Tag Archives: survival

¿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.

More Climate Truth

Problems2This post is a series of articles I have found recently that illustrate for me the complexity of what we must deal with as a culture. I shake my head in wonder, and sometimes struggle to stay out of despair. Even in despair, I choose to be function in contemplative action.

A Look at Past and Future Climate Change in Less Than a Minute (20190218)

Two graphics that illustrate the changes in average temperature over the 20th and 21st centuries. Simple, impressive.

re: Generation (20190218)

An excellent article regarding our failure as a generation to respond to the existential crisis of climate disruption — we need now to support our youth as they stand up to our acedia. Hopefully they will manage better than we have done.

Rethink Activism in the Face of Catastrophic Biological Collapse (20190304)

The second in a series (the first is also online). Both express the vulnerability needed to come to terms with the possibility of our collapse as a species.

The strongmen strike back (20190314)

An excellent article on the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world. I am currently in a small group exploring issues of Power & Privilege; what I recognize from this article is that I am currently only exploring the tip of the iceberg.

The Gentrification of Payments (20190317)

The complexity of the issues whereby power infiltrates systems astounds me.

Here’s Why America Is Dumping Its Trash in Poorer Countries (20190309)

I assume it is also likely true of Canada. The denial of garbage is another illustration of the complexity we must overcome if we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species.

Deep Earth: A Subterranean Galapagos Expands The Tree Of Life (20190203)

An amazing description of life existing in places where I would not have thought possible. The resiliency of life astounds me such that I imagine that even if we destroy ourselves, life will persist. Who knows — maybe in another billion years archeologists will wonder who we were.

¿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.

Climate Truth

PostTruth2This post presents a number of the links I have recently encountered, articles I think are important in speaking truth to what I perceive. And as usual, I am hesitant to post them — it is so easy to be overloaded with too much information these days.

I find also that the climate conversations are evolving. I attended a webinar a few nights ago by Smart Politics (https://www.joinsmart.org/) — overall I was impressed. It is American, based mainly in California (I think), and presented a good process for engaging, followed by a good discussion — certainly I would recommend to anyone in the States. It is different from yet similar to the process I will be leading with the Suzuki Elders at the end of this month (Climate Change Conversations: How To Have Them Without Everyone Walking Out Of The Room, Vancouver, 20190228).

On the positive side —

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth (20190204)

An excellent summary of the power of speaking the truth, especially in the nature of climate disruption. As readers of this blog will know, I am an advocate of The Climate Mobilization; momentum for this organization and its partners is evolving.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Is a Product of Youth Uprising (20190208)

The need for major overhaul of the political situation is being recognized. Perhaps it is the beginning of transformation of capitalism and neoliberalism. Perhaps. Will we do so in time to avert disaster?

On the other side —

When Europeans Colonized the Americas, They Killed So Many That the Earth’s Climate Cooled (20190203)

A fascinating interplay between colonialism and global warming. Sad.

There’s a Big Hole in the World’s Most Important Glacier. Yes, It’s a Problem. (20190205)

As usual, things are worse than we thought.

The World Is on the Brink of Widespread Water Wars (20190211)

Another way in which things are worse. We are so close to collapse. As noted above, will we create a new cultural process in time to make a difference?

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’ (20190211)

Yet another. What else can I say?

Predominantly neutral (is anything neutral in this theme?) —

How the greenwashing campaign works (20190212)

How can we measure the climate risk of methane gas emissions- (20190212)

What the methane industry doesn’t want you—or lawmakers—to know (20190212)

This series of articles on methane, the principle component of natural gas, speaks to the complexity of assessing data as well as the interpretation of data, some of which is almost certainly disinformation.

How Then Shall We Live?

CogDiss01In my reading today I encountered a truly outstanding description of how one man chooses to live with Climate Change, something that will affect all our lives. Dahr Jamail’s commentary As the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live? (20190204, the first of a series) touches me deeply, both for his honesty and for his depth of knowledge and understanding. He is one of a small group of journalists in whom I have a deep sense of trust as to his integrity. (Joe Rohm is another source that I trust for his knowledge and his integrity.)

Jamail writes for TruthOut on climate issues and I recommend all his writings. I have recently ordered his book The End Of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (20190122). I will undoubtedly be reporting on this in a later blog.

As I write these words, I also have a moment of profound cognitive dissonance. I am slowly reading Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken, a very well-researched description of 100 substantive solutions to reverse global warming. I also think of the DVD Tomorrow (2015) that I watched a few weeks ago, a video that deeply impressed me with its hopeful message of creative responses to climate issues.

Thus I simultaneously hold the honest searching and sadness of what we have done and do to our planet together with the incredible creativity that is available. All this with the recognition of how powerless we are to deal with the insanity of capitalism and neoliberalism, the power dynamics that run our system.

It truly reminds me to be humble of the limited yet important ways in which I can contribute.

Other articles worth reading:

Jamail writes a regular series of articles for TruthOut, many of which can be found under Climate Disruption Dispatches or his website http://www.dahrjamail.net/.

The most dangerous climate feedback loop is speeding up (Joe Rohm, 20190117)

And on the flip side:

Opinion: Our house is on fire, and many Albertans want more lighters (20181229)

A very clear presentation of the options for Albertans. What I find fascinating is the number of ad hominin attacks in the Commentary section, an indication of the amount of toxic discourse (as noted in the past few posts).

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.


[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Ways To Contribute

Contribution6I have my finger in a lot of pots these days, all in an attempt to find ways to contribute my skill set to the issues of global warming. Currently I strive to be a background resource to others as I generally exhaust myself when I over-commit myself. I generally function best as a devil’s advocate, gently challenging others to stretch into their own skill set; I don’t function well in groups unless I have designated tasks to complete (or can function as devil’s advocate).

It has been a while since I have done a post, and periodically I have thought to get back to same. Mainly I have been sorting how best for me to respond to issues, as noted above, above all seeking a way to be at peace with the stresses of modernity.

I do a lot. Amongst other ways to contribute, I do a Listening Ministry at one of the church missions of the Downtown EastSide of Vancouver, the major district of homelessness and drug crime. I’m also part of the Social Justice committee of the same mission where we are current advocates for drug decriminalization. I am engaged in an international men’s organization (Illuman.org) and promote a variety of virtual men’s groups orientated to vulnerability and spirituality. I facilitate a Soul Matters group at the local Unitarian Church, exploring a variety of issues such as Awe, Vision, and Mystery. And I contribute to a Suzuki Elder Salon development of how to engage in difficult conversations. I used to also provide low grade security in Vancouver via the Peace Bearers organization — usually for crowd scenes orientated to demonstrations regarding global warming (my low back pain unfortunately led to limitations here).

I do all this because I am deeply aware of how precarious is the nature of human survival in this super-wicked difficulty of climate change and ecological threat. I actually have little hope we will survive as a species, and no hope our civilization will survive.

But I do not function from hope — I function from intention.

High intention; low expectation

This is the only way I have found to stay out of despair as to what we are doing on this planet. I have said many times to myself and to others that, as individuals we are capable of immense greatness, but as a species we are psychotic.

From my perspective, we need ways to shift this human dynamic at a species level. I have basically spent the second half of my life (from 40 to 65) as therapist learning to do so at the individual level, and in retirement wanted to tackle the societal level — wherein I came much more aware of my own limitations in contribution. But it did not mean that I would give up contributing.

I contribute because authenticity in relationship with others has become my best way to function with this insanity, and perhaps the only way in which we will find a path through the next hundred years. It is my wish that others find a way through their own despair and acedia so that we come to common ground in how we deal with the coming years.

The following links speak to these thoughts of mine.

How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet (20181126)

An excellent report by Bill McKibben (350.org) regarding the current state of global warming as well as the complexity of human relations over the past 60 years.

Finding Hope in Hopelessness (20181123)

Margaret Wheatley reflects on loss of hope, and yet finding her own stance to contribute within hopelessness.

I’d rather die than feel this. (20180608, reprinted from 2014)

An excellent article on why some choose suicide as a resolution of their pain. It reminds me of the spate of celebrity suicides (Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain as examples) as well as the numerous deaths within the Fentanyl crisis.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the Legacy Museum

I’ve currently finished a brief workshop on White Supremacy Culture, part of a presentation within the Unitarian Church I attend. I hate the term White Supremacy and yet I recognize that the destructiveness of the immense power and privilege issues that have dominated European culture (and thus world culture) for the past 500 years (or more, perhaps as long ago as the origin of what we call civilization). Somehow we need to do much more in the nature of multi-cultural restoration.

The Fortune-Teller (20181105)

“how to save the world” is a blog written by a local BC resident, often regarding his chronicle of civilization’s collapse. Overall I find it well-written with interesting reflections (although from the perspective of a staunch materialist — not my preferred ontology). I especially like his present comment: “Lemonade is everywhere. Wisdom is scarce.”

The Role Harassment Plays in Climate Change Denial (20181102)

We are becoming more and more divisive as a culture, especially in the United States but also Canada. I assume it is simply a harbinger of the stresses of our current world, but it does not bode well for resolution of issues. I have long maintained that cultural anger is the canary in the coalmine of our demise.

Is Civility A Sham? (201810 TED Salon)

Why It’s Worth Listening To People We Disagree With (201804 TED2018)

How To Have Better Political Conversations (201609 TEDx Marin)

Three brief videos that look at the difficulty of conversation in divisive areas. They stress the need for basic civility and meeting the other in their worldview, all important points in coming to common ground. They all seem to operate from the presupposition that if the other person/people feel respected and acknowledged, then the other will want to find common ground — likely true in many cases.

What is missing for me is what to do when the other has no interest in finding common ground — this is the central breakdown point for me, especially when the other has powerful influence on the outcome (corporations, the fossil fuel industry, et cetera). Our culture usually operates from the seeking of consensus — and the weakness of consensus is that terrorists are not interested in consensus.

In this regard, I am currently reading Deep Green Resistance, a book which delimits the need for resistance beyond the attempt to achieve consensus. It is quite a dense read, and likely I will eventually describe it in greater detail in this blog. For now, I recommend it as an important study in the complexity of change.

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.

What’s It All About? Part 2

Meaning2This is my second post about meaning, it being the essential driver of human behaviour. We are meaning-makers, story-makers, and if we do not know “what it’s all about,” we will not move into action. At the same time, the creation of our meaning is complex and sophisticated.

Not only is the creation of meaning complex, but often the information itself is complex. This is especially so with all the information available concerning global warming.

I said last post that I would give some updated information regarding global warming. Here it is.

First, I want to draw attention to a brilliant presentation by Jeremy Rifkin on The Third Industrial Revolution via UBC Connects (20180316) — it is a fairly long video, and a quick summary is available as The Zero Marginal Cost Society (unfortunately both present the information too rapidly to allow good processing). Rifkin identifies that every industrial revolution in the past has occurred with and requires new innovations in communication (management), energy (creation), and transportation (movement). We have that now with the internet (communication), renewable energy (energy), and electronic vehicles plus 3D printing (both logistical), and thus we are now capable of a new industrial revolution. However he remains hesitant because he does not trust that we have the maturity as a culture to undertake this — we must learn to cooperate and collaborate. processes are underway, and are in a race against the impacts of global warming.

Unfortunately, all this has been my primary emphasis throughout this blog.

And given all this, what do I trust? And, what to do? Especially in relationship to global warming. I trust the following links — they are also potentially troublesome — they offer meaning, likely painful! Yet, within the assessment of what I can do regarding global warming, they offer much; they are my attempt to offer appropriate meaning.

Climate change: An ‘existential threat’ to humanity, UN chief warns global summit (20180515)

The current Secretary-General of the UN notes “Everyday, I am faced with the challenges of our troubled and complex world. But none of them loom so large as climate change. If we fail to meet the challenge, all our other challenges will just become greater and threaten to swallow us. Climate change is, quite simply, an existential threat for most life on the planet — including, and especially, the life of humankind.”

Degree sparks necessary debate (20180517)

David Suzuki is often blunt in his critique of the societal issues of climate change, something I appreciate. Yet, as he notes, his bluntness often is subject to ad hominem attacks, rather than depth of dialogue — unfortunate, and part of the distortion that occurs in transfer of information to meaning.

Climate Reality Check (2016)

The Uninhabitable Earth (20170709)

Good information in both. Also scarey!

The Climate Mobilization Living In Climate Truth Guidebook

A draft document developed by The Climate Mobilization, presenting many good links as to the nature of the pending catastrophe as well as practical tips for self-care.