Tag Archives: mindfulness

¿Truths? Part 4

Dave’s ¿Truths?

Truth3As 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 — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths 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.]

(80 — continuing from previous) Reactivity is a habit! And like all habits, sustained by laziness!

(81) I cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them.

I alone am 100% responsible for everything that I feel, think, and do! People may stir my pot or push my buttons, but I provide the pot and the buttons.

Personal freedom has to do with having many choices, acting on those choices, and dealing with the consequences.

(82) Awareness is essential! My “attention to my ongoing spontaneous sensations and perceptions” is fundamental (and may be developed through discipline).

The more grounded I am in Now, the more choice I have. When I distinguish between my perceptions, and how I interpret these perceptions (my story), the more choice I have.

This is the basis of personal freedom (and of power and strength).

(83) My awareness is often rapid and fleeting, just barely within consciousness.

This is especially true of those perceptions that I wish to avoid, those that are painful to confront.

(84) “The Rules” (the social constraints as to how I and you should be) are generally out-of-consciousness. They are so familiar, and so pervasive, that it is simpler to keep them out-of-consciousness; then we can be ‘good little boys and girls,’ approved of by others, especially our parents.

(85) Two of the major rules are:

  • ‘don’t talk about the rules—keep them out-of-consciousness’ and
  • ‘your rules are the same as my rules.’

(86) These keep me safe — and keep life complex.

I learned these rules as a small child, asking questions when others were uncomfortable or anxious. Rather than acknowledge their discomfort, they criticized me and, in my pain, I learned not to speak about the rules. Eventually I learned not to think about the rules.

I also had to assume that each one of us obeys the same set of rules. It was the only way for me to make sense of my world.

Then it seemed like I could avoid the pain. And I could for a while.

(87) A major difficulty however occurrs when I moved out of my family of origin, into another family of my own creation. And I assume that everybody had the same rule!

Not a good assumption! My partner has a different set of rules, also in the other-than-conscious domain. So we fight, and wonder what is happening, but we can’t talk about the rules. That breaks the rules!

The consequence is called Guilt!

(88) Guilt is useful for about ten (10) minutes.

Guilt is the meaning/energy I give to an issue when I break the rules.

If the rules are out-of-consciousness and I cannot talk about them, I have created a problem for myself.

(89) If I am guilty, then I am attempting to give myself a message about a problem, usually about a belief of mine that I am bypassing.

I have broken some rule as to how I ‘should’ act.

(90) The rule is out-of-conscious, likely because I hold it as a ‘should’ rather than a ‘want.’

My growth work is to hear the message, and decide if I want to attend to it or not. If not, I need to resolve my guilt; if so, I need to be in action!

(91) As with ‘guilt,’ so the above is applicable to ‘embarrassment,’ ‘resentment’ and ‘rebellion’—they are useful for about 10 minutes.

I am ‘embarrassed’ when I assume you will criticize me for breaking the rules. And, after all, you have the same rules as I do! So you know when I am breaking the rules!

I ‘resent’ you when you break the rules, my rules, and I am unable to talk about the rules. And, after all, you have the same rules as I do! Don’t we?

I ‘rebel’ when you attempt to impose your ‘rules’ on me, rules I don’t want to acknowledge, because we cannot talk about them. That breaks the rules!

(92) I ‘shame’ myself when, in addition to being trapped in breaking the rule,  I consider that I am also bad for breaking the rule.

(93) If you want to be a slave, harbor your resentments and your guilt.

They bind you to your out-of-conscious rules. Such crazy rules!

(94) I have a set of tools for solving problems; they are called actions. My disciplines are also actions. Depending on the stresses in my life, I need different tools at different times.

(95) I can only solve problems through actions! I can act my way into a new way of thinking; usually I cannot think my way into a new way of acting.

Interaction with life involves risk! There is no risk in thinking; thinking does not mobilize action. Intention mobilizes action!

(96) Actions speak louder than words; they are also more truthful!

(97) I have a body! I use my body to be in action. It is the only body I have, or will have. I need/want to keep it healthy.

More than anything else, health involves intelligent attention to good nutrition, regular exercise, and effective responses.

(98) I use my body as my source of information.

All biological organisms are designed to receive information (awareness—sensation through sensory systems) and act on that information (action—response through motor systems). All information comes to my mind from my body (perhaps!? — consciousness is very complex, probably more than my simple body).

(99) Given that I am a spiritual being, it is probable that there are other sources of information. However, in the complexity of our modern materialistic world, it is difficult to determine what these other sources might be, or to access them in reliable ways.

My body is my best starting point.

(100) My body (body-mind-heart-soul-spirit) is a vast system of communicative networks, responding to demand. Three systems predominate:

  • Neurological: electro-chemical orientation, an organizing neuronal/humoral network (uni-cellular), encoding information, responding in milliseconds to seconds. Principally responsible for temporal consciousness and memory.
  • Cardiovascular: fluid pressure orientation, a distributive network (multi-cellular), transferring information/resources, responding in seconds to days. Principally responsible for ??? (¿felt sense—emotionality or spiritual?).
  • Myofascial: mechanical piezo-electrical orientation, a structural network (extracellular), allowing movement within the exo-system, responding in days to years. Principally, it seems to be responsible for energetic consciousness and memory.

(101) The purpose of my mind is to be a delay loop between awareness and action! Almost always, when I am suffering, I am stuck in the delay loop.

(102) The system (me) is well-designed—not omnipotent, just well-designed.

(103) The system is so well-designed that almost always my body knows my truths, and what actions are appropriate.

Usually this occurs  long before I am ready to acknowledge this information consciously.

(104) Action clears the delay loop for new information, and new possibility.

(105) Action can be specific (this is what I need to do—so just do it!) or it can be non-specific discharge (exaggeration, role play, anger discharge in safety, etc.).

Both satisfy the system. (This is one of the fundamental distinctions of my Blowing Out work.)

(106) If at first you don’t succeed, do anything else that is different!

(107) Some actions are more useful than others—they generate the outcomes I want. This is called being effective.

I stop myself from this because it “doesn’t feel right!”—it does not correspond to the way life ‘should’ be. I call this purity —and generally I want purity!

‘Feeling’ has nothing to do with right or wrong; ‘shoulds’ certainly do!

To be continued.

 

¿Truths? Part 3

Dave’s ¿Truths?

Truth2As 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 — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths 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.]

(52 — the ending of the previous post) 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.

(53) Some of my beliefs are easy to identify; others are very difficult.

I have beliefs about my environment, my behaviors, my capabilities, even beliefs about my beliefs—all of these are comparatively easy to identify and manage.

My beliefs about who I should be (my values), about who I am (my identity), and about my identity (my faith), become progressively more difficult to identify and to manage.

(54) Life is difficult; life is painful (I would add: sometimes!). This is the first Noble Truth of the Buddha (Truth #1 of four and I ascribe to them all). There are aspects of life that I do not want to face, and I do a lot to avoid these aspects ( usually inappropriately).

The biggest difficulty (Truth #2) arises because, somehow as a human being, I do not want to believe that life is difficult. “Life should not be this way! Life should be easy!” I want to hold on the pleasurable, and avoid the painful. I suffer when life is not easy — “it should be easy.”

Truth #3 is: Pain (truth #1) is inevitable; suffering (truth #2) is optional.

(55) Maturation through life requires acceptance and discipline (Truth #4).

The Buddhists say it somewhat different from this.

(56) If I truly accept what life offers and am disciplined in my responses, life becomes easier—not less painful, just easier! And frequently more joyous!

(57) Biologically, I am deeply influenced by pain/pleasure. My mind-brain is set to experience reward with the occurrence of pleasure—whatever I consider as pleasure (and possibly also reward if I avoid pain).

In this, I have a short-term orientation to life, my source of satisfaction or my nemesis! Long-term orientation is generally more satisfying if I am seeking peace or happiness (wanting what I get). And more difficult to achieve.

Fortunately I have choice—it come with the human mind (?brain).

(58) What I resist will persist!

Human beings are not helpless, only habitual.

(59) Accepting that life is the way that it is, and authentically working for change, is a major step for creative life!

(60) Acceptance is a very active process: it is not passive! It may not be easy, though.

Often, I accept best when I, to the best of my ability:

  1. examine what I gain and lose from the problem,
  2. acknowledge/appreciate the positives,
  3. minimize/change the negatives, and
  4. forgive my humanness.

(61) By discipline, I mean “doing what I need/want to do even when I do not want to do it”, usually every day.

If I want to fly with eagles, I need to do more than play with turkeys! I need to do what is healthy for me.

(62) Discipline is a way for me to learn about myself, and to stretch my boundaries; it is a way to look at myself in action. The disciplines that I teach (informally) are Yoga (Iyengar), Meditation (Vipassana), and Journal Writing (Progoff). There are many others; essentially they all involve a dedication to truth.

How can I maximize the ways in which I use discipline?

(63) What I gain from discipline is stamina, stamina to be at peace with life’s pain.

(64) Some more definitions to consider/experience:

Pain—                 The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience that denotes the potential of bodily harm.

Anxiety—   The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience that denotes the potential of personality harm.

Discipline— The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience that denotes the potential of health, such that I choose the experience.

The action of choosing needs to be experience-based, not should-based.

(65) Discipline is not a solution; it is a tool to allow me to be still while I find other means of resolution.

(66) Much of every-day life requires discipline in the form of delayed gratification, cleaning up mess so as to have greater satisfaction.

Discipline allows one to do the cleanup with contentment rather than resentment.

(67) Laziness and fearfulness trap me; “life should be easy.”

(68) Life is not fair! It never was!

The only thing in life that is fair is what you and I agree to accept as fair. It is then unfair when one of us breaks this agreement.

Otherwise, life is! Each one of us is handed a different set of circumstances and issues with which to grapple, perhaps to solve.

Optimally we agree to treat each other fairly. We get into difficulty though when we assume that this agreement exists.

(69) My current definition of life is:

“Life is what happens when I am planning something else.”

(70) We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.

(71) It’s not so much what happens to me that matters, but how I respond!

Sometimes the environment is toxic; more commonly I lack flexibility.

Freedom and wisdom both depend on flexibility!

(72) Energy is the capability of doing work, of initiating movement. Life energy, aliveness, is my inherent excitement that I bring to my life.

Emotions occur when I give meaning and direction to my energy.

(73) There are three fundamental “laws” that impact life energy:

  • every human being wants positive experience,
  • it is easier to get negative experience than to get positive, and
  • negative experience is better than no experience.

(74) As simple as these laws seem, they account for much human behavior.

(75) ‘Bitching’ and ‘being a bitch’ are not female preoccupations.

‘Bitching’ means to use one’s energy to complain rather than to negotiate or problem-solve, to be indirect rather than direct—it is generally an ineffective means of power, used by both men and women. It is a way to negative experience.

Pot(76) One of the best metaphors I know for describing myself is as a pot of stew (all the stuff of my past: my values, beliefs, memories and expectations, my VBMEs), being heated on the stove by my current or recent stressors, stirred by a spoon (the current event, here now, often your behavior).

(77) When my pot is stirred (or my buttons pushed, however you want to name this), what comes to the surface (my thoughts and feelings, my T/F) are information as to what is happening, especially information as to what is already in the pot.

Although the process is rapid (and predominantly outside of awareness), I then choose my behavior, my responses (again, also often out of awareness).

If I am aware, I speak of “responding”; if unaware, I “react.” In any event, my behavior then becomes the spoon for your pot! And your subsequent response becomes a further spoon for me, or someone else, and so on!

(78) Consider, however:

  • If I were really stirring a pot of stew with a spoon, and a carrot came to the surface, would I blame the spoon for the carrot? Did the spoon make the carrot?
    • No! The spoon brought the carrot to the surface, but it did not make or cause the carrot.
    • Yet this process is what happens when I blame you for my thoughts, feelings or behavior, when I say “you made me …..”.
  • Your behavior is simply your behavior; I have no divine right to change it, or to judge it. However, I do have the right to know, to account for it, especially if I believe you intend to harm me.
    • If I feel anguish of some kind (anger, sadness, etc.) and you intend it, I wish to protect myself from you, either by leaving or by defending myself in some other way!

(79) In order for me to react to an event (a spoon), I must perceive it (take in the information), and then make an interpretation or judgment about it, especially about its possible danger to me. Generally this is a highly primitive fight-or-flight reaction, incredibly rapid and out of awareness!

Then I prepare my response, and my body starts to reacts, again out of awareness! This body reaction is my emotion, my body getting ready for motion.

I have some choices and control over this process.

(80) Reactivity is a habit! And like all habits, sustained by laziness!

To be continued.

 

¿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.

To be continued.

The Power Of Doubt

Doubt1

I have gotten into a bit of a funk since a recent David Suzuki article: Caribou science denial cripples conservation efforts (20180628). It underlines the power of doubt for me. The story links to a research article From Climate to Caribou: How Manufactured Uncertainty is Impacting Wildlife Management and discusses the many agencies (well beyond wildlife management, starting with tobacco and psycho-pharmaceuticals) that “employ a ‘multi-pronged strategy of denial’: deny the problem exists, deny its key causes, and claim that resolving the problem is too costly.”

What it raises for me is: Whom do I trust? And what is the nature of Doubt?

In the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed the nature and limitations of meaning, noting in particular that information is not the same as meaning and that too much information interferes with meaning. And as indicated earlier, one of the major ways we deal with this is to seek corroboration from a trusted group (the TIC process).

Another way we deal with meaning is by doubt, critically assessing the information as to whether or not it is consistent with what we already accept. Skepticism (specifically methodological skepticism) is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out truth from falsehood. In many respects, getting uncomfortable and willing to be uncertain, to not know, to ask questions, to err and to fail, is the best and only way to learn, and move forward. It is so much easier to be certain, and for some, being uncertain is a major source of anxiety — the underlying issue of fundamentalism of any kind.

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes “Doubt is often defined as a state of indecision or hesitancy with respect to accepting or rejecting a given proposition. Thus, doubt is opposed to belief. But doubt is also contrasted with certainty.” Both aspects, belief and certainty, are fundamental to my concern. Doubt has been a basic structural component of the major ways by which we as a species have valued knowledge, especially in the past 400 years, that of reason (philosophical study) and expiricism (scientific investigation). Doubt was also a major vehicle whereby Socrates sought wisdom, and thus doubt as a useful process has extended throughout our recorded history.

The major difficulty however is that doubt require honesty! The essential problem of dishonesty is that it grossly exaggerates doubt, and thus the deliberate creation of doubt can become a weapon of discouragement. In our current Age of Information (and Duplicity), doubt fails us when our premises are distorted by dishonesty. We become overwhelmed by too much information, at the very least by the inconsistencies inherent in the processing of dishonest information.

I know of no way through this dilemma. I have also found it incredibly difficult to encapsulate this blog — an expression of how doubt impacts.

doubt2

I will fall back on two people:

  • Voltaire: Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd!
  • Christian de Quincey, especially his book Radical Knowing where he talks of other ways of knowing beyond rationalism (the way of philosophy) and experientialism (the way of science): that of participatory feeling and direct mystical experience.
    • Both of these other ways are disparaged in our culture of scientific materialism, yet for me, both offer a way of knowing beyond doubt and certainty.
    • I highly recommend the writings of Christian, a philosopher of great integrity and wisdom, and like those who step out of the box, not well recognized.

Enough.

The Busyness Of Life

The Busyness Of Life

Anxiety3As is obvious, I have not been doing a lot of posts in recent weeks. Partly, I’m lacking inspiration, and partly, I’m unclear what else to add to what I have already written. I strongly believe that the many issues within global warming are simply the tip of the iceberg of our cultural immaturity and expanding world population, but until we recognize this, little will change. So I have been pondering what else to write, with little clarity.

For now, I have decided to do a weekly post (more or less), with brief comments on various links that come across my desk. This is the first of such posts, noting:

  • books I’m currently reading
  • social movement victories in the first 100 days
  • recent examples of global warming
  • the age of stupid

Books I’m Reading

A major component of who I am is that I seek an integrated worldview — I’m constantly assessing my experiences and my sources of information for consistency. I am not per se interested in accummulating knowledge; rather I want to experience and live more authentically. I strongly believe that:

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

As part of this ongoing search, I am always reading multiple books at a time, largely because I get saturated with one book, and shift to another to clear my mind. Currently I am reading (I recommend them all):

  • BlindSpots: 21 Good Reasons To Think Before You Talk, by Christian deQuincey[1]
    • Christian was my research advisor for my PhD, and I have a deep respect for his clarity of thinking. BlindSpots is an excellent overview of the many ways in which we become confused about basic issues such as consciousness, energy, time, healing, et cetera. It is somewhat repetitive, but otherwise excellent.
  • Scotus For Dunces: An Introduction To The Subtle Doctor, by Mary Beth Ingram[2]
    • As part of my current exploration of meditation and contemplative practice, I’m studying the Christian traditions, especially the Franciscan traditions. John Duns Scotus was a brilliant theologian of the early 14th century, especially focused on a profoundly mature understanding of the relational character of God. In particular, he illustrates for me that human beings of other centuries were not stupid; they simply did not have our technological sophistication (nor, in many cases, our hubris).
  • Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, by Oliver Sacks[3]
    • Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes about the many human issues that occur with neurological defects; other than his strong bias to equating mind and brain, I always find his writings to be very insightful. I’m especially interested in this book because, with my own neurological issues, I have little awareness of music — I have almost no response, cognitive or emotional (a point of sadness for me).

Current Comments on Global Warming

A recent article on CTV News Central and Eastern Canada face heavy flooding (20170505) describes the unprecedented rains and flooding occuring on the East Coast of Canada and the US. For me, it highlights the strange weather that is occurring — likely due to global warming (no one weather event can be proved to be due to global warming; it is on the trends of climate that are the main impact). Here, on the West Coast, our spring is very delayed — normally the streets are ablaze with flowering trees and shrubs, but currently theay are very muted or just beginning. For me, all this is simply the beginning of changes, many of which will be very difficult to accommodate.

It is so necessary that we respond to climate disruption in emergency fashion (see Blueprint For A Climate Emergency Movement), and I easily lose sight of progress. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the many articles about the Trump administration that simply incite anxiety — most of them are so illustrative of the need of the media to be theatrical, but some articles are important. The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days (20170427) identifies that progress is being made, especialy that groups are banding together to have a greater impact. For me, it remains a chaotic morasse without clear focus, more against Trump rather than defining a solid vision of the future, but it is much better than no response. The title ‘It can’t just be a march. It has to be a movement.’ What’s next for climate activists? (20170430) sums it up for me.

In contrast, I note the rise of populism (ant-intellectual political movements that offer unorthodox polices, frequently those that foster some kind of discrimination). Especially good is WATCH: Populism’s ‘backhanded service’ (20170505).

But it remains very difficult to get good information, the internet is so fraught with misinformation. As illustration, David Suzuki’s Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry (20170504) emphasizes how little I trust government these days. Currently we are in the midst of BC provincial elections, and I simply shake my head at posturing, and promises that likely will never be fully realized.

The Age Of Stupid

In Busy Is The New Stupid (20160720), Ed Baldwin notes I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I’ve ever met are busy, but you wouldn’t know it.  They find time that others don’t.” He notes the many difficulties that occur when we are too busy, and especially emphasizes “We’ve all been tricked into believing that if we are busy we are important.” From my perspective, much of this busyness also occurs because we are overloaded attempting to manage data (emails, reports, et cetera), rather than knowing how to organize information effectively.

Why we need to slow down our lives (20170430), Pico Iyer notes this massive influx of data, and proposes that we need a secular sabbath (given we so seldom keep a religious sabbath in our culture), “if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction [we will] need for when [we] go back online.” He also references an excellent TedTalk How Technology Evolves by Kevin Kelly. Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and an avid enthusiast of technology, yet notes “I continue to keep the cornucopia of technology at arm’s length, so that I can more easily remember who I am.”

In conclusion, I am reminded of a Zen story of the farmer who needs a horse. He is getting old, and now requires a horse so as to plow his fields. Bemoaning his life, he goes to the village master who says, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” So he goes home, somewhat dissatisfied. Yet the next morning, a stray horse shows up in his field. He goes to the master to express his thanks, and the master responds, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Puzzled, he returns to his farm, plows his fields, and goes to bed. The next morning, his teenage son sees the horse, and attempts a ride, only to fall and break his leg. In misery, the old man goes again to the master, who again answers, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Again dissatisfied, the old man goes home, to find the local army commandeering all the young men and boys for its battles. His son, with his broken leg, is spared. The old man is elated, and again goes to thank the master, who only replies “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

The single most important skill here, from my perspective, is that of mindfulness, just being present to what is.

So in the trials of life,

“Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

[1] deQuincey, C. (2015). Blindspots: 21 good reasons to think before you talk. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press (Kindle Edition)

[2] Ingram, M. B. (2003). Scotus for dunces: An introduction to the subtle doctor. St Bonaventure, NY:Franciscan Institute Publications (Kindle Edition).

[3] Sacks, O. (2007). Musicology: Tales of music and the brain. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Publications

What To Do? (Part 2)

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

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

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

 

What To Do? (Part 1)

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

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

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

Two maxims stand out for me as to their importance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.

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

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.

The Threshold of Anxiety in Global Warming

As anxiety diminishes, people engage more.
As anxiety diminishes, people engage more.

So what are the factors that block engagement in global warming?

In a recent podcast The Big Man Can’t Shoot, journalist Malcolm Gladwell identifies the need for social approval as a major factor in effective choice. Gladwell tells the story of a legendary basketball player with only one flaw: his success rate at free throws from the foul line was only about 40%. He was coached by a colleague whose success rate was 93%, and was able to improve himself to 87% — a huge advance and one that could make him almost unstoppable. The catch: he had to make “granny shots” — underhand throws rather than overhead shots, that are the standard of the league. And he wouldn’t do so — because he would look “silly.” Nor would other players, again because they would be breaking the unspoken norms of play — even though they would be better players!

What Gladwell identified was what I call the threshold of anxiety that must be overcome when one’s behavior does not match the common deportment of the peer group, the so-called peer pressure that exists within any group, even when unspoken. The threshold level varies from person to person, but always is a factor in the decision to act. This means that for any individual, a certain number of their trusted peers have to act in a certain way before they themselves will undertake the action.

Translating this to the need for massive mobilization in response to global warming, there is potentially a large body of the public waiting for others to act before they themselves will engage significantly. Many of these people will be those I identified in my last post as those people who are chronically overwhelmed by too much stuff. Salamon in Living In Climate Truth goes into more depth as to how individuals use intellectual denial, emotional denial, and tokenism to avoid action to maintain the Climate Lie that all is well, and someone else will resolve the issues. Or the individual believes that nothing can be done, and settles into low-grade cynicism, contaminating others in major ways.

Potentially when enough others have shifted into effective action, there could then be a snowball effect in response. But when? Will it occur soon enough to forestall disastrous effect?

I suspect not. To use myself as example, I started hearing about environmental issues in the 1960s and 1970s, and had enough background in science (degrees in physics and biophysics by that point) to know that we humans were doing significant damage to the environment. But I was “too busy with other issues” in my life. Fast forward to the 1990s when I had a small acreage in Ontario, land that I actually regarded as sacred — I knew “activists” who were challenging government regulations, but “I wasn’t an activist.” Then in 2009 when I finally got it, I was in deep despair for months, and only in the past year did my resolve crystallize. So if it has taken me this long, what chance do we have as a species?

Yet, if I accept this line of reasoning, it is likely that nothing effective will happen. I must act into the assumption that many are waiting in the wings simply for the snowball effect.

There is no question in my own mind that I am angry at the complexity and frequent ineffectiveness of my culture. I am not angry at individuals; I am angry at the systemic morass we have created — but if I allow my anger to take over, I will burnout. It’s a no-win situation. I’m very good at anger management, including my own. So, often I fall back on simple affirmations such as “Let Go; Let God,” or “High Intention, Low Attachment.”

What I don’t know how to do is how to get people to engage. Currently, I am reading Joe Romm’s Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga for some hints. Many days I’m convinced I am a slow learner.

Coming next: The nature of acedia.