Tag Archives: laziness

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.

A question of how to release anger!

The skill is in knowing what to do.
The skill is in knowing what to do.
Anger: the canary in the coal mine

I’ve said earlier why I do anger management. I am not an advocate of anger; rather I am skilled at its management. I also believe that there is little effective teaching in our society as to how to manage anger. Most of the time, we are told we should not be angry, we should be able to contain it, and we should be able to work through the conflicts wherein we are angry. Or: “Let’s talk about it so we can understand why you are angry.”

I will say again that I have little use for the word “should” — see my previous posts, six in all on sloppy language. And in general, I suggest that understanding is the booby prize; it is only useful if it leads to effective action .

In the past, when I was in the early stages of my own therapy, I could easily out-talk most therapist, and talking about my anger did nothing  for me. Fortunately I chose to work with therapists who would not put up with my bull. Early on, one of them said to me I was going to have to pound on a lot of coaches and push on a lot of doors. I took that to heart, and eventually built it into the system I call Blowing Out®, which became my workshop Blowing Out The Darkness! There are four basic principles to Blowing Out:

  • create safety, summarized as No SAD and STOP. Safety is absolutely essential — no compromises here.
    • No SAD: do not intend to scare any human being, do not attack any biological creature, and do not destroy in anger that which you would not destroy in peace.
    • STOP: if anyone feels scared (not intended) and says “Stop,” stop immediately, and find another way to deal with your energy.
  • release the energy anyway that works. learn the message of the energy. Is the anger a manifestation of your powerlessness or is it a result of truly inappropriate actions (lies, promises not kept, etc.) on the part of the other.
  • resolve the conflict, either work on your powerlessness or work on the relationship.
A question on releasing anger

Having said this as preliminary comment, let me now address a question I received today, from someone familiar with my work.

Good morning. I co-facilitate an anxiety and depression support group, and last night was a particularly heavy group. Lots going on in people’s lives. A few of my clients spoke of being very angry and not knowing what to do with their anger. I knew in that moment that the blowing out process would be a very effective skill. I have made the weekend workshop fliers available and shared my personal experience as far as the weekend goes.

I was wanting in that moment to do energy release work with them. I didn’t, but I did offer the skill of screaming into the pillow and pushing in the doorway. What else can I offer with safety and health.

My answer:

Hi

Some thoughts in response to your question of: “What else could I do in the support group I co-facilitate.”

First of all, some assumptions I am making. I assume that you emphasized the primary need for safety of all concerned (especially “No SAD [no scare, no attack, no destroy]” and “STOP” — I know you understand these terms, so I won’t define them further here). Second I assume you have previously discussed my work with your co-facilitator, so that the group leadership is not in conflict with my suggestions. In your indicating that you have shared your personal experiences of the blowing out process, these are both logical assumptions for me.

I’m not sure what you mean by “I was wanting in that moment to do energy release work with them. I didn’t but I did offer the skill of screaming into the pillow and pushing in the doorway.” I assume you talked about the release methods, perhaps demonstrated them.  In general, people do not learn from instructions; they learn from experiences, which can then be discussed. Normally what I do is to demonstrate screaming into a pillow and/or pushing in a doorway, so as to show:

  • how easy it is to do, and
  • how to do it safely (for example, make sure you emphasize pushing from the pelvis, not from the back or screaming with an open throat, not a close one).

I also generally demonstrate a) silent screaming and b) management of anxiety by the Valsalva maneuver or square breathing. As you know, there are many other options.

Once demonstrated, I ask for a volunteer, ideally someone unfamiliar with the impact of energy release, to explore how to do it (whichever method they choose) and how it feels. Then I coach the volunteer (who may still be very reluctant) to engage as fully as possible, perhaps again doing my own demonstration. I emphasize that the process of release is not mechanical, and ask the individual truly to put their emotion into the release. To the best of my ability, I make the process playful — we learn better when we play. If the release is effective, frequently the individual will say something like: “I never knew before that I could feel like this!”

I then ask the individual about the felt sense in their body, and what memories it brings up — seeking to explore the message hidden within the anger. Is the feeling familiar (powerlessness of self), or do they have the sense that the other person or situation is truly inappropriate (inappropriate to both themselves and to an average person)? The actual release work is only the tip of the iceberg; eventual empowerment of the individual is the goal.

From that message, I would then explore what needs to change for the individual. Does the individual need to work on their own powerlessness, or do they need to find ways to deal with the external conflict with the other? (Usually, the distinction between self and other is quite clear. The individual might need further coaching or therapy with either of these.)

So, what else? First, I would return to the subject of blowing out at the next meeting, reviewing the principles and asking if any questions. Repetition of information is essential in our fast-paced world. And, did anyone explore energy release at home? The difficulty with self-exploration here (at least in early attempts) is that we human beings are masters of avoiding our own issues. Depending on answers to these questions, I would ask people:

  • what is the positive intention of your anger?
  • what is the positive intention of avoidance of your anger? and
  • what would you lose if you gave up your anger?

Although the question of positive intention seems a simple question, it is a powerful one, and one that many people have difficulty answering. And most people can tell what they would gain if they gave up their anger, but what would they lose requires deeper thought (because they hold on to it for good but generally unconscious reason). Just asking these questions invites people to take personal responsibility for their own issues, and eventually to shift into exploring how much they avoid what life offers.

Also, at the next meeting, I would indicate that there are many other ways to release. I would emphasize that what is essential is the engagement in the emotion, and moving to exhaustion of the energy, SAFELY. Tell your own personal stories of when it helped you, and how.

Finally, you can remind people:

  • some release methods are noisy; others are very quiet. In all, they can be safe.
    • do it safely. If not safe, they generally won’t do it, and they will likely generate more problems if they attempt to release when not safe for both themselves and others.
    • they can do it anywhere, for example, in their car with the windows closed.
  • of how unhealthy the general population is.
    • “shoulds” are a measure of the social norms, and that people ‘should’ others as a way to sooth their own anxiety.
    • the more effective their changing, the less people will like it.
  • attendance at the Blowing Out The Darkness weekend would give them more details, and a host of other skills (and remind them there is a sliding scale for costs).

So, I hope all this helps. Ask more questions as needed.

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.

What Limits Me? (Part 3 of 3: What do others want?)

PersonalGrowth1

The third major issue I have is that I do not know what other people want. I was a therapist for 25 years, specialized in anger management. Over my career, I worked with more than 4000 people; many people told me that their lives changed as a result of working with me, sometimes in as little time as a single weekend.

It was clear to me that, in our modern world, therapy was the only field that offered people skills for how to live well. Most fields, including much of psychology and religion, basically tell people what they should do, but give almost no instruction in how to do so. For example, consider the number of times you have been told that you should forgive. Now consider whether people have taught you how to forgive, i.e., an actual skill that effectively allows you to do so. I am willing to guess that the first answer is many times, and the second answer is likely never. As therapist, I taught people actual skills! And as therapist, I had the incredible opportunity of doing my own emotional growth, of using these skills myself.

This was, of course, very gratifying. Subsequently, much of what I did, and the philosophy of how I worked with people, became the basis of my first book Blowing Out the Darkness: The Management of Emotional Life Issues, Especially Anger and Rage (AuthorHouse 2008).

Yet, I was also aware that most people, when they first entered therapy, did not want to be in therapy; they did not want to do the necessary work to change their lives for the better. Essentially this was because therapy requires that people explore the painful issues of their lives, and our fundamental tendency as human beings is to avoid pain. Without intending to be pejorative, I found that people were either lazy (they resisted the work) or fearful (they were afraid of the consequences of doing the work). I also recognized that I had no skill at insisting that people do the work.

Most people would come to me simply to get out of pain. And eventually, slowly, most would do the work; some (perhaps 15%) would stay to make huge changes in their lives, and get to a place where they were deeply satisfied. But most, no!

This became so obvious that eventually I decided that laziness and fearfulness (later I added self-righteousness) were spiritual issues; they required that the individual make a voluntary choice to overcome them. In time, I decided to research these issues, and they become the basis of my PhD. Early on, I subsumed these three characteristics (laziness, fearfulness, self-righteousness) into an ancient Greek term: acedia. This became the basis of my second book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change (AuthorHouse, 2012).

I do know that every human being wants to live well, to live at peace, able to provide enough for family and life needs, perhaps to have a few luxuries. However, I don’t know if they are willing to do the work of living well.

Because it requires work. The maturity of our species has been compared to that of teenagers, often very nice kids, but frequently wanting to do their own thing and often not having the maturity to make wise choices.

Yet, if we are to survive as a species, we must learn to function with maturity. We must do the work. The negative forces at work in our culture as such that the only other choices are the loss of our civilization or our extinction as a species.

I don’t like these alternatives. I am willing to work otherwise.

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160607.

What Limits Me? (Part 2 of 3: What can one person do?)

So much to do!
So much to do!

The second limitation that I struggle with (see my previous post for the first) is the question of: What can one (more) person (me) do? We live in a very complex world that, in the space of my lifetime, has become a global village. As I look around, I am aware that large numbers of people are attempting to make a difference, attempting to find resolutions to the incredibly complex issues that our civilization now faces. Many, if not most, of these people probably have better networks than I; they likely also have better resources for touching others, and perhaps better knowledge of how to impact systems.

In Blessed Unrest (2007) Paul Hawken notes a global democratic mass movement of independent, non-governmental non-profits. This movement arose from three converging root issues: environmentalism, social justice, and the struggle of indigenous peoples for cultural survival in the global consumer economy. The movement has been ignored (by the media) because it is intrinsically decentralized. I believe this movement represents the Cultural Creatives (Ray and Anderson, 2005), people orientated to green and environmentally sustainable values, and who now make up approximately 50% of the world population.

Yet Herman in Future Primal (2013) notes:

The big questions . . . remain: . . . What comes after the dictator is overthrown? . . . We can no longer escape the challenge of creating a politics with the truth quest at its center, capable of generating an inspiring vision of a way forward.

From my perspective, the many movements have not yet coalesced into a way forward. Much of what I see and hear is either denial, or an attempt to get away from something (to stop global warming, to stop ocean acidification, to stop the duplicity of our culture). I see little in the way of visioning of a more mature culture.

From my perspective, change requires three things:

  1. a vision of where I wish to go,
  2. an augmentation of the forces that assist me in moving forward towards this vision, and
  3. a diminution of the forces that block me from this vision.

Simply stated, yet change also is a deeply mysterious process. Perhaps the many movements represent complexity seeking coalescence.

My skill as therapist was that of assisting change, principally that of reducing the negative forces, and I was very successful at this over the 25 years of my career. And, I also have skill at visioning and augmentation of the positives. On the personal level, I was very effective; I long to make a difference at the cultural level. I want to feel used up in service — as gift back to a world I love, perhaps to a God who waits, wondering this humanity will do.

So I often wonder if I can do anything. Will I make a difference? I don’t know, but I am reminded of a basketball saying: “You miss 100% of the shots you do not attempt.”

To be continued.

This was originally posted to my Facebook of 20160606.

What Limits Me (Part 1 of 3)

Lots to digest! One bite at a time.
Lots to digest! One bite at a time.

Hi to all.

A question to you, the reader. What limits you in your ability to make changes in your life, or your world?

I want to take the next few postings to explore what I am attempting to do here, with these postings. I strongly believe that we need a more mature culture (an ongoing shifting matrix of living what we value), and that the key to this is the maturing of individual human beings. I intend to invest the rest of my life in helping this evolve. But there are limitations for me, possibly just limitations at my own personal level, but I suspect these limitations are more general. So I am going to explore these limitations in the next few postings, and I welcome commentary as to whether you resonate with them or not.

The first limitation for me is that I have access to too much information. The web has transformed our civilization, and one of the major ways that this has happened is that, for any give topic, I can gather a huge amount of information in milliseconds. However, seldom can I say that I have gathered a huge amount of valuable knowledge thereby (in this context, I consider knowledge as being the meaning I give to information), and I certainly cannot say that I have gained wisdom thereby (wisdom here being the ability to make effective judgments).

Most people, including myself, use a TIC process to handle new information: they translate new information into a language they understand (T), interpret this into their own meaning of the information (I), and corroborate this meaning with a group they trust (C). Generally, it is a useful strategy, but it frequently fails when the corroborating group has their own agenda (witness the issues of the Republican Party in the United States, both in how they respond to Climate Change, and what they are doing in response to Donald Trump).

My specific difficulty here is that I do not know who to trust. Certainly, I cannot trust the media (although I find movies often give me a good sense of the zeitgeist, currently that of violations [often inaccurately called violence], duplicity of power dynamics [The Hunger Games and Divergent series], and catastrophe [end of the world scenarios). I also have difficulty with people what are too one-sided in how they present themselves: too negative, too positive, or too focused on just one aspect of what seems to me to be a complex issue (all of which are my own personal biases).

What I am attempting to do at present in response to this difficulty is re-build my network of trusted sources. I have a few, but if I am to influence on a broader scale, I need to find more resources and find a way to contribute. As a off-the-scale introvert, I find this difficult. Up to this point in my life, I have called myself a poustinik, a Russian term for a hermit who is available when asked (and I have needed to be asked). But this stance no longer serves me. I want to be able tell my grand-children that I wanted to make a difference in their lives; I want to leave them a world that is healthier.

More later.

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160605.

What Are The Rules That Run You?

I don't want to hear about it!
I don’t want to hear about it!

I frequently look around at my culture and wonder how have we gotten to this point of insanity. We are on the brink of collapse as a civilization, if not as a species, and yet there is so little surface evidence of this. When I dig, there is lots of evidence. Two recent emails posts illustrate this, one negative, one positive:

As a consequence, I have had major difficulty deciding what to write in this particular post. The issues of our society are so complex, that it is hard for me to do other than to gloss over the complexity, especially if I want to keep the length of the post to a reasonable size.

For the past twenty-five years, usually during the workshops I have run on anger management, I have asked a question: “What are the rules that run you, the rules you do not even think about?” The question originally arose for me after reading the book Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Indian Reality by Rupert Ross. Ross was of European descent, and as a young man had worked many years as a fishing guide amongst Native Canadian guides. Later, when he became a lawyer, he attempted to understand the difficulties of natives in Canadian courts. (This book profoundly influenced my own understanding of human dynamics — highly recommended.)

Ross tells the story to two cultures, that I have chosen to call “The People of the Ladder” and “The People of the Wheel.” These cultures have evolved separately for perhaps 30,000 years, and have come together in the past 400 years. Each culture presumably had a coherent body of ethical behaviors, giving the greatest possibility of survival for that unique culture! In this posting, I am going to outline the people of the ladder; in another, I will explore the people of the wheel.

The people of the ladder became agriculturalists early in their development, and strived to master the external world, eventually developing empires, and waging wars with each others. Eventually, they shifted from monotheistic religions to materialistic technology, with immense gains. They became masters of the external world. They also devastated the people of the wheel, who only in the past half century have begun to express their own culture again.

For the most part, the rules that have run the people of the ladder have been the rules of power, especially power over — they became dominators. Effectively, they (or I should say, my people) have become so powerful that they could actually change the physical and chemical structure of the world, once they began utilizing fossil fuels as a source of energy, with the current consequences of global warming.

Their technological prowess has allowed major advances in health care, in forming massive cities of millions of people, developing space travel, quantum physics, the internet, and numerous other advances.

They have also gradually moved into more and more valuing of rights of the individual. Examples include the Magna Carta, the emancipation of slaves, the elimination of child labour practices, the valuing of women and children, the elimination of racial and gender prejudices, amongst others. Yet each of these advances has only occurred after extensive struggle to overcome the dominator mentality, and in most cases these advances are incomplete still. Most recently, there has been the valuing of the environment, again incomplete after major struggle. As mentioned in the first post, the eminent environmentalist David Suzuki believes that the environmental movement of the past 50 years has failed — any advances have been temporary, and the destructive forces just keep on coming.

Then there is the mixed blessings of technology — philosophers have been writing about the dehumanizing impact of technology for the past hundred years. Some quotes (the actual references are in my book Acedia: The Darkness Within):

Berdyaev (1934): “We are confronted by a fundamental paradox: without technique [technology] culture is impossible . . . yet a final victory of technique . . . brings the destruction of culture.”

Lewis (1947): “What we call man’s power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by.”

Ellul (1963): “the further technical progress advances, the more the social problem of mastering this progress becomes one of an ethical and spiritual kind.”

Dave Meslin (2010) alludes to this in a TED talk Redefining Apathy where he concludes that apathy is due to “a complex web of cultural barriers that reinforces disengagement.”

Why? What are the rules that allow this cultural insanity, especially the rules we do not name? One of the rules, of course, is that money talks! Money is the dominant value of our culture. I am not an economist, but it seems that the dominant rule is growth, especially monetary growth as expressed as Gross National Product, an artificial valuing of productivity that ignores most of the hidden costs to the environment. It also ignores the fact that you cannot have unlimited ongoing growth in a finite system.

Hidden from view is another major rule: “Don’t talk about the rules.” Do not examine the long-term consequences of actions that produce “good.” This has been a marvellous rule for technological progress, but has left us with many technological problems, such as what to do with nuclear waste, let alone the consequences of ignoring carbon pollution. It has also spilled over into huge emotional issues, such as the systemic problems of domestic violation, and corporations that we now treat as persons.

Then there is the high-jacking of modern democracy by business interests. Modern organizations have the potential, and in some cases the actuality, of operating as special interest groups that override the common good; the many political scandals of the past 50 years bear witness to this. I am not sure how to name this rule, but overall, I perceive a society that is unable to manage its own complexity. (On the plus side, I know of many positive advances in small instances, at the corporate or municipal level, but they do not seem to translate to higher political levels.)

There are, of course, other hidden rules, but to identify them would mean talking about them!

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.