Tag Archives: emotional needs

¿Truths? Part 2

Meaning2As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — it is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

[An apology also — sometimes the formatting offered by WordPress is very limiting! An aspect of technology that I hate is that it forces me into processes that I do not want in my life; yet, the same technology offers many advantages. Thus my common statement: Technology is wonderful — when it works.]

  1. (Continuing the previous) As part of being present, I learn skills of living.
  2. The skills fall into two main groups:
    • skills of integrity, being my word, including choosing action (pro-activity) rather than “understanding” or “reaction,” developing a vision of where I want to go and how, and being disciplined in “how” I action my vision
    • being in relationship with life, trustworthy and committed, including balancing my needs with the needs of others and being a midwife for others..
  1. All this requires that I be very clear of who I am!

Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself (Thomas Merton).

  1. My journey is not your journey. You need to do your own journey.

The only truth I can tell you is of my journey.

  1. I can never know absolute truth; depending on circumstances, everything is true, and everything is bull. What I gain on the journey is wisdom, the knowing of my own truth! I cannot teach wisdom to anyone else.
  2. I am here now!

This is very simple, yet very fundamental. This is the only time in which I am able to make a difference in life. What difference, if any, do I want to make at this time? Now? Here?

  1. As a biologic creature, I have all the resources I require so as to be alive, to live fully.

I frequently wonder about this; present-day human life is very complex. Sometimes I truly do not know something, and I obtain such from another source. Such resources are invaluable to challenge me in my growth.

However, if there is something such as universal consciousness, then perhaps all is available to me, if only I knew how.

I certainly need integration of my resources; my society also needs integration.

  1. The following statement speaks volumes!

“Until you can see through the rules, you can only see through the rules.” (R. D. Laing)

  1. Believing is seeing!

Usually we say “seeing is believing;” less accurate though.

  1. I am currently doing the best that I can. Even when I believe I should be doing something else, I am still doing the best I can right now.

I can however do something different (especially if I do not like what I am currently doing!)—I have choice!

There is a price tag to choice!

  1. Fears are ‘Fantasied Experiences Appearing Real.’

One of the activities I enjoy is climbing—50’-60’ in the air, suspended by a safety harness. The real risk is slight; the perceived risk is high (and exciting).

Most of my fears are due to perceived risk! I call this fearfulness. And I need to be careful that I do evaluate the real risks!

  1. There is a major distinction between fear and fearfulness.

‘Fear’ is the authentic response to danger. ‘Fearfulness’ is the catastrophic response to ‘fantasized experiences appearing real.’

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, indicated that this latter is one of the only two sins—it alienates us from life.

  1. This distinction became the basis of my PhD dissertation — the study of acedia, an ancient term that for me includes fearfulness, laziness, and self-righteousness as the fundamental emotional processes we use to avoid authentic living.
  2. Some thoughts/definitions of importance to me.
  • Power—               the ability to influence others.
  • Strength—            the ability to resist others.
  • Freedom—           the ability to influence myself.
  • Wisdom—            flexibility with craziness (yours and/or mine).
  1. I live within an environment, and I impact that environment. Even when I am doing “nothing,” I still have an impact.

What is my impact? Do I truly want this impact?

  1. On rare occasions, I am an innocent victim of the universe (especially true of children).

I am never one when my pain is recurrent—always I contribute to my own suffering.

I have no power to change the universe; I do have power to change my self.

  1. Assuming there is a purpose underlying the universe (God, Creator, .Mystery, …), then there are probably no innocent victims, ever. We are given this life to live it, in all its complexity.

There is a great freedom in accepting that I have chosen to be here.

Yet I often wonder as to the purpose envisioned by Creator. The diversity of life is so complex, especially in the realm of good and evil.

  1. I have a purpose in being here! Even when I do not know what that purpose is, I still have a purpose. What is my purpose?

Sometimes my purpose seems small (I want to talk to you!); sometimes my purpose seems grand (I am an instrument of Mystery!). Always I am a creature of the universe, contributing to whatever purpose resides in the universe.

  1. My time is my time! No one, absolutely no one, gets my time without my permission! I can give my time freely, or resentfully—either way, with my permission!
  2. I am an explorer. I am often happiest being an explorer. As explorer, I cannot fully know what I am exploring until I have explored it!

Frequently, when exploring, I feel very scared.

When I am most scared, and able to explore my scare, I find my biggest treasures.

  1. As much as possible, I seek simplicity and clarity. For me, these allow me a place to stand in the universe. What is the simple and the obvious in my life?
  2. There is a major difference between wishes and goals.

Wishes are exciting, generally vague, and usually I can tell you why I don’t have “it” in my life, perhaps with excuses or explanations. I may also regret, or somehow create, a negative experience from this.

Goals are planned directions, planned in that I know what I want and how to get it, what I need to do and when. The RPMS of goals are Realistic, Practical, Measurable and Specific!

  1. When I am living a goal, it is likely that I am also excited and looking forward, able to celebrate when I am finished (or having reached a significant milestone on the path). I can also change direction when necessary.

How do I live my life, what part as wishes and as goals? Both are useful at times.

  1. “Want” does not mean that I like something; it means that “I choose” (perhaps the better of two goods, often the lesser of two evils).
  2. There are no guarantees!
  3. One of the simple concepts in life is that there are three kinds of “facts”:
  • there are external facts (outside myself—said to be objective — wow!),
  • there are my personal facts (my own internal sensations, thoughts, feelings and my behavior descriptions of what I experience outside myself), and
  • there are my interpretations of these two other facts (the story I make up about these first two types of facts).
  1. What connects these three are my beliefs. Keeping all these aspects, my facts and my beliefs, separate and manageable is an amazingly difficult process—and an incredibly rewarding one when I do so.
  2. What traps me most as a human being is when I assume that the story I make up is true (!), somehow more important than the facts.

Also, I often keep my beliefs out-of-consciousness (so as to maintain this trap)! To step out of the trap means that I will encounter pain (and hopefully joy).

To be continued.

¿Truths? Part 1

Questioning the truth

More than thirty years ago, in my attempt to grasp effective change, I decided to write down my beliefs as short concise statements which could be compared with to my actual experiences, and thus validated. Thus, the following are truths for me. I speak them only as my experience, my beliefs, my values, and yet I think they are universal, independent of culture for the most part. This practice has proved to be one of the most powerful activities of my own growth. It allowed me to be clear of my own attitudes about myself and the world. Initially I revised them every few months, now every couple of years. I also live them as much as possible; they are always in revision and are not absolute.

Now at age 76 I am undertaking a major life review and choose to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I offer them simply for self-study of one person’s searching — it is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, perhaps 25-30 brief statements per posting.

A comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology that describes me include Gestaltist, panpsychist, and panentheist (those terms require many comments). Essentially I believe that consciousness and energy-matter are two sides of the same coin, a coin that is not yet describable (if it makes sense to you, think of wave and particle in quantum mechanics). However, most of the world is orientated to scientific materialism, and much information I value is coached in these terms. I attempt to be very precise with my language, but because of these issues, I often use somewhat strange language, and I ask patience of the reader. For example, I often speak of mind-brain, when I am not clear as to how the mind (consciousness) and brain (energy-matter) interact. I certainly do not believe they are synonymous; only that they are somehow related, and that perhaps mind is vastly more sophisticated than brain. Other examples will be explained as they occur.

We so need to grow as a species!

Dave’s ¿Truths?

1. I forget these truths, frequently and repeatedly!

The hardest thing for me to learn is what I don’t know, because I don’t know that I don’t know it!

Frequently it is not safe for me to learn these truths—there is a price tag to truth.

2. A major problem of our society is the loss of the subjective.

Objectivity provides great technology, and only limited humanity.

3. There is an old engineering principle that states: “If it works, use it.” Very practical!

One corollary is “If your conclusions are wrong, examine your premises.” When my conclusions about life are wrong, I may need to examine my assumptions.

Similarly, “If your conclusions are right, don’t trust your premises.” Life is an ongoing process of exploration in which I am repeatedly encountering new wonders (and terrors).

4. What I have gained in my life, especially from childhood, is a map of life.

The map is not the territory!

5. Life comes as a complete package, a territory, not a map, and includes subjectivity, objectivity, diversity, community, decay, rejuvenation, … (perhaps this is just our dramatic dualistic way of experiencing).

I am not in charge! Dualism may be an inherent component in the universe. Witness right-handed and left-handed amino acids, and our biologic preferences.

However, consciousness does not need to be dualistic (right/wrong, good/bad, et cetera). Perhaps consciousness is fully non-dual.

6. Each of us is unique! We have many similarities, yet we each have unique maps, similar but not the same.

No two people understand the same situation (any situation, any sentence, any object, any smell, et cetera) in the same manner. We frequently delude ourselves that we do!

When I truly validate this difference, the consequences are staggering!

7. There is much evidence that life is painful (sometimes); there is no evidence that life is serious.

Being able to play with what life offers is a major skill, and part of maturity.

8. Another major skill of maturity is the ability to know when to be silent!

And preferably in awe of whatever is occurring.

9. The most successful person in the world is the one who is having the most fun.

In my experience, I do not compare when I am having fun! I simply have fun! Everything is included and integrated when I am having fun; there are no divisions.

10. Human beings are fundamentally playful, if allowed to be so. Our integrity seeks authentic feel-good experiences.

If a new, authentically more effective pattern can be experienced in place of an older less effective pattern, we will change rapidly and permanently. Invariably this new pattern has an authentic feel-good character. Integration of the change within our lives, and our emotional systems, may require considerable time.

11. There are two basic processes available in creating change: choice and playfulness.

Choice involves deciding how we want to live, given our options, moving in that direction. There will be consequences, and hence a price tag to our choices.

Playfulness is available as a skill so as to create authentic more effective patterns within our choices, generally improving the cost/benefit ratio of the price tag. Often playfulness requires challenge of the existing system.

12. When I am in pain (or suffering), I need to examine my map; when I am comfortable, I need to be careful with my map.

What limits me is my ability (or inability) to say “yes” to what life offers—the territory! not the map!

13. Please do not trap me in the limitations of your map.

It is extremely painful to get caught in your interpretation of me when that interpretation does not reflect my reality, and you do not have a way to step back from our/your reality to assess the data.

Certainly at a personal level, it is the most painful experience of my life, and at a societal level, I think it is probably our most common emotional problem. one in which people have great difficulty letting go of their maps.

14. The basis of our humanness seems to reside in our brains (see next comment).

Our brains are built in three evolutionary stages: the brain of a lizard (fundamental survival), the brain of a mammal (emotion, including love and play), and a human brain (clarity and choice, the ability to deal with the complexity of  time and meaning).

15. However, consciousness is not necessarily restricted to our brain.

I often wonder what is the connection between mind and brain. As a physician, I know that I lose the ability to access the consciousness of an individual when they have major brain injury, but that does not mean that consciousness exists within the brain. The brain need only be an access portal.

The nature of near-death experiences suggests that there may be other portals.

16. I have limitations. I am not God (whatever that term means); I cannot do everything.

I have choice though. I have the beginning of awareness, and I can develop my awareness further. I can also play.

I can love, or I can fear. When I fear, I call the other a problem—and I have pain. If I then say “this should not be,” then I suffer.

17. I have a set of beliefs. The purpose of beliefs is to link one experience to another. Somehow, as a human being, I believe that my beliefs are more important than what I experience. Wow!

Many of my beliefs are “shoulds!” Wow again! This is principally how I drive myself crazy (or at least neurotic)! It is also how I drive others crazy.

18. Much of my experience is grounded in biology.

One of my favorite stories is how to catch crabs in the ocean. Put a large open box (a big box), partially filled with bait, on the ocean floor. The crabs (10-20 crabs) will climb into the box, and eat the bait. Then, when the bait is all gone, the crabs will keep each other in the box—they won’t let each other leave. If persistent, they will kill the crab that wants to leave by tearing its claws off. Biologists call it ‘the togetherness factor’.

Wow! How we ‘should’ each other.

19. Other experiences that I have had are grounded in something else.

In particular, I have been graced with occasional profound mystical experiences. I do not know how to ground these in biology. Perhaps they are simply a survival mechanism for responding to existential loneliness.

20. When is enough? A huge question!

For me, ‘enough’ means that I have what I need for adequate comfort, and a bit more for occasional luxuries.

21. What I experience, and what I value (peace, community, et cetera), are far better guides to life and its richness than what I believe.

In my experience, do I achieve my values? If not, what am I valuing instead?

22. I am on a journey, this phase of which begins with conception, and ends with death. The journey is one of growth to be a mature human being, whatever that means. Essentially, it means to be present to life.

23. The word “present” has multiple meanings, a triple entendre!

it means to be here,

it refers to now, and

it is also a gift to be opened!

24. Are you present? Am I present?

25. As part of being present, I learn skills of living. The skills are not the journey, merely the tools of the journey. Being in action of my own truths is one of the skills; in particular, I value this process.

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

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

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

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

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

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


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

Knowing Through Relationship

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

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

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

Christian also distinguished three forms of intersubjectivity:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, the workshop is looking interesting.

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

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

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

A Brief History of the Straw (20141023)

Plastic straws suck (20170720)

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

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.

More On Problems

problems1Previously, I written a number of blog posts on the nature of change, and the distinction between difficulties and problems (they start here as of 20160630). I need to add to that, especially with a highly useful concept ( concerning logos, ethos, and pathos) that I encountered somewhere in my career, one attributed to Plato (I’m currently searching for a specific reference).

Anyway, the distinction is that between logical issues (logos), ethical issues (ethos), and emotional issues (pathos). An example will help.

Suppose my toaster is not working, and I want toast.

The Difficulties: In theory (the Logical), I (or someone else) could take the toaster, determine what is the difficulty, and with the right parts, simply fix the toaster, returning it to its functional state. This is the logical approach to a technological difficulty. (Logical resolutions work best with technological issues.)

However, in our culture, it is much more likely I would put the toaster in the garbage (increasing the environmental load), and go to the local store to purchase a new toaster. I bypass the logical.

The difficulty here is that we somehow believe it to be less expensive to do this than to find someone, as above, who has the necessary skills and necessary parts for the repair process. In our complex culture, there is a certain truth to this (it is much less so in a third-world country where many people make their living with such simple repairs — but we are not a ‘third-world’ country!).

To find someone in my city who would be willing to do such repairs and who had the necessary parts (likely needing to be back-ordered rather than immediately available) would take much searching and massive effort as well as considerable time — in the past when I have gone to electrical stores, they have simply said it is cheaper to buy a new toaster.

So with difficulties of this nature, such as the toaster, I therefore do not bring a logical resolution to the logical problem. It is ‘too expensive.’ Instead, I move to the Ethical: I go to a store for a toaster.

In buying the toaster at the store, probably as a very cheap price (because the many environmental costs are ignored), they will give me a warranty for the new toaster — an ethical statement that the toaster is new, and will function without difficulty for a certain period of time. Let’s assume the warranty is good for 90 days.

So I take the toaster home, and enjoy my toast for the next few weeks. But then, the toaster fails, at day 89. I go to the original store where I bought the toaster, together with my original purchase receipt. Then give me a replacement toaster, a new one — mine has crashed within the warranty period, and the warranty guarantees a replacement (meanwhile the failed toaster goes into the garbage — more garbage). This is an ethical resolution to a logical problem (repeating again, as above, that a logical resolution is ‘too expensive.’)

But suppose I have had a busy week, and I do not get back to the store until day 91. What then?

I tell the store that the toaster failed two days ago, on day 89 (and of course, explaining that this was within the warranty period), but I have had a really busy week. So what is the store manager to do?

On the one hand, I’ve brought the toaster back on day 91 — it is out of warranty! It is beyond the ethical resolution!

But on the other hand, thinks the store manager, “if I refuse to give this guy a new toaster, he will leave the store disgruntled, and likely complain to his many friends as to how unfair my store policy is, and I might lose 10 future customers as a result. I’ll give him a new toaster — it’s a cheaper solution.”

So I get a new toaster again. But this is not an ethical resolution — it is an Emotional resolution.

Over the years of my career as a therapist, this distinction between logical, ethical, and emotional has been one of the most useful concepts I have encountered! When I have a difficulty, I ask myself:

  • Is there a logical issue here? What will be require for resolution? Is there a known process that can be brought to bear on this issue?
  • Is there some kind of written (or even verbal) agreement (the ethical) that applies to this difficulty? If so, to what have we actually agreed?
    • Fundamentally, this is the concept of fairness — do we have an agreement as to how we will act when difficulties arise. It is fair that we keep this agreement, and unfair if one of us does not.
    • And if we do not have an agreement, fairness has nothing to do with the issue at hand!
  • And finally, what are the emotional issues within this difficulty? No known process to be applied; there is no agreement as to how we should act. So now I have two further options as to how to act . . .
    • I can do a transaction for payment — how much is it going to cost for resolution, to me, to the other? And if I don’t get paid, I resent — for which there are likely to be future consequences!
    • Or I do give a gift of my time and my effort. No payment necessary, not even a thank-you. But gifts are paradoxical — when I gift to others, somehow they recognize this, and they want to gift back (or they gift forward!).
  • But beware: the major problems of living arise when I am not clear about the distinction between gift and transaction! I resent ‘gifts’ when they are actually sneaky transactions.
    • The store manager above needs to be clear; otherwise he or she will become very dissatisfied.

Keeping all of these distinctions in awareness is perhaps difficult initially, but with time, very rewarding:

Logical? Ethical? Emotional?

Transaction? Gift?

The Nature of Burnout, Part 1

Burnout1After a lot of work, I now have this blog set the way I want (mainly). The process has been deeply frustrating, reminiscent of Sometimes I Hate Technology, and illustrative of how I burnout — over-invested in life being the way I want to be, as compared with how it is.

Burnout. A common phenomenon about which much has been written, but what is it really? It is actually quite simple to describe, and often difficult to resolve, as I well know from my own personal experience (which I will describe shortly).

Burnout occurs when I am overly invested in outcomes I cannot control — sooner or later, I become exhausted, and I call it burnout. Burnout therefore is a measure of the extent that I have not accepted my own powerlessness in life.

What I can control

There are certain things I can control: with discipline, I can control my own behaviors. To a limited extent, I can control my own thoughts and emotions. That is about it. That is actually a lot, because thereupon I can influence others, and I can modify situations. What I cannot control is what other people think, feel, and do in response to me. As noted, I can influence these aspects of life, but after 25 years as a therapist, I am very aware that I cannot consistently and repeatedly get others to do what they do not want to do — I get resistance, and I get sabotaged. And as a result, I eventually get exhausted.

Especially in the nature of global warming, the incidence of burnout will be high. The dominator forces that have created this dilemma are so powerful and so ingrained in our species that it is very easy to get caught in wanting the problem to be solved. And it is the nature of super-wicked problems that every step forward seems to be followed by two steps backwards.

Effective Leadership

So what is the resolution that is needed? Effective leadership — effective leadership of myself by myself, and to the extent that I can influence others, effective leadership of others by me. One of the books that made this clear for me was Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge by Bennis and Nanus. They listed four characteristics of good leaders:

  1. they create attention through vision, their own vision of where the group is to go;
  2. they create meaning through communication — they frame their vision in a compelling fashion, attracting and enlisting the support of followers;
  3. they create trust through positioning — they persist in their vision despite the sabotage that [always] occurs; and
  4. they lead others — they manage themselves, through focus on the positive aspects that they either can control, or can generate within themselves.

From another sources (The Success Principles), Canfield describes this succinctly as

High intention, low attachment.

I’ll have more to say in Part 2.

 

Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: Strategies for taking charge. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Canfield, J., & Switzer, J. (2005). The success principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Living in A Mature Culture, Part 7

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.

A reminder: these postings are simply my thoughts on what it would be like to live permanently in a mature culture; I present them mainly to stimulate your thoughts.

  • Each “village” would consist of three floors within a high-rise complex, each complex perhaps holding approximately 30 “villages.”
    • As such, there would be a communal living floor sandwiched in two floors of private living/sleeping quarters.
      • Much would be modular, both for efficiency and minimal environmental impact.
    • Most food preparation and eating would be within the communal space, or in more central cafeteria-style buildings within the city.
      • There would be an emphasis that such food be both nutritious and of very high quality (not at all like the typical cafeteria of modern life).
    • Each village would consist of about 200 people, likely about 50 families, interacting with each other. There would be about 125 adults (including late teens), and about 75 younger children.
      • There would be extensive day-care facilities for child care (approximately 25 per village, or 625 per high-rise); essentially the village would raise the children, and children would be able to attend every process of village life.
      • school-aged children (approximately 2000 per high-rise) would attend school in the high-rise common area.
      • late teens would attend some kind of college or university, of which there would be 5 – 10 in the city, with the possibility of outreach to other cities.
    • The “adults” would meet several times per week in small groups, perhaps 10 people each, for personal development. Each week, there would also be a variety of local governance groups planning the needs and development of the village community, and a number of meetings with other groups outside the “village,” planning governance on a broader level.
      • The adults would be engaged in work activity 25 hours per week, 5 hours per day, approximately half of which would be virtual meetings or some kind of activity that could be performed without leaving the local village.
        • Children of all ages would be welcome at all activities.
      • Given that the cultural narrative would be that of a permanent state of sustainability, then perhaps most of adult life would be lived out in these environment.
        • We would no longer live the current cultural model of continuous improvement and discovery (such living is not compatible with being the dominant species of a finite planet).

Your thoughts? Would this be too commune-like? Would this be too sterile? Both Rupert Ross (Dancing With A Ghost) and Louis Herman (Future Primal) have a lot to say about this.

Ross, when reflecting on “primitive” native culture, notes (pp. 103-108):

Each generation’s turn at the wheel might include performances better or worse than the last, but they would be essentially the same performance, with the same set and script and plotting. . . .

We post-industrial societies, in contrast, seem to run a cross-country relay race, passing the baton to a generation that will never set foot upon the ground we have covered . . .

There is a temptation to conclude that such a repetitive existence would be boring in the extreme, that it would feel binding and imprisoning.

I suspect . . .  no such sense of limits. . . . they [native peoples] may have perceived their lives as holding a virtually limitless scope for challenge and accomplishment. . . .  their lives did not center on building things, but upon discerning things. Life’s challenge lay in observing and understanding the workings of the dynamic equilibrium of which they were a part, then acting so as to sustain a harmony within it rather than a mastery over it. One aspired to wisdom in accommodating oneself

. . . they sought that wisdom not only to better ensure survival but also as an end in itself, as something in itself exhilarating.

Herman notes (Kindle location 7130):

Our wilderness origins fashioned our creative self-consciousness, which is both expanded and balanced by following the primal dynamic: face-to-face communication within a caring community of individuals, passionate for living and learning in a mutually enhancing resonance with the natural world. This is the truth quest, and it is our primal inheritance. We can ignore it, or we can cultivate it in all our endeavors and bring it into a creative engagement with the reality we find ourselves caught up in: a civilization rushing to self-destruction while displaying tantalizing possibilities of a more beautiful, joyful way of life.

As a therapist of 25 years’ experience, centered largely in my own emotional growth, I know that exhilaration. Personally, although such “village” life as I am describing would have challenges, it could also be immensely satisfying.

To be continued.

Acedia and Evil

The desire to give up! Caught in despair.
The desire to give up! Caught in despair.

I’ve been reading some of the articles accessible through The Climate Mobilization website, especially those concerning what we are now learning about the risks of global warming, even at our current level. It is so much worse than I thought! And I regard myself as well-informed in this area. For me, the issues are so related to the acedia of our civilization.

Gradually we are shifting. More and more leaders are speaking out for the need for profound change. However, all that leaders can do is lead! It is followers that create the bulk of the change. We need the majority of our culture to speak out.

And there is some evidence that the cultural majority are aware of this need. Recent research suggests that 54% of people in four Western countries acknowledge high risk of our civilization ending, and 24% recognize the risk of human extinction, all in the next 100 years.

Acedia and Evil

In this post I want to finish with the topic of acedia, in particular the nature of evil.

In The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey tells the story of a major agribusiness CEO who knew exactly what destruction he was causing to the lives of thousands of people, but proceeded anyway simply for the sense of power that it gave him. When I reflect on modern tragedies such as

  • the duplicity of British Petroleum in the 2010 Gulf environmental disaster,
  • ExxonMobil being aware of the impact of fossil fuel on global warming in the 1970s, and deliberately hiding this information (presumably for profit to the company),
  • the Koch brothers’ massive manipulation of the American political system,
  • and many other political-economic-environmental disasters of recent years,

I cannot but consider these actions as evil — the active antagonism of what life offers, the hiding for political-economic power. Such actions must be identified, and stopped, but there is the danger of focusing on these issues, rather than looking at the system (the Cultural Lie, including myself as part to this system) which allows such actions to develop.

The Banality of Acedia and Evil

I also know from Hannah Arendt’s work on the banality of evil and Milgram’s work on obedience to authority, that the possibility of evil is a fundamental human characteristic. I consider evil as the end-point of the spectrum of acedia, as shown in the accompanying diagram. The manifestations of acedia (self-righteousness, laziness, fearfulness) are not evil per se, but they set the stage for evil, especially the acceptance of evil acts by others, wherein acedia displays as an attitude of “it doesn’t matter,” “who cares?,” or “it can’t be helped.”

AcediaSpectrum1

Yet the fundamental difficulty of evil is the attempt to eliminate evil — it sets a false dichotomy of us against them, and if only we eliminate them, things will be fine. When we as individuals fail to recognize how our silence and/or tokenism in the Climate Lie perpetuates the system, we support the evil of actions such as above.

As a culture, we have enjoyed the benefits of technology, and have been unwilling to recognize or pay the costs. We live gross inequality, with massive world poverty (amidst conclaves of richness), extensive hunger (especially starvation of  children), mistreatment of minorities (especially women in underdeveloped countries), waste and pollution (our garbage accumulates), amongst other inequities. We live the acedia cycle, especially in our lack of charity in resolving these issues. We have extensive “charitable organizations,” yet as a culture we lack the charity to resolve these  difficulties.

So what to do? Most of the power is held by those who are creating the inequality, mainly the leaders of the multi-national corporations. (Likely only a small minority of these corporations — I presume most are honorable, but we must find a way through so as to disempower those that create the most disruption of equitable society. And in any event, I am not interested in created the us versus them dilemma.)

The Need for Civil Disobedience

Gier (2006), in Three Principles of Civil Disobedience: Thoreau, Gandhi, and  King, notes that effective civil disobedience requires that:

  • one maintain respect for the rule of law even while disobeying the specific law perceived as unjust;
  • one should plead guilty to any violation of the law; and
  • one should attempt to convert the opponent by demonstrating the justice of one’s

I believe that civil disobedience is the only route that we can take. To engage in evil to combat evil will not lead to a mature culture. We have made attempts, such as the Occupy movement, but they need to continue.

Are we worthy of being a mature culture? I hope so.