Tag Archives: stress

Acedia and the Climate Lie, Part 1

The noon-day demon, blocking all joy!
The noon-day demon, blocking all joy!

If you are like me, you probably have never heard of the concept of acedia. I had not until I started my PhD, this despite more than 50 years of extensive reading. In this post, we look at the nature of acedia, and how it is the cultural norm; next post, I will tie it into how we maintain the Climate Lie.

What is acedia?

Why has no one heard of it? For one thing, the word has been in and out of the English language since its inception in ancient Greek, frequently labeled as archaic; its history is documented in my book Acedia. Originally it was a monastic term, and it did not survive the philosophic shift from religiosity to scientific materialism. Acedia described the condition of objecting to the effort of living, of being loving or charitable.

It was replaced by terms ranging from ennui to depression — less depth and breadth though; acedia is a better choice for me. I came to regard acedia as any combination of laziness, fearfulness and self-righteousness, all terms that block the individual from authenticity or spiritual maturity. And even these terms are easily misunderstood, usually with scorn — as noted, acedia objects to the effort of being authentic.

When people encounter a painful situation, they inherently want to resolve the pain; they want to authentically feel good and be satisfied with life. They ponder the issues, and if they have enough wisdom (as depth of understanding of universal truths, what the Greeks called sophia), they move to resolution (so-called practical wisdom, or phronesis) — and feel good. If not, they are usually in some kind of internal conflict — they want resolution, but they also want the pain to go away. If they have enough discipline, they work through the issues, again to resolution. If not, they shift to avoidance — still, if they have enough hope, they again find a way to move to resolution. In all of this, the skills of awareness (recognition) and of playfulness further aid in movement to resolution.


If none of this occurs, they move into some means of numbing the pain, some form of acedia manifest as laziness, fearfulness, or self-righteousness so as to overwhelm or transmute the pain into something familiar, some way to avoid. Then they cycle back into the patterns, with a different kind of pain, but one that they can mask.

It works! If it didn’t, we wouldn’t do it.

The problem is that acedia does not lead to long-term resolution, just avoidance. And in our culture, it is not easily challenged; it is judged inappropriate, but not shifted. Nor do we as a culture give much value to any of the needed skills: wisdom (sophia or phronesis), discipline (except for engaging in sports), hope (wishful thinking, yes; authentic hope, no), or playfulness (when do you really authentically play?).

Acedia as cultural norm.

So how has this become the cultural norm? I suggest that since the beginning of civilization, we have traumatized ourselves and each other. In The Parable Of The Tribes, Schmookler links the inherent difficulties of domination with the very nature of civilization. Since the very beginning (about 12,000 years ago), civilization has been a two-edged sword, with empire as the foundation. To have an empire means winners (dominators) and losers (subjects). The Greeks developed democracy, but were a slave culture. Fast forward to the Renaissance with the development of science and the Industrial Revolution, and industrial slavery and the rise of alcoholism. The 20th century brought technology and the valuing of women, and consumerism. The 21st century has given us the valuing of diversity, and global warming.

Look around. How many people do you know who are truly happy? How many alcoholics do you know? What about domestic violations? Or world hunger? Or the numerous political-economic betrayals of the past 50 years? We have a strange culture, certainly not a mature one.

We live the Climate Lie, the Cultural Lie.

Coming next: Acedia and the Climate Lie.

The Power of Words

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

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

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

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

The Power Of Your Words

Janet Smith Warfield, 20131012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Janet Smith Warfield


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

Read the fine print!

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

I am so tired of the duplicity of our culture!

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

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

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

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

Where are we going? Some thoughts on Brexit.


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

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

Where are we going? To what?

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

I believe that the single greatest need we currently have as a species is to become a culture predominantly of cooperation. Competition will still be a part of who we are, but not the major part. How we are to get there is not clear.

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

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


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

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

Blogs I Follow: Richard Rohr


As you will note under Blogs I Follow, I subscribe to the blog of Richard Rohr at Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).

I do so because I find him to be the most spiritually mature individual of whom I am aware. (Overall my previous mentors, listed in my most recent post, also fall into this category.)

Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest, a Franciscan monk. In 1986 he envisioned CAC as a place where opposites (action and contemplation) are held together, bridging gaps between the spiritual and the justice communities. As a priest, his language is often religious, but the underlying content of what he is writing is deeply spiritual (see my next post for what I mean by spiritual, and how I think it differs from religious).

Especially I recommend his most recent post: Unconditional and Conditional Love.

How much do you know about the American 2nd Amendment?

And what would you like today?
And what would you like today?

A very interesting article, reminding me that “believing is seeing.” I will soon be presenting a post on Beliefs and Values.

Opinion: What America’s gun fanatics won’t tell you.

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


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 games of advertising, such power.
The games of advertising, such power.

These posts are likely to be quite random in their content, at least for a while. I read a lot, and am often reactive to the content, especially when the content illustrates what I consider the insanity of our culture. Here is what I came across this morning: gamification, the latest gimmickry to sell you what you don’t want. For me, as a culture we are like teenagers who have not yet learned a sense of perspective, who are spaced out on the hype of experience. I often wonder if, as a species, we are capable of maturity.

This post was originally on my Facebook of 20160602.