Category Archives: A Mature Culture

What values would be important in our future? (Part 2 of 3)

Values are the core of living.
Values are the core of living.

This is the second posting on what I believe a mature culture would value. In the previous one I commented on a) the primary need to value children, and b) the need for a cultural story, a mythic narrative, that honors wisdom.

As I reflect on why I am writing this blog today, I came across an interesting quotation: “Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life… ~ Martha Postlewaite.” At some level, I am attempting to do both, to save the whole world, and to create a clearing in my own life. My mythic narrative is such that I want to leave a better world for my grand-children, and my own life has been about emotional growth in honor of spirit; I believe we all want this, to support our children and to grow in spirit. So these values speak about what I want as well as what I believe we need to bring to conscious awareness for our survival as a species.

To continue — the next value I suggest is:

An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.

We must recognize that every human being has the right to education, not just a few years of schooling, but a life-long pursuit — because education never ends. Such a system is the basis of the pursuit of wisdom. It must start with the recognition that the education of women is a major key to our survival as a species — women are the life-givers, and in general, are far more capable in the pursuit of cooperation then are men.

In such a system, people would meet in small groups, at least weekly (with children present), to discuss life issues of importance, learning from themselves and from skilled mediators, learning how to resolve difficulties and cooperate with each other. It cannot be a top-down model of what people should do; it is not an effective means of learning. People would mentor each other, challenging both themselves and the systems within which they live. Easy, no; essential, yes.

Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.

What do you do when you are in conflict with someone else? The vast majority of people do not like to engage in conflict; I certainly don’t. but I at least have learned that conflict is normal — it is the essential fabric whereby we come to like and value each other (if we were all the same, it would be really boring!). But it is not easy.

In the best of circumstances, we have billions of people on this planet. Each one of us is different, and entitled to living space (food, shelter, education, health, etc.). And each one of us is emotional; when emotion-laden differences arise, we call it conflict. Frequently I have said to people: We are emotional; we can have clarity — it’s optional. And it requires ongoing effort to be able to think clearly about issues when emotions run high. Despite the dictates of modern psychology, I am a strong advocate of Blowing Out®, the system[1] I developed as a method for moving through emotional issues so as to have clarity in conflictual situations.

So often I hear people say that we should not be in conflict, that we should be able to resolve issues peacefully, and other admonitions as to how we should behave. I have very little use for shoulds, other than they being an indicator of conflict (see my earlier blogs on this subject). Every human being has thoughts and feelings about the struggles of life, and in general each person has their own experience, some having had more difficulty in life than others. Some have more power. Cooperation in diversity and conflict means that we work to provide justice for all, not just those who are in power. It means that all have a voice in providing such justice. Given our current maturity as a species, this takes incredible time and effort for resolution; perhaps as we growth in authenticity, it will take less time.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

[1] described in my book Blowing Out the Darkness

What values would be important in our future? (Part 1 of 3)

Values are the core of living.
Values are the core of living.
Big words, of major impact

Where are we going to in our culture? Are we able to move towards a healthy civilization? Presently our society is based on a system called scientific materialism, and especially influenced by neoliberalism. These are big word, worth understanding, but essentially they mean that:

  • only science can provide answers, and
  • the basis of society is to be a consumer of goods.

For me, these ideas are not a reflection of wisdom, especially because I value (at the emotional level, not the commercial level) art, theatre, philosophy, and many other aspects of life that are not within these spheres. Both ideas are also major contributors to our current dilemmas of global warming and environmental degradation.

So, if we are to survive, and especially thrive, as a species, we must live a different value system. What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. Previously, I listed six characteristics, and I will now comment on each in turn, here and over the coming two posts.

  • The care of children would be the highest priority.
  • A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
  • An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
  • Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
  • Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
  • A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.
Children would be our highest priority.

We would develop social structures so that children would be included in all aspects of our lives. Why? Because children are our future, and they need to be exposed to all that we value, and what we do — remember the adage about actions speaking louder than words. I watched the movie Malala a few nights ago; it is the story of the Afghan teenage girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for demanding that girls be allowed education; she survived serious injuries, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her continuing efforts. An important component of her life had been that her father was a teacher in Afghanistan, and allowed his daughter in his classroom from infancy onwards. This was part of her cultural modeling.

I do not mean that children need dominate our lives; as adults, parents and elders, we must provide authentic models for them. Richard Rohr identifies the issue best for me in one of his recent blogs (Daily Meditations, 20160621):

I don’t think we’re doing our children any favors by raising them without boundaries or rules, and largely letting them decide for themselves what is right for them. . . . Eric Fromm, in his classic book The Art of Loving, states that the healthiest people he has known are those who received from their two parents and early authority figures a combination of unconditional love and conditional love.

But we need to provide them with models that sustain our world, rather than examples of how we dominate and destroy.

A cultural story that honors the pursuit and living of wisdom

Who do you know whom you regard as wise? What is it about them that you value? I suggest that somehow they are authentically themselves: what you see is what you get, and what you get is good judgment. How have they gotten to this place in their life? I suggest that in some fashion they have rebelled against the social norms, not in big ways necessarily, but in significant ways.

Our culture does not value wisdom! Nor does it value the other factors I identified in my PhD dissertation on acedia (see my book Acedia, The Darkness Within), factors that allow movement forward in the pursuit of wisdom:

  • hope (evidence in the present for what I want in the future),
  • discipline (discipline is valued as part of physical exercise, but not emotional discipline to do the hard work of resolving those issues that are part of our personal lives), and
  • playfulness (joyous spontaneity and surprise).

From your perspective as reader, what is the story that guides our civilization? Human beings are story-makers; mythic narratives have guided our lives for millennia (the movie Avatar is a great example of a culture moved by story). But our cultural story for the most part is that of meaninglessness (in a cosmos of great beauty), and the domination of nature by man.

If we are to have a story, it must honor the pursuit of wisdom as a live-long study, a story that encourages our resilience as a species. For me personally, it must encourage every human being to pursue awareness of who they are (therapy, by any other name) in balance with the needs of others. It must also ask us to move towards something greater than who we are, God (spirit, creator, higher power) by any other name. Being of service is somehow of immense importance to who we are as human beings.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

 

Towards a mature culture?

We need to learn cooperation.
We need to learn cooperation.

I indicated in my last post that, for the present, I will focus on what I believe we need to move towards so as to have an effective world culture of maturity. To repeat what I wrote last time: “I believe that the single greatest need we currently have as a species is to become a culture predominantly of cooperation. Competition will still be a part of who we are, but not the major part. How we are to get there is not clear.”

What is a vision?

In the next few posts, I will be writing what I envision might happen, but they are only my musings, not something I am locked into. The way I think of a vision is that it is the scenery on the road as I move forward with my life. There is the immediate scenery of what is actually happening around me, and there is the distant scenery of where I am hopefully heading. But, depending on many factors (especially both what I want and what others want), the distant scenery will change ¾ it is only the direction, the journey, not a fixed end-point.

As I develop this theme, I invite you the reader to consider your thoughts about how we function as a society, and what would be a more effective society. I do not mean utopia, and I do not mean a society that gives lip service to maturing — but what would it really mean? How would such a society function?

What would be a mature society?

I’m going to break it down into six sections, with subsections:

  • What would such a society value?
  • How would governance function?
  • What would be the interactions between communities?
  • How would any given community function?
  • What would daily living conditions be like?
  • What are the major obstacles to such a culture?

So, to begin.

What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. I’ll comment on each of these in the next post.

  • The care of children would be the highest priority.
  • A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
  • An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
  • Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
  • Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
  • A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.

Thoughts?

To be continued.

The Problem of Visioning

The management of power requires personal authority.
The Power of Personal Authority

Having a vision is a problem!

There are, unfortunately, multiple problems with having a vision. Earlier, I mentioned three phases to an effective vision.

    • First, an emotionally rich, multi-sensory vision. How to achieve this? Whenever I analyze a problem, and create a detailed statement or list of how I should respond or what others should value, it activates my conscious mind, but it does not energize me. The word should is a special deterrent — “should” is always a double message, with part of me wanting to do so, and part resisting. An effective vision has to energize me!
    • Second, honesty of the present state, even if inappropriate Unfortunately, human beings are profoundly capable of delusion and denial. Hitler was an incredible visionary (!) and very energized! But his underlying value system was delusional.

The global warming disinformers are also visionary — they are focused on the outcome of money.

    • Third, even with both of the above in place (emotionally rich honesty), big visions require effort, huge effort. Effective leadership is required to maintain such visions, and burnout is high!

The stance of leadership required for effective visioning is a two-edged sword, not for the faint of heart nor for the individual who has high attachment to outcomes. A basic problem for leadership is attachment, living with an expectation of a given outcome, rather than holding life lightly. Although much has been written about the psychological state of burnout, I consider it to be a relatively simple phenomenon to describe (and often incredibly difficult to resolve). Simply put, burnout occurs when an individual (leader or group member) is overly invested in the outcome, attempting to gain power where one is inherently powerless. It is high intention with high attachment. Thus, burnout occurs when we consistently lack or refuse acceptance of our powerlessness to control the responses of others.

The science-fiction novel Forty Days of Rain (Science in the Capital Trilogy, Book 1) alludes to the immense effort. Although the book is fiction (¿with much truth?), it captures for me an essential difficulty of our culture — we give maximal power to business and the economy, to money, and not to human values.

Then in the 1960s when everyone was an activist, NSF [the National Science Foundation] created a program called “Interdisciplinary Research Relevant to Problems of Our Society.” What a name from its time that was. . . .

     Interdisciplinary research, relevant to problems of our society — was that really such a sixties joke of an idea?

     . . . IRRPOS morphed into RANN, “Research Applied to National Needs.” RANN had then gotten killed for being too applied. . . . At the same time he [Nixon] preemptively established the EPA . . .

     The battle for control of science went on. Many administrations and Congresses hadn’t wanted technology or the environment assessed at all . . . It might get in the way of business. They didn’t want to know.

     . . . They didn’t want to know. And yet they did want to call the shots. . . . this was clearly crazy. . . . On what basis did they want to build such an incoherent mix of desires, to want to stay ignorant and to be powerful as well? Were these two parts of the same insanity?

In The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey supports this theme of insanity. Harvey was invited to a private lunch with “the head of a major agribusiness corporation,” who said to him: “Let me tell you what you are up against. You are up against people like me. I know exactly what my company is doing, and what devastation it is causing to thousands of lives.” The C.E.O. added:

The bliss-bunnyhood of seekers and the offensive self-righteousness of activists make it very easy for people like me to control the world. I know too, by the way, that the dark forces I play with are playing with me. I am under no illusion that I will not someday have to pay the price. . . . I’m willing to pay that price in return for the pleasure of being able to afford this restaurant, in return for being able to ring up the president of the United States in front of house guests to impress them. Am I getting through to you?

It is likely that perspectives and attitudes such as this underlie the actions of the disinformers, and they are not subject to reason. From my perspective, this is the end-point of acedia: evil (the subject of a future post). The major difficulty in global warming is that most of the power is held by heads of corporations, many of whom will be very accountable, but in the case of the disinformers, many of these heads may well be similar to this man whom Harvey encountered.

Paul Ray, who distributes extensive information on climate change, also discusses the criminal irresponsibility of the banking system in an email post “Occupy Wall St. demonstrators indict Goldman Sachs, are arrested outside” (2011 November 7), noting: Goldman Sachs leads the interpenetration of US financial and political elites. These are the elite of a growing international criminal financial class that will cause the deaths of billions of people in Africa, South Asia, South America, and China. The proximate cause will be starvation and disease, from famines and climate change. The real cause will be this elite’s actions. As indicated by the title of the email post, resistance to these processes is not without cost, in this case, being arrested; civil disobedience likely never is without cost.

There are two fundamental difficulties with the human etiology of global warming:

    • the evil of the disinformers, and
    • the acedia of the mass of people.

Visioning of the resolution of global warming must therefore provide two components: a coming together of the people in action (overcoming the acedia), and a movement away from the disinformation.

The second difficulty — coming together — is developing slowly with movements such as 350.org and sumofus.org, but I do not know the extent to which such groups are working together to provide a world network. I imagine there to be the usual conflicts concerning agendas and hierarchies, and hope these will slowly resolve to a fully effective movement.

Resolving the problem of disinformation is huge — human beings so easily lock into belief systems, and resist grasping reality (more on this in a later blog). I foresee three possible outcomes:

    • a complete collapse of the world market economy — with ultimate chaos and total collapse of our civilization, if not our species (not a desired outcome),
    • a gradual massive expansion of the zero-carbon technology, such that the fossil fuel organizations simply cannot compete (and must either collapse or integrate into healthier economies) — possibly a good solution, and/or
    • the coming together of world governments such that such disinformation becomes illegal, and is severely punished — I am not holding my breathe waiting for this outcome.

Unfortunately, I am not good at predicting the future.

A Vision of A Mature Culture

Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. (Goethe)
Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. (Goethe)

As I explore the issues of our culture, I start with Vision because it is essential to our being. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” Vision is what motivates us: we want to move towards it. (We want to move away from global warming, but where do we want to go?)

If we do survive and eventually thrive, how might a mature culture function? Early in my PhD process, prior to retiring, I presented a workshop called “For Our Children.” I based the title on a statement attributed to the theologian Thomas Berry: while in his 70s, he was apparently asked why he worked so hard. His answer was: “For the children.” Personally, I now work “for the children,” to allow them the privilege of “being human in the 22nd century,” at least one hundred years from now. As simple as it is, “for the children” is the best description of what “wisdom as a way of life” means to me, and my best sense of what I want in the future.

What we need is such a vision for our culture. I don’t know what that is, but I hope that together people can come to such a vision — one that motivates. This is again a tall order, given the complexity of people and our propensity to argue when our small domains are challenged. The following are initial suggestions — I will expand upon them in later posts. As you read them, attempt to step into them as a lived experience, rather than an intellectual concept.

As mentioned in the previous post, an effective vision needs to be multi-sensory and emotionally rich. I must be able to step into it, and say: “Wow. I want this.” For me, I can see, hear, smell, touch “for the children.”

I propose that, in a mature culture, the following six priorities would be honored, and lived, on a daily basis—and would form the basis by which all other decisions are implemented. Principally, we would live into the concept of “Seventh Generation Sustainability” (Wikipedia), as originally proposed by the Iroquois League.

The specifics of what I am suggesting may be only pipedreams, but I propose that, in some fashion, the concepts are essential to mature functioning. Most importantly, the specifics require that we come to terms with the limitations of our humanness, and choose to live within our greatness. Such a culture will honor the sacred — the appreciation of the universe as an interconnected, experiential whole, in humility and awe of its underlying mystery — only then will we be true stewards of this planet.

My reservation with presenting a list is this: it is difficult to get a lived experience from a list — possible, but difficult. My best lived experience is to see my grand-child playing with others, including myself, thinking of how I want this to continue, flipping between this and assisting in the teaching of a group of interested students. Then the rest falls in place.

    • First, the care of children would be our highest priority. The presence of children would no longer be considered as “interruptions”; we would support each other to attend to children, to facilitate individual adults to take care of ongoing tasks and business. Children would be a choice, and would be raised by the village, in cooperation with the parents.
    • Next on the list would be the development and the living of a cultural story that honors the pursuit of wisdom as a life-long study. We need a story. A dominant characteristic of human beings is that we are motivated by stories. We are story-makers; myth and metaphor are strong motivators of our growth. If we lived wisdom, most of our current dilemmas would be resolved.
    • The third priority would be the living of the skills necessary for dealing with diversity — and resolving conflict. Our propensity to viciousness needs to be managed — it arises from our lack of clarity, in lacking effective choices.
    • Fourth, a mature culture would balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the group, not by imposition, but because the educational system would provide the deep support for members of the culture to want to balance these needs. A mature culture would train its members to live in ways that emphasize both the powerfulness (to create self) and the powerlessness (to change other) inherent in relationship. Such a culture would educate its members that each member is truly accountable for whatever he or she thinks, feels, and does, without shame or coercion of self or other—that the truly unacceptable is that of violation (restriction of freedom without permission, beyond public safety).
    • Fifth, a mature culture would develop governance based on wisdom, on statesperson-ship. I propose that a mature culture would actually be a no-party democracy, with individuals elected on the basis of perceived wisdom, and with interlocking regional governments, up to a world government. Individuals would be elected on the basis of perceived wisdom by appropriate regional groups to form a regional level of government, that government deciding within itself who would be the proposers of legislation and who would be the devil’s advocates. Higher levels of government would depend on input both from lower regional governments, and from polling of the general population.
    • Finally, the judiciary system of such a culture would function at all levels in the fashion of justice circles, the intention being that any discordance is to be resolved in ways that support the rights of both individuals and the groups concerned. In such a culture, there will arise occasions where individuals repeatedly act contrary to the needs and desires of the group. I suggest that, here, more senior groups (groups to which earlier decisions might be appealed) would have the power to ostracize such individuals from the culture, perhaps to live in enclaves not subject to the standards of the general culture. These alternate cultures would be free to develop their own standards, but would not be permitted to impose their standards on the main culture. If desired, individuals in these substitute cultures could transfer back to the main culture, but a requirement would be they demonstrate they have sufficient intention and maturity to live within the main culture.

What would such a culture actually look like? I suggest the following: The total population of the world would be one to two billion people. I do not believe we can sustain seven to nine billion people on this planet. How we would reduce our population to this level is unclear, but it does not need to be draconian, if the above priorities are in place. In addition, even at two billion people, the human footprint would need to be reduced—this would require that we come to terms with living in community. Communities would be relatively small and self-sustaining. Citizens would understand, be committed to, and share, a set of purposes and moral and ecological principles. These purposes and principles would be developed through intensive participative processes — they cannot be handed down from above. This requires dialogue-rich groups, focused on action shaped by reflection, and such that local groups have the power and authority to create change directly. People would be rewarded with active immediate feedback based on success, and leaders would be committed to their own learning.

Is this type of mature culture possible? I do not know. Is it necessary? I maintain the answer is: Yes — we have to come to terms with a zero-growth sustainable culture, one that honors all species on the planet. Need it have the characteristics I am suggesting? No, but likely something like this would be necessary. We need to live in peace with our world; we need to live in peace with each other, especially our differences. It will be difficult to achieve. Our current civilization is in a state where all of the forces that oppose our maturity are disparaged, and thus, conversion to a more mature state will require much time and effort.

I believe that we are capable of such conversion, once we decide to do so. However, whether we will do so in time to save our species in not yet clear.

In the next post, I am going to look at the problems of having a vision.

The Power of Visioning

The need for a boldly creative path.
The need for a boldly creative path.

Vision is like a good novel — it is a fiction that motivates.

From Murakami on Gaza (thanks to John Hanagan on Facebook). Haruki Murakami accepted the Jerusalem Prize for Literature in 2009. This is from his acceptance speech.

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.”

What is the meaning of this metaphor? . . . Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. . . . The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist’s job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories.

. . . We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong — and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.
 . . . Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System.

In earlier posts, I have indicated that this blog will explore four categories: the dominator society (how we have arrived at global warming), a vision of a more mature future, the oppressive forces that block that vision, and the motivating forces that augment that vision. For the next few postings, I am going to deal with each in turn, but I start with vision.

Visions are not only end-points on a journey; they are the scenery that motivates movement along the path. By such scenery, the process can be exciting, or it can create a nemesis by which I drive myself to do the impossible. As I travel on the road to the future, a vision is the scenery that attracts me to continue going forward on the road. The most interesting scenery is multi-sensory and emotionally rich; it appeals to my vision, my hearing, my smell, my taste, my touch, and whatever else activates me. It excites me (and thus appeals both to my conscious and my unconscious minds). I pull life energy from the future to move me forward in the present.

I first became aware of the power of vision about 25 years ago. In 1987, I was in a training group, and got into a deeply painful place, overwhelmed with despair. The facilitator asked me to describe what I was experiencing as a metaphor: I felt like a small child, lying naked in a fetal position, on a bare wooden floor in an empty room without doors or windows. He then asked me to describe what I would rather have: sitting comfortably at a day-retreat center talking with a group of people in a room, with windows looking outwards to trees and water. At the time, I was not able to bridge the two images, so the facilitator asked me to explore the initial image, the painful image, each day; and to add one object of the new image to the painful image, gradually accumulating the objects of the new image into the old. After three months, I was easily able to move from one image to the other.

Several years passed as I continued to work on that vision. Then, after about five years, my life took a new direction, and I let go of the possibility of this dream of a day-retreat center. And I moved on. Another five years passed and I was at a dead end, uncertain of what now to do. It was at this time that I bought a country property, and set up my therapy practice, orientated to anger management. More years passed, and vaguely, on occasion, I had the sense of returning to the dream of 1987.

Then one day, sitting in my office, looking out the window at the trees and the river outside the sliding glass door, I realized that the office room I had created was almost identical to the image I had created in 1987 (and my practice was essentially that of a day-retreat center with my wife). I had made my vision happen even thought I had “forgotten” the dream from years previously. Such is the power of visioning.

At some point, I found a simple recipe for the power of vision. (I believe it was in a book called How To Forgive When You Don’t Know How, but I no longer have the book. In any event, it is a great book.)

    1. Develop an emotionally rich, multi-sensory vision of what I want. I must be able to step into the experience as if I have it now, and be able to say: “Wow. I want this.” The vision must excite me.
    2. Be impeccably honest as to my current life circumstances. If I am lazy or careless, I must recognize this, and take this into account during the achievement of my vision (otherwise I waste much time in deluding myself).
    3. Hold both components, vision and honesty, available to my awareness as I move forward along the path to the goal. I make my decisions relative to these components.

That is really all it takes. A useful metaphor here is to consider myself as a ship, with sails and rudder. My sails, my unconscious mind, catches the wind, and allows me to move. My rudder, my conscious mind, steers me where I want to go. A ship with sails but no rudder is pushed wherever; a ship with rudder but no sails flounders. I need both, in integrated fashion. (Unfortunately, most people are not integrated; I will explore the power of therapy at a later time.)

So I invite the reader to consider what kind of a world do you wish to live in (as an emotionally rich, multi-sensory vision). In the next post, I will present what I want, as a starting point for discussion.