Tag Archives: community development

Towards a mature culture?

We need to learn cooperation.
We need to learn cooperation.

I indicated in my last post that, for the present, I will focus on what I believe we need to move towards so as to have an effective world culture of maturity. To repeat what I wrote last time: “I believe that the single greatest need we currently have as a species is to become a culture predominantly of cooperation. Competition will still be a part of who we are, but not the major part. How we are to get there is not clear.”

What is a vision?

In the next few posts, I will be writing what I envision might happen, but they are only my musings, not something I am locked into. The way I think of a vision is that it is the scenery on the road as I move forward with my life. There is the immediate scenery of what is actually happening around me, and there is the distant scenery of where I am hopefully heading. But, depending on many factors (especially both what I want and what others want), the distant scenery will change ¾ it is only the direction, the journey, not a fixed end-point.

As I develop this theme, I invite you the reader to consider your thoughts about how we function as a society, and what would be a more effective society. I do not mean utopia, and I do not mean a society that gives lip service to maturing — but what would it really mean? How would such a society function?

What would be a mature society?

I’m going to break it down into six sections, with subsections:

  • What would such a society value?
  • How would governance function?
  • What would be the interactions between communities?
  • How would any given community function?
  • What would daily living conditions be like?
  • What are the major obstacles to such a culture?

So, to begin.

What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. I’ll comment on each of these in the next post.

  • The care of children would be the highest priority.
  • A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
  • An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
  • Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
  • Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
  • A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.

Thoughts?

To be continued.

Are you spiritual? What is spirituality? (Part 2 of 2)

Spirituality1

In the first part of this post, I discussed religion; I suggest here that spirituality refers to something broader than religion, but includes religion. If we think of religion as expressed as one dimension (belief systems), spirituality has three dimensions: that of

  • belief systems,
  • value systems (faith development over time), and
  • transformative experience (mystical experience).

An individual’s religion varies from belief in God to a belief that God is a figment of imagination; his/her spirituality can vary anywhere within this three dimensional structure.

Cultural maturity: a framework for spirituality
Cultural maturity: a framework for spirituality

John Fowler, in Stages of Faith, suggested that human beings undergo a hierarchical staging of faith development, expressed largely as an evolving locus of authority and a value system. A locus of authority identifies to what aspect of life I give authority, outward to the rules of others (the Bible, the Koran, etc.), or inwards to my own searching for wisdom. Values are very different from beliefs; values express what I (or others) consider important (and are often hidden within beliefs).

Fowler suggested that, during their lives, people move from relative rigidity and a focus on external authority (fundamentalism), through conventionality and questioning, to an deep acceptance and compassion, eventually living their own truths with profound authenticity. At these latter stages, people live the rules, not just follow them. It is important to note here that the rules they live are the principles that would generally be considered wise and compassionate, and they often live them fiercely, and passionately. Examples for me include Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, and others; on the surface, many of these individuals are religious, but fundamentally I suggest they are deeply spiritual. The process is age-dependent, and only a small number of people proceed through all stages.

I am also reminded here of an adage: “Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment;” the development of faith often requires much work. Part of this work is the work that occurs in therapy. A number of sources I know have noted that individuals in therapy often become less religious and more spiritual, less focused on beliefs and more focused on value systems.

The third aspect of spirituality is that some individuals have profound experiences that transform their lives. Examples range from the awe of sunrises to those of near-death experiences and other occurrences. I myself have had a number of experiences that have dramatically transformed my life.

For some individuals, the experiences have been so profound that the impact is strongly felt by those around them. The stories of Jesus, Mohamed, and Buddha express this clearly, and are the basic foundation of these religions. I would also suggest that these individuals are at the high end of Fowler’s scale of faith development, having had profound experiences, subsequently radically living their own authenticity.

Thus I consider spirituality as having three inter-related dimensions, all of which can be transformative, and give meaning and purpose to life:

  • belief systems (faith tradition or religion)
  • value systems of authenticity (faith development of values and locus of authority)
  • direct experience (mystery)

Personally, I have been deeply affected by each of these.

Furthermore I suggest that every human being has a spiritual life, some more enriching than others; every human being exists somewhere within these three dimension of beliefs, authenticity, and direct experience.

My questions ultimately to everyone are:

  • What gives meaning to your life?, and
  • Is the universe friendly?

Recommendation: Confessions … CIA Agent

The faceless enemy is easy to hate.
The faceless enemy is easy to hate.

In keeping with my last post on the massacre at Orlando, I strongly recommend the Youtube video Confessions of a former covert CIA agent – Amaryllis Fox.

She delineates the absolute need to know your “enemy” — he/she is human too.

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160614.

Thoughts on the massacre at Orlando

Massacre1

I wish to comment of the massacre at Orlando, for a variety of reasons.

First, I am deeply saddened, but not surprised by this occurrence, given the frequency of violations that occur in (but not exclusively in) “the land of the free.” Sadly as well, I am not surprised that Donald Trump would take advantage of it by claiming that he was right in his assessment of terrorism (Trump tweets congrats to self on Orlando Massacre and faces Backlash!), but then, this is Trump.

Second, in this context, Trump is a mirror of the insanity of our modern world. I believe he represents the large portion of people who feel deeply insecure within the complexity of our culture, especially Western culture; these people likely want to be reassured that someone (Trump, perhaps) will know what to do, and somehow do it. I would like that to be the case also, but I certainly do not believe further conflict will do it.

Given my background in group process, I know that systems change effectively only when there is a) strong leadership, b) an empowering vision of the future, and c) an encompassing cooperative movement based on depth of discussion of the underlying issues. One of the best examples I have recently encountered of this is in the book Future Primal (Herman, 2013). Unfortunately, none of these conditions are present in our culture at this time. Herman identified the essential need for the quest for truth (truth is never gained; it can only be pursued), by a four-fold process of a) personal individuation, b) effective dialogue of cultural issues, c) true democratic evaluation, and d) the need for a mythic narrative into the future.

MandalaFPMandalaFPMandalaFP

Third, I frequently wonder what it will require for our culture to begin this movement to maturity (my assessment is that we will almost certainly become extinct in the next hundred years if we do not). Essential to this is we truly recognize ourselves as part of a global village, in which diversity is valued, and violations are not tolerated. We must give up the We-Them dichotomy that is so characteristic of who we are at present. It is too easy to say: The problem is them, whomever the them is.

In this context, I wonder who this man (the killer) was, and what were the circumstances in his life that lead him to do this despicable act. There are always underlying issues; underlying issues are not excuses or reasons for forgiveness, but knowing them is essential to the process of change — otherwise systems do not change. As well, we (especially Western culture) have not come to terms with the duplicity of our own culture, with our strong tendency to allow violation of others.

I believe peace is possible for our world. I know many of the skills, and how much hard work is involved!

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160613.

A Major CO2 Storage Advance

We need major advances like this in carbon drawdown.
We need major advances like this in carbon drawdown.

A very important post today, but we need more than technology: Iceland Carbon Dioxide Storage Project Locks Away Gas, and Fast. We are approaching a time when the technological issues of climate change will be resolved. The process described is fairly quick and cheap, and uses routine technology, and it can be scaled up: there’s lots of porous basaltic rock in sea beds, and though it needs lots of water, sea water will do just fine. It will take time to develop, but feasible.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, the technological issues are the least important aspect of global warming. Important, yes, but climate change is essentially only a symptom of our hubris as a human species. Until we resolve the emotional issues that underlie climate change, we are simply likely to create another way of destroying ourselves. In the past hundred years, we have had the threat of nuclear holocaust, loss of biodiversity with extensive species extinction, overpopulation, threats of mass starvation, risk of major sea level rise, only some of which are related to global warming.

Resolving the technological issues of climate change will likely be easy compared to these other issues. What will it take for us to mature as a species? Probably catastrophe such as we cannot yet imagine!

This post was originally submitted to Facebook 2016 June 11.

Slowly maturing. A number of items have impressed me recently.

Authenticity

Two recent news items have crossed my desk that have impressed me that our culture is slowly maturing. (I’ve never doubted this; my questions invariably relate to whether or not we will mature enough to survive the next 100 years of cultural chaos.)

The first came to me via an email from Avaaz; it quoted a statement by Pavel Poc, Vice-Chair of the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee, and key leader of the glyphosate fight: “Looking to where we were in the beginning of this year and where we are now, Avaaz is indisputably the driving force of the fight for glyphosate discontinuance.” (My caution here is my usual one— I do not have external validation of this report. Overall I trust it, but I do not have external evidence to corroborate it. I do however have a video clip of Pavel Poc that I found most useful: Glyphosate: Yes or No?.)

It is essential, I believe, that the voices of large numbers of people must be heard, especially when the voices of multi-national corporations are so strong, and sometimes so dishonest. I believe this to be so even when some scientific reports claim innocence; we are also in an era when scientific research is frequently manipulative and deceptive. I wish this were not so, but my wishing does not make it so.

Thus, I am heartened to see that the polling performed by such as Avaaz has had an impact. I also wish it had more.

The second news item was that “The Stanford Rape Victim Controlled The Public Narrative Without Giving Up Her Privacy.” (ThinkProgress, June 8, 2016). This is, for me, a major step forward in our society. The status of this woman can be corroborated (it is in the public record of the legal system) — but it is not in the public record of the media blitz that is so invasive. Separated from the injustices that possibly surround this situation, this prevention of invasion is refreshing.

I also say “possibly surround” — I am aware of some of the controversies, but again the limitation for me is to find ways of validation. It is such an insane world — a vast amount of information available, without a vast amount of knowledge to be gleaned (in this context, I consider knowledge as being the meaning I give to information), and frequently without much wisdom to be gained (wisdom here being the ability to make effective judgments).

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160609.

Are you spiritual? What is spirituality? (Part 1 of 2)

Spirituality1

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

I indicated in my last few posts that I would clarify what I mean by spiritual. When I was a therapist, many of my clients struggled with finding a sense of meaning or purpose in life; for some, it is a profound dilemma. In seeking resolution, I would often ask these clients if they were religious, or if they were spiritual. Most of the time the answer I would receive would be “I’m spiritual; I’m not religious.” If I then asked “What do you mean by spiritual,” the answer I received was somewhat vague. I want here to clarify what I personally mean, as I believe the distinctions are vital to understanding and contributing to a maturing world.

Before you read on, I invite you to consider a number of questions:

  • What do you believe regarding the nature of the universe and its relationship, if any, to a creative principle called God, Creator, or some other name?
  • What are the important principles that guide how you live your life? How do you decide if something is right or wrong?
  • When, if ever, have you had experiences of profound indescribable awe?

First, what is religion? My best understanding is that a religion is a faith tradition, i.e., a set of beliefs (often including values) that attempt to explain how we should function during our lives. At some time in the past, a compassionate and/or wise individual so impressed his or her group that an extended community developed around this individual, a community that endured long after the death of the original individual (this certainly happened with Jesus, Mohamed, and Buddha). Usually the originating individual had had some kind of mystical experience that was deeply transformative for this individual. The set of beliefs and traditions about the individual and/or his/her actions became part of the community, and over centuries as the community expanded, the process came to be known as a religion.

In religion, the beliefs generally range from God, at one end of a spectrum, to no God, at the other end. On the God end, there are many traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, etc.), whereas at the other end, the traditions are limited — there is agnostic (not knowing, still seeking) and atheist (no God). (Contrary to what most people think, I consider atheism to be a religion, albeit one in which the principle belief is that of no God.) Depending on tradition (and literal interpretation of tradition), the God character ranges from a being of central authority to that of a less well-defined searching by the individual. In Buddhism for the most part, there is no God, and the Buddhist path is principally a seeking of what does it mean to be human in a spiritual dimension.

Generally religions also present some kind of ethics, a set of beliefs about how one should act in the difficulties of living. Often the ethics are very appropriate, but they are usually tied to (perhaps lost within) the proscribed beliefs of the religion.

Religions have propagated over hundreds or thousands of years, and seem to be a fundamental need for human beings. I suggest that the mechanism by which they have propagated is that we humans:

  • search for meaning, and
  • do not like “not knowing;” we want certainty so as to be safe within our communities — if we know the rules, and follow them, our lives will be peaceful.

Religions, thus, are faith traditions, the beliefs and values that have arisen over time in association with significant past experience. Essentially, religions allow us to follow the rules and keep safe. One of the Indian saints, Vivekananda is noted as saying: “It is wonderful to have been born in a church; it is terrible to die there.” I believe he was referring to the distinction between religion and spirituality.

I do not wish to disparage religions, but I do note a number of problems. In particular, there have been two problems of the 20th and 21st centuries, likely as a response to the meaningless projected by scientific materialism and its associated consumerism:

  • many people have given up on religious systems, shifting either to some form of atheism or some form of non-religious spirituality (sometimes remaining within a church system, attempting to transform the system from within).
  • other people have become more rigid in defense of their belief systems, and thus we have seen a major rise in religious fundamentalism, both within Christianity and within Islam. Both groups have contributed in major ways to the turmoil of modern life.

Most important to me is that the emotional maturity — the spirituality— of people who claim to be religious can vary tremendously, from those who are convinced that they have the absolute truth about life (and often insist that others do not) to those who have deep compassion for the whole of humanity. Unfortunately most religious individuals become branded with the tar of the least mature. Such individuals sometimes use the title of religion as an excuse for reprehensible acts. In North America, most Muslims have been inappropriately labeled with this tar; in so doing, those who do the tarring demonstrate their own immaturity.

To be continued.

What is Personal Growth?

PersonalGrowth1

I was going to talk about spirituality but I thought it would be useful first to identify personal growth; I imagine you the reader have heard the term personal growth. What does it mean? For that matter, what do the terms therapy and counseling mean? What is their relation to spirituality?

What follows are my reflections. (I am not an advocate of definitions — they are too static; I have been too influenced by an Aramaic concept wherein the speaker and listener are both aware of the many connotations of words, and thus a much richer possibility of dialogue.)

Growth, in the context of this blog, refers to: Development from a lower or simpler to a higher or more complex form; evolution. Personal Growth refers to the complex act by which human beings challenge themselves to become more mature, usually both more wise and more playful; it can take many forms but often involves some form of counselling or therapy with a wiser mentor.

PersonalGrowth2Consider the following. A baby (you, for example) comes into the world as a relative blank slate (with much background programming, but a vast amount to learn). The baby is then subject to a huge amount of living, some very caring and some painful (life happens; responses occur). The child copes and adapts: responding, copying, manipulating — developing deeply embedded responses of how to cope with a complex world (these are called the Adaptive Skills[1], patterns of who we are, not just what we know). Many of these responses of the baby are too painful to be kept conscious, so they are hidden behind a wall — these responses are the skills of adaptation.

Individuals who have successfully developed these skills are generally:

  • aware of themselves and their impact on others,
  • easy to talk with (both by those in authority and by those over whom they have authority),
  • emotionally available (able to both express and describe their emotional life),
  • cognitively available (able to give and receive feedback cleanly),
  • able to delay gratification, and
  • flexible to conflict

An impressive list — some individuals have been fortunate to grow up in families where these skills are easily learned. Most of us are not so lucky — but the skills can be learned at a later stage of life.

PersonalGrowth3That is the role of personal growth and therapy. The two overlap, but they are different for me. Personal growth usually involves expansion of what I already know of myself, deepening who I am in many ways; it can be approached alone, without aid of another, but often involves good mentoring. Therapy acts on what is behind the wall — ideally it punches holes in the wall, allowing the individual to become wiser and more mature in who they are, and especially, therapy allows the development of the adaptive skill set. (The term counseling, for me, is a nebulous term that is supposed to act like therapy, but generally does not have the power of therapy.)

From my perspective, good therapy is experiential and inductive. Action, not just talking about, is required, and neither therapist nor client really knows the outcome, only that it is high risk (perhaps for both client and therapist), and fraught with pain — the wall is there for a purpose.

Finally, a number of my mentors have suggested the characteristics of a good therapist:

  • least important, they have a theoretical framework, a way of thinking and talking that allows them to discuss what has happened after they and the client have been in action.
  • they have practical experience of working with clients, and a support system that allows them to discuss what mis-takes have occurred.
  • they focus on their own personal growth, they themselves being the primary resource they bring to therapy (because therapy is a relationship, not a power trip).

This is a list I agree with — so if I am going to work with a therapist myself, I want to know they have done their own growth work. I want someone who helps me to be myself; I don’t want someone who tells me who I should be — I can read that in a book.

As for spirituality, the opening of the individual to all of who they are is the foundation of spirituality. A truism of therapy is that when an religious individual enters therapy , they usually leave less religious but more spiritual, and if they enter without religious status, they often leave more religious (and still more spiritual). Therapy promotes expansion of spirituality.

[1] Scherer, J. J. (1980). Job-related adaptive skills. Towards personal growth. In J. W. Pfeiffer & J. E. Jones (Eds.), The 1980 annual handbook for group facilitators. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. I am thankful for John’s assistance in my PhD research.

Blogs I Follow: Richard Rohr

Spirituality2

As you will note under Blogs I Follow, I subscribe to the blog of Richard Rohr at Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).

I do so because I find him to be the most spiritually mature individual of whom I am aware. (Overall my previous mentors, listed in my most recent post, also fall into this category.)

Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest, a Franciscan monk. In 1986 he envisioned CAC as a place where opposites (action and contemplation) are held together, bridging gaps between the spiritual and the justice communities. As a priest, his language is often religious, but the underlying content of what he is writing is deeply spiritual (see my next post for what I mean by spiritual, and how I think it differs from religious).

Especially I recommend his most recent post: Unconditional and Conditional Love.

How much do you know about the American 2nd Amendment?

And what would you like today?
And what would you like today?

A very interesting article, reminding me that “believing is seeing.” I will soon be presenting a post on Beliefs and Values.

Opinion: What America’s gun fanatics won’t tell you.