Tag Archives: mindfulness

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

Spirituality1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.

What is Personal Growth?

PersonalGrowth1

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

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

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

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

Individuals who have successfully developed these skills are generally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has influenced my life? And yours? (Part 2 of 2)

Playfulness is the key to life.
Playfulness is the key to life.

I was asked: Who influenced you the most, in your own inner work, and how? I invite you you the reader to consider also what influenced you the most? This is part 2 of my answer.

Important Books

There have been many books (I read a lot), but a few stand out as truly adding to who I am as more than intellectual content (citations are listed in the Media page of my blog, and I will only briefly comment here). These books represent much more than intellectual content for me; they have modified my worldview, how I function in the world.

  • (~1960) Stapledon, Starmaker: the basis of my spirituality.
  • (~1975) Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness: affirmation of profound mystery.
  • (~1985) Fowler, Stages of faith: a focus to my spirituality.
  • (~1985) Peck, The road less traveled: the nature of love.
  • (~1986) Bennis & Nanus, Leaders: clarity on leadership.
  • (~1987) Smuts, Holism: the nature of systems.
  • (~1987) Vaihinger, Philosophy of as-if: the nature of beliefs.
  • (~1987) Watzlawick, Change: learning playfulness.
  • (~1988) Crosby, Living with Purpose When …: a value system.
  • (~1988) Doherty, Poustinia: I am a poustinik.
  • (~1990) Ross, Dancing with a ghost: the nature of paradigms.
  • (~1992) Carse, Finite & Infinite Games: Wow! Such richness.
  • (~2009) de Quincey, Radical knowing: panpsychism, now my ontology.
  • (~2016) Herman, Future primal: the nature of democracy.
  • (~2016) Schmookler, Parable of the tribes: the nature of power.

Mentors

There have been six individuals who influenced me deeply, each one because of their authenticity (their own personal growth) and their skill in working with people, all of whom I came to regard as friends (except one, who died shortly after I knew him.) From each, I learned much more than knowledge. In order of occurrence in my life:

Clark Reed (Transactional Analysis): with whom I first began therapy, wherein I had my first introduction to subpersonalities, which later became my metaphor Sailors On A Ship.

Jorge Rosner (Gestalt Therapy): a man of great authenticity and compassion, with whom I first trained and who taught me much.

Gerry Jud (Shalom Mountain): who challenged me and with whom I did most of my depth work of changing my sad story.

Arthur Kilmurray (Yoga): from whom (together with another body worker Tom Myers) I learned much about body awareness.

Ed Friedman (Family Systems): a man of vast emotional intelligence, wherein I learned of emotional triangles and the nature of play.

Christian de Quincey (Consciousness Studies): my research advisor for my PhD, teaching me much of the nature of consciousness and the inconsistencies of modern scientific materialism.

Who am I?

Overall (like everyone else) I am a complex creature:

  • a polymath (many gifts),
  • a poustinik (a hermit who is available when asked),
  • a Gestaltist (in action with life),
  • a server ( I have been exploring service for the past few years, initially taking a year of study in Hospitality)
  • I am still learning about relationship and about how to interact with complex systems, amongst many other areas.

I seek to live that playfulness is the highest skill of human beings. Here I follow two adages:

  • The most successful person is the one who is having the most fun.
  • There is much evidence that life is painful; there is no evidence that it is serious.

Enjoy!

What has influenced my life? And yours? (Part 1 of 2)

Playfulness is the key to life.
Playfulness is the key to life.

I was asked: Who influenced you the most, in your own inner work, and how?

I’m choosing to answer this question in a more general way: What were the major influences on my life? I suggest this because I have been influenced by many sources; in parallel with this, I invite you the reader to think about your own life, and what influenced you.

  • childhood issues;
  • educational (university) experiences, with many minor mentors;
  • personal experiences of profound mystery, challenging me to change my outlook in many ways;
  • many workshops on personal growth;
  • many important books (where I gained metaphors and concepts); and
  • a few mentors who were very important to me, most of whom have subsequently become friends.

Childhood and Life Experience

My childhood was extremely painful to me, including much alcoholism, suicide, sexual abuse, and other issues. Until approximately age 40, I shut down totally at the emotional level, and in my 40s, I literally had to teach myself how to feel. This subsequently gave me great skill in understanding the nature of emotionality, although it was initially extremely painful (dealing with these issues was a major part of my mid-life crisis).

I have learned a lot about relationships, both the one where I have been unsuccessful, and those where I have been more successful. I regard my wife, Janet, as my life-partner, and one of the most gifted practitioners of NLP (see below) whom I know.

Educational (University) Experiences

To compensate for emotional pain, I used my intellect to succeed— and I had a deep love of learning, perhaps an innate part of who I am. Most of the time it served me well, but it often isolated me from others. During these times there were a number of minor mentors, but I did not have the emotional skills to relate well to them; they were more distant models of who I could be, rather than direct guides to assist me.

My studies also gave me a broad exposure to vast knowledge, ranging from physics to biology to medicine to psychology. I initially planned to be a theoretical astrophysicist, studying the Cosmos; little did I realize that I would end up studying the inner cosmos of being human — and I doubt that anyone would have predicted it!

Personal Experiences of Profound Mystery

In early childhood, I had a brief mystical experience while watching dragonflies. In early university, for a brief few minutes while studying the Bohr atom, I lost consciousness, and I became an electron circling a hydrogen nucleus —with a profound sense of joy. In my early thirties, without any apparent precipitating factors, I entered a state called Cosmic Consciousness (CC) and remained in this state continuously for three years, six months at its peak, fading over the next few years. It changed my life (and still does). But after it faded, I had five years of despair, not knowing what to do with the experience. Resolving this was the beginning of my mid-life crisis.

Workshops on Personal Growth

I had some brief exposure to personal growth workshops through a process called Marriage Enrichment, but it was my first Shalom Retreat that was transformative, lifting my despair although it did not restore CC. It did however open me to the incredible power of good therapy (experiential and inductive), and has served me as a model in my own ways of working with people. Over the next ten years, I blazed through several hundred workshops, ranging from hours to weeks of duration, as well as being in personal therapy. I was thirsty, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, as a physician, I had the money for these. Most important of all, I learned that I could transform my own pain, and eventually I combined these learnings with more formal training as a therapist so as to be able to work with people on their issues.

Being a therapist has been fascinating: I was being paid to do my own growth, learning much while being a resource. In particular, I am a Gestaltist — my basic philosophy is that of Gestalt Therapy (seeking awareness, contact, and personal responsibility). Much of my practical skill is based in NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP: which I regard as the most powerful and most playful of therapies) and Bowenian Family Systems. On an informal basis, I teach Iyengar Yoga and Vipassana Meditation.

To be continued.

Question: How do I change . . .? (Part 3 of 3)

Thes is actually my definition of freedom.
Thes is actually my definition of freedom.

Question: “How do I interrupt my pattern of saying “Be careful” to my son all the time? I am aware I’m saying it an awful lot” (Part 3 of 3).

My final suggestion augments choice by increasing awareness; it is a suggestion that can be applied to any life pattern where the individual wants to change the pattern. I will describe the process as if I was talking to a client.

First, get a small notebook, one that you can be easily carried in a pocket. Carry a pen also. (It would be possible to use a Note app on a cell phone for this activity, but my belief is that a physical notepad and pen are more effective.)

Make a commitment to yourself that every time you do the activity you wish to change, you will take the notepad out of your pocket, and put a checkmark (√) on a page of the notepad. At the end of the day, you might have 20 checkmarks on the page. After you have done this activity for a few days, change the activity to that of making the checkmark before you do the behaviour, and then carry on with the behaviour if you so wish. (It sometimes helps initially to practice this activity with an activity that does not carry anxiety — for example, you could monitor the desire to go to the bathroom as rehearsal.)

Each day, when you are comfortable with making the checkmarks, choose one example of when you have done the activity to be changed. For that example, answer the following questions, with a few words only (KIS: Keep it simple): 1) name the behaviour, 2) what happened first (the first anything that lead you into the behaviour, 3) what happened next, 4) what happened next, 5) how did it end, 6) how did you feel at the end (probably after you said “Be careful”), 7) where in your body was the feeling (what sensation), 8) how was the feeling familiar (from earlier years or your own childhood), 9) when in your life did this particular feeling start, and 10) what feeling immediately preceded this feeling that you felt at the end, especially where in your body was this preceding feeling. (It may help to write these questions out in chart form, with blanks to be filled in each day.)

All of this is training in awareness, becoming familiar with the issues hidden within the behaviour to be changed. If the answers are fairly simple, this may be all you need to do. The recognition of the pattern, simply the requirement to make the checkmark, may interrupt the pattern enough for you to have choice, and do something different with your anxiety.

If not, deepen the process by now making checkmarks whenever you note the preceding feeling that occurred before the final feeling (see question #10 above). Carry on the same exploration with this sensation. If the behaviour is resolved, great; if not, continue to deepen the process, until you arrive at the very earliest suggestion within your body of the beginning of this pattern.

If still not resolved, there is almost certainly some early childhood learning to this behaviour (that you wish to change), something deeply engrained. It may be that the simple awareness gained from questions #8 (how familiar) and #9 (when started) will be helpful in resolution. Can you be playful with what you have learned? Or it may be that you need to work with a therapist to deepen further the resolution.

 

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.

The Problem of Visioning

The management of power requires personal authority.
The Power of Personal Authority

Having a vision is a problem!

There are, unfortunately, multiple problems with having a vision. Earlier, I mentioned three phases to an effective vision.

    • First, an emotionally rich, multi-sensory vision. How to achieve this? Whenever I analyze a problem, and create a detailed statement or list of how I should respond or what others should value, it activates my conscious mind, but it does not energize me. The word should is a special deterrent — “should” is always a double message, with part of me wanting to do so, and part resisting. An effective vision has to energize me!
    • Second, honesty of the present state, even if inappropriate Unfortunately, human beings are profoundly capable of delusion and denial. Hitler was an incredible visionary (!) and very energized! But his underlying value system was delusional.

The global warming disinformers are also visionary — they are focused on the outcome of money.

    • Third, even with both of the above in place (emotionally rich honesty), big visions require effort, huge effort. Effective leadership is required to maintain such visions, and burnout is high!

The stance of leadership required for effective visioning is a two-edged sword, not for the faint of heart nor for the individual who has high attachment to outcomes. A basic problem for leadership is attachment, living with an expectation of a given outcome, rather than holding life lightly. Although much has been written about the psychological state of burnout, I consider it to be a relatively simple phenomenon to describe (and often incredibly difficult to resolve). Simply put, burnout occurs when an individual (leader or group member) is overly invested in the outcome, attempting to gain power where one is inherently powerless. It is high intention with high attachment. Thus, burnout occurs when we consistently lack or refuse acceptance of our powerlessness to control the responses of others.

The science-fiction novel Forty Days of Rain (Science in the Capital Trilogy, Book 1) alludes to the immense effort. Although the book is fiction (¿with much truth?), it captures for me an essential difficulty of our culture — we give maximal power to business and the economy, to money, and not to human values.

Then in the 1960s when everyone was an activist, NSF [the National Science Foundation] created a program called “Interdisciplinary Research Relevant to Problems of Our Society.” What a name from its time that was. . . .

     Interdisciplinary research, relevant to problems of our society — was that really such a sixties joke of an idea?

     . . . IRRPOS morphed into RANN, “Research Applied to National Needs.” RANN had then gotten killed for being too applied. . . . At the same time he [Nixon] preemptively established the EPA . . .

     The battle for control of science went on. Many administrations and Congresses hadn’t wanted technology or the environment assessed at all . . . It might get in the way of business. They didn’t want to know.

     . . . They didn’t want to know. And yet they did want to call the shots. . . . this was clearly crazy. . . . On what basis did they want to build such an incoherent mix of desires, to want to stay ignorant and to be powerful as well? Were these two parts of the same insanity?

In The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey supports this theme of insanity. Harvey was invited to a private lunch with “the head of a major agribusiness corporation,” who said to him: “Let me tell you what you are up against. You are up against people like me. I know exactly what my company is doing, and what devastation it is causing to thousands of lives.” The C.E.O. added:

The bliss-bunnyhood of seekers and the offensive self-righteousness of activists make it very easy for people like me to control the world. I know too, by the way, that the dark forces I play with are playing with me. I am under no illusion that I will not someday have to pay the price. . . . I’m willing to pay that price in return for the pleasure of being able to afford this restaurant, in return for being able to ring up the president of the United States in front of house guests to impress them. Am I getting through to you?

It is likely that perspectives and attitudes such as this underlie the actions of the disinformers, and they are not subject to reason. From my perspective, this is the end-point of acedia: evil (the subject of a future post). The major difficulty in global warming is that most of the power is held by heads of corporations, many of whom will be very accountable, but in the case of the disinformers, many of these heads may well be similar to this man whom Harvey encountered.

Paul Ray, who distributes extensive information on climate change, also discusses the criminal irresponsibility of the banking system in an email post “Occupy Wall St. demonstrators indict Goldman Sachs, are arrested outside” (2011 November 7), noting: Goldman Sachs leads the interpenetration of US financial and political elites. These are the elite of a growing international criminal financial class that will cause the deaths of billions of people in Africa, South Asia, South America, and China. The proximate cause will be starvation and disease, from famines and climate change. The real cause will be this elite’s actions. As indicated by the title of the email post, resistance to these processes is not without cost, in this case, being arrested; civil disobedience likely never is without cost.

There are two fundamental difficulties with the human etiology of global warming:

    • the evil of the disinformers, and
    • the acedia of the mass of people.

Visioning of the resolution of global warming must therefore provide two components: a coming together of the people in action (overcoming the acedia), and a movement away from the disinformation.

The second difficulty — coming together — is developing slowly with movements such as 350.org and sumofus.org, but I do not know the extent to which such groups are working together to provide a world network. I imagine there to be the usual conflicts concerning agendas and hierarchies, and hope these will slowly resolve to a fully effective movement.

Resolving the problem of disinformation is huge — human beings so easily lock into belief systems, and resist grasping reality (more on this in a later blog). I foresee three possible outcomes:

    • a complete collapse of the world market economy — with ultimate chaos and total collapse of our civilization, if not our species (not a desired outcome),
    • a gradual massive expansion of the zero-carbon technology, such that the fossil fuel organizations simply cannot compete (and must either collapse or integrate into healthier economies) — possibly a good solution, and/or
    • the coming together of world governments such that such disinformation becomes illegal, and is severely punished — I am not holding my breathe waiting for this outcome.

Unfortunately, I am not good at predicting the future.