Tag Archives: fearfulness

Acedia underlies global warming

It's all too much.
It’s all too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suggest there are three mechanisms at play:

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

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

Coming next: The threshold of overcoming anxiety

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

Global Warming: My Stance

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

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

Therapist: anger management

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

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

My Acedia Clients

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

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

PhD: Climate Change

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

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

Travels

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

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

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

What I Want

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Words

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

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

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

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

The Power Of Your Words

Janet Smith Warfield, 20131012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Janet Smith Warfield

www.wordsculptures.com

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

Why I do anger management

So sad.
So sad.

In one sense, this post is a digression on my current theme of visioning a mature society. But it also gets to the heart of the matter of how we are to get to this vision. For me, anger is the canary in the coal mine, and it has movement.

First, what a blog offers me.

In doing a blog, I am forced by its structure: It needs to be short and fairly concise, neither of which really suits my need to present depth. However, I go in a number of interesting directions.

  • I give major attention to how blogs attract people, a significant learning curve for me.
    • I use more lists and more subheadings — they apparently attract more attention. (Because of information overload, people seek very brief bites of information, thus very stressful and dysfunctional. Efficient, but sad!)
    • I keep the posts relatively short, forcing me to be more precise. Likely a good thing.
  • I use my meditation practice (approximately 40 minutes a day) as a way to reflect; thereby, I access my other-than-conscious mind, a very powerful workhorse for me.
  • In having pause time between blogs, I develop very interesting (to me) side-branches to the themes I want to present.

So, why anger management?

I focused on anger management as a therapist largely because anger was so much a part of my own life. With this, I soon came to realize that anger is a part of every life issue. Thus I had the opportunity to study the whole of life.

In that sense, anger is a window to cultural issues, and is a canary in the coal mine. If you want to improve any situation, augment the positives and diminish the negatives. As applied to mine conditions, for example, you work on a) education for better conditions, and b) improving the ventilation system. But if you don’t change the ventilation, education does little good. From my perspective, if our culture does not deal long-term with the underlying anger in healthy ways, much (all?) of the positive movement is ineffective.

In addition, anger has movement; it is a push against the environment. Eventually in my therapy practice, I realized that the people who were stuck were either lazy (they wouldn’t do the work) or fearful (they were afraid of the consequences of the work) — I’m not being critical here, simply attempting to identify. So in retirement, I decided to research laziness and fearfulness as the focus of my PhD. (Eventually I subsumed laziness and fearfulness, plus self-righteousness, into the ancient word, acedia.)

There are two problems with acedia:

  • there is no movement; acedia is a stuck state, and requires an existential choice by the individual that they will not stay stuck; they will move through whatever the issues are.
  • acedia is the dominant factor that has lead to the issues of climate change. As a culture, we have been unwilling to do the work of choosing a world based on justice and health.

Thus, for me, anger management has been my path to health, both individually and culturally. I’ve learned much thereby, both about the negatives and the positives.

Now, back to cultural visioning (unless I develop another digression). :)))

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

Read the fine print!

Diablo Nuclear Plant to be closed --- maybe?
Diablo Nuclear Plant to be closed — maybe?

I am so tired of the duplicity of our culture!

A colleague Paul Ray sends me lots of information about climate change issues, for which I am very grateful — not only are they usually pertinent, but he often highlights the significant components in the emails he sends.

Such is the case here, referring to the Diablo Nuclear Plant in California: Diablo Shutdown Marks End of Atomic Era . If you scan the article (fairly long), it looks fairly good, but if you read the last dozen paragraphs (all of which Paul highlights), beginning with “But … then listen to the rest of the news …,” it includes closure not until approximately 2025, ongoing environmental violations, possibly no money for the closure and the necessary safety measures, and the possibility that the “closed” plant could continue to operate in an unlicensed fashion.

This duplicity is one of the reasons I push the ideas of my blog (www.thehumansideofglobalwarming.com) and website (www.aplacetwobe.ca): we need emotional maturing of our culture, and essentially the only way in which this will occur is when huge numbers of individuals risk the work of emotional maturity.

In the meantime, we sort through stuff that sounds good, but has many difficulties hidden within (the fine print!).

Where are we going? Some thoughts on Brexit.

Brexit

My major interest in this blog is the emotional maturing of our culture. As such, I recognize that our civilization is very unstable — the recent Brexit events have made this clear; the ramifications of this choice by the people of Britain may reverberate for years to come, and likely will have an impact on the whole world.

As important as the impact will be, for me Brexit represents a move away from something (the European Common Market), rather than a move towards effective vision; I am not sure here what is being offered for the future, especially for cultural maturing. Bloomberg today, for example, notes that: “Britain’s departure from the European Union dealt what may be the biggest blow yet to globalization, challenging a decades-long embrace of freer movement of goods, services and people.” Personally I do not consider the globalization of consumerism to be a move towards maturity.

Where are we going? To what?

I have decided that my next posts will focus on what I imagine a mature culture would be like. Possibly this will require a considerable number of posts, so I ask the reader to bear with me.

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.

But it is necessary. Metaphorically, as I look at my culture, it is like going into a drug store to buy toothpaste. I am confronted with a dozen different brands, and within each brand, there are another dozen options. I don’t need this ¾ I usually feel overwhelmed with too many unimportant choices; I just want some toothpaste.

I want to remind the reader of a post I presented a number of years ago, before I myself got temporarily overcome by the difficulties of climate change: The Issues of Global Warming, 20140713 and 20140716. There I pointed out that effective change has a number of components:

ChangeFF

  • a vision of where we are going,
  • honesty of where we are,
  • augmentation of the forces that allow movement forward, and
  • diminishing of the forces inhibiting movement.

As indicated, my next postings will focus on where I believe we need to go.

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.

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.

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.