Tag Archives: change

The Threshold of Anxiety in Global Warming

As anxiety diminishes, people engage more.
As anxiety diminishes, people engage more.

So what are the factors that block engagement in global warming?

In a recent podcast The Big Man Can’t Shoot, journalist Malcolm Gladwell identifies the need for social approval as a major factor in effective choice. Gladwell tells the story of a legendary basketball player with only one flaw: his success rate at free throws from the foul line was only about 40%. He was coached by a colleague whose success rate was 93%, and was able to improve himself to 87% — a huge advance and one that could make him almost unstoppable. The catch: he had to make “granny shots” — underhand throws rather than overhead shots, that are the standard of the league. And he wouldn’t do so — because he would look “silly.” Nor would other players, again because they would be breaking the unspoken norms of play — even though they would be better players!

What Gladwell identified was what I call the threshold of anxiety that must be overcome when one’s behavior does not match the common deportment of the peer group, the so-called peer pressure that exists within any group, even when unspoken. The threshold level varies from person to person, but always is a factor in the decision to act. This means that for any individual, a certain number of their trusted peers have to act in a certain way before they themselves will undertake the action.

Translating this to the need for massive mobilization in response to global warming, there is potentially a large body of the public waiting for others to act before they themselves will engage significantly. Many of these people will be those I identified in my last post as those people who are chronically overwhelmed by too much stuff. Salamon in Living In Climate Truth goes into more depth as to how individuals use intellectual denial, emotional denial, and tokenism to avoid action to maintain the Climate Lie that all is well, and someone else will resolve the issues. Or the individual believes that nothing can be done, and settles into low-grade cynicism, contaminating others in major ways.

Potentially when enough others have shifted into effective action, there could then be a snowball effect in response. But when? Will it occur soon enough to forestall disastrous effect?

I suspect not. To use myself as example, I started hearing about environmental issues in the 1960s and 1970s, and had enough background in science (degrees in physics and biophysics by that point) to know that we humans were doing significant damage to the environment. But I was “too busy with other issues” in my life. Fast forward to the 1990s when I had a small acreage in Ontario, land that I actually regarded as sacred — I knew “activists” who were challenging government regulations, but “I wasn’t an activist.” Then in 2009 when I finally got it, I was in deep despair for months, and only in the past year did my resolve crystallize. So if it has taken me this long, what chance do we have as a species?

Yet, if I accept this line of reasoning, it is likely that nothing effective will happen. I must act into the assumption that many are waiting in the wings simply for the snowball effect.

There is no question in my own mind that I am angry at the complexity and frequent ineffectiveness of my culture. I am not angry at individuals; I am angry at the systemic morass we have created — but if I allow my anger to take over, I will burnout. It’s a no-win situation. I’m very good at anger management, including my own. So, often I fall back on simple affirmations such as “Let Go; Let God,” or “High Intention, Low Attachment.”

What I don’t know how to do is how to get people to engage. Currently, I am reading Joe Romm’s Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga for some hints. Many days I’m convinced I am a slow learner.

Coming next: The nature of acedia.

Acedia underlies global warming

It's all too much.
It’s all too much.

Have you ever asked yourself how we have ended up with the problems of global warming? Or what stops us from solving these issues? We have avoided resolution of the issues for more than 50 year now. The superficial issue of global warming is technological, but what keeps us stuck is emotional?

First of all, the issues are incredibly complex; they overwhelm our political, economic and ethical systems (see Reason In A Dark Time: Why The Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — And What It Means To Our Future) — witness the repeated failures or only limited success of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change COP meetings, most recently in Paris, December 2015 — a non-binding agreement to limit global warming to 2°C, hopefully to 1.5°C. Scientific American in April 2016 indicated “The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C” — and that does not include normal overshoot as the system stabilizes (see here for excellent visual representations of how all this has occurred since 1880).

But it’s only 1.5 degrees — so what. Well, look around at the superstorms and the changing weather patterns. They are only the beginning of potential “natural” disasters, at a temperature increase of less than 1.5 degrees. The earth is a very finely balanced ecosystem, with many feedback mechanisms to ensure stability, and we are exceeding the limits of these systems. It is likely that, by 2°C, we will have irreversible changes, including loss of at least 33% of all species on the planet (not yet us, though). By 3°, we could well be into run-away feedback loops that are not reversible, with almost certain loss of civilization for thousands of years, and perhaps our extinction.

But why? I know the issues are complex, and the propensity of modern life is to leave it to the experts. But why have we gotten to this dilemma in the first place? And why are we so passive about global warming? The scientific community is in agreement (at least 97% consensus), but the political morass wages on. Given all this, why do we not stand up and demand change? We actually do, in small ways: witness the Occupy movement, Avaaz, the many activists, but there is not the overwhelming process that we really need. Nor do the many small ways seem to be coming together in coordinated fashion.

So for the next few postings, I am going to be exploring what I believe is blocking us. Essentially I will propose that various features of acedia have been a major part of the problem.

It is possible that in the next few postings I will seem to be critical of almost every human being (including myself) in Western civilization. That is not my intention, but I do want to identify processes that affect almost everyone. Perhaps what I am identifying could be called “the elephants in the room that nobody talks about.” If you feel criticized, please understand that I have the deepest compassion for the struggles of living in the modern era.

The vast majority of people I know are good people — they do many good actions, but they are simply overwhelmed with too much stuff: too much information, too many demands, et cetera. In my book Acedia, I referred to a TED talk on apathy, and also suggested that the numerous subtle difficulties of modern life have become a form of trauma, constantly wearing us down. And in all this, to pay attention to the demands of global warming has just become another demand, especially when confused by the dis-information regarding climate change.

I believe that these people get on with their lives hoping that somehow the “experts” will eventually fix the problem, but I remain doubtful. Over time, I have moved to the stance advocated by The Climate Mobilization as noted in my previous post: the personal costs will be high, but the risks are simply too great.

I suggest there are three mechanisms at play:

  • collective behaviour of groups: in order to act (and overcome fear of criticism), human beings need to exceed a certain threshold of anxiety
  • acedia: a human characteristic is the risk of laziness, fearfulness, and/or self-righteousness as a way to avoid painful experience
  • evil: a more important human characteristic is that which deliberately sabotages movement towards health

In some fashion, acedia is part of all three. I will be commenting on each of these in the next few posts.

Coming next: The threshold of overcoming anxiety

Jamieson, D. (2014). Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — and What It Means for Our Future. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Global Warming: My Stance

I truly wonder if we will survive as a species.
I truly wonder if we will survive as a species.

I’ve been ill for the past week, still somewhat frail — it has given me an opportunity to think about what I really want, and why I am writing this blog. Succinctly, I believe that as a species we are on a suicide mission, and as a culture we are incredibly angry; you only have to look at the American politics to see how angry we are, and you only have to look at other situations to see how frustrated. I want to have a positive impact in changing all this.

Therapist: anger management

For almost 25 years, I taught anger management, and I was good. A judge would sometimes specify my weekend program as part of his judgments, to the exclusion of other better-known programs. A Probation Officer send me more that 60 clients for domestic issues over the years — he could only recall two who re-offended (after a while, he kept informal count, and eventually he gave me detailed feedback, published in my book Blowing Out The Darkness). Not all angry people end up with probation issues, but only two poor outcomes out of sixty is astounding.

During my career, I generally noted that my long-term clients fell into two groups. One group was very active in personal growth, and would change their lives in astounding ways; personal growth itself can be painful — these people would work through the pain, arriving at places in their lives where they were deeply satisfied.

My Acedia Clients

The second group was inactive. I came to characterize them as lazy and/or fearful. I am not intending to be pejorative, simply descriptive. By lazy I mean they would say they would do the work, and then produce no results other than excuses. By fearful, they would talk about how painful the work would be if they did it, and that they were afraid of the consequences (they were fearful — this was not fear!).

I eventually came to the conclusion that these issues were a broad reflection of their (unconscious) refusal to be authentic (so-called existential issues) and/or a refusal to engage in the profound beauty of life (one of my definitions of spiritual). I also know that I had no tools to offer — laziness and fearfulness were choices, and all I could do was to challenge the client to live authentically. (Actually, if the client accepted the challenge, the therapy became easy.)

PhD: Climate Change

After about 25 years, I recognized that I needed a break from my career, and the opportunity came for me to do my PhD at a university that emphasized authenticity. I decided that here was my opportunity to study laziness and fearfulness, and started on that journey. (I soon added self-righteousness, and subsumed all three under an ancient word acedia.)

Early in the course work, we were talking about the current state of our society, especially global warming. Given my first university degree was in physics, I easily understood the science and mechanics of global warming — I recognized we were on a suicide course, the extinction of the human species, no ifs! It is that serious. I was devastated, and it took me almost two years to get out of my despair (now long gone, but with residual sadness). So my dissertation became the relationship between acedia and global warming, eventually resulting in my second book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of climate change.

Travels

For the next few years, I travelled, and saw a lot of the Caribbean, South America, and some of Europe. I also pondered one of my favorite expressions: “As individual human beings, we are capable of incredible greatness, but as a species, we are psychotic.” (Introverts, especially hermits, are very good at pondering.)

Global warming is a technological issue, but we do not resolve it. We have known about the issues for approximately 50 years, but we have continued on a path of denial and greed, such that now it might be too late. I hope not, and I intend to live as if it is not too late.

And global warming is simply the outcome of our hubris as a species. For perhaps millions of years, the Homo species has lived as hunter-gatherers. Ten thousand years ago (a drop in the bucket), we started to create civilizations through the dynamics of power. Eventually came scientific materialism, our marvelous technology, with hidden costs. And in our hubris, we did not want to pay the costs. Hence, we are where we are . . .

What I Want

About a year ago, after much vacillation, I decided this was not good enough. This is not how I want to spend my life, pondering. I have skills that are important to this whole struggle.

The world needs to mobilize its forces to deal with the ills of civilization. I can assist with this, although it is not my strong point. First, it must be mobilized to resolve global warming, likely at the level demonstrated in the States at the beginning of their direct contribution in the 1940s (see The Climate Mobilization). Second, we must create a more humane culture, one that honors the whole of the planet.

My skill is in being a resource to people who want to do the work. I believe there is a huge amount of anger in the world, even in the people who are doing the work. There is nothing wrong with anger, provided it does not lead to violation, but anger poorly managed leads to burnout, and burnout is not useful to doing the work. And I am very good at the management of both anger and burnout.

Next: What underlies global warming — the nature of acedia.

This post is part of what I am calling the core posts for understanding what I am attempting by this blog. For other core posts, click here.

A Future City: Daily Living, Part 6

Glitzy and exciting, but  urban sprawl has major disadvantages.
Glitzy and exciting, but urban sprawl has major disadvantages.

Daily life in a mature culture — now that we have looked at the possibility of a Victory City, what would daily life actually be like in such a city? As noted, I am proposing that the high-rise buildings would consist of a large number of village-like settings, where people would actually live much of their day-to-day activity.

Let me flesh it out a lot, with a bit of imagination. I’m in a dilemma though — I want to provide details of my vision, mainly to have something to bounce against, but I am also fearful that I will lose the reader if I get too detailed, too utopian, to hold interest. But I do so because such visioning is what I am encouraging in our society — we need a sustainable vision so as to more forward to what we want, not away from what we don’t want. Such is life!

Here is an overview. I strongly value Herman’s characteristics of individuation, relationship as primary, face-to-face democracy, and the need for a mythic narrative. So, for me, the needs are:

  • personal development of individuals,
  • relationships that maximize diversity and cooperation,
  • village life as the source of interaction,
  • the ending of consumerism, and
  • the sustainability and resilience of our planet.

To accomplish this, I suggest we must maximize both:

  • modular production of consumable products (minimizing footprint and waste while preserving effectiveness of function), and
  • individual creativity and expressiveness.

A tall order. Utopian in many respects, but still for me a vision of a creative life. There could be a lot of uniformity in the mundane areas of life (extensive modular design would keep the industrial impact to a minimum), and there could be much creativity and diversity of the smaller aspects. For example, buildings throughout the world could be quite uniform, but the manner in which they were decorated, externally and internally, could be incredibly diverse.

I am assuming that, if:

  • the basic needs of food, shelter, education, and health were provided, and
  • people throughout the planet were orientated to a balance of diversity and community, placing high value on personal development and creativity rather than consumerism,

then there would be little need for money and private property, and a large need for individual creativity.

Suppose, then:

  • the planetary population was one billion (1,000,000,000) people
  • there were 5000 cities of 200,000 people each
    • each city would occupy about 10 square miles (much smaller than current cities today), with extensive wilderness surrounding.
      • the wilderness areas would be available for exploration, provided the human impact was well managed.
    • each city would specialize in a limited number of activities (in modular fashion) required by the world population.
      • these might consist of some kind of industrial production, or some kind of artistic production such as film or theatre, all of which could be distributed to other cities, either in physical form (industrial) or virtual (artistic)
    • each city would consist of 40 high-rise buildings of 5000 people each
      • there would be another 40 low-rise buildings for such activities as food production, transportation, maintenance, et cetera
        • all buildings would be green buildings (see the Manchester Retrofit of the previous post)
          • most mundane activities would be automated to a major extent, but activities enjoyed by human personnel (e.g., garden care and cooking) would be encouraged
        • each high-rise would be 90 floors
          • 15 floors for high-rise common area, such as schools and hospitals, and/or industrial activity.
            • full medical and educational facilities would be present in each high-rise, with advanced facilities located in some of the out-buildings.
            • most industrial activity would be automated, requiring only limited supervision and/or the equivalent of sophisticated machinists. Much could be done under remote control with sophisticated electronics.
          • 75 floors of village-like living groups
            • every 3 floors would be a village of 200 people
            • each village would consist of 2 floors living area, with 1 common floor sandwiched between
          • connections within high-rises and between buildings would all be by high-volume, high-speed elevators and walkways, minimizing travel time within the city, and almost eliminating the use of personal vehicles.

I will continue next post with the characteristics of these village sandwiches.

The Power of Words

We are story-makers; we swim in language
We are story-makers; we swim in language

I value language; I value precision of language. I’ve often told people that “fish swim in water; human beings swim in language.” As such, language creates much of my world, and I need to be very careful as to what I am creating. Previous posts on sloppy language and shoulds were examples of such creating.

I’ve also said that if you want to change your world for the better, be meticulous with your language for six months. You will astonished by the changes that occur (and unfortunately, there will be some pain as well as great gain).

A colleague of mine, Janet Smith Warfield, is equally insistent of the power of words. She is the author of Amazon Best Seller: Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World. She has graciously allowed me to re-publish one of her blog postings The Power of Your Words. Especially I want to note that, in a mature culture, we will likely return to valuing of the three ancient words she describes.

The Power Of Your Words

Janet Smith Warfield, 20131012

As a human being, have you ever noticed the words that come out of your mouth? If not, start noticing.

Your words demonstrate who you are. They can illuminate your character as fool or sage, lover or murderer, scientist or artist. Every word that comes out of your mouth has the power to heal or destroy. Sometimes, words do both simultaneously.

When you call someone a terrorist, you are not demonstrating your strength. You are demonstrating your fear. When you call someone stupid, you are not demonstrating your wisdom. You are demonstrating your low self-esteem. When you honor the beauty another has brought into your life, you yourself become beautiful.

The power of words has been taught through the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts [of antiquity]: Grammatica, Dialectica, and Rhetorica. Developed by the ancient mystery schools of Egypt and early Greece, they remain a foundation of education.

When taught by teachers of ordinary consciousness, they become deadly school exercises learned only at a surface level by the hard work of rote and repetition. When facilitated by highly talented educators attuned to Logos—the divine principle of order and knowledge—they transform words into exciting, creative, esoteric doorways to Wisdom, inner discipline, and purification of the Soul.

Grammatica pertains to the structure of language, its history, and the underlying energy of an idea. Nouns (chair, table, apple, tree) are immobile and passive. Our minds bring together an experience that we perceive as an object. We give it a name. Ordinary consciousness believes the name is the same as the object. Expanded consciousness knows that the name reflects something far more complex. The name is a human-created placeholder for a continually shifting experience. It stops the moving picture at a single frame so we can analyze it, understand it, and feel safe.

Verbs (run, sit, walk, fly) are changeable and active. They can create or transform our perception of time. We ran, run, or will run. Verbs pertain to the human will, choice, and action.

Adjectives (beautiful, sad, dysfunctional, harmonic) and adverbs (slowly, quickly, passionately, smoothly) bring emotion into our speech. They add expansion, contraction, and rhythm.

Dialectica is logical thinking. It requires us to speak clearly and see from many different perspectives. It allows us to move quickly from the depths of hell to the heights of heaven. It enables us to build word bridges between what appear to be opposites. Like Socrates, it asks questions. Like Zen Buddhist koans, it poses mind-bending puzzles.

Rhetorica is beautiful, persuasive speech. It uses passion and tonality, questions and pauses. Sometimes it tells heart-rending stories. Other times, it speaks through poetry or drama. It is the intention and power behind our words.

Notice your words. Play with your words. Choose them wisely to create the effect you want. Notice the results. Go back and reshape them to make them clearer, more succinct,  more creative, more intentional, and more powerful. As your thought becomes clear and your words become powerful, notice how effective you are.

Dr Janet Smith Warfield

www.wordsculptures.com

September 5th, Janet will be the guest speaker in a series entitled WE Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For… Engaged Spirituality Comes of Age, presenting Dancing With Words; Dancing With Wisdom,. I recommend it, as well as the entire series.

UK politics not compatible with maturity

Self-righteousness and cooperation are not compatible.
Self-righteousness and cooperation are not compatible.

Today’s digression: What would it really take to move us towards a mature culture — the impact of our acedia.

I am finding that one of the aspects of writing a blog is to find a balance between:

  • responding to current issues (because I feel some excitement about the issue), and
  • maintaining a theme (such as daily life in a mature culture) over a few days.

Thus, in making choices as to what to write each day, I create digressions from the themes I am developing. I usually consider these digressions valuable to the content of the themes, and also recognize that writing a blog is not that of writing an academic article (which I have been doing a fair amount in the past few years). As always, comments would be welcome on the choices I am making.

So, today’s digression: in writing about daily life, I have been pondering as to what would need to happen in our current culture to make us move towards a more mature culture. Ultimately we need to become:

  • individually committed to our personal growth as human beings, and
  • fully cooperative with each other, not just lip service to cooperation, but a deep commitment to do the hard work required.

Both of these requirements generally entail extensive and very painful work. They also require that we recognize, both individually and culturally, we are the problem. As said years ago by Pogo[1]: “We have found the enemy, and he is us.”

In a previous post, I indicated that the nature of change requires hurting in safety, a vision that fits, tools for the transformation, and the overcoming of our acedia. I’m going to introduce acedia here, and come back to it (and the other aspects) in later posts.

So, what is acedia? The description I like best is that “acedia objects to the effort required in living into a relationship of love” (equally, instead of love,  I could use the terms charity or cooperation). In my PhD, I defined acedia as any combination of laziness, fearfulness and self-righteousness that blocks this effort.

What has prompted my current digression is the announcement of the appointment of Boris Johnson as UK foreign secretary, and the reaction this appointment has stirred. I do not know much about Mr. Johnson other that what I read in the occasional newspaper, and I have no interest in criticizing any human being, but the reactions expressed in this BBC article suggest to me a man of emotional immaturity, someone at high risk of self-righteousness, and therefore highly unlikely to be committed to cooperation, let alone his own personal growth.

I could be wrong, in two ways at least. I could be wrong in my assessment of his character; if so, I apologize. But I could also be wrong in that his appointment could lead our culture into deeper pain, something which, unfortunately, we may require before we are willing to move into greater maturity. Sometimes change occurs in the most unpredictable of ways.

We live in such interesting times!

[1] Kelly, W. (2011, May 2). We have met the enemy and he is us. Retrieved July 24, 2011, from I go pogo: http://www.igopogo.com/final_authority.htm

Digression: Global Warming

The Dangers of Climate Change
The Dangers of Climate Change

A few days ago, I received two relatively recent articles that highlight for me the risks of global warming: Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer (2016 predictions on potential temperature rise) and Mass extinction forecast with 6°C temperature rise (2013 predictions of the impact on species).

I get a lot of information about global warming on a weekly basis; I’ve been doing so since sometime in 2009. I remember sitting in a lecture hall listening to a speaker talk about global warming when the speaker mentioned the impact on permafrost (permanently frozen ground in the Arctic regions). Recall that I have degrees in physics and biophysics (with a lot of maths and chemistry), and that I have worked in the Arctic — I know a little about permafrost! My PhD dissertation explores the relationships of acedia and global warming — I know how resistant we humans are to changing our patterns. At that moment, I got it! If we do not quickly manage global warming, we will go extinct. Not maybe — will! Simple physics; simple biology. I am not interested in “doom and gloom” — but I am very pragmatic when it comes to risk management.

Since that time I have been following the reports of the consequences of global warming, and the attempts to assess the risks. Every major report has said: “The previous report underestimated the risks. It is worse than we thought!” (The actual wording varied; the message was the same.)

First, the current CO2 level as of 2016 July 10 is 405.59 ppm, with the average June level of 406.81, both figures up ~4 ppm over the same dates of 2015, and overall ~125 ppm above pre-industrial levels of ~275 ppm. Even with maximal effort, the levels will still rise somewhat simply due to delays in the feedback systems. Notice where this puts us on the following chart (summarized from Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet): between 2°C and 3°C.

SixDegrees

All of this is bad news. Anything about 2°C risks uncertain run-away feedback mechanisms that could well destroy our civilization for thousands of years, if not simply that of human extinction. A very good summary is available as “A degree by degree explanation of what will happen when the earth warms.” It is not good news.

As I am sure people are aware, our international governments have struggled with reaching agreement on how to respond to global warming, and last fall in Paris finally reached a non-binding agreement to limit planetary warming to under 2°C (a commitment, but not a guarantee). And global warming is only one of the issues.

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond notes:

People often ask, “What is the single most important environmental-population problem facing the world today?” A flip answer would be, “The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!” . . .  We have to solve them all.

          [B]ecause we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustaining course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. (p. 498)

I don’t like these scenarios.

Community in a mature culture? (Part 2)

How could we be satisfied in a mature culture?
How could we be satisfied in a mature culture?

We are now the most important species on this planet, dominant in our capability to sustain it, or to destroy it. Up to this point in time, our “civilization” has been that of domination, and essentially unlimited growth. If we want to survive and thrive as a species, we have no choice but to learn cooperation and sustainability — this is the fundamental basis of a mature culture.

For me, this means:

  • We must have a sustainable population, likely 1.5 – 2 billion, certainly less than 2 billion people (my personal sense is that of about 1 billion). Currently we have more than 7 billion; how we are to reduce in number is unclear, and if we do not have clarity, it will likely be bloody.
    • Our technological skill is of major advantage in high-speed communication and sustainable energy management; but we must temper the ways in which it leads to competition and consumerism.
    • We must be sustainable. That means that there will be no such thing as garbage — all goods and end-products must be recycled. Our environmental impact must be minimal.
      • We must give up our orientation to “growth.” It is likely that there will no such thing as “for profit;” everything we do will be “non-profit,” sustainable and resilient.
  • Our current civilization is orientated to newness, almost in an addictive fashion — we call it boredom. We must learn the joys associated with the growth of wisdom; this in itself provides a deep satisfaction and exhilaration of living.
    • Ross and Herman (both mentioned in the last post) note the intense gratification that comes to being open to the present moment in the quest for truth.
  • We are designed for living in small groups, somewhere in the of range 50 – 200 people. We name such groups villages.
    • It is in these small groups that, optimally, we practice the first three of Herman’s characteristics: the pursuit of self-knowledge, face-to-face discussion, and direct democracy in action.
      • It is in the interaction of villages that the larger narrative emerges.
    • We are both competitive and cooperative by nature.
      • We must learn the skills of non-interference. We must learn how to manage our anger when our cherished beliefs are challenged by the diversity of a global village, both within our small groups and in our interactions with other groups.
      • My personal skill is that I know how to do this, and how to coach others in the processes necessary for this to occur.

I suggest that the central aptitude in all this will be that of personal self-care. If I as an individual am unable to take care of myself, I am unable to gift to others in an effective long-term fashion. The predominant skills will be those of mindfulness and journal-writing, skills that are slowly developing in our current culture.

In my next post, I will expand these characteristics into aspects of daily living.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Community in a mature culture? (Part 1)

DailyLife1

So, how would people actually live in a mature culture? As an aside, one of the disadvantages of digressions (my last few posts) is that I forget where I was. My current blog contributions are also complicated by a lot of traveling during the summer. So some will be short, others longer. In addition, in the next few posts, I will always end with “Your thoughts?” as a way to encourage your own ideas as to how we could live.

In my work with anger management, I have always maintained that there are two important considerations:

  • we are emotional beings, and
  • we can have clarity — it’s optional.

We are pain avoiders — that is almost the definition of biology (all of life moves towards pleasure, and away from pain). In this, we are driven by our emotional needs and our other-than-conscious needs, and we have great difficulty overcoming these needs so as to have clarity of options. We are thus frequently in internal conflict with ourselves; we are frequently in external conflict with others, especially in regards to the needs of the individual versus the needs of the group; and we have great difficulty with conflict (for most people, it is filled with pain).

And for literally millions of years, we have been hunter-gatherers, and it is only in the past few thousands of years that we have shifted to civilization, gathering in large groups so as to take advantage collective action. It is only in the past few hundred years that we have become technological. Who we are as human beings is determined by the millions of years, not the superficial gloss of the recent past. And if we are to be at peace with our world, we must live into who we are, not who we think we should be.

I’m currently re-reading Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Stapledon was described as the greatest mythologist in science fiction, deeply influential in that genre; Last and First Men is a three-billion-year history of mankind (in 300 pages!). Stapledon notes in the fiction that it took more than two billion years for man to give up the processes of misunderstanding, self-centeredness and ill-will — definitely a long journey — hopefully we can actually mature faster than this, we need to do so.

So, who are we? In addressing this question, I have been deeply influenced in particular by three books (each one is a fascinating exploration, and I recommend each highly):

  • Rupert Ross, Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality
    • Ross explores the underlying basic whereby Aboriginal culture of Canada remained largely as hunter-gatherers, and did not become a culture of domination, but rather emphasized non-interference.
  • Louis Herman, Future Primal: How Our Wilderness Origins Show Us The Way Forward
    • Herman explores the nature of the society of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, our closest living relatives to the original hunter-gatherers. He suggests that they are also the longest surviving direct democracy in the world.
  • Andrew Schmookler, The Parable Of The Tribes: The Problem Of Power In Social Evolution
    • Schmookler explores how the impact of power dynamics has been the single most important determinant in the development of civilization, eventually leading to the dominator culture of modernity.

Herman, in particular, points out that the original Socratic intention of politics was the search for the good life, attempting to answer (and balance) two primordial questions:

  • How shall I live? and
  • How shall we all live together?

(This is certainly not how I think of politics today!)

Herman also names four components that bring satisfaction to human activity:

  • the pursuit of self-knowledge and personal growth;
  • honest, face-to-face discussion that enlarges and qualifies personal understandings;
  • communication within small democratic communities of trusted equals; and
  • a collective, cooperative weaving together of a big story — a narrative of meaning — that helped the individual find his or her particular place in the ever-expanding shared big picture.

The underlying purpose of my blog is to challenge the human issues that support accelerated climate disruption. I maintain that these issues are the same factors that have created the risks of nuclear holocaust, overpopulation, and other major environmental disasters. So my remarks on a future mature culture are applicable to all this.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Difficulties: solvable or resolvable?

A magnet always has two poles.
A magnet always has two poles.

When you have a difficulty, is it solvable? Is global warming solvable?

In this post, I want to explore the distinction between solvable and resolvable. To solve something means that the difficulty it represents goes away — you are complete with it. To resolve something means you are at peace with it — it may still be a difficulty, but you are satisfied that you know what to do about it. (In the last post, I’ll indicated why I talk about difficulties, and the distinction between difficulties and problems, another important distinction.)

The distinction is important — global warming is not solvable; it is resolvable. The underlying factors of global warming, the acedia of our species, is not solvable; it is resolvable. Both issues likely require ongoing life-long attention to our own growth as individuals and as a society so to be at peace with what life offers.

An excellent description of the distinction is found in Polarity Management by Barry Johnson — what follows is principally my summary of his paper. I use slightly different language from Barry — solvable instead of right/wrong, and resolvable instead of polarity.

Solvable (right/wrong): one “right” answer, or two (or more) answers that are “right,” and independent of each other.

  • Right/wrong distinctions are the essential means of transmitting knowledge from one generation to another, e.g., 4 + 4 = 8.
  • Or they contain the cultural messages of right and wrong: “In this culture, we value . . .”
    • Note that if the question is phrased as “Should I value X or Y?” there is the implication that both values are somehow important, and also they are somehow related to each other — they are part of the same dilemma (they are not independent). This is a polarity difficulty, not a right/wrong difficulty (see below) — another example of sloppy language.
  • Solving difficulties creates closure, and eliminates the searching through numerous “wrong” answers.
    • Often the difficulty is phrased: a or b, but only if a and b are independent of each other. Here a and b are facts, such that one is right and the other wrong.
  • >95% of the teachings in formal education are based on solvable (right/wrong) distinctions.
    • Because virtually all our educational experience is in solvable (right/wrong) difficulties, we automatically lock into the possibility of solving difficulties, rather than resolving them.

Resolvable (polarity): two or more answers that are interdependent on each other.

  • These distinctions are essential in passing the socialization elements of culture from one generation to another, e.g., “In my relationship with my friend, should I be concerned about her, or should I be concerned about myself?”
    • Often the difficulty is phrased as or, even though both a and b are right, and there is possibly a choice to be made.

Knowing the distinction between solvable and resolvable, and when to apply appropriate tools to each, is very important to the changing of systems. A major difficulty is that, on first glance, solvable (right/wrong) and resolvable (polarity) difficulties look alike. Because we are so attuned to solvable (right/wrong) difficulties, we tend to approach all difficulties looking for solutions. Then we find a solution — but wonder why we are getting resistance from others for our wonderful solution! Well, we have likely found ½ of a polarity difficulty; the resistance represents the other half!

Polarity-Breathing

To better identify the character of resolvable (polarity) difficulties, Johnson suggests the metaphor of breathing. Breathing requires the intake of oxygen (inhalation) and the removal of carbon dioxide (exhalation); both are essential, and are obviously interdependent. There are eight components of importance, in pairs: inhalation and exhalation (neutral, the interdependent processes), death and life (outcomes), why we breath (the need for oxygen intake and carbon dioxide removal — the higher purpose), and the consequences of not breathing (too little oxygen or too much carbon dioxide — the deepest fear). In breathing, you cannot just choose to breath in, or to breath out — both have significant negative consequences; they are interdependent.

The skill of management of polarity difficulties is to find the optimal balance of achieving the positive benefits of both poles (inhalation and exhalation), without the negative consequences of excess of either. With the issue of breathing, the body-mind system does this automatically, generally without our needing to consciously think about the choices or consequences. However most polarity difficulties require careful attention and integration of the benefits of each pole, while minimizing the undesirable consequences of each.

In this blog, I simply want to make the distinction, principally because global warming, and the deeper management of cultural acedia, are both resolvable (polarity) difficulties — they are not solvable. Global warming is especially complex —we have both caused it, in our unconscious behaviors as a species, and there are many interdependent aspects to be considered. It is possible that, as the consequences of global warming become more apparent, we might stumble into a more mature management of the issues, but to bet on this happening is like buying a lottery ticket with the expectation of winning. Not likely!