Category Archives: Our Present Culture

Issues Of Insanity

Insanity Sanity Signpost Shows Crazy Or Psychologically SoundI’ve recently returned from Ontario, where I was presenting two workshops on Authenticity (what it means, and how to be authentic — the work required); both were well received. For me, they also illustrated the huge desire and need for people to be authentic, as well as how little teaching there is in our society regarding emotional maturity.

Question: how often have you gone to a workshop that emphasizes emotional growth, or resolving relationship issues? My guess is that, for most people, the answer is: Never!

The preceeding centuries, at least since the 18th century, have emphasized technology and consumerism, all fueled by scientific materialism and especially by neoliberalism — great for industry, but not a good combination for health, especially emotional health. For me, they are a sad reflection on the path of human development.

As I emphasized on one slide of the workshop, our history has been that of hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years. As such, many of these societies have been incredibly healthy, perhaps our oldest true immediate democracies. Then we had the beginning of agriculture, with the introduction of civilization. And empire, including slavery. With the Greeks, we had the identification of democracy and the valuing of wisdom. And eventually feudalism, and functional slavery. With the Renaissance, we had science and the valuing of the individual. And industrial slavery. With the 20th century, we had technology and the valuing of women. And consumerism (and perhaps commercial slavery). Now with the 21st century, we have the information revolution and the valuing of diversity. And global warming (and The Climate Lie). Such a strange path we humans have lived.

So now we are reaping the costs of this path. Some examples follow.

The insanity of politics

Mr. Mueller Is Following the Money (20170615)

A rather crude article, but it hits all the sore points of this insanity of politics.

Comey’s testimony was a media disaster for Trump. These headlines prove it. (20170609)

The responses to Comey’s testimony.

Cashing in on the Rise of the Alt-Right (20170616)

The destruction of political norms started decades ago. Here’s how it happened. (20170618)

The strange nature of our society, as it becomes more and more polarized.

WTF is going on in the UK? (20170609)

Strange politics is also part of other areas of the world.

On global warmingAntarcticMelt

Scientists stunned by Antarctic rainfall and a melt area bigger than Texas (20170615)

A potential harbringer of the future.

New Solar Milestone Has Big Consequences (20170606)

Progress is slow, but ongoing.

On the positive side:

Defiance of Trump spawns international workarounds with U.S. states, cities (20170609)

A good summary of Trump issues.

How to Fight Trump’s Paris withdrawal by taking climate justice into our own hands (20170613)

A good article on local action regarding the off-loading of consumer costs, and the possibility of legal challenge — a slow, but necessary, step in a more mature process.

Protecting oceans is paying off (20170608)

Fascinating research.

Accepting One’s Quirky Personality (2017)

Jack Kornfield often has brief but intersting comments of living with the insanity. My own stance is that we need much greater emphasis and availability of teaching on how to do this work. Otherwise such articles simply become another ‘should’ of how we should live.

We are such an interesting species! (A reminder of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times!)

Ongoing Backlash

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

Not much to report this week. I am still travelling, and hence not as invested in writing my blog. Most of what I read in the various sources I tap is that the world is continuing to react to Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Accord. For me this is a good thing, because it may well be the galvanizing point at which the world starts to recognize how seriously the climate issue truly is. Hopefully . . .

Otherwise, I continue my search for a way in which to utilize my skill set in the issues of global warming. Essentially my proficiency is that of personal transformation — believing that society itself is a system of individuals, and that change comes from small shifts in the cultural milieu. Again, hopefully . . .

This week, I’m presenting workshops in Ontario, exploring the skills of Authenticity. I’ll be returning in October to present Blowing Out The Darkness (my emotional/anger management workshop) and Partners Coming Together (my relationhship workshop — to which individuals can also come). I’ve also decided to expand my on-line presence by offering video coaching using one of the platforms such as Skype (my preference is Zoom.us). If interested, contact me via my website. More later.

Some links concerning Trump

World promises to stand and deliver after Trump’s ‘train wreck’ climate decision (20170602)

A good summary of the multiple reactions to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord.

We may be surprised at how things play out… (20170603)

I’ve previoiusly noted the possibility that Trump’s exit from the Paris Accord may have surprising outcomes — this article also supports that.

The Deed Is Done; Now The Blowback

The maze of world politics, especially that generated by Donald Trump.
It does not yet appear what we shall be.

There is not a lot I can add about Trump’s decision to exit from the Paris Accord; the deed is done, and assuming Trump survives in his Presidency, it will be likely be accomplished. In the interim however, the world-wide reaction is likely to be profound, and the cost to the US immense.

There is, however, still some continuing argument to be made for the advantages of the withdrawal. It potentially promotes much greater cooperation on the part of the other countries, and it further justifies a continuing anti-Trump movement, hopefully (and perhaps quickly) leading to empeachment.

As well, the Paris Accord per se was not a particularly good agreement, with too many loopholes and too little action. It is perhaps possible that the rest of the world will now take a stronger stand, and be more committed to urgent action. But it is a wait-and-see process; I will not hold my breath waiting.

And it also demonstrates the sad state of our culture that what was almost inconceivable has now occurred, both the election of Donald Trump itself, and the ensuing decisions that will shake the American and the world economy in major ways.

Other interesting links follow:

More on Donald Trump

Why Orwell’s ‘1984’ matters so much now (20170125)

Turns out the Trump era isn’t ‘1984.’ It’s ‘King Lear.’ (20170528)

Likely an accurate metaphor for the Trump era.

President Trump’s Epic Fail on Paris (20170601)

The deed is done; now we see the blowback.

Our Failing Ecology

Oil and plastic are choking the planet (20170525).

Excellent article on renewable alternatives.

Miscellaneous

Mark Zuckerberg joins Silicon Valley bigwigs in calling for government to give everybody free money (20170525)

What is Universal Basic Income? A brief history. (20170525).

Having attended a TED talk on the advantages of Guaranteed Income, I have become a strong advocate. It potentially have major benefits in eliminating poverty, and promoting much better health and education as well as significant reduction of crime.

Ancestry.com is a scary thing (20170517.

Like many aspects of modern technology, the dark side is significant. There are many legal ramifactions, especially in the use of gene pools for further technological advances.

Reflections On Life

Complexity3Such a fascinating week, with many reflections. I mentioned last post a number of books I am currently reading. They tend to be rather heavy, and periodically I need something lighter. On this occasion, I found Stories and Legends[1] by Leo Tolstoy. Apparently Tolstoy, after he had written his major novels (War and Peace, Anna Karenina, et cetera), started writing short stories — as a master of literary skill, his style is delightful (clear, concise, sensory-based), well worth reading.

The Failing State of the World

Most notably for this week, my reflections have been on the failing state of the world. Jack Kornfield sums it up for me in his blog Living Mindfully in Modern Society (2017), which I assume is recent but he does not give a specific date.

The world is spending its wealth in the trillion-dollar arms market, yet only 10 percent of what’s spent annually could feed all our children—every hungry person on earth. We have seen that our growing groundwater pollution affects every one of us. Indeed, with care and attention we recognize that some of the riches we enjoy in modern Western society come at great costs, which include the exploitation of other cultures, the economic colonization of much of the world, the ecological devastation of habitats and species. Every time we drive, we contribute to worldwide pollution and global warming. Every time we fly, our jet fuel is secured through the politics of power in the Middle East. Our desire to eat imported food as inexpensively as possible can have terrible consequences for the environment as well. Human and natural realms are not separate. Whether in contemplating the responsibility of our lifestyle for global warming or the pollution of our rivers or in considering the sources of our food, our eyes must open to this interdependence.

In particular, I was astounded by an Oxfam report I found from 2016: Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world’s population, says Oxfam (20160118); at the annual World Economic Forum, Oxfam called for action to reverse the trend in inequality, but said “words had not been translated into action.” It also reminded me of a recent TED talk (2017, viewed live, not yet available for the internet) indicating that likely the most effective way to irradicate the complexity of poverty would simply be a guaranteed income for everyone. My belief is that people want authentic work, and in today’s high tech world, it would be possible to do so; meanwhile a guaranteed income would eliminate much of the education and health care issues that also sustain poverty. This economic discrepancy is not only sad; it is criminal.

Normally I do not pay a lot of attention to the media buzz around American politics, but this week in particular has been astonishing, what with the firing of James Comey as FBI Director. I find it very difficult to sort out the details of what is happening, but regard it as very important, possibly the beginning of a process that may lead to the impeachment of Trump as President. The following stand out for me as useful:

Two comments on global warming indicate the complexity of what is happening:

Two other reports feed into this concern of the deterioration in appropriate investigation:

Finally, women’s reproductive rights, in particular, are a disaster in the states. Check out To Understand the Cost of the War on Women, Look to Mississippi (20170505). I know many mature men and I know many more mature women. I truly believe that the next century belongs to women — if we ever actually do something about our failing civilization.

Such an interesting world, interesting in the sense of the Chinese curse.

[1] Tolstoy, L. (1943) Stories and legends. Trans. L & A.Maude,  New York, NY: Pantheon.

The Busyness Of Life

The Busyness Of Life

Anxiety3As is obvious, I have not been doing a lot of posts in recent weeks. Partly, I’m lacking inspiration, and partly, I’m unclear what else to add to what I have already written. I strongly believe that the many issues within global warming are simply the tip of the iceberg of our cultural immaturity and expanding world population, but until we recognize this, little will change. So I have been pondering what else to write, with little clarity.

For now, I have decided to do a weekly post (more or less), with brief comments on various links that come across my desk. This is the first of such posts, noting:

  • books I’m currently reading
  • social movement victories in the first 100 days
  • recent examples of global warming
  • the age of stupid

Books I’m Reading

A major component of who I am is that I seek an integrated worldview — I’m constantly assessing my experiences and my sources of information for consistency. I am not per se interested in accummulating knowledge; rather I want to experience and live more authentically. I strongly believe that:

A science that does not incorporate spirituality is dehumanizing;
a spirituality that does not incorporate science is delusional.

As part of this ongoing search, I am always reading multiple books at a time, largely because I get saturated with one book, and shift to another to clear my mind. Currently I am reading (I recommend them all):

  • BlindSpots: 21 Good Reasons To Think Before You Talk, by Christian deQuincey[1]
    • Christian was my research advisor for my PhD, and I have a deep respect for his clarity of thinking. BlindSpots is an excellent overview of the many ways in which we become confused about basic issues such as consciousness, energy, time, healing, et cetera. It is somewhat repetitive, but otherwise excellent.
  • Scotus For Dunces: An Introduction To The Subtle Doctor, by Mary Beth Ingram[2]
    • As part of my current exploration of meditation and contemplative practice, I’m studying the Christian traditions, especially the Franciscan traditions. John Duns Scotus was a brilliant theologian of the early 14th century, especially focused on a profoundly mature understanding of the relational character of God. In particular, he illustrates for me that human beings of other centuries were not stupid; they simply did not have our technological sophistication (nor, in many cases, our hubris).
  • Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, by Oliver Sacks[3]
    • Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes about the many human issues that occur with neurological defects; other than his strong bias to equating mind and brain, I always find his writings to be very insightful. I’m especially interested in this book because, with my own neurological issues, I have little awareness of music — I have almost no response, cognitive or emotional (a point of sadness for me).

Current Comments on Global Warming

A recent article on CTV News Central and Eastern Canada face heavy flooding (20170505) describes the unprecedented rains and flooding occuring on the East Coast of Canada and the US. For me, it highlights the strange weather that is occurring — likely due to global warming (no one weather event can be proved to be due to global warming; it is on the trends of climate that are the main impact). Here, on the West Coast, our spring is very delayed — normally the streets are ablaze with flowering trees and shrubs, but currently theay are very muted or just beginning. For me, all this is simply the beginning of changes, many of which will be very difficult to accommodate.

It is so necessary that we respond to climate disruption in emergency fashion (see Blueprint For A Climate Emergency Movement), and I easily lose sight of progress. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the many articles about the Trump administration that simply incite anxiety — most of them are so illustrative of the need of the media to be theatrical, but some articles are important. The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days (20170427) identifies that progress is being made, especialy that groups are banding together to have a greater impact. For me, it remains a chaotic morasse without clear focus, more against Trump rather than defining a solid vision of the future, but it is much better than no response. The title ‘It can’t just be a march. It has to be a movement.’ What’s next for climate activists? (20170430) sums it up for me.

In contrast, I note the rise of populism (ant-intellectual political movements that offer unorthodox polices, frequently those that foster some kind of discrimination). Especially good is WATCH: Populism’s ‘backhanded service’ (20170505).

But it remains very difficult to get good information, the internet is so fraught with misinformation. As illustration, David Suzuki’s Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry (20170504) emphasizes how little I trust government these days. Currently we are in the midst of BC provincial elections, and I simply shake my head at posturing, and promises that likely will never be fully realized.

The Age Of Stupid

In Busy Is The New Stupid (20160720), Ed Baldwin notes I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I’ve ever met are busy, but you wouldn’t know it.  They find time that others don’t.” He notes the many difficulties that occur when we are too busy, and especially emphasizes “We’ve all been tricked into believing that if we are busy we are important.” From my perspective, much of this busyness also occurs because we are overloaded attempting to manage data (emails, reports, et cetera), rather than knowing how to organize information effectively.

Why we need to slow down our lives (20170430), Pico Iyer notes this massive influx of data, and proposes that we need a secular sabbath (given we so seldom keep a religious sabbath in our culture), “if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction [we will] need for when [we] go back online.” He also references an excellent TedTalk How Technology Evolves by Kevin Kelly. Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and an avid enthusiast of technology, yet notes “I continue to keep the cornucopia of technology at arm’s length, so that I can more easily remember who I am.”

In conclusion, I am reminded of a Zen story of the farmer who needs a horse. He is getting old, and now requires a horse so as to plow his fields. Bemoaning his life, he goes to the village master who says, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” So he goes home, somewhat dissatisfied. Yet the next morning, a stray horse shows up in his field. He goes to the master to express his thanks, and the master responds, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Puzzled, he returns to his farm, plows his fields, and goes to bed. The next morning, his teenage son sees the horse, and attempts a ride, only to fall and break his leg. In misery, the old man goes again to the master, who again answers, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Again dissatisfied, the old man goes home, to find the local army commandeering all the young men and boys for its battles. His son, with his broken leg, is spared. The old man is elated, and again goes to thank the master, who only replies “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

The single most important skill here, from my perspective, is that of mindfulness, just being present to what is.

So in the trials of life,

“Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

[1] deQuincey, C. (2015). Blindspots: 21 good reasons to think before you talk. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press (Kindle Edition)

[2] Ingram, M. B. (2003). Scotus for dunces: An introduction to the subtle doctor. St Bonaventure, NY:Franciscan Institute Publications (Kindle Edition).

[3] Sacks, O. (2007). Musicology: Tales of music and the brain. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Publications

The Developing Madness

Possibly crumbling.
Our crippled culture!

Over the past few weeks, I have been noting my reaction to a number of sources (below), some political, some ecological. As a result, I am again in a place of sadness at the immensity of the task facing us as a species if we are to survive the coming century. All are worth reading from my perspective; my title The Developing Madness comes from the combination of these sources.

First has been my reading of a free downloadable pdf copy of the book Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift In Our Understanding and Treatment Of Psychosis  (2012) by Paris Williams. As a physician-psychotherapist and a mystic, I have always been interested in the nature of psychosis, especially since I strongly disagree with the medical profession that psychosis is a biochemical disease (although there may be some biochemical based aspects to the disorder). For me, William’s book is superb: well-written and well-researched, persenting a very convincing argument for both mystical experience and psychosis as being responses in which the normal egoic defences of the psyche are overwhelmed by the vastness of unity experience, the mystic having a successful outcome and the psychotic having a less successful response. But the frame provided by this paradigm potentially asks the medical profession to be humanly authentic with patients, rather than technocrats administering medications while focussed on disease as the problem. The issues are complex, but to become humane would require a major revision of our entire society in its valuing of “experts.” At some level that would be both more expensive and very threatening in the age of scientific materialism.

Another source has been a CBC news article ‘It scares me’: Permafrost thaw in Canadian Arctic sign of global trend (2017 April 17) on the melting of the permafrost infrastructure that supports building in the Arctic town of Inuvik, NWT. As a physician, I worked in Inuvik (1971-1972) just after graduation from medical school, so I have some nostalgia and familiarity with the town of Inuvik, and the nature of permafrost; moreover, in 2009, my precipitation into despair came when I recognized the danger of melting permafrost and the developing release of methane (which, compared to CO2, is a more powerful greenhouse gas) — the CBC article gave me a immediate sensory-emotional link to the concept of permafrost melting. As a result also, I checked with a friend who has been part of the United Nations IPCC team who, over the years, has been documenting the risks of global warming via several different models. He notes:

The IPCC AR5 does not include carbon feedback emissions from forest fires, warming peatlands, or thawing permafrost (NOAA Arctic Report Card 2016). . . . The Amazon carbon sink is declining. World wide,there is increasing tree mortality and die back affecting all world forests (IPCC AR5).

All of this means that we are in even more danger of run-away climate disruption, and the multiple tipping points associated with elevating global temperature. We are easily heading for 2°C warming, at which point the developing madness of global warming becomes profoundly serious to the survival of our civilization, let alone our species.

Third has been As coral reefs die, huge swaths of the seafloor are deteriorating along with them (2017 Apri 20). Coral reefs are the breeding grounds of much of ocean life, and also provide breakwaters for many coastal shores — their loss has major impact on food supplies of the world as well as coastal community.

Fourth: Climate Change As Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation (2017 April 20). Famine is an old idea for our world, but now we risk planetary famine as failed states accumulate. As a “civilized people,” we are failing to respond, both in the provision of resources to those who need them, and in our response to the systemic forces wherein failed states become the domain of brutal armed combat, providing further blockage of our responses. Such insanity is our future as we continue to ignore the impact of global warming.

Finally I have been impacted by two posts by an activist-artist Ricardo Levins Morales whom I have recently found. The posts I find to be thoughtful, but complex, beyond my knowledge of the political situations of the United States — yet the ideas seem valid in my limited understanding. I recommend them:

· The Broken Mirror, a Fractured Movement and the 2016 Elections (2016 November 6)

· A Future to Fight For: A Conversation with Frederick Douglass in the Shadow of Trump (2017 April 21)

The two posts present a detailed analysis of the many forces that sustain neoliberalism and the failure of American democracy, thoughtfully written.

Most important for me has been what Morales, in the Broken Mirror, calls the Titanic  Compact — it provides a possible frame for understanding the inability of NGOs to cooperate with each other. It sets the bounds of “permitted struggle” — it notes:

The destruction of the mid-century mass movements through repression and funding, smashed the mirror in which peoples’ struggles could see themselves as parts of a common movement. In its place narrowly focused non-profits, licensed by the state, are permitted to each carry a single shard of the broken mirror. . . .  Under its terms we get to fight to improve conditions on the Titanic as long as we do not ask about the direction, speed or ownership of the ship itself. As long as we comply, we can solicit funding from the 1% and enjoy protection from state violence.

Much of this contract is undoubtedly unconscious, but consistent with what I perceive to be happening in many areas. We are so busy defending our small patches to truth that we do not want to see the overwhelming truth of where we are headed, in the developing madness. And we are so busy designing our protests that we fail to identify that we must mature as a species.

Our options are:

  • extinction
  • spontaneous emergence from the chaos (wherever this leads), and
  • deliverated emergence from the chaos (choosing a path of progressive psycho-spiritual evolution, wherever this leads).

At the risk of hubris, only the latter option is likely to resolve our difficulties. Culturally, we must come to terms with power over power, and we must come to terms with our desire for greatness.

What To Do? (Part 2)

Suicide3This is the second post as I reflect on the issues of what to do about the complexity of global warming and the insanity of our culture, especially the increasing incidence of suicide in our culture. It is in response to two articles sent to me by a friend:

I strongly advocate that we are capable of greatness as a species, but we have much growth to do before that will occur — and since culture/society are simply a group of individuals, the change must begin at the individual level. So, in the meanwhile, here are my thoughts.

  • First of all, I applaud Goutham Kumar of Hyderabad for quitting his corporate job to use his skills to develop a series of organizations to provide for the needy. He has truly learned that the nature of service is joy, both for the receiver and for the giver.
    • However, I believe that there is a trap in this story. We have created a cultural myth of heroes who do the hard work of change in our culture, and while to a major extent, we applaud such action, we do not do the much harder work of correcting the systemic issues that necessitate the hero in the first place. It is like attempting to fill a bucket with water, meanwhile failing to repair the large hole in the bottom.
    • And for the many who do not find the resources within ourselves to initiate such change, either the stance of the hero or the underlying work, it can be a major place of discouragement. I suggest that such discouragement is a significant factor in the actions of those who choose suicide.
  • Second, we need a narrative that allows meaning and purpose. Ideally we need a cultural narrative that fuels our maturity as a species, one that will allow us to move towards a civilization that honors humanity (not power), while utilizing technology to supplement our needs, rather than dictate to our needs.
    • As we listen to one another, perhaps we can get beyond the fractious argument between science and religion, hopefully to recognize that both scientific materialism (SM) and religion have growth to do, that both contain truth, and we must learn to have power over power, not just talk about the issues. Commitment to authentic action is needed.
    • Unfortunately our fractiousness fuels much, if not all, of our difficulty to love our enemies.
  • Third, our culture of SM has placed us in untenable positions. We must give up this paradigm. There are other paradigms.
    • Most of us know that there is a problem with our civilization; however, The Climate Lie (that all is well) is active in many ways. It is very difficult to find honesty in the face of our cultural acedia and the duplicity of many political systems. Undoubtedly this fuels the despair that underlies much of the suicides encountered by my friend.
    • At the same time, the paradigm of meaningless requires that we, as individuals and as a species, must do something about the issue, when we have almost no power to initiate change. This imbalance of responsibility, accountability, and authority is very destructive to who we are as individuals.
  • At this point, I run into my own limitations, previously written about in a series of posts: Being a resource looking for a need. I have spent my entire therapy career attempting to influence the growth of others. I have learned some things thereby.
    • The most important stance is that of high intentional; low attachment. I can only do so much, and even there I need a supportive community to achieve change. I do what I can, and trust the process (im my case, I turn it over to StarMaker, my word for creator or God).
      • To the best of my ability, I learn from the outcomes I encounter.
    • I begin somewhere. We need to work our way into any problem — wherever is relevant. Again, I trust synchronicity will define where I need to go.
      • I accept that there is only so much I can do; I have my limitations, and I know when and how to say No.
    • I attend to my own self-care (this requires two-three hours per day usually). I often appreciate the caring of others, but if I do not care for myself, I am unable to care for others.
      • I do a daily exercise program (my yoga practice).
      • I meditate daily (mindfulness is an essential tool on life journey).
      • I write often (my blog is my major place for reflection).
    • To the best of my ability, I am a good follower. If I can support and contribute to the growth of others, I do so willingly.

 

What To Do? (Part 1)

Suicide2I have not made any entries for a while (aside from the anger emails); overall, I have been busy reading about the complexity of global warming and the insanity of our culture, and reflecting on the issues of what to do. I’m prompted to write now because of two emails from a friend who works for a university health service. In each, he provided an interesting reference, and also asks questions about what to do. I’m writing this post as a response to his questions, because I believe the questions (and my responses) need to be distributed to a larger forum.

In the first, He Quit His Corporate Job To Help His City’s Needy, my friend asks how do we get the message of community service across to our sleepy culture, mainly to the student population who will have to carry the work forward. Especially he is concerned with the increasing incidence of suicide within the student population. In the second, Love Your Enemies. What Does It Mean? Can It Be Done?, he reflects on the need to leave bitterness and hatred behind, wherein the author (Brother David Steindl-Rast) suggests a number of practical steps to circumvent entrapment in pain. In particular, the author notes that the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference (acedia in my language).

From my perspective, both enquiries are major comments on the immense immaturity of our species. Together we have created a civilization of vast technological brilliance, and one that is also intensely dehumanizing. As I have said on a number of occasions, “as individuals we are capable of immense greatness, but as a species we are psychotic.”

Two maxims stand out for me as to their importance.

  1. The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable (James A. Garfield), and then it will trap you our tendency to self-righteousness).
  2. We have found the enemy, and he is us. (Pogo, Walt Kelly).

I also fall back on a set of premises I learned when first at univerity:

  • If your conclusions are wrong, examine your premises.
  • If your conclusions are right, don’t trust your premises. They can still be inaccurate.

One of my truths is that we are a contentious species — we love to argue! (Frequently we call it discussion.) Sometimes, if we listen to each other, it leads to major advances. But most of the time it leads nowhere.

So a second truth for me is that we must learn to listen to each other. We all have a small part of the truth. And especially if we do not listen to each other, we often end up miserable. So my first response to my friend’s questions is that we need to develop systems of authentic listening — likely small groups meeting frequently where we learn to trust each other (Kumar notes that it was “not uncommon for him and his team to bond with those they rescue”). This requires some skill, offering a combination of listening and short-term resolution that satisfies the need for purpose — not an easy combination to develop in our fractured litiginous world. We must develop mechanisms for providing authentic hope.

As I have noted in previous posts, we have made power as the basis of civilization (two posts), not human needs. This has culminated in a society currently based on consumerism and neoliberal politics. Our paradigm of Scientific Materialism (SM) has identified a universe of incomparable beauty, but labelled it meaningless. From my perspective, it is no wonder that those who become lost between the cracks then commit suicide as an escape.

We have also created a world currently on the brink of disaster, including the possible extinction of the human species. We are engaged in a super-wicked problem of global warming and over-population, and as such, our engagement will often seem like two steps forward, and three steps back. We need to support each other in moving forward, not argue about moving back.

Can we recognize that paradigms are belief systems that coalesce to provide a vantage point for understanding reality? (Note: belief systems are not provable — they can be proven false, but never proven correct.) SM is not the only possible paradigm. It arose largely because the scientific method, principally initiated in the 13th century, proved more effective in explaining the mechanics of the universe than did the Ptolemaic methods of earlier days. More importantly, scientific materialism likely developed from the work of Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), who dreamt of the “scientific conquest of nature for man’s welfare.”[1] (Note the theme of power!) But neither science nor scientific materialism disproved older belief systems; it merely provided better explanations, and unfortunately paved the way for the ill features of our modern civilization.

I am a strong advocate of the scientific method; I also strongly disagree with the assumptions of scientific materialism. In order to function well, human beings need to have a sense of meaning that gives them purpose. I have previously noted that my preferred paradigm is Panpsychism, but I cannot prove that it is a better paradigm — however, it does give me a vastly more comprehensive understanding of the nature of the universe. I have also noted that panpsychism suggests that:

God exists (as the totality of sentient beings), and that (as a component of this totality) each individual sentient being possesses free will. We each makes choices about how we live. In addition, God provides the opportunity (e.g., possibilities) for us to live well. Even if God does not exist or even if the universe is eventually found to be meaningless, each individual still has the option to act as if it is meaningful, and to create a myth that will allow him or her to live within what life offers—in a stance of love, in contrast to acedia.

So my second suggestion for my friend is that these small groups must also tell the truth — not that God exists, not that SM is wrong, but that SM is only a belief system, one that is currently trapping us on a path to extinction. That we must find ways to support people as they struggle to develop their own belief systems, ways that validate their ability to support themselves and each other while challenging the powerful forces that sustain SM and its consequences (and meanwhile stepping out of bitterness and anger at how our civilization has developed). Again, not an easy task.

To be continued.

[1] Tarnas, R. (1991, p. 275). The passion of the Western mind: Understanding the ideas that have  shaped our world view. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Post-Truth and The Pre/Trans Fallacy

PostTruth2

I have been busy the past few weeks writing a new workshop on Authenticity; hence my contributions have been limited recently to the email anger program. however, a few days ago, I encountered a new word (for me): post-truth, the word of the year (2016) as selected by the Oxford World Dictionary of English. They note[1] it to be: “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief [emphasis added]’”.

PostTruth1They further note:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

and

The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant [emphasis added]’.

I am fascinated by this topic for two essential reasons. First, if the political system of democracy is to exist at all, it is mandatory that truth be the basis of negotiation. If truth is unimportant or irrelevant, then the entire basis of what we claim to value collapses. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

The second reason is equally important: the language of post-truth, as presented, posits only two states: truth and post-truth. The presumptions seems to be that truth is rational and post-truth is emotional. As such there is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of emotionality, one that is of major importance to cultural maturity.

The complexity of emotionality can be considered either paradoxical, or prone to confusion, due to the nature of what integral theorist Ken Wilber (1995) called the pre/trans fallacy[2], where we confuse unreflective emotionality with a deep integration of emotion and rationality. In the pre-rational state, emotionality drives behavior; in the trans-rational state, intention drives behavior; emotionality is essential to the trans-rational state, but it is not the driver. In this context, what we need is trans-truth!

In previous posts, I’ve written about how we access information that we trust (the TIC process) and the distinction between ethical approaches to information and emotional approaches. I’ve also written extensively about why we ignore global warming.

It seems that post-truth is another nail in our coffin, influencing from acedia and apathy to the values of democracy.

[1]Oxford Living Dictionaries. Word of the Year 2016 Is . . . Retrieved March 21, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016.

[2] Wilber, K. (n.d.). The Pre/trans fallacy. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from  http://www.praetrans.com/en/ptf.html (this page is no longer available, but there are many other references available with a Google search).

The (Mis)Information Age, Part 2

misinformation1

In Part 1, I indicated my interest in the Netflix series: The Untold History of the United States (Oliver Stone, 2012), and my own issues with trust. Here, I continue with commentary on the underlying issues of how we trust, as well as the immense difficulty we have with too much information, or (mis)information.

Cognitive Biases

In attempting to understand trust, I recently looked up the nature of cognitive biases[1]. To quote Wikipedia, “Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment.” Depending on which source I looked up, I found between 180 and 250 distinct biases, ranging from anchoring bias (the tendency to anchor conclusions on the first piece of “trusted” information acquired) to the Zeigamik Effect (the tendency for interrupted tasks to be remembered better than completed ones). I found the list to be fascinating, and recognized that many of the biases would have great survival value in a simple culture.

But ours is not a simple culture. When overwhelmed with too much information, I (and almost certainly any human being) will rapidly sort the information for importance according to my biases, especially my other-than-conscious biases. I know I do this every day — and (perhaps as my bias) I believe I am very sophisticated in my understanding of human communication. Heaven help those who are less sophisticated.

Whom To Trust

As I said recently, I have previously written about the means by which we establish trust (Whom Do You Trust?), and the TIC process that people use. To reiterate (as I regard it as a very important process to understand), people:

translate (T) the new information into language they can understand more easily, they interpret (I) into their own system of meaning, and then they corroborate (C) this meaning with groups that they already trust. For example, if I want to process information about new electric cars, I translate (T) the information into my current understanding of cars, think about (I) what cars mean to me, and then go ask (C) my friends what they think about electric cars.

Thus the fundamental basis of trust is how we select those around us whom we will believe, or at least with whom we will associate. But the group we trust may have their own biases, often in many ways. Examples include the colonial stances of the 19th century and the information presented in The Untold History . . . .

Such biases are especially important in the light of George Marshall book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change that I recently reviewed (7 parts, beginning here).

I recently wrote to a friend, concerning our mutual need to find a way to have the Canadian people mobilize for climate disruption, that we need:

a big frame that allows the conservatives and doubters to engage together with those committed. We have to interact so as to establish trust, not so much with the people like [Steve] Bannon, but with those who listen to him and still have uncertainty. The frame could be something like: ‘What do you want for the future? We are all in this together, and even though most of us have uncertainty, we need to pull together to create a better world. Let’s all talk to each other as if the other has truth in what they are saying: both those who are uncertain about climate disruption, and those who are more certain.’

But I continue to wonder to what extent my own biases and those of others interfere with our ability to cooperate on this super-wicked difficulty.

And if we don’t cooperate, the consequences are immense, if not disastrous.

[1] (A) List of Cognitive Biases, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases, accessed 2017 February 14; (B) Cognitive Bias Codex, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases#/media/File:Cognitive_Bias_Codex_-_180%2B_biases,_designed_by_John_Manoogian_III_(jm3).jpg, accessed 2017 February 14