laughing_jesus.jpg

I started reading The Laughing Jesus today, and have also placed a hold at the library on a few other books by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. (Thanks to Peter at the excellent The Seer blog for introducing me to them!)

The book helps differentiate inner and outer truths of Christianty, first going through the outer truths about Jesus and early Christianity, and then the inner truth of the early gnostics and gnostics, or mystics, anywhere. The basics of both is familiar to me, but it is presented in a very clear and insightful way, have some angles that are new to me, and is a joy to read.

In terms of the outer truths of Christianity, it shows the parallels between the early gnostic stories of the God man and the life story of Jesus, the lack of historical evidence for Jesus ever having existed in flesh and blood, and examples of the literalist interpretation of Christianity came into being through the usual politics.

(From the little I know of mainstream scholarship on this subject, it seems that their basic thesis is not too far off, but I am sure there are different takes on many of the details. This is not a book for those interested in exact and nuanced scholarship, and that is not the point of the book either.)

The inner truths of Christianity is that of mystics anywhere and any time, and I am reminded of Douglas Harding and the headless experiments in the simple and elegant ways Freke and Gandy write about it.

Finally, the book is a reminder of looking for the inner truth of any spiritual or religious story, independent of its outer or historical truth (or, most often, lack thereof). The historical truth has historical interest, which is well and fine. But the inner truth is about who and what we are, here and now.

Inquiry: It is better if they differentiate history and teaching stories

It is better if they differentiate history and teaching stories. (From a dinner conversation with friends yesterday, where they got into talking about some of the non-Biblical scriptures such as the gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene.)

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