Tag Archives: community development

Who Cares?

Compassion4I have recently begun to explore Unitarian-Univeralism (UU), a very inclusive “church” structure that requires no dogmatic belief system and yet recognizes the human need for community and the search for meaning, the need for caring and the questing of “Who Cares?” In particular, I invite the reader to view a recent sermon at the local UU church A Big Tent with Even Bigger Dreams[1] (20180506), one that I thought was profound (as well as very humorous).

For my part, UU (in its profound inclusivity) represents the possibility of mature community, an essential component of cultural transformation (of which I have written many posts in this blog — see this series). I find a number of aspects of the local church, the North Shore Unitarians, to have deep appeal for me; I also have the intuition (and hope) that these aspects are to be found throughout the UU system.

  • They are deeply inclusive. In particular, I have found them very welcoming, and very open to diversity, especially the LGBTQQIP2SAA community and any other source of divisiveness in community.
    • A significant quote from the above sermon is “we honor this truth by encouraging our members to reflect on the Light through whatever set of windows they find most illuminating. We only require that this same freedom be honored for others.”
  • They recognize the incredible destructiveness that “religion” has played in the world.
    • I have a friend who is atheist and strongly against religion, yet from my perspective he does not seem to recognize “religion” as simply a cultural lens, and that its implications range from the very immature (including much of Christian history as well as modern fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim) to the very mature. I totally agree with him in his disparagement of Christianity when expressed via fundamentalism, and I also deeply value the mature expression of religion when I find it. Mature religion for me is not a set of beliefs, rather it is a way of approaching life with compassion to all its complexity.
  • They are very open to questioning the meaning of life.
    • For the past year, the Church has been running a series of discussion groups called Wounded Words (words such as sin, salvation, god, prayer) in an attempt to recognize how divisive these words have been (and continue to be).

The main emphasis that I have seen is that UU encourages the recognition that we all search for meaning and that we are all in the same boat! We must learn to value “making sure there’s room for another to come sit next to me, even if, especially if, they make me uncomfortable . . . . with such a big tent [that] we don’t even agree on the words to use to describe it.”

There is for me something deep within the heart of all human beings that searches for meaning; maturity for me means that of being willing to sit in the mystery that this represents. Those who claim certainty are at high risk of fundamentalism, and the abuses of religion — this I distrust.

To give my answer to the basic question of this post, those who care are those who continue to search, allowing others also to search. I honor all who do, including the UU church.

[1] Hartlief, M. (20180506). A Big Tent With Even Bigger Dreams, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNB–Aa5KWo, published 20180507.

An Economy That Works

Economy1I mentioned last post that I am no longer posting. However, every once and a while I come across a link that I think is so important that I believe it needs to be acknowledged (and disseminated) — this one is: an economy that works.

We are badly in need of a way to understand the nature of modern economy such that we develop a maturing of our culture. I think this is: it explains the impact of neoliberalism and the changing nature of our economy, especially the rise of gross dissatisfaction in how we live our lives. It also strongly advocates, amongst other suggestions, the need for a guaranteed basic income, a concept and process that is gradually being shown to markedly improve living conditions, despite the fears that it will encourage people to become lazy.

Having researched laziness as part of my PhD, I strongly believe that people are not naturally lazy, that they only move in this direction when they become overwhelmed with their lives and give up, conditions that are being augmented in major ways by our current economy. What is suggested here is actually a prescription to reduce laziness while improving human lives in many ways, perhaps ending the insane ways in which we create poverty and dissatisfaction in our lives, even reducing global warming via an effective stance to our culture.

Guy Standing on an Economy that Works for Everyone (20161126)

It is a long article, and well worth reading.

The Need For A Coup, Part 2

Complexity3This is my second and concluding post on the need for a coup. Earlier I noted Schmookler, in The Parable Of The Tribes, suggesting that a civilization based on power (the original basis by which civilizations emerge) is not sustainable: it demonstrates neither synergy, enhancing the welfare or all, nor viability, sustainable in its continuing existence.

Schmookler also notes that justice could be the antidote of power, thereby underscoring both synergy and viability. Justice requires:

  • “where power is exercised . . . it should not be used to benefit the wielder of power at the expense of the health of the system as a whole” and
  • “where different parts of the system have conflicts of interest, the conflicts should be resolved not by their differences in power but by some moral principle which, if always followed, would ultimately be to the benefit of all in the system.”

As a species, we have not yet demonstrated the capability of synergy and viability — world governance, such as it is, is by tenuous cooperative agreement, the limits of which have been demonstrated by Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Again, simply as one example of the many instances of inequitable dynamics, Trump’s stance is that of power; it is not that of justice. Nor is power a stance of cooperation; it is a stance of domination! And it is not sustainable: either it is stopped, or the system itself will deteriorate to the point of collapse (e.g., the predictable outcome of global warming).

So how then does one deal with such insanity, in which it is necessary to develop power over power, and yet act justly. I have seen nothing in the past years to suggest an effective outcome. All of the efforts of the social movements of the past century (including feminism, racial discrimination, the environmental movement, et cetera) have been the attempt of the “people” to get the “1%” to cooperate, and have had only limited success.

Much of what has been suggested thus far is in the nature of civil disobedience. And whereas I believe it is an important tool is opposing power, it is the attempt of the weak to convince the strong to desist certain actions. It does not seem to offer any significant shift in the maturity of the strong, certainly not those who function from the power of domination.

Thus my suggestion that we need a coup! But in contrast to most coups where one form of domination simply replaces another form of domination, we need a coup in which justice replaces domination. And the coup needs to be international, including all of the major powers of the world. Although I often use the USA as an example, I am not naïve in believing that it is the only source of difficulties on this planet.

Furthermore, the only examples of sustainable justice of which I am aware have been within indigenous cultures — cultures that have resisted civilization, albeit without great success up to this point. Our track record of “civilized” process has not been very successful otherwise.

And hence, my best guess is that such a coup must come from indigenous sources, as the power to resist domination and act justly. Again in my limited exposure to cultural issues, it is the native people of North America who seem most apt to engage in sustained resistance (witness Standing Rock and Kinder-Morgan). They also have a cultural heritage that honored justice in much richer fashion than has European-based culture.

Thus my hope . . .

Links Of Note

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (20171002)

Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts (20171002)

These two links discuss the ineffectiveness of modern attempts to limit the use of power, both in preventing individual tragedies and in developing just resolutions to such forces that underlie these tragedies.

U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California (20170927)

An interesting example of how the interplay of legality and power work in our culture. To quote the lead-in: “A peculiar confluence of history, legal precedent and defiance has set the stage for a regulatory mutiny in California that would reverberate throughout the country.” Legally, California can regulate independently of national concerns, and controls at least a third of the auto industry, with a sizable impact on how industry must react. I am reminded of a statement that our culture has a legal system, perhaps sometimes a justice system.

The Need For A Coup, Part 1

Complexity3I said in my last post that I would consider the possibility of a coup. At some level, I truly accept that the need for a coup is the only way in which humanity will survive. I’m not a historian, nor a philosopher, nor do I have a military background, so what follows will simply be my random thoughts regarding the issues that confront us as a civilization.

First, as noted in my original first post of this blog (see my home page), Laszlo (in Evolution: The General Theory, 1996) wrote that we are in a cascade of crises, and that we must extend ourselves into a new maturity, else we will likely perish as a species (or at least as a civilization). I also recall from my PhD research, Toynbee in A Study Of History (1946) considered that in the failing of civilizations, new ones arise at the periphery (of the old collapsing civilization) wherein a small group arises who both represents a new energy of purpose while espousing a new religion, meanwhile opposed by the old tyranny. In my dissertation, I suggested that the small group was the Cultural Creatives and the new religion was our maturing relationship with ecology. The current difficulty with both the Cultural Creatives and the ecology movement, though, is that they are disorganized, and do not present a coordinated front to oppose the oppressive forces of our current civilization. Furthermore, this past century is the first occurrence in which we as a species have come to be both a global village and a power dynamic capable of altering the dynamics of the entire ecosystem of our world; there is essentially no periphery for a new civilization — we must confront the center of the old.

I also noted in my posts about power (beginning 2016-08-16) that civilization(s) arose because the human species came into relationship with power, a relationship different from that of all other previous species. Schmookler in The Parable Of The Tribes[1] indicated that “our destructiveness as a species and of our current culture . . . is a simple consequence of our creativity, a tragedy representative of the inevitable options for power” — and that there is “no way to return the dangerous djinni of human power back into the bottle.” In addition, “The laws of man require power, for power can [only] be controlled with power. The challenge is to design systems that use power to disarm power. Only in such an order can mankind be free.” Perhaps mankind will evolve to “control the actions of all to the degree needed to protect the well-being of the whole.”

Schmookler mentions a number of relevant definitions:

  • system: an aggregate the elements of which interact (and therefore no element of the system can be understood in isolation)
  • synergy: a pattern whereby each part functions in a way that enhances the welfare of the other parts as well as its own
  • viability: the ability to maintain without diminution whatever it is upon which its continued existence depends

Our civilization is definitely a system, yet it is neither synergistic nor viable. Our civilization is based on power, not synergy and viability. We compete rather than cooperate. We control by short-term domination rather than by consideration of the long-term. We demonstrate immense creativity, but we do not consider the impact of our creativity on future generations (in either our consumerism or our technological advances).

To be continued

Links suggestive of our cultural insanity

Heartless world watches while Rohingya nightmare continues (20170928)

An example of the inability of our species to deal with power.

Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor. (20170930)

I am suggesting this link, not as a critique of Trump (which it is), but as an indication of the need for definitive action in stopping this kind of tribalism, a stance that likely results in major deterioration of justice and viability. The current system is not healthy.

Homeland Security to monitor social media accounts of immigrants and citizens (20170926)

Where does surveillance stop? When is it effective? Here we seem to be moving to a police state, again with a major deterioration of justice and vitality.

Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us (20170926)

So easy, and with enough computer power, likely also easy to cross-map details of how groups of people interact. Truly, Big Brother is watching.

[1] Schmookler, A. B. (1995). Parable of the tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. New York, NY: State University of New York.

An Ongoing Exploration

Exploring3Not a lot to discuss this week. I’m deep within my cave of exploring.

I have been busy with an orientation package for the Living School of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). As part of my ongoing spiritual journey and attempt to be a resource, I am engaged in a two year study program of contemplative practice. It is a study of meditation within a Christian context, and although I don’t formally subscribe to any faith tradition, my roots are within Christianity. And since CAC is profoundly ecumenical, it is a good fit for me.

Essentially I am a perpetual student, always seeking new ways of expanding my worldview and my connection with creation, especially my felt connection. Overall, I do not operate from belief systems; rather I trust my own experience deeply. Having had a number of profound mystical experiences in my life, I have a deep trust that the universe is friendly, and that there is some kind of a Creator, whom I usually call Star Maker (from a science fiction novel that was deeply impactful for me when I was a teenager). I have my own narrative which satisfies me, and recognize it is simply a story (which satisfies).

A difficulty of the past ten years or so is that I have lost a felt connection to the universe as being friendly, probably as a result of the deep despair as I struggled with the implications of global warming. At the same time, I have been exposed to deep philosophical underpinnings, especially that of panpsychism (see What To Do, Part 1), which in turn has enriched my intellectual grasp of the possibility of Creator. I now seek, via the Living School, to deepen this grasp, especially at an experiential level, and hope it will move me towards deeper peace regarding my onw contribution as a resource (see Being A Resource Seeking A Need, Part Five. (I now recognize that I have not written a post on panpsychism, so will do so shortly.)

Almost certainly over the next two years, I will be discussing many aspects of the Living School program, and how it is impacting me.

Links for the week

The Need to challenge our present culture

THE CLIMATE MOBILIZATION BEGINS IN L.A. (20170621)

As previously indicated, I am an advocate of The Climate Mobilization — I believe it is the only way in which our species will be able to survive, let alone thrive. As part of the rebound effect created by Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, California has now recognized the need for such massive mobilization concerning global warming.

A valedictorian went rogue in his final speech. His school tried to shut him down. (20170620)

A story of courage and the structure of much of our modern society — those who speak out usually get punished in some way. Reminds me of how the society represented by Nineteen Eighty-four (George Orwell, 1949[1]) would have been initiated.

Global Capitalism: Reflections on a Brave New World (201706)

A dense but readable article on Transnationalism and the Transnational  Capitalist Class, in which market forces created by a small group of people determine much of the fate of the world. Such is not consistent with true democracy, and not an easy system to oppose.

The Trump Morass

The Post’s new findings in Russia’s bold campaign to influence the U.S. election (20170623)

Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault (20170623)

Two links for those who attempt to follow the Trump-Russia morase; I find the entire issue to be incredibly complex and difficult to follow. It must be equally difficult for those who are tasked to deliver conclusive reports, especially since the issues represent the depth of deceptiveness and collusion within our so-called democracy. Such clandestine affairs; probably they have always been part of the struggle for power and domination, but are so much more sophisticated today.

This is what foreign spies think when they read President Trump’s tweets (20170623)

Interesting commentary on how information is gathered in today’s high tech world, as well as the risks imposed by Trump’s tweeting.

Miscellaneous

Bicycling never gets old! (20170622)

A good description of the history of bicycling, and an emphasis on the benefits of bicycling. I used to enjoy bicycling, although I have not yet taken up the modern aspects of long distance cycling nor the hype on new (expensive) technology.

[1] Orwell, G. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-four. London, UK: Secher & Warburg.

Issues Of Insanity

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

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

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

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

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

The insanity of politics

Mr. Mueller Is Following the Money (20170615)

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

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

The responses to Comey’s testimony.

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

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

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

WTF is going on in the UK? (20170609)

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

On global warmingAntarcticMelt

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

A potential harbringer of the future.

New Solar Milestone Has Big Consequences (20170606)

Progress is slow, but ongoing.

On the positive side:

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

A good summary of Trump issues.

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

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

Protecting oceans is paying off (20170608)

Fascinating research.

Accepting One’s Quirky Personality (2017)

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

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

Rites Of Passage

LifeStages2I have just returned from an outstanding workshop called Men’s Rites Of Passage (MROP), provided by a men’s organization (Illuman) committed to becoming better men; it is based on spiritual traditions, but totally ecumenical and welcoming to all men regardless of personal characteristics. Over my years of therapy, I have likely attended more than 100 major workshops, and this one has clearly been one of the best, both in its organization and its clarity of work. For myself, the impact was somewhat diffuse (as noted, having done much work before); its impact on other men appears to have been profound, consistent with the quality of the workshop.

The workshop is based on the work of Richard Rohr, founder of the Center For Action And Contemplation, a Franciscian based spiritual center. Based on Richard’s book Adam’s Return: The Five Promises Of Male Initiation[1], the premise is that throughout the past, men have needed initiation rites so as to move them into community; otherwise men tend to be highly orientated to power dynamics. The premise makes sense to me, not that it is exclusive to men, but certainly it has been a factor in the basic power dynamics of our Western civilization.

Essentially, the workshop normalizes the pain of life journey. It is based on spiritual teachings, although non-religious and very ecumenical. It poses a variety of non-challenging interventions, yet is very powerful.

Various studies (I forget the sources) have suggested a range of life stages for men and women, the most common of which (if successfully completed) are:

  • early adult transition, usually in the early 20s, wherein mastery is learned,
  • mid-life transition, approximately age 40, wherein maturity is begun, and
  • eldership transition, approximately age 65, wherein wisdom predominates
    • this could also be called old age transition, but I dislike the connotations of this designation.

The current MROP is orientated to mid-life transition; workshops to emphasize the characteristics of the other statges are currently being developed.

From my perspective and as indicated in previous posts (my series on Mature Community, such as here), if we are to survive and thrive as a species, such work is essential to the maturing of our species. I cannot emphasize this enough, and I believe that Illuman has a major role to play in this process.

====================

Other issues of the week:

Global Warming continues to worsen (are you surprised?).

Increased awareness is key to resolving the climate crisis (20170518). A friend suggested that maybe they have been reading my blog.

AntarcticGreenThanks to global warming, Antarctica is beginning to turn green (20170518). Wow! I never conceived of the antarctic as being green.

Scientists say the pace of sea level rise has nearly tripled since 1990 (20170522). The rate of change is still very small, but the impact is cummulative. As well, the rate of rise does not take into account sudden shifts due to increased glacial calving, or loss of entire ice shelves.

The cultural status also continues to worsen (again, surprise!)

It’s tougher than it should be to impeach Donald Trump (20170517). It actually takes a huge effort (“only if the vice-president, over half the cabinet, and two-thirds of both houses agree to do so”).

There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party. (20170518). A dangerous situation

The Disappearing Data Project (20170522). As the Trump administation closes down various agencies, access to their data input becmes much more difficult.

Such is life!

[1] Rohr, R. (2004). Adam’s return: The five promises of male initiation. New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing.

The Developing Madness

Possibly crumbling.
Our crippled culture!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our options are:

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

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

What To Do? (Part 2)

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

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

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

 

What To Do? (Part 1)

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

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

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

Two maxims stand out for me as to their importance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.

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