I’ve been away a lot in the past six weeks, and have not been doing blog entries. And now that I am back, it is time to reflect on the state of the world.
First I am deeply saddened by the US election results — it almost certainly means the end of our civilization, if not the end for our species. Given the political situation, the likelihood for resolving global warming is poor.
As a result, I find it very difficult to write much at present. I’m still processing, mainly at an other-than-conscious level.
I encourage you to look at two YouTube videos, both rather dry and factual, but with up-to-date good data:
To reiterate, although it seems a small change, the danger of exceeding 1.5°C is that of run-away positive feedback loops, the risk rising as the temperature rises. As Peter notes, we must start eliminating fossil fuels NOW — we have delayed too long already.
And if the campaign promises of the US election hold true, the US will continue on a course of action that spells disaster, socially and environmentally (see Here’s Everything Donald Trump Has Promised to Do on His First Day as President, for example). Even the present Paris Accord is inadequate; for the US to exit from this (likely), we will have many more years of argument rather than moving in a safer direction — whether or not even that would actually be safe is very uncertain.
I encountered this poem via Facebook, and upon reading it, deeply resonated with its content, a content that strongly identifies what I am also wanting to identify as the malaise of our society. I have Carol’s permission to copy it here, and thank her for her contribution. She adds that this poem is part of a series called Visions of a Possible Apocalypse.
Urgency, by Carol Flake Chapman, 2016 July 18
Time’s winged chariot looms behind me
Nudging my bumper like an Italian driver
Blaring the horn, go faster or get out of the way
It feels like bullets are flying everywhere
Everywhere, that is, but here
Ice is melting, fires are burning
Oceans are rising, rivers are sinking
People are fleeing, walls going up
It feels like danger lurks everywhere
Everywhere, that is, but here
They are shooting elephants and rhinos
As polar bears drift away on Arctic shards
And wondrous varieties of birds and fish
Succumb to the human tide spreading everywhere
Everywhere, that is, but here
The unhinged are pushing buttons, pulling triggers
Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last few posts, I have suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. I now want to chunk up to what would cities be like, possibly shifting back and forth between daily life and city life for the next few posts.
First of all, village life has been part of human existence for thousands of years — it is what we were designed for in hunter-gatherer communities. The disadvantage of separate villages, of hunter-gatherer life, was starvation (Rupert Ross makes this very clear in his book Dancing With A Ghost.) The advance (?) into civilization, especially that of industrialization, then required that people move to cities so as to optimize resources, human and otherwise. And although there are major advantages to city life, the downsides are massive: concrete jungles, a lot of marginalization, et cetera. In a mature culture, we must find a balance between these forces, optimizing the advantages of each — the issue is that of a polarity difficulty, not an either/or situation.
In my explorations, I have encountered two examples that I really like (although each has significant disadvantages compared to my current individualistic lifestyle). The first is the greening of current day cities, such as the retrofitting of Manchester, with green streets, walls, and buildings; rooftop food production; and extensive photovoltaic energy production. Obviously, only a little different from our current world; technologically possible, but what about our emotional needs? From my perspective, very feasible if we truly step into a wisdom culture. The disadvantage would be the footprint of cities, precluding small group face-to-face discussion on most issues; this can be minimized with efficient technology, but I suggest that technology is not perfect, and does not replace the need for direct human contact. The greening of current cities could be a temporary measure, but I suggest some kind of village milieu is still needed.
I therefore favor the Victory City, the semi-utopian concept of Orville Simpson II, cities of approximately 200-300K people, self-contained and self-sufficient based on a land footprint of 3 square miles (compared to a modern city of similar size occupying over 200 square miles). I suggest the design is very feasible if we truly step into a wisdom culture.
With the Victory City model, assuming it was widely copied, there would be approximately 6,000 cities across the world. Although I was initially reluctant to envision living in such a high-rise complex (102 floors) as Victory City, I am now more convinced of its design structure. Its small footprint means extensive wilderness areas. Local transportation would be by extensive high volume, high-speed elevators, both between floors and between buildings. Living units would predominantly be bedroom areas and privacy areas, rather than the extensive private living quarters of present day modern life. All food production is on-site, with only a small amount obtained from other centers. Most food service would be within large high-volume cafeterias. Its small size would allow easy access of work locations and of outdoor recreational facilities.
The change that I would make in a Victory City would be that the high-rises would consist of village-like sandwiches, every three floors being two floors of private living space with an intervening village-like common between. Such an arrangement would maximize face-to-face discussion of important issues (intersubjectivity), shared decision making in trusted groups (direct democracy). I would also want to maximize efficient electronic communication so as to allow people to truly live and work within their village-like environments.
Next posting, I will explore how daily living conditions would function in a Victory City.
To be continued.
 After his death, Simpson donated his work on Victory Cities to the University of Cincinnati; I have not found easy access to his work from this source. However, when I was doing my PhD, I was verbally granted me access for usage in my dissertation, although I never received written permission.
Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last post, I suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. What would this be like?
These would be gatherings in small group for honest dialogue, likely weekly or twice a week. Adults learn best by having significant emotional experiences, and then reflecting on them in the presence of trusted adults. This would be a place of honesty, emotional expression, and compassionate reflection — one of the best examples I have of something like this is the aboriginal justice circles (Rupert Ross, Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths), where there is no sense of guilt or shame evoked. Another example would be the work of Roy Madron on Gaian Democracies — an excellent example of cultural maturity, ranging from individual group process to world governance.
In-depth personal work requires a facilitator — as human beings, we are past masters at avoiding our own issues, and a good facilitator can point out to us that we are avoiding an issue, or alternatively, can point out to us something that we are missing, even if it seems obvious. Such facilitators will be part of the ongoing village community, and in many circumstances can arise spontaneously through recognition of their maturity by others within the community.
One of my mentors suggested that a good facilitator-therapist has three characteristics, in reverse order of importance:
they have a theoretical framework within which they work. This framework is seldom of use in the moment, but provides a way to talk about what was done, after the fact.
they have practical experience working with people, usually with ongoing supervision by other therapists, either their peers or more mature therapists.
they do their own personal work; they have struggled with their own demons, and know the value of compassion. This is the most important characteristic.
There are a number of fundamental skills that a therapist requires, independent of the theoretical framework, skills that are only learned by one’s own personal work. For me, most important amongst these skills are:
the value of powerlessness.
The most succinct way I have of describing this is the statement of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If it is possible, Oh Lord, let this cup be taken from me. If not, Thy Will be done!” It is the process of acceptance of what is, or what must be based on one’s values.
the willingness to risk.
Personal growth is high risk. The individual will certainly risk feeling powerless, and potentially fall into pain as he or she confronts issues wherein he or she is not acting according to values that are important to this individual. (Such values may not be important to the group, or may actually be opposed by the group; this may actually be important for the growth of the group.)
There are many times where a good therapist must risk just as much as the client; it is frequently the place where the therapist grows, both personally and professionally.
the willingness to meet the client in their own world (the process of rapport).
Sometimes this means reflection with the client in their pain; sometimes it means getting in their face so as to demonstrate the impact of something such as self-righteousness. Again, it may entail risk.
the use of silence.
Silence is a very powerful tool, and used well, can be very therapeutic. It may be part of rapport; it may be part of risk.
We are not born knowing all we need to know; that is what the human journey is — the opportunity to grow in maturity. And our current culture is abysmal in this process. I have said many times that, as individuals we are capable of incredible greatness, but as a species we are psychotic — we tolerate numerous inequalities, of people, of education, of food availability, of basic necessities.
If we actually resolved these inequalities, we would still need living in small village-like environments, exposed to the processes I am exploring at the moment. But it would be so much easier to achieve and maintain maturity!
A couple of people have asked me to comment on the fact that they do not know how to talk about issues such as their own personal growth and/or the nature of spirituality. When they do, when they talk about how important these issues are to them, and how much they personally have been changed in these issues, other people either look away, move away, or are derisive of them in some fashion.
Not surprising! When I was young, the topics to avoid were politics and sex. But in the complexity of our modern world, the new topics to avoid seem to be personal growth and spirituality (while talking about sex or politics is common, although usually superficial).
But why? I suggest it is because others are threatened — they are somehow aware that something important is missing in their lives, but they don’t want to know it. Otherwise, they would want to do something about it, and they don’t know what to do! They will be confronted with an option glut of possibilities, most of which are likely superficial or false in their claims.
So, this post is about my thoughts on what to do so that you can talk about these issues. Please note that I do not have complete answers, but I have given the topic a lot of thought as to how I respond here. I also suggest that personal growth and spirituality are essentially cognates of the same thing, and thus I will link them in this post. As an example of this, the major definition of love that I use comes from Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled (1978-2003): the will to extend oneself for spiritual growth — spirit and growth linked.
What follows is rather heady, so translate it into your own language.
First, and more important, don’t talk — demonstrate that in some profound way you have changed. Actions speak louder than words.
Second, and almost as important, proceed slowly — this is dangerous ground. You are challenging scientific materialism, the dominant ontology of the Western world, and if fact, for most people, the only paradigm of which they are aware. Scientific materialism operates from the two assumptions that 1) only the material world exists, and 2) only science can provide truth about the world (the world, not just the material world). And you are entering into areas that take years of study to do justice to them.
Scientism is the assumption that the only valid manner of seeking truth is by the scientific method. Personal growth and spirituality both challenge this latter assumption — the truths gained are not subject to analysis; even if they were, the objectification obscures the fact of how important these processes are to the individual.
So, how to challenge. I would start by one-on-one conversations (group conversations are subject to the participants being scorned by the most vociferous dissenter of the group, usually the individual who is most self-righteous and most trapped in scientific materialism). When you find an opportunity to talk about the importance of these issues to yourself, do so in simple language, perhaps a comment like “That does not make sense to me.” When they present the usual “science” or “neuroscience,” ask a question: “Are you aware that what you are saying is only an assumption?” You will probably get a blank look, in that they have never given it any thought, we are so trapped in scientific materialism. But at least, you can introduce the possibility that scientific materialism is not the only worldview. (See my book Acedia, The Darkness Within, pp. 85-94, if you want a more complete discussion of the philosophy of consciousness.)
Specifically with spirituality, you can point out that, from the 14th century onwards, science simply offered more accurate answers of the material world, but it did not prove that the older models of spirit were wrong, just simply not as accurate in this domain of matter-energy. The way I usually put it is that, “in the Christian Bible, Paul talks about powers and principalities beyond our knowing. Science did not prove this false; it merely passed out of fashion because the scientific method was very successful in explaining the world.” (I’m being very careful with my words there.) Then drop the subject; only continue if the listener asks for more.
Specifically with personal growth, you can point out how difficult it is to talk about the subject, that very few areas in life teach the skills of wisdom, and that even though you yourself are just on the beginning of glimpsing how to make wiser choices, your life is still changing for the better. Again, then drop the subject; only continue if the listener asks for more.
Proceed cautiously from there. I suggest you think of three scenarios, and imagine the conversations pertaining to each. Keep them simple. Keep them such that you leave the listener in doubt, questioning the basis of what they believe. At a later time, re-start the conversation, e.g., “I was thinking about our earlier conversation.” Then add another simple piece, like “It seems to me that there is a way of thinking about …”