Collective Storytelling: The Stories We Tell Become the Myths We Live

— Myths Are Passages Channeling Energies That Can Hold Us Together or Tear Us Apart

The Storytelling Species: Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles

The truth of any civilization is that it is not a monolithic, inanimate thing. Human civilizations live. They are complex living entities that are fed and sustained by each individual living within it. Because of this, civilizations can die when they become sick or too rigid to flow with the pressurizing forces of time.

Many years ago, long before humans where considered human, the motivation to live together in groups was pretty straight forward—survive. Lots of species on Earth live in groups or herds or packs or flocks because it is beneficial to individual survival. Of course, individual sacrifices are required to live harmoniously in groups. For example, there always seems to be many more low status individuals than high status individuals in a group. However, overall the enhanced survival benefit of being in the group rather than outside of it tends to be a powerful motivator.

The structure of groups and how they operate is determined primarily by instincts. There are lots of similarities in instinctual responses between species because all life has had to adapt to common environmental challenges on Earth, making lots of similarities of group life between species. But, there are plenty of examples of uniquely tuned instincts species have evolved to equip them to thrive in very specific niches, making very unique group structures–consider what it would be like to live inside a beehive.


What Are Instincts?

“Instincts are inborn complex patterns of behavior that exist in most members of the species, and should be distinguished from reflexes, which are simple responses of an organism to a specific stimulus, such as the contraction of the pupil in response to bright light or the spasmodic movement of the lower leg when the knee is tapped. The absence of volitional capacity must not be confused with an inability to modify fixed action patterns. For example, people may be able to modify a stimulated fixed action pattern by consciously recognizing the point of its activation and simply stop doing it, whereas animals without a sufficiently strong volitional capacity may not be able to disengage from their fixed action patterns, once activated.[1] Instinctual behavior in humans has been studied, and is a controversial topic.”

– From Wikipedia

I will let Dr. Robert Sapolsky tell you about instincts and how human beings are exactly the same in these fixed action patterns as any other mammal on Earth, but also utterly unique in how we use fixed action patterns to do things as individuals and groups. He is a professor of biology, neurology, and neurological sciences at Stanford University. He has possesses an impressive body of field research and artfully combines his mastery of his field with a charismatic ability to communicate with others, allowing him to make complicated concepts understandable to just about anyone.

The Uniqueness of Humans by Robert Sapolsky | Stanford University | 233 views • Dec 25, 2018

This is one of his shorter talks that it is well worth listening to if you have ever wondered about human behavior and why we do the things we do. In this talk, Dr. Sapolsky dispels every myth of how humans are unique and different than animals; however, in each instance where we act exactly the same as everyone else here on Earth, he also points out how we do it bigger, more extravagantly, and ostentatiously than any other animal on Earth, and that makes us utterly unique.

Living in groups is one of the things we do as humans that is utterly different than other animals on Earth. When we live in groups, we do it with pizzazz and with style. We like our groups to proceed in a manner and approach that generates vast, complicated, and intricate social systems that operate more like ecosystems, allowing the humans existing within them to seemingly live outside of or beyond the constraints of nature. No other animal lives quite like humans do in groups–that is for sure. Our precocious ingenuity has allowed us to occupy just about every livable niche on the planet. And when we encounter a non-livable niche, we can change it so we can live there too!


Stories of Hermits

It is possible to live utterly alone as a human being and still survive. There are many stories of hermits and monks who have lived alone for years, decades, their entire adult lives. Many are fabled to do this in order to overcome and master their most primal fixed action patterns. But some simply do not want human interaction or the entanglements that human relationships entail. These are important stories. However, our current collective story is not one about a world populated by 7.8 billion hermits. I doubt Earth could even sustain 7.8 billion human beings living utterly alone and unconnected to each other.

For a modern true tale of a man living utterly alone, Snap Judgement tells a riveting tale titled The North Pond Hermit.

Image from Snap Judgement | The North Pond Hermit – Snap Classic | Artwork by Teo Ducot

Snap Judgment Description:

There was a legend in central Maine, about a hermit who had lived in the woods, unseen, for 30 years. Then, in 2013, the police arrested a man named Christopher Knight.

To learn more about Chris Knight’s story, be sure to check out Mike Finkel’s book, The Stranger In The Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. 

Check out The North Pond Hermit Song by Stan Keach.

Produced by Joe Rosenberg, original score by Renzo Gorrio & Andrew Vickers


Why Do We Need to Care About Instincts?

To me, this is simple. If we do not bring our conscious awareness to bear on our daily lives, we are destine to act based on fixed action patterns (e.g., deeply encoded urges, impulses, and instincts). When we live in an unconscious manner, we do not feel and thus cannot fulfill our full potential as a human being. We live rather as our parents, forebears, and ancestors lived seldom taking a moment to consider if what we are doing now, what we have been taught to do and think and believe, is right for the moment we are living in.

When we do not bring our conscious awareness to bear on our constantly changing circumstances, our preprogramming is bound to kick in and run wild. Acting in this way stagnates our spark of consciousness as individuals and as a species. It can even make us lose consciousness, going backwards as an individual or a group (devolving rather than evolving).

In addition to instincts, human beings (being so darn clever and unique in how we live in groups) also bring cultural precepts, religious doctrines, community rules, and all the decrees, commandments, and directives deemed necessary to live in big, complicated societies and civilizations. We willingly agree to abide by these rules whenever we join a new group or alliance or club or clique. It’s the price we pay as human beings to belong to things we think benefit us in some way or another. In highly technological, modern societies, this can add up to be a lot of groups to which an individual must belong. If a person is not careful, this sort of belongingness can end up sabotaging the amount of and quality of consciousness that can be brought to bear, without fear or favor, to our situations, circumstances, struggles, and challenges encountered in life.

When we act unconsciously to our circumstances, we often fail to apprehend, understand, and act in ways that are needed to maintain harmony in our life and in the lives of those around us. Instead, we often end up acting no better than a troop of baboons. However, because we are human, we tend to put highly creative and imaginative spins on making our lives more miserable and difficult than they need to be, if only we would have brought a little more attention and consciousness to the situation, which would have allowed us to see the bigger picture and understand the interconnections present in all events transpiring here on Earth.


Stories Act Like Glue Holding Complicated Groups Together

So what keeps us from tearing each others faces off (like baboons can do when their status is provoked by a young upstart or lower status member)? What allows us to work together in more or less harmonious ways within our massive social conglomerations?

Religions have long served a fundamental role in creating and maintaining cooperative groups. Sports can unify and unite groups, even pull different groups together in friendly competition. Food is a great unifier too, so is music. And so are stories, especially mythical stories that activate numinous content in our psyche (I’ll talk more about this in a moment).

Here are some of the foundational stories that have helped create and define Western Civilization. It is a list put together by the BBC of the top 10 stories of Western Civilization. Let’s look at a few:

1.  The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)

  • Bethanne Patrick, Contributing Editor of Lit Hub, says, “I believe the journey of Odysseus defined a streak of individualism particular to Western culture that has led to much change in the world – good and bad.
  • Kenneth W Warren, Professor of English at University of Chicago, agrees. “The Odyssey has provided the architecture for the quest narrative and template for characterising male and female virtue in ways that shape, enable, and limit our storytelling habits into the present.”
  • Novelist Beverley Naidoo hones in on: “The multiple stories within Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan war, while faithful Penelope waits for him and son Telemachus seeks him, have seeped deep into our cultural consciousness. The human elements within this myriad of stories continue to resonate down the centuries, allowing endless reinterpretation.”

2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)

  • Jenny Bhatt, writer and Contributing Editor at PopMatters calls it “the first widely-read political novel in the US” and “the first work of fiction that openly addressed the cruelty of slavery, human exploitation, the lopsided legal system, the entrenched patriarchy, the need for feminism, and more.” It became one of the most popular books of the century – in the US and abroad – and is credited with radically altering the perception of slavery, with many voters noting its influence on the abolition movement. Its human focus and call for empathy struck a chord among readers.
  • Author and novelist Roxana Robinson says it “told the story of slavery through the eyes of the enslaved, and was one of the first novels to show black characters as fathers and mothers, parents and children – human beings, who were living under inhuman conditions.”  

3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)

  • Nilanjana S Roy, novelist and Financial Times columnist, points out: “Frankenstein influenced scientists as well as writers… [and] speaks to the modern fear of the creations that spin out of our control”;
  • Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, is “the quintessential story of the modern world” says Roger Luckhurst, Professor of Modern-Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, London. 
  • The compelling story of the scientist who brings a creature to life has become one of the most enduring images in modern literature and beyond, and the monster serves as the “ultimate metaphor”, says Lena Wånggren, Research Fellow in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh.

4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)

  • There is an “uncanny accuracy” says Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at Westminster University, in the book’s definition of modern tyranny: “Now more than ever, we seem to live in the framework it identified… Even the author’s name – ‘Orwellian’ – conjures up a world of thought control. Its precision about the mechanisms of propaganda and the machinery of oppression has got it banned by every authoritarian regime: they are scared of its power to name horror. It is a handbook for those who want to resist.”
  • All those who chose Orwell’s masterpiece seem to agree on one thing – the novel’s scary prescience. “Big Brother gets all the attention,” says novelist and columnist Nilanjana S Roy. “But it’s the rest, the eagerness to join mobs, to obey, to hurt, that he caught so unforgettably.
  • Or, as BBC Culture Editor Rebecca Laurence succinctly puts it: “The ultimate 20th-Century novel becomes the ultimate 21st-Century novel. Terrifying.”

5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)

  • Telling the story of the colonisation of a Nigerian tribe from the point of view of an African, Things Fall Apart explodes stereotypes about Africa and brought to life the true impact of cross-cultural misunderstandings. Achebe said that “this was the first time we were seeing ourselves, as autonomous individuals, rather than half-people, or as Conrad would say, ‘rudimentary souls’”.
  • The European colonial narrative could never be the same after this was published. “It’s an empowering African novel: it brought African experience to the world like no other African fiction has”, according to Dominica Dipio, Associate Professor of Literature at Makerere University in Uganda.
  • By changing the filter through which the continent was seen, “The novel showed readers what an African world looked like when it was not being reduced to canned images animated by racist assumptions,” says Ainehi Edoro-Glines, a Nigerian academic. “Achebe’s innovation was to change the conventions of modern storytelling so that instead of seeing darkness any time readers looked at Africa, they’d see what every novel was designed to show – a complex representation of life.

6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)

  • It gets at the primordial human desire for the story that never ends – which can very easily stand for life that never comes to an end.” Ahdaf Soueif, novelist, writer and commentator, points out: “Many characters, motifs and quotations (‘Open Sesame!’) from this set of stories within stories have become common parlance across the world.”
  • It’s the deepest of wells,” says novelist and columnist Nilanjana Roy. “In medieval & modern times, from writers to singers and film-makers, we never stopped drawing from it.” 
  • Critic Muneeza Shamsie admires “Sheherazade’s courage, intelligence and confidence and fact she succeeds, asserts the power of storytelling and imagination over tyranny and terror – a concept which has strongly influenced the ideals and ideas of our world.
  • Lena Merhej, a comic artist from Lebanon, picked the book “because it gives a subversive voice to a woman that uses it as a weapon for her survival.” 

To see the rest and read all of the reasons why these stories were selected, go to the BBC Culture page (note book images come from this page as well).


We Are An Unfolding Story

One could even say the United States’ Declaration of Independence is a collective story of the highest order and complexity that all its citizens (and even its non-citizens for no country or civilization operates in a vacuum no matter how powerful they have grown) play out every day. And so as it is played out, it is written–an unfolding story through time in space.

I heard an absolutely wonderful TedTalk exploring this very idea of how each and every person is an author of the collective story unfolding in this time, Now. The whole hour was dedicated to Baratunde Thurston who talks about How To Citizen.

Manoush Zomorodi introduces him this way: “And it has been a year of thinking how our actions affect our neighbors, a year of realizing that many of our systems do little for the most vulnerable among us and here in the U.S., a year when the population further splintered over what it means to be an American. And so how do we talk about all this stuff without alienating each other? How do we move forward collectively? And what is our civic duty in the 21st century? These are big questions. And so on the show today, we’re going to explore ideas about How To Citizen with Baratunde Thurston. He’s been working on and thinking about this topic for years. And he recently came out with a new podcast series appropriately called How To Citizen.

Through this episode Manoush and Baratunde explore some of his notable podcasts and TedTalks. The first individuals he brings up is the lawyer and civil rights activist Valarie Kaur and what she calls Revolutionary Love. He tells Manoush, “I picked Valarie as the opening voice in the podcast series, the How To Citizen podcast. I wanted her to offer a spiritual invocation to the whole idea of what it means to citizen as a verb. And that means to commit to each other.”

Valarie Kaur – Breathe! Push! The Labor of Revolutionary Love | Bioneers | 11,619 views • Nov 13, 2019

Thurston highlights something Valarie talks about, which is “In order to love others, see no stranger. We can train our eyes to look upon strangers on the street, on the subway, on the screen and say in our minds, brother, sister, aunt, uncle. When we say this, what we are saying is, you are a part of me I do not yet know. I choose to wonder about you. Number three, in order to love our opponents, tend the wound. Tending to the wound is not healing them. Only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents, the terrorists, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change.

Another person they highlight is

Co-Parenting as Allies, not Adversaries | Ebony Roberts & Shaka Senghor | TEDxDetroit | 14,939 views • Jan 15, 2020

Thurston says, “So yeah. So to empathize and identify with the idea of hurt and pain and to acknowledge that I have played a role in probably someone else’s life where I was the opponent – to extend that to others, that’s when it makes sense to me, and it’s not just this masochistic endeavor.”

The next person Thurston brings up is Eric Liu (who he likes to call Mr. Democracy).

How to revive your belief in democracy | Eric Liu | 70,525 views • May 24, 2019

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK): ERIC LIU: I bring you greetings from the 52nd freest nation on Earth. As an American, it irritates me that my nation keeps sinking in the annual rankings published by Freedom House. I’m the son of immigrants. My parents were born in China during war and revolution, went to Taiwan and then came to the United States, which means all my life, I’ve been acutely aware just how fragile an inheritance freedom truly is. That’s why I spend my time teaching, preaching and practicing democracy.

TedTalk with Baratunde Thurston

Thurston tells Manoush, “Yeah, I had been talking about this project of How To Citizen for years in some form, and I saw his talk at TED about making civics sexy again and these Civic Saturdays events and sermons, all this kind of religious faith language. But the faith was not in an all-seeing, all-knowing deity. It was in very fallible human beings and our institutions.


There is much more to this talk and all of it is well worth your time to listen to in full or to read the transcript if you are interested in a healthy, diverse, thriving, democratic system. But this is why I am zeroing in on language and storytelling. We tell the stories through our thoughts, words, deeds, and actions (or non-actions). We are writing our living systems as we live it.

It is hard to keep a democratic nation. It is hard to balance differences (e.g., different perspectives, needs, desires, beliefs) as expressed and lived by lots and lots of different people from all over the world who have come to live in the United States. In the TedTalk mentioned above, Liu says: ” Democracy works only when enough of us believe democracy works.”

It takes work to keep a democracy. One of the most memorable points Liu made was out democracy does not automatically spring from constitutional rules but from the inner workings of civic spirit–that is us. We all contribute to the quality of this spirit and whether it is healthy or not.

I know it is hard to stay informed and to pay attention to all the things a complicated society like the United States of America requires its citizens know, but this sort of knowledge is important for the system to continually sustain and renew itself. It is tempting to clamp down and claim that one’s own personal set of principles or beliefs are the only ones to follow to move forward. It is hard to compromise and walk another’s path.


Moments of Illumination & Seeing More of the Story

One of things I think the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated is weakness in our existing systems of being around the world. Many of these weakness can be traced back to individuals living unconsciously; people choosing to live in narrow channels and closing themselves off to points of views that are not in alignment to their preconceived ideas and beliefs; people who refuse and are unwilling to see the world from someone else’s perspective–to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

An interview with Kai Ryssal of MarketPlace demonstrates vividly what is happening to millions of people who have lost jobs and feel like they have been forgotten, even thrown away by our current system of being in the world. A brief clip from this interview that drills down on the fissures in our system and collective way of doing things that is doing us in as a collective is the following:

Ryssdal: When we talked last time, I don’t even remember what I said, but you in essence said you felt you had been forgotten and overlooked. And just to break the fourth wall a little bit here, we kept in touch and you sent us a text in January that said, and this is you now, “I feel so astonishingly betrayed by the systems responsible for protecting and providing for our nation.” Do you as a guy on the lower rungs of the income ladder in this country, do you feel any hope that it’s going to get better post-virus?

Cairns: You know, I really don’t see a lot of silver lining. We are so eager to get back to normal that we’re probably going to ignore a lot of the lessons learned from this pandemic. You know, restaurants and bars are already trying to go back to business as usual. Customers, people in general, definitely want to just go right back to normal. And without some sort of structure, some sort of system in place to help facilitate people taking things easier, I don’t see how this is going to get much better in the future.

Ryssdal: But Neil, if a bar or restaurant opened up around the corner from you and said, “Hey, we can give you 25 hours a week,” would you do it?

Cairns: Probably. Yeah. I don’t think I’d have a whole lot of choice, and that’s exactly the problem — we should. You know, providing for people in situations like mine, like those who are in worse positions than mine, to be able to stay home, to choose when to go back to work in a way that is best for them, I think is really important, and I don’t see any indication that we’re gonna make any attempt to do that.


How to Tell Better Stories

To tell better stories, we need to see each other–everyone. The PBS NewsHour explores this idea in the rising occurrence of hate crimes against Asian Americans. In large part, Trump ignited and inspired this collective hate to be acted out in cruel and brutal ways. He gave a green light to let this hate rip through the delicate fabric that holds us together as an utterly unique collective–something that has never existed on this Earth below at this level, but only if we can keep it, as Thurston so beautifully expresses in the TedTalk above.

In the PBS piece, it is said:

The absence of knowledge is a way of keeping people fighting each other.” Missing in History – The void of knowledge of Asian Americans has and is being replaced by garbage – caricatures of Asians being animals, disease infested, monsters.”

The problem is invisibility. Justice is not a zero sum game. Justice is a fabric that extends across all communities.

PBS NewsHour – March 4, 2021

To tell better stories, we need to see more of ourself by embracing moments of illumination (often triggered by a crisis, a setback, a disaster) to boldly go where we have not yet ventured inside ourself, the realms where our invisible self dwells. Sometimes to tell better stories means we need to see the biases we harbor, the prejudices we protect, and the injustices we perpetuate. Other times it means seeing the power we have lost because we have projected onto someone else. But when we see it exists inside of us too, we grow stronger, we heal, we become more whole inside–we grow as a conscious being. When we finally see we are the thing we hate, we can even transform.

HiddenBrain did a beautiful piece on the power of stories in transforming ourself.

  • Description: The Story of Your Life: We can’t go back and change the past. We can’t erase trauma and hardship. But what if there was a way to regain control of our personal narratives? In the second part of our series on storytelling, we look at how interpreting the stories of our lives — and rewriting them — can change us forever.”

The Power of Myth

This is the power of myths and storytelling. They show us ways to channel the intense energies that surge inside of us when we are provoked by our circumstances. These energies begin as instincts but what consciousness allows us to do is to sees these energies rising before we act on them. This ability gives us a moment to choose an action different than what our innate instincts would otherwise dictate that we do.

In the heat of the moment, many of us may well act on the instinct triggered. However, when we do bring our conscious attention to these moments, we can alter our instincts in a great variety of ways. This is what Jung calls archetypes. They are mirror images of instincts but altered by consciousness. This allows the energy to flow forward in any number of different ways different from how they would have otherwise contained in nature. The number of variations of rising instinctual responses are as vast as the number of human beings who have chosen something differently.

These are the stories of Gods and Goddesses from every culture around the world. These stories tell about what befell a God or Goddess after choosing an altered instinctual response to a situation encountered. Each God and Goddess embodies qualities and energies of our most primal, basic instincts. Together, instincts and archetypes make up the building blocks of the human psyche.

Jung came to believe archetypes are empty templates that we fill anew each time we alter our instinctual responses triggered by circumstances we encounter. They are fluid, flexible, and powerful like water. When we meet our situations and circumstances consciously, we live mythic lives.

A Few Modern Stories Offering Strong Modern Mythic Images to Ponder

A new Netflix series I have loved watching is Invisible City. The trailer says, “What if the legends of your childhood are living in plain sight?” Which of course, they are. This is a beautiful drama that weaves in the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest and its people and animals with Brazilian Folklore entities and deities. Season 1 explores what happens if one of these vital entities gives up.

Invisible city Official trailer (HD) Season 1 (2021) | 69,610 views • Feb 5, 2021
Glitch Season 1 | Trailer | Now On Netflix | 739,777 views • Feb 23, 2016 | This is a fantastic modern remake of the fearsome zombie-monster movie is Glitch that explores consciousness, playing God (or becoming too much like God) and the transformative power of love.
The OA | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix | OA explores consciousness, time, what we think is real, mad scientists, being kids in modern times, choices, reality.
Travelers | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix | Travelers also explores consciousness, time, trying to change our mistakes and the unforeseen consequents of what we cannot possibly know in advance, even what a super smart computer cannot know…
Outlander: Season 5 Official Trailer | If you have not been following this series, you should watch all of them. Season 5 really takes the viewers into very modern questions of: Are you playing God?, birth of a nation, who was really barbaric back then, time, consciousness, love, family.
Succession: Season 1 | Official Trailer | HBO | Truly a modern tail exploring how power is used and abused in our time.

Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020

The video below is an artistic-musical journey of some of the events that defined and reshaped our shared reality over the past year. It spans natural disasters, disease disasters, and human made disasters that occurred beginning around Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021.

I began by drawing the sad woman sitting by a fire contemplating something. I drew her early in 2020 before most of what happened transpired. Behind her is a dreamlike landscape, which was drawn some years earlier. However, I felt it belonged in this dream-like landscape. I then wanted images to appear between the flickering fire, but I didn’t know how to choose which ones to draw or feature among all the disasters and terrible things that occurred last year all around the world.

I decided to focus on the United States and found a regional map that I redrew artistically. I found other maps of where fires occurred, where the derecho hit Iowa and left a 750 mile path of destruction, where hurricanes came ashore, where Black Live Matter marches took place after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (my hometown), and where COVID-19 infections were rising. I artistically re-envisioned and redrew these maps as layers that could be used over the Regional Map or alone.

I blended live videos of 2020 events (e.g., driving through fire, driving through the derecho, hurricane mapping and video, Black Live Matter marches) as well as murals painted by artists worldwide honoring George Floyd and/or illuminating the collective struggle of COVID-19 into this video montage of 2020.

Towards the end, I include drawings I made many years earlier. There were lots so many glitches in getting this video posted, including having to throw out 6 songs at the very end and replace them since the musicians did not allow their music to be used with anything other than their original videos. I understand this, it is their creation. However, I am deeply grateful to the musicians who do allow their music to be used with ad revenue going to them (as it should). I have cited all musicians and tried to give credit to all videos and images used that are not my own drawings or photography. I list these sources in the description section on YouTube.

It is with gratitude I offer Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020

Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020 | Premiered Mar 17, 2021

Remembering who we have lost and how our lives have changed is important, especially as we prepare and begin making choices on how to move forward as individuals and as communities. Our choices matter. Without taking time to reflect and to grieve for what has been lost, we are bound to go in circles and repeat fixable mistakes in attitudes and ideas over and over. Taking time to remember and grieve is a sacred act. No matter if your life has been impacted in big or small ways, this past year has caused a pause–and Now is the time to reflect, remember, and cherish the precious gift of life–something that is so fragile and fleeting for all of us. This is how we grow and transform by remembering, reflecting, and cherishing what has been lost and using this remembrance (this accounting of one’s life to this moment in time) to make different choices moving forward.

Recently, I’ve been reading a book about the philosophy of the I Ching. It is a book one of my brothers got a long, long time ago. I don’t know how I ended up with it. For years it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. Perhaps I would not have understood what the author was revealing had I picked it up earlier. However, after 5+ years of significant reversals, setbacks, and losses, it really resonates with me today.

Carl Jung said the East charted inner landscapes and developed a deep understanding of who and what we are as conscious living beings while the West turned its time and attention to charting and understanding the outer world. Neither focus is bad. Both are part of reality; however, the Western focus on the reality of the visible, outside world grew lopsided (very lopsided), creating an imbalance in the psyche that resulted in a lost of awareness of sacred inner landscapes forming one’s inner realities. This forgetting has put the wellbeing of individuals in peril, and possibly placed our collective survival as a species, a civilization in jeopardy as well. All hands are needed on deck to heal the chasm created by this extreme lopsidedness; I will tell you more about this in my book: Sapience.

Returning to what I was reading last night that felt like it belonged in this post. I was reading a chapter about the Student-Sage Relationship. The I Ching believes student and sage are one. And, we come to know our inner sage by developing inner discipline and quieting our mind. This is how our inner sage can be heard, understood, and followed for the good of self and the greater good.

What felt like belonged here is the following:

The Sage is polite, but firm in stating cosmic principles.

It is through such firmness that we perceive his total personality as gentle, kind, firm, and correct–one that believes in us in spite of our deviations.

He waits while we exhaust our enthusiasm for false ideas; he allow us to self-destruct if we stubbornly insist upon doing so, but would rather we did not, because, as he tells us, we have the potential for achieving something both great and permanent for the good of all, if we will do it.

While working with the Sage, we feel a nourishing, helpful presence.

If we become arrogant, however, this presences departs and we begin to feel lonely.

We are hardly aware of this presence until we lose it and miss it.

When we return to our path, the presence gradually returns.

It is as if an inner light comes and goes.

By his coming and his going, he teaches us about himself and about our relationship with him.

The book is called: The Philosophy of the I Ching. It was written by Carol K. Anthony who I came to discover recently died in August 2020. She founded her own publishing company and lived close to me. I could have met her had I been a little faster in my curiosity about the I Ching, but time and fate is what it is. Her biography is beautiful:

CAROL K. ANTHONY (1930 – August 2020)

Carol began her study of the I Ching in 1971, during a mid-life crisis, when she was age 41. Her difficulties made her receptive when a friend, desiring to be of help, introduced her to the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching. It taught her to meditate in a way that helped her to understand what the hexagrams were saying. She kept notes of these insights as they occurred. Within seven years she had a complete set of notes on each hexagram that helped friends understand the hexagrams they received. She quickly realized that her notes filled a unique need. Two meditation experiences led her to publish them under the title, A Guide to the I Ching, and to found Anthony Publishing Company. This book was followed by The Philosophy of the I Ching, in 1981, The Other Way, Experiences in Meditation Based on the I Ching, in 1990, and Love, An Inner Connection, Based on Principles Drawn from the I Ching, in 1993. These books interested other publishers and some of them were translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Croatian.

Other Remembrances of 2020:

The Year Of COVID And How It Changed Our Lives Forever — The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5

Image from The Kojo Nnamdi Show — Vaccines have arrived. Will you be getting one? The world hopes that you do. PETER HAMLIN / AP ILLUSTRATION

Kojo is retiring soon and will be missed. This was a wonderful look back on a year that turned world upside down.

Description of Episode:

It was Friday, February 28, 2020 on The Politics Hour when we first covered the coronavirus in any detail. We discussed it again briefly on The Politics Hour a week later. But at that those moments we had no idea how deadly the virus would become and how the year would unfold. We were talking about elbow bumping and hand washing.

Over the days that followed cases started to gradually increase in the D.C. region and throughout the country and the world. And on March 10 we devoted the entire show on the virus with doctors and public health officials and began covering the COVID-19 pandemic regularly.

This broadcast will take a look back at the year of COVID, with insights and reflection from Emergency Physician and Professor Dr. Leana Wen, Washington Post Columnist and Parenting Coach Meghan Leahy, and WAMU/DCist Staff Writer Elliot Williams.


One Year Of The Pandemic In Washington: A Special Report | WAMU 88.5 | Friday, March 19, 2021 at 1:00pm

Image from WAMU: A demonstrator against police violence walks near the Lincoln Memorial, wearing a mask. Tyrone Turner / WAMU

Description of Episdoe:

One year.

It’s been a full year since the first coronavirus cases arrived in our region. One year of masks and social distancing. For some of us, it’s been a year of working from home. For others, a year of trying to get unemployment benefits, or risking infection to go to work.

For many, it’s been a year of loss. Lost jobs, lost time, lost homes, lost business, and lost loved ones. Nearly 20,000 people in DC, Maryland, and Virginia have died.

The loss in our region is incalculable. The grief is immeasurable. And the inequalities in who is shouldering this loss are inescapable.

In this special report, we take stock of a year like no other, and look for lessons our region should carry forward.

Listen in with us on March 19 at 1 p.m. ET on WAMU 88.5 FM, here on WAMU.org or on your smart speaker. [Or listen anytime by clicking the link]


When Covid Hit Nursing Homes, Part 1: ‘My Mother Died Alone’ — The Daily, NYT

Image from The Daily | February 23, 2021

Description: In the first of two episodes on what went wrong in New York’s nursing homes, we look at the crisis through the eyes of a bereaved daughter.

And go here to see more amazing stories. As they say: “This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.”


Remembering the Lives Lost in 2020

Time video tribute to the lives lost in 2020 | BY STEPHANIE ZACHAREK | VIDEO BY BRIAN BRAGANZA
 DECEMBER 7, 2020 4:01 PM EST

Description: The year 2020 was one of painful loss. We said goodbye to respected leaders and lawmakers, to gifted athletes and entertainers, to people who have inspired us and enriched our lives even if we didn’t know them personally. In some cases, people were taken from us far too soon, victims of a pandemic that has caused death and suffering around the world. And some of those we lost were the victims of grave injustice, cruelly robbed of years of life they might have spent with family, friends and loved ones.

To lose these people is a reminder of the fragility of life, and a reminder to take care of one another to the best of our ability. But in the midst of feeling sorrow for people who are no longer with us, we should also take comfort in the gifts they gave us while they were here. Here, TIME pays tribute to those who left us in 2020, people who changed the world for the better and helped show us a path forward.


The year that COVID built: a look back on 2020

News photo of the year? Black Lives Matter protester Patrick Hutchinson carries an injured counter-protester to safety, London, June 13, 2020. Image: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The World Economic Forum put together a wonderful snap shot of 2020 based on what we searched for on the Internet as well as other key moments of 2020.


2020 events: Yep, these things all happened in the year from hell

Image: New York Post article written by Jackie Salo | December 31, 2020 | 6:34pm | Updated

This NYP article walks you through major events of 2020.

Anxiety & The Bigger, Better Offer

Yesterday, I was corresponding with a friend about our mutual experience of anxiety and depression. We were talking about what was working and what was not working. As I was crafting a reply, this aired on 1A: Why Willing Yourself To Be Less Anxious Doesn’t Work — And What Actually Helps Instead

Image from 1A: Anxiety can be really hard to manage. What does research say about how to help? Paul Kane/Getty Images

The timing was uncanny. Indeed, it was synchronistic. So, I paid attention. And, I took notes. I will share some of the take aways I gleamed for this important show. If you have been struggling with anxiety and depression, especially this year, this show is well worth a listen.

1A Description:

Between the uncertainties of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, going back to the office and staying connected with one another, it’s no wonder anxiety is on the rise

As the pandemic recently reached its one-year anniversary, about a third of U.S. adults say they have experienced sleeplessness or anxiety in the last week, according to the Pew Research Center.

We’re talking with Dr. Judson Brewer, a neuroscientist and associate professor at Brown University about the science behind our anxious feelings and explains why common fixes, like simply willing yourself to be okay, don’t work. His new book is Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind.  

What’s causing us to feel anxious these days? And how can we treat it?


My Notes:

Dr. Judson Brewer discusses how worry and curiosity are binary functions in the brain. When the brain engages in worry, it cannot engage in curiosity. Worrying makes us feel smaller and contracted while curiosity makes us feel bigger and expansive. Both have evolutionary origins and functions. The problem is how complicated our modern lives have become tricking our brains and causing destructive habits and patterns to develop and become entrenched in the brain.

Dr. Brewer talked about the part of the brain that gets engaged when a person worries. It is an older part of the brain known as the cingulate cortex. This is a critical part of the limbic system and involves a group of interconnected brain structures involved in emotions along with processing emotional destress of pain. It helps us survive.


The Cingulate Cortex

I found this image of the part of the brain that gets engage when we worry while I listened.

Image from BrainFacts.org | This interactive brain model is powered by the Wellcome Trust and developed by Matt Wimsatt and Jack Simpson; reviewed by  John MorrisonPatrick Hof, and Edward Lein.
Structure descriptions were written by Levi Gadye and Alexis Wnuk and Jane Roskams.
[Go to this website and try out the very cool interactive model!]

Dr. Brewer discusses how the Cingulate Cortex is a much older structure of the brain, making it very powerful in establishing behaviors and patterns in our life. The parts of our brain that get engaged when we become curious are more complex and they also activate and engage the Prefrontal Cortex, which is the newest part of our brains and the weakest.


The Prefrontal Cortex & the Role of Curiosity to Our Wellbeing and Mental Health

Image from BrainFacts.org | The Source of Curiosity | Author Hannah Zuckerman | Published7 Aug 2019

Why is the sky blue? Staring up at the big, wide space above their heads, children often ask a variation of this question to an adult. Although the answers may seem clear enough, we’re not always satisfied with what we get. Why we know, or why we care to know about the world around or inside of us is due to a distinct desire: curiosity.

Curiosity motivates us to understand the world, our communities, our bodies, and our brains. Click on the targets in the image to explore how curiosity inspires us to investigate the mechanisms of our daily life.


Dr. Brewer explained how we can strengthen this part of our brain and ability through mindfulness training. Meditation is one part of a bigger circle of learning how to be more mindful in our bodies, especially when we begin to feel to collapsing feeling of worry and anxiety.

Everyone learns habits that get encoded in the brain through the Cingulate Cortex and other lower brain structures. Everyone also has the ability to bring awareness to their situation, both internal (e.g., are you worrying, feeling anxious, feeling fearful) and external (e.g., what triggered this inner feeling [the present], where did this feeling originate from [the past], how valid is this feeling now and moving forward in your life [the future]).


The 3 Gears of Changing Your Brain

Once you bring awareness to your situation, you can begin to remap your responses to them. You can rewire your brain! Dr. Brewer outlined 3 gears to work through that include:

Gear 1: Mapping Habit Loops

Ask yourself what the behavior you are engaging in (e.g., going on social media, over eating, compulsively cleaning, compulsively shopping, binging Netflix, taking mind altering drugs) attempting to help you do. Often these repetitive behaviors are attempting to help you overpower intense, uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear that have become ingrained in patterned repetitive behavior that does not do a good job of calming these feelings. The trigger is less important than the behavior you slip into to calm the rising anxiety and worry. Bringing your awareness to map you habit loops is the first step, the first gear to get yourself out of it.

Gear 2: Mindfulness

This is where you use your ability of awareness to get curious about your behavior: “Hmmm… what am I getting from worrying?” So you realize by becoming curious about your behavior of planning a trip to the airport 20 times isn’t doing anything to keep yourself and your family safe. This insight give you a space to do something different. You can also use mindfulness to practice retrospective reflection as well because sometimes the compulsive behavior is so powerful it is impossible to avert it until you strengthen this other part of your brain: curiosity, mindfulness, and awareness.

Gear 3: The Bigger, Better Offer

This is where you offer your brain a better offer to deal with a situation that triggers anxiety, worry, or fear. Dr. Brewer talks about how we become habituated to compulsive attempts to reduce our anxiety (e.g., ‘Oh, I feel anxious, I am going to look at puppies on the Internet’, soon the brain becomes habituated to puppies and needs a stronger stimulus, so now you need to find puppies and kitten together; then the brain become habituated to puppies and kittens, so now you need to find puppies, kittens, and baby chicks… and so it goes on and on… a compulsive addictive behavior has been established). What the brain does not become habituated to is curiosity! This is the key to get out of the loop.


They were running out of time at this point in the program, so go to Dr. Jud Brewer’s website to learn more:

Image from Dr. Jud | We all struggle with something… Anxiety. Emotional Eating. Smoking. Shopping. Self-judgement. Anger. Bad habits. Whatever your struggle, change is possible.

Have a Great Day! And remember, you are the master of your Ship of Self — go forth and explore new inner territory inside your mind and by doing so, repattern your brain.