Tag Archives: awareness

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.


[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

What’s It All About? Part 2

Meaning2This is my second post about meaning, it being the essential driver of human behaviour. We are meaning-makers, story-makers, and if we do not know “what it’s all about,” we will not move into action. At the same time, the creation of our meaning is complex and sophisticated.

Not only is the creation of meaning complex, but often the information itself is complex. This is especially so with all the information available concerning global warming.

I said last post that I would give some updated information regarding global warming. Here it is.

First, I want to draw attention to a brilliant presentation by Jeremy Rifkin on The Third Industrial Revolution via UBC Connects (20180316) — it is a fairly long video, and a quick summary is available as The Zero Marginal Cost Society (unfortunately both present the information too rapidly to allow good processing). Rifkin identifies that every industrial revolution in the past has occurred with and requires new innovations in communication (management), energy (creation), and transportation (movement). We have that now with the internet (communication), renewable energy (energy), and electronic vehicles plus 3D printing (both logistical), and thus we are now capable of a new industrial revolution. However he remains hesitant because he does not trust that we have the maturity as a culture to undertake this — we must learn to cooperate and collaborate. processes are underway, and are in a race against the impacts of global warming.

Unfortunately, all this has been my primary emphasis throughout this blog.

And given all this, what do I trust? And, what to do? Especially in relationship to global warming. I trust the following links — they are also potentially troublesome — they offer meaning, likely painful! Yet, within the assessment of what I can do regarding global warming, they offer much; they are my attempt to offer appropriate meaning.

Climate change: An ‘existential threat’ to humanity, UN chief warns global summit (20180515)

The current Secretary-General of the UN notes “Everyday, I am faced with the challenges of our troubled and complex world. But none of them loom so large as climate change. If we fail to meet the challenge, all our other challenges will just become greater and threaten to swallow us. Climate change is, quite simply, an existential threat for most life on the planet — including, and especially, the life of humankind.”

Degree sparks necessary debate (20180517)

David Suzuki is often blunt in his critique of the societal issues of climate change, something I appreciate. Yet, as he notes, his bluntness often is subject to ad hominem attacks, rather than depth of dialogue — unfortunate, and part of the distortion that occurs in transfer of information to meaning.

Climate Reality Check (2016)

The Uninhabitable Earth (20170709)

Good information in both. Also scarey!

The Climate Mobilization Living In Climate Truth Guidebook

A draft document developed by The Climate Mobilization, presenting many good links as to the nature of the pending catastrophe as well as practical tips for self-care.

What’s It All About? Part 1

Meaning2I’ve decided to write a post about meaning because it is the essential driver of human behaviour. We are meaning-makers, story-makers, and if we do not know “what it’s all about,” we will not move into action. At the same time, the creation of our meaning is complex and sophisticated.

Some definitions are needed. Data refers to patterns within energy transmission. Information refers to a measurement of a signal (data) between a sender and receiver, from point A to point B. For data to become information, the data must be perceived by someone; information requires both data and perceiver. Information is a derivative of consciousness; it is not the same as meaning, and in fact, information has nothing to do with meaning.

Meaning is the fit between self and non-self; if the perceived data relates to who we perceive ourselves to be (the fit) or in some way challenges who we are, we make meaning of the information. I’ve previously talked about how we do this, the TIC process, as one of the major limitations of meaning. We translate (T) the data in to something we recognize, we interpret (I) the data on the basis of our existing filters (preconceptions), and then we corroborate (C) the data by checking the significance, the fit, with an existing group we trust.

Another way we create meaning is if the information interests us. Davis in That’s Interesting! proposes that social theories (at least) are interesting because they challenge the underlying presuppositions of the reader, potentially altering both the common sense and the scientific view of reality. For me, this is an interesting idea in itself as it leads me to ponder what happens when the presuppositions are firmly held, as in the conflict between the environmental movement and the deniers of global warming.

Obviously there are all sorts of ways in which this process of meaning-making can go sour. One of the major ways is that in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. This limits meaning! We bypass much of what we might actually need to know because of too much information. For me, it is a form of trauma, leading to overwhelm and apathy.

And we respond to it in the many ways associated with acedia:

  • we become fearful of overwhelm (“It’s too much.) This is especially true when we approach the issue of global warming. There is so much information and the information is so painful to absorb, we give up.
  • we become lazy (“I’ll look at it tomorrow.” “Somebody else will fix it.”)
  • we become self-righteous, especially if our corroborative group is also in denial. At its extreme, we actively sabotage by creating dis-information.

Even more frustrating is the nature of information dissemination. I’ve just been reading about Edward Bernays and the manipulation of Public Relations. He was the key figure in the early-mid 20th century responsible for the massive increase in public propaganda following the Second World War — advertising.

Bernays sold the myth of propaganda as a wholly rational endeavor, carried out methodically by careful experts skilled enough to lead “public opinion.” Consistently he casts himself as a supreme manipulator, mastering the responses of a pliable, receptive population. “Conscious and intelligent manipulation,” “invisible governors,” “they who pull the wires which control the public mind,” “shrewd persons operating behind the scenes,” “dictators exercising great power,” and, below them, people working “as if actuated by the touch of a button”—these are but a few expressions of the icy scientistic paradigm that evidently drove his propaganda practice, and that colored all his thinking on the subject. The propagandist rules. The propagandized do whatever he would have them do, exactly as he tells them to, and without knowing it. [Propaganda Quotes]

In reading this, I’ve also been aware of the changing parameters by which people engage in modern thinking, highly illustrative of both how information is transformed into meaning (especially via the TIC process), and the relationship between power and knowledge. An attendee at a recent Flat Earth Convention discusses just this theme: “those in power control what is considered to be correct and incorrect knowledge.” It fascinates me that a conference on the “reality” of a flat earth exists in today’s complex world! I wonder what else I am missing.

Two areas of changing parameters are most obvious to me:

  • the whole of the consumer industry with its so-called advertising processes. I like to think that originally advertising was meant to inform (perhaps my naiveté); now I simply see it as propaganda and manipulation.(my meaning).
  • the hidden algorithms that underlie many processes that presume to offer me choice: online filter bubbles that act in ways that provide information based on my previous choices. These  occur in the hidden background of many well-known websites, and essentially restrict my corroboration to what I have already chosen.

Give all this, what do I trust? And, what to do?

One of the maxims I am using these days is: Be at peace; come back tomorrow! By this, I do not mean “I’ll look at it tomorrow” or “Someone else will fix it.”

I actually mean I’ll do what I can today and be at peace with what I have done! And then see what tomorrow offers for me to explore and do, again peacefully.

Another interesting idea for me is how to disappear in this digital age. There are certainly people who want to disappear, and there are also people who specialize in this process, especially when it is legal to do so; I also imagine many processes by which people disappear for illegal actions.

Next post, I’ll give some updated information about global warming — the primary intention of this blog is to challenge the human issues that drive climate change.

I hope that this additional information will help you to make greater meaning in your life!

What To Do?

Acedia1
It’s all too much.

A number of links that I have found especially powerful in my recent perusing of the issues of global warming. The final two links emphasize what to do, both for your own contribution and how to respond to others; they give a semblance of hope. Paul Gilding especially emphasizes “follow your passion” and resolve your own grief — be honest with yourself and others.

Climate Change In The American Mind, March 2018 (201804)

The graphs says it all. And if more than half of Americans are certain global warming is a major concern, what is it going to take for action? I imagine the data for other countries is similar. Action, not just talk, is needed.

Global warming has changed the Great Barrier Reef ‘forever,’ scientists say (20180418)

I love snorkeling, having been to the Virgin Islands many times, yet I no longer do so; I have been so disheartened by the devastation I have seen in my lifetime. One of my ambitions used to be to go to the Great Barrier Reef — another dream I have let go. Sad!

The entire island of Puerto Rico just lost power again (20180418)

A preview of what will happen, especially in those areas and countries with limited resources.

Kinder Morgan pipeline controversy proves need to shift course (20180419)

The insanity of politics.

A Smorgasbord of Solutions for Global Warming (20180425)

A discussion of the many great solutions that are emerging, summarized by Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown.

Paul Gilding discusses “The Big Picture” with Margaret Klein Salamon (20180427)

An excellent video discussion of the many issues of global warming, and how they might come together in effective resolution. Worth watching in its entirety (66 minutes). I am a strong advocate of the work of The Climate Mobilization organization.

The Issues Of The Day

Trauma2As noted previously, I am not posting a lot, but it seems time. So, some posts on what I think are the issues of the day: political insanity, the impact of consumerism and neo-liberalism, and the fears (generally hidden) concerning the coming trauma to our planet.

One definition of trauma is “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” I often think of trauma as physical injury, yet if I reflect on one of the most common expressions of the day — post-traumatic stress disorder — the trauma is more often not the direct result of injury; rather it is the psychic impact of impending injury. I suggest that these three issues are sign-posts of the impending injury.

They are the unnamed indicators of distress. I have yet to see significant advances that will shift the issues of the day.

The presidency survived the Watergate, Iran-contra and Clinton scandals. Trump will exact a higher toll. (20171221)

The article is for me a good summary of the similarities and differences amongst various presidencies. To quote the article, “The expectation of integrity has given way to a cynical acceptance of deceit. As much as anything Mueller uncovers, this is the scandal of our time.”

Consumer society no longer serves our needs (20180111)

As usual, David Suzuki presents a reasoned argument, in this case, “How can we have serious discussions about the ecological costs and limits to growth or the need to degrow economies when consumption is seen as the very reason the economy and society exist?”

How Do I Reassure My Children About the Future When the Future Is Terrifying? (20180113)

An excellent summary of the fears of a parent, reflecting my own fears for my grand-children, and the many children of this planet. I am currently working part-time in a homeless shelter, and thereby see the cost of what we have already created on our planet — the coming costs will be immensely greater.

Discipline

Discipline3

It has been an interesting week for me in that I have principally been lazy (see below). I’m traveling, and originally I was expecting that I would be doing two weekends of teaching, one on anger, the second on partnership. But numbers have been low, and I only did the anger one. For both, the issues of discipline would have been important.

I continue to do this kind of work because I believe that it is essential that we mature as a species — it is the only way in which we will survive. But it is an uphill battle, both at the personal level and the societal level.

The principal skill of maturity is discipline, the intention and ability to do the necessary work. It is the work required to create positive outcome. And unfortunately, as I have indicated previously, human beings are governed by what I call the Laws of Experience:

  • we want positive experiences (inclusion, love, respect, et cetera).
  • it is easier to get negatives (anger, frustration, sadness, blame) — per se these emotions are not negative, but they are part of the pain of living.
  • negative is better than none. As human beings we stay connected in pain so as to avoid the greater pain of aloneness and meaninglessness.

As stated, it requires effort (work) to achieve positive outcomes (healthy relationships, deep friendships, completion of significant tasks).

So what is discipline? Operationally, I define it as “doing what I want to do, even when I don’t want to do it.” And somewhat typically of my travel trips, I have not kept up my own disciplined activities. Partly this was due to being away from my home base, and partly I have additional activities to do when traveling.

However the main reason has been frank laziness, the refusal to do the work of maintaining myself the way I wish — my meditation practice, my daily exercise, and a few other activities that are important to me (and keep me in healthy relationship with myself). At a more general level, this is my own acedia, the recognition of which eventually led to my PhD and my book Acedia, The Darkness Within and the darkness of Climate Change.

Somehow on these trips, unless I make a major effort, I get overwhelmed with “too much.” I’m out of my home routines, in new settings, and even though the settings are not onerous, much more effort is required. I’m visiting people, and need to coordinate my disciplines with interaction. Principally I simply give up my disciplines as requiring too much effort. And typically, as the days go by, I gradually re-introduce the activities back into my life.

I do not feel good under these conditions. I enjoy the visiting, but I am often aware of low-grade guilt — I’m breaking my own rules, and my internal critics have a field day when I do so. In my years of being a therapist, the only resolution for me has been to recognize that laziness/acedia is a choice, one that leads me to exaggerate life’s pain, to recognize that I do not want to live this kind of pain. And so I return to doing my disciplines, and the effort of living more effectively.

The above reflections are at the personal level. At a community and/or cultural level, such laziness generates many of the issues we say we dislike (ranging from conflict to global warming), and are such that we often ignore because they represent “too much” effort. That is our choice, but often we blame external circumstances such as “too much.”

How do you wish to live? What disciplines do you need to undertake so as to live the way you want to (even when you don’t want to do the work)?

Our Immaturity

Sarah Polley: The Men You Meet Making Movies (20171014)

Another reflection on the immaturity of our species, especially the sexual arrogance of many men in our culture, as well as the huge issues of powerlessness. Worth reading. I’ll have more to say on men in our culture in my next post.

Racist, Violent, Unpunished: A White Hate Group’s Campaign of Menace (20171020)

A detailed description of aspects of the development of the militant white supremacist movement, again reflecting a statement I took years ago from Isaac Asimov: “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent,” or more accurately those who feel completely disillusioned and dis-empowered by the system, those who are now mobilizing with a sense of permissiveness (of arrogance and violation) in the current political chaos of our world.

Trump

The Daily 202: Obama and Bush deliver calls to action against Trumpism (20171020)

Interesting to have two former presidents of the US speaking out against the current political scene, something with which they are likely very familiar.

The Founding Fathers designed impeachment for someone exactly like Donald Trump (20171015)

An excellent summary of the purpose of impeachment, and its initiation.

Global Warming

Warming soils bad for atmosphere (20171018)

More bad news for carbon sequestration.

Pollution kills 9 million people each year, new study finds (20171019)

Not surprising!

It’s time to nix neonics (20171012)

I know at some level that shifts in government regulations is slow, given the conservative nature of the systems involved. However, like all major environmental issues, there appears to be a further resistance due to hidden economics, the 1% who basically control the economy. It “should” not be this way, but it is; and until we make the necessary choices of maturity as a species, we will continue on our path to destruction.

Modern Spirituality

Faith And Science: Open To Change (20171023)

I find Richard Rohr to be incredibly mature in his spiritual views. In this post, he reflects on the characteristics of good science as being much more in keeping with enriching spirituality as compared with most religious dogma. What is needed is an integration of good science with mature religion.

The Healing Of Wounds

Wound2
A minor wound; others are major.

For about 25 years, my career was that of a physician, principally as a specialist anesthetist. As such, I was frequently exposed to the consequences of trauma, and the healing of wounds.

The ideal example, for me, of healing would be that of elective surgery in a healthy patient, say someone coming for knee surgery. There are not major compromises of health; the skin is prepped and draped to optimize sterility; a clean incision is made with a scalpel; the tissues are gently handled; the necessary corrections are made; bleeding is controlled; the tissues layers are repaired; and the skin is closed with minimal trauma. A bandage keeps the area clean (although it is mainly to keep blood off the clothing). The area is rested, and gently exercised in progressive manner.

Time passes; a scar result as the tissues heal. In many respects, the scar is stronger than the original tissue, although usually not as flexible.

Contrast this with a wound in an elderly diabetic, say a car accident where the patient has a broken leg with bone protruding through skin and the wound is contaminated with dirt and clothing. The healing will not be nearly as simple, and it is entirely possible that such a patient would require amputation; the patient might even die of complications.

Question: If you think of these two examples as two ends of a metaphoric spectrum, a spectrum of societal healing from trauma, where on the spectrum is the current emotional climate of healing after Charlottesville or the pardoning of the sheriff in Arizona? The following links speak to this for me.

When times get dark, we must shine brighter (20170824)

A good message, but lacking definition as to who and how. Unfortunately, it is simply an admonition of what we should be doing. And readers of this blog likely know how I feel about shoulds. We must come together for something other than more of the same ills of our civilization (my admonition).

The message is also based on the assumption that the alt-right is a last-ditch effort, and will die out soon: “the last desperate efforts of a minority of small-minded people to hold onto ideas and perspectives that history has proven wrong many times.“ I wonder. Our civilization has become so complicated and so dis-empowering that the alt-right may well represent a significant gap in the character of our civilization without a clear alternative. The following links are in keeping with this.

A black man went undercover online as a white supremacist. This is what he learned. (20170824)

An excellent investigation into the milieu of the far-right culture, reflecting with compassion on the struggles that have led individuals into these stances. For me, the investigator recognizes that compassion does not mean acceptance; it means emotional acknowledgment as the beginning of resolution.

He also identifies the very real issue of the moderate’s message that we are all in this together, “and if only you people (the alt-right, for example) will get that, we will all be fine.” We must limit the violations (as unacceptable), and still include the validity of the needs of all parties (meeting in compassion).

A black man undercover in the alt-right | Theo E.J. Wilson | TEDxMileHigh (20170814)

An excellent TED talk by the same individual, emphasizing the need for human connection. Humorous at times, and very succinct as to need. Unfortunately, my usual concern is that we are on the knife edge of danger, and must resolve immense issues simultaneously and with only limited time — the usual super-wicked difficulty of our species.

On American Politics

Roger Stone promises a violent response if Trump is impeached (20170824)

On the flip side of healing, given the increasing appearance of the alt-right, is the risk of major escalation, entirely possible in that the situation is so polarized. It is so difficult to make sense of the confusion, … and life will be what it will be.

I was not around during the rise of Hitler in pre-war Germany, but I imagine such threats were common in that situation also. Potentially we are moving to dark times; it will not be fun.

Trump doesn’t seem to like being president. So why not quit? (20170818)

An interesting commentary of the skills required of a president, and the current mismatch. What it does not disclose is what would be required for him to quit by choice, rather than by threatened impeachment.

On Climate Change

The Trump administration just disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change (20170820)

A major set-back in American policy, easily lost amongst the hype and anxiety created by the emotional turmoil of the Trump administration. It may well be that such turmoil is deliberate to defuse responsiveness to more important issues such as this.

What Exxon Mobil Didn’t Say About Climate Change (20170822)

The duplicity of Exxon Mobil is now well-documented. I wonder if the consequences will be more than a slap on the wrist.

Knowing Through Relationship

Relationship1The week has been busy — lots of little jobs, and also I have been having difficulty organizing a workshop I will be doing (in October) on relationship. I am taking an older workshop, one that I have never been fully satisfied with, and both reducing it in size (for a full weekend to 1½ days). Such a reduction is always difficult for me, and more so this time as I have been searching for how to focus the workshop in a way that satisfies me. What I have settled upon, and which satisfies me, is to emphasize the importance of intersubjectivity.

Intersubjectivity is a concept I learned from my research advisor Christian deQuincey when I was doing my PhD. To quote one of Christian’s books (Radical Knowing: Understanding Consciousness Through Relationship, 2005):

Intersubjectivity is “knowing through relationship” — a form of non-sensory, non-linguistic connection through presence and meaning, rather than through mechanism or exchanges of energy. (Kindle location 452)

Christian also distinguished three forms of intersubjectivity:

  1. Intersubjectivity-1, the exchange of linguistic tokens (words and other sounds),
  2. Intersubjectivity-2, where we influence each other with the meaning we promote, and
  3. Intersubjectivity-3, where we co-create each other into a meaningful experience by the wholeness of who we each are.

For me, when I experience it, intersubjectivity-3 is the richest form of dialogue of which I have experienced.

So the workshop is becoming a process whereby we (myself and the participants) explore how to have a really great relationship. In essence then, for a given relationship, to what extent are we willing

  • to be authentic with each other,
  • to support each other to be the person we each want to be (as opposed to who we should be for the other , or for society),
  • when difficulties arise in the relationship (inevitable), to explore the difficulty with total honesty.

Hard work, requiring that we love ourselves as well as our partner, and that we define the truths by which we each stand (or fall). The most important place for learning about life, provided we have ways to sort the complexity.

One component of this is what the Family Therapist Murray Bowen called self-differentiation — the consistent ability to be a self while in the presence of others. Amongst his other contributions, Bowen developed a scale for self-differentiation, ranging from 0 to 100. He believed most people scored around 40, and that no one ever scored above 70 — it is simply too difficult to stay separate from the influence of others (we are not designed to do so).

Anyway, the workshop is looking interesting.

Other issues of note for the week, both on climate issues:

The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid (20170717)

Last week, I listed The Unhabitable Earth, an article that discussed the worst case scenario of what we face, indicating how close it comes to doom-mongering (worst case scenarios are usually very challenging). This link (The Planet Is Warming . . .) is an excellent response to the concern re doom-mongering in regards to global warming — unfortunately, if we are to respond effectively, we each need to deal with our despair. Not fun, but necessary.

A Brief History of the Straw (20141023)

Plastic straws suck (20170720)

Two interesting links to the impact of plastic straws, the first on our creativity, the second on our ecology. Apparently we discard 180,000,000,000 straws a year (1,400,000 kilograms a year, 500,000,000 a day) to landfill and other forms of discard. I deliberately changed the data from 180 billion to 180,000,000,000 to emphasize the impact. And that is just drinking straws!

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

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).