After a month of listening to Alan Watts, I understand that it is I who create the problems I perceive. And only I can grow out of them.
There is nothing more to say.
All my blogs have been for not. I think perhaps the only thing left for me to do here is attempt to master the art of writing a descent haiku. This is an ancient art form using words like paint brushes to capture things that cannot be said, only felt, in three brief sentences.
Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of renga, an oral poem, generally a hundred stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth century and was mastered a century later by Matsuo Basho, who wrote this classic haiku: An old pond! -- Haiku | Academy of American Poets
The habit of thinking and writing about such thoughts; however, is hard to break. Thus, I will indulge in recalling that yesterday was September 11.
It has been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. For 20 years, 9/11 is a day of remembrance, grieving, and reflection about all that has transpired since that day. This includes the war on terror, which has become known as the Forever Wars.
Reveal just aired a hard-hitting episode on the costs and aftermath of these wars. In short, over 3,000 people died on 9/11 and in the past 20 years as the US searched for those responsible for this horrific attack, more than 900,000 soldiers, contractors, and civilians have died in the Forever Wars.
It is so easy to tearasunder and destroy the delicate balances sustaining all life on earth. Human beings have proved to be especially adept at doing this due to beliefs, attitudes, values, and misguided directives that are held doggedly to inside our minds and that only serve to gouge out deep trenches inside of ourselves (inside our souls) that make it possible for a good and decent person to do the most horrible things. These trenches inside of us is what separates us from each other and most of us will never escape their great depth and gravity.
It does not matter what steadfast beliefs a person clings to or what side they are fighting for because the result is the same. Once a person begins to cling to symbolic thought (replacing insufficient symbols for reality), the digging of the Pit of Peril begins and grows deeper and deeper as more and more adamant beliefs replace reality with rote responses and reactions. The harder a person clings to their resolute beliefs, the deeper and wider the trench of separation grow inside. This is the story of separation. It is the fall of man.
It is so much easier to love one another and to try to listen to one another to understand each other and live in peace rather than cultivate the inner forces of hate and separation.
Following the theme of remembering 9/11, these are two photojournalistic reflections of this day of remembering and reflection.
The Last Enemy
I will also mention one more thing regarding a synchronicity that occurred around this time. It is always important to pay attention to synchronicities when they occur in one’s life. Each person’s synchronicities are utterly unique and appear to help you grow as a conscious being. I share mine synchronicity story only as an example.
It began when I received my latest Netflix DVD. The title was The Last Enemy. I had no idea what it was and why I had put this in my cue. I almost sent it back without watching it thinking it was probably nonsense and I had made a mistake. However, I ended up watching it the day before September 11, 2021. It was absolutely relevant to this moment in time. It was made in 2012 and is about a fictional future where a devastating terrorist attack (like what happened on 9/11) turns Britain into a super surveillance state to keep everyone safe from those who might want to do us harm… but is everyone really safe? There is also a mysterious pandemic going on too.
I understand why Qers, plandemic believers, and even anti-vaxxers grow and harvest such ideas inside their minds. These are exciting concepts rich with conflict and mistrust. And such concepts provides the mind with a powerful fuel that speeds people through their daily activities, and quite often very dull routines. It is a type of mind fuels that provides individuals with a deep sense of meaning and purpose that they are fighting something evil.
That’s what this series explores.
Set in a recognisable, near-future London beset by terrorism and illegal immigration, The Last Enemy features the introduction of "TIA" (Total Information Awareness), a centralised database that can be used to track and monitor anybody, effectively by putting all available government and corporate – i.e. credit card and bank activity, phone use, internet use, purchases, rentals, etc. – information in one place.
The story deals with a political cover-up centred on a sanctioned but secret medical experiment run amok with key members of the government trying desperately to hide all evidence of their experimental batch of vaccine that seems to be causing a deadly virus. The complex story unspools to reveal the moral, social and privacy concerns of this hypothetical TIA system in a post-7/7 world, including such control mechanisms familiar to both real life and science fiction as retinal scans, fingerprint identification and ubiquitous camera and cellphone surveillance footage.
The story is told through the eyes of a mathematical genius, Stephen Ezard, who is portrayed as a recluse showing some signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. But the shy genius overcomes his own inhibitions to burrow into a highly compromised British government using his brilliance and their TIA system only to find himself ultimately trapped by the people he most trusts, and to learn he is a pawn in manipulative Security State machinations which take the people he most loves from him and compromise him forever. -- From Wiki
Lastly, this is one of the Watts lectures I listened to in the past month.
“Reality escapes all concepts. If you say there is a god that’s a concept. If you say there is no god that’s a concept. Nagarjuna is saying that always your concepts will prove to be attempts to catch water in a sieve.”
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ―Lao Tzu
There are so many problems in the world; huge, convoluted, intricate, life and death problems that have no easy answers or solutions. If you are listening to someone who is saying: “I KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD.” This person has no clue what is wrong or what to do about it.
Humanity in its broadest sense is floating once again on a vast and mighty Sea of Uncertainty. For some (and I am only talking about the individual level, not the collective), the uncertainty is no less than life or death. For others, they can only watch as a helpless observers to the multiple crises unfolding and must bear witness to the individual and collective descent of humanity, doing whatever they can to help, no matter how small the action may seem. For still others, this moment fills them with fear and they run away and deny the realities of this moment, preferring to hide their light of consciousness under a bushel. The worst among us, are using this moment and their light of consciousness to misled, misdirect, confuse, and frighten others so they may benefit and profit from the disorientation, confusion, and mayhem touching everyone’s life right now (e.g., this might mean they cultivate a flock of admirers who hang on your every word; they sow seeds deceit to gain money, power, status; or they indulge their criminal instinct certain no one will notice in all the chaos).
An illustration of the parable, together with the parable of the Growing Seed, which follows it in Mark chapter 4 (Source: Wikipedia)
"And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor [anything] secret, that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath."— Luke 8:16-18, King James Version
Crisis and complexity is not new to us as human beings. We have always been a species who had to find a way to survive through crisis and calamity. Long ago, such fate was visited upon us as a species by nature. More recently, we create the fate we must survive be it culturally, socially, politically, or any thing that calls upon our membership to the human race. It is not possible to be alive today without wearing both hats: that of an individual and that of a member of a collective.
Today, witness the shambalic pull out of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The destructive earthquake in Haiti:
The brutal, heartless War in Yemem and the death toll of children.
The desperate journey immigrants from around the world make across the Darien Gap.
Anti vaxxers fueling the Delta variant’s death toll, even among children.
I have left many tragedies out. But if you are a human of goodwill and good conscious, you know what I have left out. Again, I am focusing on the actions and consequents or non-actions and consequents of individuals, not collectives (of which we are all members of one kind or another; the actions/consequents or non-actions/consequents of collectives are an entirely different order).
Because I am human and because I am enraged by the tremendous amount of misinformation spread by anti vaxxers, I am going to pick on the anti vaxxers for a moment to illustrate something critical in understanding the Secrets of the Golden Flower and Diamond Body.
I have had a glimpse into their world, and I have seen them congratulating each other for getting kicked off social media platforms when the spread misinformation. I see them admitting to each other how they choose not to get vaccinated nor wear a mask and then just pretend in crowds they are vaccinated–taking a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to what they view as an unjust infringement of their individual liberties. I see them celebrating sickness and their body’s ability to fight off anything. I see them comparing mask mandates to Hitler’s Germany. I hear them proclaiming if they resist, they will rise up on the other side of this as the people who are going to bring in a more beautiful world or the people who are going to overthrown totalitarianism in all its manifestations or the people who will be the new Super Athletes of the world (a echo of Hitler’s Super Race myth). I hear them crying fowl that they might not be allowed into bars, restaurants, gyms, workplaces, or even to donate an organ if they cannot prove they’ve had the vaccine.
Have they not seen the suffering of individuals crossing the Darien Gap? Have they not seen the children dying in Yemen because they don’t have food? And there are many children in the mighty Untied States suffering from food shortages too–where is their attention and empathy for striving children anywhere in the world. Or for the plight of the people in Haiti who 6 days later still lack medical equipment, food, water, or help of any kind! Or the millions of people left stranded in Afghanistan after Western powers left (primarily my country: the U.S.) leaving them to the mercy of a brutal, barbaric, backwards, twisted regime that hunt and kill people based on a warped and twisted worldview and religious interpretation filled with hate, especially against women and girls or men who choose to believe different than they do.
Apparently, they have not. They have been too focused on their own fears (real or not) that their rights are being trampled on and the world is going to be ruled by Hitler’s once again.
I have also caught a glimpse into some who are promoting some of the most stubborn and kooky anti-COVID theories. Among some of the staunchest anti-vaxxers, you will hear how society is sick and going to die now. These messages send their followers into pure panic to the point some are digging bunkers and preparing for the end of the world. I know some who are doing this.
Many of the farthest out narratives draw upon religious symbolism and language such as expressed by Catholic Cardinal Burke, who recently was put on a ventilator due to the disease he denied existed. Just in December of 2020, he preached about forces, totalitarian in nature, determined to rule over us .
Where I have seen some of the most infantile responses to COVID-19 is inside the Facebook bubble that I got sorted into. It is a group of people who are passionate about Climate Change. They are people who want to change the system in order to bring in a new, better, more beautiful world. Who could argue this is wrong, expect COVID-19 has revealed to me that there is a long and very dark shadow carefully hidden underneath many of my duly sorted Facebook men and women good intentions to save the world (and I count myself among those concealing a dark shadow).
Here is what Alan Watts says about do gooders:
I know for a fact that I suffer from the same unconscious desire to save the world, and I hide the same shadow underneath all my flowery virtue-isms. I am not that guy standing in the creek, facing down the alligators while holding a log for others to walk safely across. I am a slow learner and it has been hard to accept I can’t do a damn thing about the world, expect possible try to live my own life with a little joy and attention to those I love, and possibly cultivate a little more High Virtue actions by accepting all of who I am.
I know that most of my vexation and annoyance at the selfish and immature behavior of the anti vaxxer crowd is a sign I am not fully become conscious of my own annoying, naive, and stupid behavior. Nor have I fully forgiven myself for the foolish, puerile behavior I have become conscious of.
Alan Watts also says further that when one sets out upon the path of self-development, all the debtors suddenly appear seeking payment for your past karma (karma is nothing more than action and all action (or non-action) has a consequence).
“It is believed generally in India that when a person sets out on the way of liberation his first problem is to become free from his past karma. The popular theory of karma the word that literally means action or doing in Sanskrit. So that when we say that something that happens to you is your karma it’s like saying in english it’s your own doing. But in in popular Indian belief karma is a sort of built-in moral law or a law of retribution such that all the bad things you do and all the good things you do have consequences which you have to inherit. And so long as karmic energy remains (all the bad things you do and all the good things you do) you have to work it out and what the sage endeavors to do is a kind of action which in Sanskrit is called: nishkama karma nishkama. This means without passion or without attachment.” — Alan Watts
“Now when the time comes that you start to get out of the chain of karma all the creditors that you have start presenting themselves for payment. In other words a person who begins say to study yoga is felt that he will suddenly get sick or that his children will die or that he’ll lose his money or all sorts of catastrophes will occur because uh the karmic debt is being cleared up and uh it there’s in no hurry to be cleared up if you’re just living along like anybody. But if you embark on the spiritual life a certain hurry occurs and therefore since this is known uh it’s rather discouraging to start these things. The christian way of saying the same thing is that if you plan to be to change your life shall we say to turn over a new leaf you mustn’t let the devil know.” — Alan Watts (around minute 23)
I foolishly got into a debate about which perspective was right regarding COVID–is it a lie or is it really happening. It was a futile discussion for if I had truly learned anything from listening to hours and hours of Alan Watts via YouTube, I would have simply accepted this position as part of the great happening we are all apart of… and yet, sometimes, I find myself separating from Watts universal, masterful perspective and descending into questioning… but why?
In the course of this rather rancorous discussion, we found we agreed on relative realities and I shared my series on bubble realities.
However, that was about all we agreed upon. After a lengthy illness from which I have still not recovered, I found considerable criticism of my thinking. It is futile to engage in further thought of our ongoing disagreement, but one negative assessment must be addressed. My dialogue partner said: “A story is just a story.”
Well this is true if you are perceiving and arguing simply from the physical realm of reality that we all live in. This includes bodies and bridges, cities and towns, trees and skyscrapers– you get the picture. This is not true when you are perceiving and working from the non-physical world. The dimension where the Diamond Body exists.
In this realm of being, nothing is concrete or enduring. Here, we are confronted with the very best that dwells inside of us and is part of our psyche and developing personality. And, here, we are also confronted with the very darkest, destructive, may I say, evil parts of ourself. Every human being on the planet has a good and bad side. Without these poles, consciousness as we know and understand it would not be possible.
To live together in harmonious groups of people and not tear each others heads off, human beings had to build internal ramparts to protect the individual from out-of-control collective action and to protect the collective from out-of-controlled individual action. We call individual action that is not in accord with the harmony of the collective criminal behavior.
Stories are one of the most important ways societies build and maintain these inner ramparts that protect individual and collective from catastrophe action. When these powerful inner forces begin to crash over and break down the social ramparts carefully constructed over centuries, some of man’s most destructive instincts are let loose. For some of us, this brings death.
Carl Jung was well aware of the dangers that come from inside a perfectly normal man and a perfectly respectable woman, even child. Here are several case Jung handled during his career that helped him understand what is happening the psyche of human beings–the realm of the Diamond Body.
That’s about all I am going to say about current events, anti vaxxers, clearing karma, and the Diamond Body for now. I may turn this into another series. I would just like to point you to the work of Richard Wilhelm who wrote The Secret of the Golden Flower in 1931. He work proved pivotal to Jung’s work on human psychology and psyche, and Jung and Watts were close friends. Watts often drew on the understandings he obtained through long conversations with Jung before Carl Jung died in the early sixties. Sadly, Watts, though much younger, would die himself in the early seventies.
We have been here before as a species on the brink of unrecoverable disaster. If we are luck, we will find a way forward together (as we have done before) and have another opportunity to pull ourselves back from the brink of extinction. Or, as Alan Watts, loved to say, “Perhaps we are that species who does itself in in interesting ways.”
The original German edition of The Secret of the Golden Flower, of which the following is the authorized English translation, appeared first in the autumn of 1929. On March 1st, 1930, Richard Wilhelm died. In May, 1930, memorial services in his honour were held in Munich, and Jung was asked to deliver the principal address. The latter finds an appropriate place in the English version, 1 which is published a year or more after the co-author's death. The address will be welcomed, not only for what it tells the reader of Wilhelm, but for the further light it throws on the standpoint of the East.
The relation of the West to Eastern thought is a highly paradoxical and confusing one. On the one side, as Jung points out, the East creeps in among us by the back door of the unconscious, and strongly influences us in perverted forms, and on the other we repel it with violent prejudice as concerned with a fine-spun metaphysics that is poisonous to the scientific mind.
If anyone is in doubt as to how far the East influences us in secret ways, let him but briefly investigate the fields covered to-day by what is called "occult thought ". Millions of people are included in these movements and Eastern ideas dominate all of them. Since there is nowhere any sign of a psychological understanding of the phenomena on which the ideas are based, they undergo a complete twisting and are a real menace in our world.
A partial, realization of what is going on in this direction, together with the Westerner's native ignorance and mistrust of the world of inner experience, build up the prejudice against the reality of Eastern wisdom. When the wisdom of the Chinese is laid before a Westerner, he is very likely to ask with a sceptical lift of the brows why such profound wisdom did not save China from its present horrors. Of course, he does not stop to think that the Chinese asks with an equal skepticism why the much boasted scientific knowledge of the West, not to mention its equally boasted Christian ethics, did not save it from a World War. But as a matter of fact, present conditions in China do not invalidate Chinese wisdom, nor does the Great War prove the futility of science. In both cases we are dealing with the negative sides of the principles under which East and West live, and it has not yet been given, either to individuals or to nations, to manage the vices of their virtues. Mastery of the inner world, with a relative contempt for the outer, must inevitably lead to great catastrophes. Mastery of the outer world, to the exclusion of the inner, delivers us over to the daemonic forces of the latter and keeps us barbaric despite all outward forms of culture. The solution cannot be found either in deriding Eastern spirituality as impotent, or by mistrusting science as a destroyer of humanity. We have to see that the spirit must lean on science as its guide in the world of reality, and that science must turn to the spirit for the meaning
This is the point of view established in The Secret of the Golden Flower. Through the combined efforts of Wilhelm and Jung we have for the first time a way of understanding and appreciating Eastern wisdom, which satisfies all sides of our minds. It has been taken out of metaphysics and placed in psychological
experience. We approach it with an entirely new tool, and are protected from the perversions the East undergoes at the hands of the cult-mongersof the West. At the same time, its meaning for us is greatly deepened when we know that, despite the gulf separating us from the East, we follow exactly similar paths when once we give heed to the inner world.
But this book not only gives us a new approach to the East, it also strengthens the point of view evolving in the West with respect to the psyche. The reshaping of values in progress to-day forces the modern man out of a nursery-world of collective traditions into an adult's world of individual choice. He knows that his choice and his fate now turn upon his understanding of himself. Much has been taught him in recent years about the hitherto unsuspected elements in his psyche, but the emphasis is all too often on the static side alone, so that he finds himself possessed of little more than an inventory of contents, the nature of which serves to burden him with a sense of weariness rather than to spur him on to master the problems that confront him. Yet it is precisely the need of understanding himself in terms of change and renewal, which most grips the imagination of modern man. Having seen the world of matter disappear before his scientific eye and reappear as a world of energy, he comes to ask himself a bold question ; does he not contain within his psyche a store of unexplored forces, which, if rightly understood, would give him a new vision of himself and help safeguard the future for him ? In this book his question is answered from two widely different sources, an ancient Chinese yoga system and analytical psychology. Stripped of its archaic setting, The Secret of the Golden Flower is the secret of the powers of growth latent in the psyche, and these same powers as they reveal themselves in the minds of Western men also form the theme of Jung's commentary.
In the commentary he has shown the profound psychological development resulting from the right relationship to the forces within the psyche.
In the German edition Jung's commentary comes first, followed by Wilhelm's exposition of the text, and then by the text itself. At the author's request, the order has been changed so that his commentary follows the text.
The Chinese words in this edition are in the Anglicized form. For making the necessary transcriptions, I am indebted to Mr. Arthur VValey, and to Colonel Egerton of Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. The latter has been kind enough to give his personal attention to the editing of my manuscript.
As a possible aid in keeping in mind the relationships between the various Chinese concepts such as ksing-ming, kuei-shcn, etc., I have added two summaries, one written and one diagrammatic.
Fortunately for me, I have made this translation under the supervision of Dr. Jung, and to that fact, and to the further aid I have received from Mrs. Jung, I owe any success I may have had in meeting the difficulties presented.
It has also been my privilege to have the completed manuscript read and criticized by Dr. Erla Rodakiewicz, and for her invaluable
assistance I am deeply grateful.
1 See Appendix, p. 139. | Cary F. Baynes. Zurich, March, J 931.
May we find peace, understanding, and love among all humans once again.
The Storytelling Species: Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles (Continued)
How Being Outside Helped Me Observe Better Mind Stories that Helped Me Repair My Lost and Little Boat Cast Adrift on an Endless Sea of Unconsciousness.
Exercising Outside& How It Helped MeShift to We
ComE to Terms with COVID-19 & Make CRITICAL Internal Adjustments
I started bike riding outside for exercise after my gym closed down due to a national lockdown mandated after the Coronavirus began spreading in the community during March (however, hindsight shows it probably was spreading in the community much earlier). When my gym reopened in June, I went back only to discover they were allowing people tonot wear maskswhile exercising. I was shocked and thought this was extremely short-sighted. But then, I think they knew this because they made me sign a document saying I would not sue them if I contracted COVID-19 at the gym.
Howbeit, I believe I already contracted COVID at the gym in March before the lockdown was issued; before we knew what was coming for us. I blame this ignorance, this lack of information of the American people, solely on the Trump administration who withheld it because they believed it would disrupt be bad for the economy and this would be bad for Trump’s re-election. This strategic withholding of information would prove to be fatal for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Indeed, it was a homicidal decision Trump made and has repeatedly doubled down believing it would help him get re-elected to deny reality. But, the only thing it did was needlessly increase the spread of this virus because Trump politicized it by calling it a fake Democratic ploy, by refusing to wear a mask, and by holding giant rallies where people crammed together, most not wearing masks (creating a Coronavirus’ dream domain) and telling his beautiful supporters coming to see him: ‘it’s nothing, it’s like the flu, one day: like a miracle, it will go away.’
And, Bob Woodward tells us in Trump’s own words that he knew it was a deadly airborne pathogen and he knew this in January. Woodward reveals this in his book, Rage, and backs it up with recorded interviews with Trump who often called Woodward to tell him things going on at the White House. We also know what Trump was telling the American people in January, February, and March when this pathogen could have been contained, but Trump lost interest sometime in April and swung the doors wide open in May never looking back, rather telling Woodward ominously in August: “Nothing more could have been done.”
It didn’t go away as Trump promised. One confirmed case turned into 2, that turned in 4, that turned into 8, then 16, then 32, and then 64, then 128, then 256… that turned into 13.6 million (this is how many confirmed cases of Coronavirus there are as I write this blog at the end of November 2020). And this is just the United States. Of these people who got infected, 293,000+ beloved souls have died (12/11/20). And around the world, the global infection is much higher: 69.8 million people have been infected with 1.59 million people succumbing to this deadly new disease.
And, I believe the infection and death rates are undercounts. So do many scientists and doctors because at the beginning of the pandemic we didn’t know what to look for, we didn’t have tests, and we were not told how it really spreads–through the air, just breathing. For my own possibly undiagnosed early case, my symptoms felt the worse on a Sunday night. It was very early March 2020. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and went to bed at 6 pm, which is unusually early for me. After that I’ve experienced continuing fatigue; foggy head and dizziness; sharp headaches upon waking up for no apparent reason; a feeling of restriction in my lungs when I try to take a deep breath, especially while bike riding; sometimes a usual heart rate; extreme pain in joints that sometimes makes me stop in my tracks; and slight cough. The symptoms come and go. Because of how mild the initial symptoms were, I did not seek treatment or a test (which was not available at that time even if I wanted one), nor did I quarantine or wear a mask or do any of the things we do now because I, along with everyone else, didn’t know how deadly this virus was for 1 to 2% of those who got infected (a number 10+ times more deadlier than the flu). Due to this, I have been paying close attention to people and the doctors trying to help them who are suffering with long lasting affects of COVID-19; something being called long-haul syndrome.
Also, I think someone died at my gym because of the criminal withholding of information by the Trump administration. It was a cleaning woman; an individual I’d known for over a decade. She did not know English well, but she was very kind and a hard worker. I learned from a woman who exercised around the same time and we talked regularly. She asked me if I knew this cleaning woman had died. I was shocked. I did not know. She told me she had died in January after a sudden and unexpected illness. She was not that old, but she was Hispanic and had endured many hardships. Also, she could not work from home (not that we even knew we should do this at that time last year).
Regardless of possibly already having contracted COVID at my gym, I have not returned to it, opting to stay outdoors, even in the extreme heat of summer and now the cold of winter. (Here is an article studying reinfection rates from COVID-19.) Following are some of the discoveries I made inside myself because of making this choice to stay outside. A decision to change long held routines I did not think I could survive without, but come to find that I could and this change was making me stronger inside.
Internal Change 1: Shifting from Me to We
Seeing More of Me Helped Me See More of We
At first, my commitment to exercise outside was entirely selfish aimed at keeping me and my family safe. But as I remained outdoors, something began to shift and transform inside of me. I could feel myself slowing down and disengaging from the deeply embedded routines of my cultural programming: all those things I had been told I needed to do to be a good person and contribute to my society. But really, these were the things demanded by the economy, and I had to learn them in order to survive as a person privileged enough to be born as a citizen of this country.
I had learned the rules and played by them for a long, long time. But I had fatal flaws for the system of consciousness within which I must survive. I probably learned them from my father. Moral attributes such as when I see something that is not fair or hurting someone else, to speak up about it and take action if possible. But, this is not always appreciated in Western-based society. There are things that happened in this system that one is supposed to ignore. If I spoke up about these things, I was punished, especially in the corporate world like speaking up about a boss who is doing something unethical, even illegal. For these things, I was duly punished. It didn’t matter if I was working in a healthcare setting, a nonprofit setting, or a for-profit setting. The unstated rule was: if you don’t have power, shut and go along with the group think, the tide of that system, its workplace culture. Every workplace, educational system, and community has a culture–slight differences and preferences different than the bigger collective within which they exist–things that make each smaller system different and unique just like individuals are.
The last time I spoke up about such things, I was duly punished by the CEO who required absolute fidelity to her will. Because I had advocated for myself, I was fired for being with my father during the 10 days he lived after his heart attack. This happened a year and a half before COVID hit, but it left me deeply traumatized for just 3 years earlier, I was thrown off the corporate ship of the organization I had been working for 6 years because I had done the same, advocating for myself by calling out deceptive and unethical behaviors of individuals who needed a scapegoat or to do work that went in circles, billable work but work that milked the system. (See Fresh Air interview from 2017 with Novelist John Le Carré Reflects On His Own ‘Legacy’ Of Spying and from 2018 with Novelist John Le Carré Reflects On His Own ‘Legacy’ Of Spying who talks about fraudulent and unethical systems, including working for his own father who asked him to conduct criminal work on his behalf.)
Also, two more important remembrances of le Carré and what made him the astounding man he was capable of deep insights into what drives human character include the following remembrance of Robert Harris:
And, “When he was sent away at the age of five — because his mother had left him, abandoned him — his brother was also at another school. And on a Sunday, so lonely, they used to get on a train and meet in a field midway between the two of them and just hold one another, he said. His eyes welled up with tears as he was describing this story, and I remember thinking, “ah, well, that’s why you’re always writing novels about betrayal. And that’s why you feel so angry, quite often, about society and the British establishment.” It all went back, I think, to the trauma of his childhood, which he indicated.”
The cruelties that are an integral part of our modern economic realities are palpable, especially for individuals forced to exist on the lower rungs of the existing system of commerce. For people trapped on the lower levels of Western society, day-to-day reality is stark and sharp, particularly if they try to better their lot in life. For people who exist on higher levels of the current system of consciousness establish to keep the bodies holding the light of consciousness alive but enslaved for the use of others who have gobbled up resources, power, and control, there are modest advantages. But, the greatest advantages are reserved for the few at the very top and for anyone below them, there is an automatic amnestic inflicted on humans trying to exist on the lower levels, but not the lowest. This effect makes them ignorant of what is happening to people on any level of being below them. It takes a lot of inner energy to grow beyond this amnesia effect baked into the higher rungs of our dominate system of consciousness. To fit into this system and receive any benefits from it, an individual must remain ignorant or risk being knocked off the rung they are standing on and trying to exist. In this system, ignorance is rewarded by the collective. Intelligence growth of consciousness is punished by throwing the daring ones off the lopsided superstructure created by Westernized systems of thinking and being in the world. Because this system has gobble up most of the resources of Earth, getting thrown off it can mean physical death.
With the arrival of COVID-19, millions and millions of people are experiencing the cruel realities of the systems they are trying to exist inside. It’s not their fault they have lost their jobs. This is a novel virus running its course through the human race. It’s not their employer’s fault either for letting them go–many small to mid-size businesses are facing extinction themselves due to the massive economic crisis created by this global disaster. It’s not even the fault of our fearless leaders. This is because each and every one of them is playing a well-defined role inside our system of consciousness: the one we choose long, long ago to exist inside as individuals. (See Weaving Reality — So Many Humans, So Many Versions of Reality & How Did We Get Here?, go down to: ‘How To Make A Slave’ Author On The Advice That Changed His Writing Career, and then down to Alan Watts for what I mean by this.)
Divergence on Why Cruel Systems of Consciousness Evolved
Long ago, when humans were confronted with deadly realities abounding in the natural world, people found it tremendously advantageous to belong to a collective (i.e., family group, clan, tribe, dynasty, empire, nation). A breathtaking amount of groups emerged around the world over vast amounts of time that grew into thriving cultures and civilizations. Many ways of life have risen and fallen since humanity stepped into itself most sacred ability of all human abilities and this is living in a state of consciousness defined as a state of knowing that one knows. To accommodate this state of knowing, humans devised collective states of consciousness. This would be systems that organized conscious states of being into complex orders and arrangements that benefited the entire group. Heretofore, no collective system of consciousness has achieved perfection. And thus it falls upon the individual to struggle forward in imperfect systems of consciousness to try to help the collectivized systems of being conscious in the world evolve. There have been vastly wiser and more compassionate collectives that have existed in the world. Some still exist now. But most have been devoured by Western Civilization, which dominates the collective world order of consciousness on Earth today. It has distilled and achieved incredible heights of knowledge and understanding about this world as it has evolved. But it has also demonstrated incredibly cruel, brutal, and heinous capacities. Just like individuals, collectives exist with expansive reservoirs of unconsciousness. If this unconsciousness is artificially left in the dark and not allowed to be distilled, refined, processed, and synthesized by individuals using their individual light of consciousness, an imbalance can grow that can warp the trajectory of the entire system of consciousness towards a destructive course.
So, this is where our leaders find themselves now. They are embedded an ever evolving system of consciousness that has become warped and each are playing rigidly defined roles that have grown out of this system and have been played out many times before. In a sense, they are stuck in deep rivulets of being that have been carved out inside the system over vast amounts of time. These rivulets as patterns of thought, of behavior, and of action–each something that has been performed many times before in the earlier existence of this system. When an individual steps into a collective role, they activate powerful reservoirs of inner mental energy that has been poured into that role by all the members of they system. The outer manifestations of a high ranking collective role are fairly obvious. A CEO oversees all the operations of a corporation, a boss oversees the employees under him, a President or King oversees a nation. What we have forgotten a Modern people is that when an individual steps into a collective role, they also activate and have access to inner psychic-mental energy that all members of the society have contributed to the role. This energy is invisible, but it is powerful for it holds power over the hearts and minds of the members of the clan or civilization. Some individuals in powerful collective roles play despicable character. Others play more benevolent parts within the system. All jiggle and jive for power. When one side becomes too powerful, it can lock all roles into rigid, entrenched patterns of behavior that if left unbalanced will grow hopelessly lopsided: a condition, that if not corrected, will lead to system collapse (i.e., the system of consciousness will devour itself).
Because I have suffered cruelty inflicted by the economic and social systems dictating our shared collective reality, I have become more sensitive to the suffering of others who have long suffered the inequalities and brutalities of our current system of being conscious. It is something that I have been waking up to over decades, but this year was supercharged with the barbaric murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. My hometown in Minneapolis. I know the architecture of that city. I know its streets, its ways, its movements, its pulse and its rhythms. I felt its pain along with hundreds and thousands of individuals bearing accurate witness to this heinous, barbarous, savage reality of our modern western system of life. (See After Math: The Magical Calculus of Consciousness, Introduction about bearing accurate, insight provided by Barry Kort.)
This murderous, brutal collective reality has been normalized and thrust back into the mainstream of American society, especially in the last 4 years by the Trump Administration. >>has cumulated in a recognition that I was born into and have grown out of the cultural bowl that has given rise to the MAGA movement. I do not like or support this movement or Trump in any way; however, when I went down to film the first MAGA rally after Trump lost the 2020 election, I recognize myself in the people I was filming. I grew up in this culture. I could pass for a MAGA supporter and move within its currents easily and without being questioned until I opened my mouth and stated my opinions and beliefs. Only then would I be labeled other.
I confronted for advocating for myself and others. I had been punished in other systems of work for not going along with the crooked warp of those who had power over me. So all this punishment meted out by the system that demanded blind obedience left me crushed with unbearable feelings of abandonment, failure, disillusionment, and despair. And so with the arrival of Corona, I had to find ways to replace the last two routines keeping me sane: going to the gym and going to the pool. Being outdoors made the most sense to me, even in the heat, rain, wind, and now cold. I found I could adapt. I began noticing all the life around me, and as I did, I felt less anxious and less depressed and more connected to life. This allowed a sense of belonging to slip back into my devastated inner world.
This feeling of consecutiveness extended beyond myself, my family, and what I was noticing. It extended to everyone and from here it was an easy jump to understand wearing a mask and maintaining social distance were easy actions I could take to contribute to a better shared reality for all of us, especially vulnerable individuals (like the cleaning lady who probably died of Corona at my gym). And after spending those 10 days with dad, I knew how hard the doctors and nurses work to save people. So, this is something I could do to help them. I also kept myself informed by listening to trusted sources of information. To me, a trusted source is a scientist, a doctor, or an individual who is deeply involved in the subject (an expert) being discussed (see Resilience Resources: Weaving Reality — So Many Humans, So Many Versions of Reality & How Did We Get Here?; go down to: The Highly Involved vs The Not So Highly Involved).
This year in particular, I have been shocked by how many of ‘my friends’ have discarded science as elitist hogwash and labeled experts as evil beings who are out to murder all of humanity, preferring to believe in and peddle stories of alternative realities. I will return to this in a little bit, but first, I will talk about how going slower helped me survive 2020.
I realized after I published this blog, it was a draft that had been incorporated into another post. Please forgive my error. Here are links to the full series:
"We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reaches such a pinnacle of clarity, imaging we have left all the phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal specters not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today, they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth, in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus and produces curious specimens for the doctor's consulting room or disorders the brain of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world." -- Carl G. Jung, Psychology & the East | Secret of the Golden Flower, p. 39
We are living in troubled times. Pick your issue. There are many, and each one is getting worst–accelerating climate change, accelerating economic hardships and global inequalities, rampant misinformation campaigns leading to real life misery and deaths. Adding insult to injury are deniers, fanatics, and maniac visionaries (each one with a different vision of how to save the world). Deniers flock to the manic visionaries. They amass in huge groups to the most charismatic ones; believing them when they say that only they possess the knowledge to save us from this mess. And, they are worshipped by their followers like Gods for they believe that their manic visionary (their savior) does indeed know the secrets to saving them, and they will blindly follow them anywhere, even if the destination is over a cliff.
DC Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith took his own life after protecting the Capitol on January 6. His widow, Erin Smith, has a message for those who deny there was an insurrection. -- CNN
Denial of Reality Has Real Life Costs…There is a Price to Pay in Everything We Choose and Do, Especially When We Act Based Only on Beliefs
Huge groups of people have been swept up into the worlds of maniac visionaries where fantastic alternative realities have been created for their anxious and fearful followers to inhabit. Here, everyone is informed by their own “trusted news” sources (typically the maniac visionaries and his or her “parrots“). In these alternative worlds, followers soothe each other with testimonies about what they believe to be true, how misguided everyone else is in the world, and how they will fix the world when the world either “wakes up” from its delusion or they kill everyone off who does not “know” or believe what they “know” is true.
They tend to each others wounds after coming back to the group from another brawl with reality. The fight is endless because there are so many people who do not “know” what they “know“. And they “know” they are right because their maniac visionary tells them so.
Each and every day, they suit up and go out into the world for another battle with “the mainstream“, with “Big Pharma“, with “the government” (any government because they are all rotten to the core), with “experts of any kind“, with pretty much anyone who believes or knows something different from what they know.
This is happening now! Are you terrified? I am.
Is this really how we want to be as a people, as a country, as a world? Do we really want to devolve into a bunch of fractured groups who are nursing on intolerance, bigotry, parochialism, partisanship, insularity, and fanaticism? This sort of food for the mind turns ordinary, good people into rabid animals. It transforms them into people who are ready to inflict terrible brutality on each other over wearing a mask?!!!
Currently, these groups are small and very fractured. But all of them are in a great deal of pain and fear. And most of them include people who are very, very angry and very vocal. These groups mainly exist developed modern countries. This is because for the majority of people living in developing countries, they know what reality is because they live it every day.
The people I am focusing on in this blog have become very comfortable with their lives and their comfort. They like things just the way they are (or used to be). They are terrified by all the changes and upheavals happening around them. It is very threatening their way of living. It is eroding their beautiful island of being comfortable. The real world is encroaching on their paradise, and they don’t like it, one bit. No one is going to tell them what to do in their promised land!
But the changes keep coming like relentless waves on a restless sea. They can’t understand what is causing all this mess. They only know they must resist because if they don’t, it means they will have to change and that might mean losing their promised land.
What we see playing out in real life, right now are groups of people who are afraid and have flocked to insufficient theories about what is going on and why it is happening to them. It is always about them because they have not yet grown their capacity to empathize with anyone else’s burden of reality. We all carry a burden of reality. That is what we are supposed to do. This is why we are here, now. These untethered groups are small and scattered now, but they won’t stay small. This thing is growing. This thing feeds on fear, anger, misery, hate, and it has ample food supply on both sides of the divide.
What is the true source of all this misery, fear and pain?
Stubborn denial of what other people are experiencing and suffering through or enduring because of… (…climate change, racism, Jan. 6…or add your issue or event) is cruel and feeds The Thing between us.
I want to highlight here what Officer Fanone said during his testimony to Congress about January 6, 2021. And about the denial of its brutality. He is specifically aiming his words at the Congressmen and women are perpetuating this false idea through cruel denial about what happened to him and his fellow officers that day. Men and women who fought to save our fragile system of democracy from a growing lunacysown by lies and false narrativescarefully crafted to fuel fear, mistrust, and general anxiety. The sowers of such destructive seeds prefer to live in an authoritarian, autocratic, despotic, dictatorial system.
The Right Means in the Hands of the Wrong Man…Will Lead to Ruin and Disaster
Circling back to Jung’s quote above, he continues saying:
"So it is better for Western man if he does not know too much about the secret insights of the Oriental sages to begin with , for, as I have said, it would be a case of the 'right means in the hands of the wrong man.' Instead of allowing himself to be convinces once more that the daemon is an illusion, he ought to experience once more the reality of this illusion. He should learn to acknowledge these psychic forces anew, and not wait until his moods, nervous states, and delusions make it clear in the most painful way that he is not the only master in his house."
The Cost of Denial & Feeding Your Mind with Misinformation
Two examples of people who believed misinformation about COVID-19 and got COVID and what happened to a little girl who is too young to get the vaccine and caught COVID because it is raging through the area where she lives among the unvaccinated.
Travis Campbell says, “I put off getting the vaccine, and now I am sitting in the ICU not fighting for my life, but for every breathe.”
Blake Bargatze told his parents told his parents “he was putting off receiving a COVID-19 vaccine because he felt uncertain about its possible side effects, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported.“
Senior Writer David Knowles writes, “He wanted to wait a few years to see, you know, if there’s any side effects or anything from it,” said Paul Nuclo, his stepfather. “As soon as he got in the hospital, though, he said he wished he had gotten the vaccine. Bargatze was the only member of his family who passed on getting vaccinated, Cheryl Nuclo, his mother, told Fox 5 Atlanta. Once hospitalized, however, he asked to be inoculated.”
The child, Ava Amira Rivera, tested positive for Covid-19, according to Amanda Callaway, a spokeswoman for Harris Health System. Callaway said Ava was having seizures and needed to be intubated but Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, where she was first taken, does not offer pediatric services.
What Are the Top 10 Killers of the World?
Three examples above are real life tragedies, and yet, I know people who continue deny their realities as well as the reality of 4,320,728 people (including children) who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began a year and a half ago.
I don’t want to hear the ready list of top 10 killers around the world deniers pull out to prove they are right. I’ve heard too many times: “COVID is no worst than this or that disease.” This is a sorry-ass, lazy excuse made by individuals who no longer trust anyone but themselves and refuse daily to see the whole of reality playing out in front of them now!
We are 7.8 billion people in this world and growing. There are a lot of realities playing out each and every day. How can anyone believe “they know” the full of reality and “they are right” while everyone else is wrong? Only a fool takes such a stance due to their overwhelming ignorance and refusal to grow beyond it.
Let’s look at this list. You can click on each one to see the sources I am drawing upon:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, which too many people to this day believe it is a lie, a hoax, a trick by the ruling elite, 4.3 million people have died.
The actual death count is believed to be much, much higher because countries like Japan, India, Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Pakistan, Tunisia, Jakarta, Eastern Europe, Jerusalem, Mississippi, and I could go on, but I think you get the picture, their health systems and hospitals are collapsing. They are utterly overwhelmed and under resourced to care for the numbers of people coming for treatment and help. When a health system or hospital collapses, it is very hard to record the daily death toll and track new cases. Also, when a health system or hospital collapses, they lose the capacity to help people coming in due to a heart attack, a stroke, a car accident, diabetic shock, children who are starving, or other any other respiratory disease or crisis.
Death is going up across the board across all diseases and emergencies.
And you know why? Because hospitals are overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses are exhausted and demoralized because of deniers and those who have not been inside a hospital recently who are resisting reality.
In India alone, it is believed 4 million people could have died. This would double the current numbers of deaths worldwide due to COVID.
But still, I know people who continue to believe COVID is made up, COVID is a lie, COVID is a trick made up by demonic people who want to control us all. “Watch out!,” they cry, chant, and shout, “They’re coming to eat us all!”
Fanatics, Deniers, and Alt Reality
Deniers, political fanatics, and the “do gooders” out to save the world by making it more beautiful again continue to say COVID is a lie cooked up to control us. One of their most favorite chants is:
“Don’t trust anyone, especially experts!”
Scientists and doctors are high on their lists of people not to trust, but if you are going to not trust experts, then at least be consistent about your beliefs! Deniers and distrusters must also include any experts with whom they come into contact. This would include people who they do not personally know or have put their nose into what these “experts” know. And so, if you are among the deniers and distrusters of experts, you must add to your list: airline pilots, dentists,nurses, or anyone who has spent any amount of time studying a subject to gain expertise in it so they can help others.
If we cannot agree on simple fact that masks (even cloth masks) work to stop the spread of COVID-19, then how the hell are we going to come together to solve Climate Change?!!
Borrowing from Officer Fanone’s testimony: “Refusing to see the reality of the suffering of millions of people due to a global pandemic is a disgrace!”
Time to Wake Up
“Verily, I say unto thee, thous shalt by no means come out thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a “mania” or a “god”. To serve a manis is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is full of meaning and promise because it is an act of submission to a higher, invisible, and spiritual being. The personification enable us to see the relative reality of the autonomous system, and not only makes it assimilation possible but also depotentiates (i.e, The action of a substance that reduces the effect of another substance). the daemonic forces of life. When the god is not acknowledged, egomania develops and out of this mania comes sickness. — Carl G. Jung | Psychology & the East | Secret of the Golden Flower, p. 40
Additional Relevant Materialson the Topics Explored Above
Two things I heard yesterday that are very germane to the ideas explored in this blog include:
"One of the great challenges in this world is knowing enough about a subject to think you're right but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong." -- Neil deGrasse Tyson
And then also, just for extra measure on these very complicated ideas about what’s going on now, here’s some Alan Watts:
"Well, I have a sort of suggestion and that is this that before we decide either to save the planet or to destroy it we pause for a moment of silence. I don't mean that kind of grim silence which one observes when somebody says such and such a famous person has just died, and we'll observe a moment of silence in his honor and everybody frowns and thinks very serious thoughts that's not silence at all. I mean real silence in which we stop thinking and experience reality as reality is because after all if i talk all the time i can't hear what anyone else has to say." -- Alan Watts
"You see the problem is this we identify in our experience a differentiation between what we do and what happens to us. We have a certain number of actions that we define as voluntary we feel in control of those, and then over against that there is all those things that are involuntary. But the dividing line between these two is very arbitrary because for example when you move your hand you feel that you decide whether to open it or to close it. But then ask yourself how do you decide when you decide to open your hand do you first decide to decide you don't do you. You just decide and how do you do that, and if you don't know how you do it -- is it voluntary or involuntary? Let's consider breathing..." -- Alan Watts and the many veils of who we think we are
Finally, These Are Partial Posts about Conversations or Observations I’ve Had, Mostly with Myself, As I Try to Understand Deniers
August 5, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.
This is such an important concept needed so desperately now…
August 3 at 1:59 p.m.
In responding to a post about the death of expertise:
“You have described something that has been deeply bothering me for sometime, and in the last few weeks, intensely as I have come to know a group of antivaxxers who fall into this category that “…their guess is as good as anyone else’s.
“So often when I see one of their posts bemoaning the growing public pressure they are getting from family, friends, workplace, local/state/federal governing bodies, I am tempted to ask: “Have you called your local hospital recently and asked if there are any COVID patients there?”
Post after post is about their tremendous confidence that this is a hoax contrived to control us all forevermore into some dystopian future. Each post also casts anyone who have followed the guidance of governing bodies and medical professionals as ignorant people who have fallen prey to the evil dictators who have devised this malevolent but utterly fake killer virus. “After all, one person said, we are surrounded by viruses everyday.” They express sorrow about how misunderstood they are but also ridicule for those who “take the jab”, seeming to imply anyone who does this is nothing more than minion for the evil empire plotting and scheming to take over the world.
They paint themselves as resistors to all authority. In trying to understand the logic of this by pointing out, “So if all authority figures must be doubted because you don’t know what they know yourself, then does this mean you should never again step on an airplane because the pilots are authorities in how to fly a plane?”
Airplane pilots have spent hundreds of hours learning how to handle all sorts of weather conditions and how they affect the aerodynamics of a plane. They have had to learn about all the machinery, how it works, how it all goes together, and what to do in an emergency. They have flown for thousands of hours to gain the experience to handle any situation. They have become an authority of how to fly a plane and keep everybody safe. But because they are now an authority, they must be doubted?
“It is the same from this group about doctors and nurses who are working themselves to the bone to save people dying from a novel virus racing through the human population. But, they too are thrown into the paint can and dipping their broad brush to explain reality casting them as surely simple minions of the evil empire seeking to take over us all.
“What happen to the ideal/idea that we live in complex systems consisting of lots of individuals… each one unique and different and valuable.”
These pro disease individuals shout, cry, and console each other with resist, resist, resist… because when this is all done, we will be the only ones left standing, then we will insert the Earth and bring in a more beautiful world.I have been shock and horrified at this circular logic for do they not realize that they too seek to take over and rule the world?
It is impossible to use logic or reason with individuals caught in the circular thinking… indeed, they are trapped inside spherical cow thinking and making themselves madder, more fearful, and more crazy everyday. Constant thinking is part of this all too human problem… most of us only think, which makes us scared and crazy.
“Thinking is a good servant but bad master.” — Alan Watts and Eastern Masters
My friend Glenn responded to this post:
Glenn Gaasland: “The vaccine hestitancy is a peculiar kind of insanity, that can afflict even very clever and good people. It behaves very much like a virus. I know some good people who are somewhat afflicted by it. It seems to be a result of some mixture of a general distrust and disgust for governmental institutions and especially the medical industry + some concern about new kinds of experimental vaccines developed very fast + group identity issues + believing that the Covid virus is not so serious for others than the sick and elderly and that immunity by infection is a good alternative. The unusual nature of the Covid virus seems to play in, we are used to thinking of viruses behaving a certain way, yet this one behaves very unusually. Then this meets a very weak information ecology full of profeteerin mechanisms, a media culture that walked in the wrong direction almost a generation ago and has continued on this path, and it becomes a perfect storm of crazy. The fact that medical authorities communicate with the public somewhat like kindergarten teachers, and big pharma insists on making a profit instead of dropping their patents, plays right into the narrative. All the lies about the origin of the virus, including established scientific magazines ridiculing the lab-leak-hypothesis ( which seems the most likely origin ) was also a terrible blunder that enhanced the mistrust. Along with this, the pressure is growing, and the amount of data is growing, to make the anti-vax position less and less tenable and the need for general vaccination increasingly obvious.”
July 28 at 2:29 P.M.
This is a response to a comment on this post about Sagan studying social sciences a little more.
The implication I interpreted is that Sagan would probably revise this statement somewhat. I commented to this comment as follows:
“Please say more on this… or can you indicate reading material? A man named Peter who recently moved next door is a retired sociologist who taught about the Holocaust. Indeed, he survived it as a half Jewish boy living in Nazi occupied Europe. His father died having been sent to the concentration camps.He recently asked my husband and me if we knew how long it took after Hitler was elected for Nazism to rise and the brutality to begin. We did not know.
This Peter who survived Nazi Germany said, “Four months.”Now consider the United States of America and the testimony of four officers who defended the Capitol on 1/6/21. Can you imagine what would have happened if those rioters had gotten a hold of even one Congressman or woman who they considered the enemy?
They did not get ahold of a single one because the thin blue line of officers fighting for their lives held back 8,000 to 9,000 angry, mostly middle age white men from encountering them and creating safe passages so they could escape and hide.
“A thin, blue line… it is very Carl Sagany… the cosmos the the thin blue line that sustains all life on Earth. And, now we are that thin, blue line, if we can stop polluting our consciousness with racism, fascism, authoritarianism (just pick your ism) and clean our minds so we can treat each other with dignity and respect and compassion.”
This is Peter Stien’s book. It is a must read for anyone seeking to understand reality. He wrote this after 4 of his students came to him in tears after encountering another professor at Peter’s university who was a Holocaust denier.
July 28 at 1:31 P.M.
The first “anti-vaxxer” movement, which began as soon as the first vaccine was discovered and used, began in 1796. At this time, the British medical and scientific community of the early 1800s was known to be very cliquey and dominated by highly influential people. They didn’t like that a a country surgeon was promoting a safer alternative to dealing with small pox and mounted a blistering campaign against him (the man who observed that milk maids who had become infected with cow pox did not catch small pox). These jealous doctors blurred the boundaries between opinion and fact, which continues to this day. They were also in fear of losing their income and status.
Witness the United States of America where a lively anti-vaxxer community thrives and generates lots of money for persons dedicated to misinformation. Also, getting vaccinated against the newest virus that has evolved to infect people and has proven it is highly infectious and deadly has been weaponized as a partisan poisoned arrow. This partisan poisoned arrow and new love child for anti-vaxxers is of course COVID-19.
This article says, “Many of the arguments against vaccination that we see today stem from this period: the idea that Jenner had no qualifications, that vaccination could actually cause smallpox, syphilis, or any number of diseases, and that vaccination would affect the way the body worked by the introduction of material that was not meant to be there.”The reason many of these claims have pervaded is mostly because they are based on the tiniest grain of truth which, when taken out of context, can give them an air of veracity that isn’t deserved.”While it is true that Jenner didn’t have a formal qualification, that’s because he trained as a surgeon at a time when there were no degrees for surgeons.
According to Gower, in the early years of vaccination people were sometimes contracting other infectious diseases, or blood poisoning, as a result of vaccination but that was because it was not a sterile procedure at the time and there was a risk of contamination, which is not the case today.”
NPR did a segment on dirty needles recently, which are still very prevalent in the developing world and estimated to be the cause of death of 3 to 4 million people in the coming year.”The iconic photo of the two boys — one vaccinated against smallpox and one who hadn’t been vaccinated — was published in 1901, and taken by Dr Allan Warner at the Leicester Isolation Hospital.”
Who do you want to believe–someone spouting unsubstantiated opinions crafted to get you worked up, afraid, and angry OR someone who has dedicated years of their life studying things that make people seriously ill and how to stop or treat these deadly things (we call these people doctors, researchers, virologist)?
It is wrong, indeed downright evil, to conflate the work of doctors and virologists with the evil Pharma industry that wants to control us all (or insert your favorite evil doer of our time: the illuminati, Corporations, governments of all kinds… you can put anything in there to stoke up the fear factor that spices up your real intentions).
Or perhaps it is the evil Bill Gates who wants to plant a chip inside of you (or have you heard the one about he wants to grow inside of you so he never has to die… now we are tracking down the QAon poisoned pansy path of fear inducing fantastic fiction).
From a friend Jean on this post: Also great background context on the “anti-vaxers’…. Very interesting to me. I grew up GRATEFUL for ALL vaccinations… But I’ve actually MET people recently who started telling me, “oh you only need vitamins and you cannot get COVID-19”. Here’s a link to a DOCTOR who is one of the “influencers” around one of the many disinformation being spread re COVID-19.
“Americans’ growing interest in alternative medicine has helped turn suburban Chicago doctor Joseph Mercola into one of the most popular voices in natural health. So why does he have so many people riled up?” — Chicago, January 31, 2012
July 27 at 6:46 P.M.
A response to a friend:
I understand you speak of a reality little visible to the ordinary Western man and woman. It is a spiritual-psychic reality that is just as real as pooping, sleeping, and eating.
And also, so you do not misunderstand or underestimate me, I have and continue to pay close attention to the numbers, who is giving the numbers, and a whole lot of other things going on in this world. It is not within your ability to perceive or know what I have been paying attention to and what I have failed to perceive, or even worst what I have chosen to deny exists and have created an alternative reality to explain. Only I can do that, just as only you can do that for yourself. The words we use to share our experiences and our understandings of what we observe and what we have come to understand are woefully lacking, and even more so when we have not experienced a certain situation together and know without any doubt whatsoever the reality of what we have just experienced in this world.
The interview (with numbers) is not about Coronavirus and who has died, but rather use of dirty needles for all sorts of treatments for all sorts of life threatening diseases and conditions in the developing world. It is no less a tragic state of affairs than the number of children worldwide dying of starvation each year, while developed countries do a little but not enough to stop starvation in its tracks! We can do so, we choose as a massive collective of human beings not to do so.I also understand that we will not agree on the severity of this novel virus (known as COVID-19) that is marching its way throughout the human population across the world. The reality of what is happening Now will speak for itself as time goes by. However, this is not new. Being decimated by an invisible microbe has happened to the human species again and again. We have fallen victim to lots of deadly disease throughout time, I mean the whole of human history.I do not think you would deny how deadly Rabies is — low and behold, it is a virus. Nor do I think you would bother to debate how infectious and deadly Smallpox Variola major – specifically the malignant (flat or hemorrhagic type) has been to human beings. Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) is also a virus that does ugly things to the human body.
I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever earlier this summer. It made me really sick. It almost sent to me to the hospital. Of the spotted fevers (which are cause by another microbe, a bacteria), it is the most deadly. It can also cause long-term nasty effects on the human body if left untreated.I did not deny the reality of this disease. I sought medical treatment. I took the doxycycline even though it caused nasty side effects that I will not get into here because it would really gross most people out to describe what happened to me.
Coronavirus, yes, it is new; yes, it is making the world crazy; yes, too many of us have become obsessed with who is a trusted source of information and who is a lier. But the reality is, it is leaving hundreds of thousands of people without mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and even children have died from it. To deny the reality of what these individuals have endured is to inflict a psychic wound on the people who have lost individuals the love. It is also taking a spiritual step onto the very same psychic-spiritual path that all the “lying politicians” and “lying people of any authority (I guess??!! — does this mean a pilot who flies the airplane you get on to go visit someone you care about cannot be trusted because he/she is an authority on flying, even though he has trained for hundreds of hours and knows about all sorts of conditions and how to handle them? Or, does this mean, you cannot trust a doctor who has spent years studying and learning about the human body and disease to become an authority on how to treat disease? If you are true to your beliefs, then you must be consistent all the way and not trust the farmer who sells you food to eat because you have not raised it yourself; you must not trust another person to dig a new well for water; you must not trust any other authority but yourself. This is a very lonely world to live in, at least, I think so.)” Yes, I whole-hearty agree there are power hungry people who have climbed the steps of power and authority who are willing to do anything to maintain their power, including lying to and killing their people. But to clump all people who have dedicated huge amounts of time to become an authority on something is a dangerous movement of thought.
You are not wrong to fight evil. We must all fight it when it rears its ugly head. However, it is my humble opinion that you don’t need to be lopsided and cruel to people who have lost their loved ones to this novel virus to make your point about the perils of our time and the need to wake up consciously and fight like hell.Indeed, I believe your point and fight would be much more powerful and potent by holding the reality that people are dying from COVID-19 in great numbers alongside the reality that children are dying of starvation in great numbers and we as massive collective let them die. This is evil. It is also possible to hold the reality that a little tiny virus is killing lots of people exceedingly fast alongside the reality that people are dying in huge numbers by by brutal government using brutal tactics. Holding these two realities does not lessen what you are speaking and calling people to action one little bit.
You are calling them to psychic illness and spiritual decay such as the hundreds of thousands of black and brown people in my country who have been lynched and brutalized for centuries. I am disgusted by segments of people in my country who project their psychic illnesses on others. It is a most insidious illness that is rearing its ugly head again such as the events (the REALITY) of January 6, 2021. I have blogged about this horrible day in depth when an estimated 9,000+ (mostly middle age white men clinging like tormented children having a tantrum to their belief in white supremacy) stormed the Capitol. These tourists (as Trump and most of the Republicans of my government) call them — gouged out eyes, severed fingers and toes, tasered officers at the base of their skulls (causing one to have a heart attack), hit them with sledgehammer, baseball bats, and even the American flag.
The civil war never ended… it went underground and grew in foul and malicious ways. It was carefully poked and prodded and stoked by evil men until it erupted in what I saw unfold not more than 9 miles from where I live. And almost the whole Republican party is denying the reality of that day… following Trumps lead who says the air was filled with love.
One of the officers testifying today when asked about how this particular statement Trump said made him feel said, “If that was love, then let’s all go down to mar a lago and share some of this love with that man.
“Yes — you are absolutely right… when you are facing a monster… and if you have a molecule of consciousness to chart a moral course forward… you have no choice but to fight it!!!!!!
This is the way of all life on Earth. This is reality, which does not lie, but fools will fall when they deny the rock of reality that human life has sprout out of.
Alan Watts says this much better. Don’t bother listening to that interview above… I only shared that as another and different tragedy playing out in our collective reality of now. Rather, if you can stomach it, listen to this talk. It’s one of Watt’s shortest. He even talks about the very same thing you are calling us to pay attention to… he even uses the analogy of the wasp and the bee who are locked in an eternal, mortal struggle against each other. And so too is man when evil rears its ugly head, it must be fought as well. But, Watts says because we are a conscious living being there is another level that must be kept in mind as we fight the endless war of good and evil.
July 26 at 1:16 P.M.
On Living in Sin… and other terrible things we do to each other as human beings… this is my response to my friend who wrote this blog and posted something else that I responded to with a question:
“To be honest, I am not sure how fast I will get to your blog. This is a time of remembering; a time when 3 years ago my father died. I can not help but remember the events that played out and pay homage to the lost despair, and darkness I was flung into in the aftermath of this time, three years ago.Terrible people exist everywhere on this Earth — in high positions, like your terrible leader in India and previously in my country of the US with the devil disguised as Trump — and they exist in low places like the funky little nonprofit I worked for whose CEO fired me for being by my father’s side as he struggled for life for 10 days then died.
But frankly, that devil lives inside you and inside me and inside every single human being on this fragile planet. It is a disease as real as COVID-19. This human disease will probably guarantee that nothing will be accomplished in the next 9 years to mitigate Climate Change. This is the burden of consciousness and how we respond (or do not respond) to the problems of our times.
I will read your post, in time. I have always been illuminated by your insights and abilities to perceive things below the placid surface of being human; a surface of normality that we all like to pretend exists, but really we are vortexes of chaos in the world when we become blind to our own inner devil and demons.
I will leave instead this quote from Jung I found while looking for another that fits the current global situation:
“Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life…If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature…Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.” ― C.G. Jung, The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition
Where did the term Toxic Positivity originate from? (This was asked by my friend Barry Kort)
My response:”It is as old as human beings being self-aware. It is a price we pay for being conscious and able to see inside ourselves and reflect on what we find there — the good, the bad, and the ugly.Most of us love to see the good in ourselves! You see it all the time on Facebook. “Look how productive I am!” “Look at this great thought I just had.” “Look at this great project I’m doing.” “Look what a good man, good woman I am.”
Owning our bad and ugly parts, well, that’s not so fun. I know hardly no one with whom I can have an honest conversation about the ugly thoughts and downright evil thoughts I have.
Toxic positivity is just a new word for a very old psychological coping mechanism — mainly denial and splitting. Below these “normal” methods of coping with stress, you descend into pathology. Here’s a great article on it:
"Zuckerman says that “toxic positivity, at its core, is an avoidance strategy used to push away and invalidate any internal discomfort.” But when you avoid your emotions, you actually cause more harm."
The situation you helped me with last year with Ecology for System’s Thinking that was a case of Toxic Positivity…. you know who I’m talking about. That person was doing great harm to me, and then blamed it all on me and my inability to be as “happy” and “positive” as he was. What a deep and dark well of unconsciousness resides inside this individual; indeed, resides inside each and every one of us… “Oh, but let’s not talk about that… let’s be positive and look on the bright side of things… we got Climate Change to solve and COVID to get through…”
We are headed for hell by ignoring the dark depths and failing to give comfort to each other when we encounter adversity and despair.”
July 26 at 8:52
Reply to a thread about chatboxes:
“I think in our times today, especially on platforms like Facebook, we all believe ourselves to be physicists, we all reduce the complicated problems swirling around us to the simplest formulas, and we all preach our views to the void of obscurity and untenable realities… and so we have our overly simplified Now with solution makers that know little to nothing about what they are proclaiming will save the world and everybody in it. We might as well be living on a spherical cow.”
July 22 at 9:52 P.M.
“As the old Chinese master took us on footage if you ask any question you get thirty blows with my stick; if you don’t ask any question who get thirty blows just the same–in other words what the hell are you doing around defining yourself as a skilled and defining me as a teacher. In other words you have raised the problem.” — Alan Watts – Buddhism As Dialogue (Full) [around minute 19]
“One fine day you realize to your astonishment [that] there is no way at all of having your mind anywhere else but in the present moment because even when you think about the past or future, you’re doing it now, aren’t you?!“
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Alan Watts lectured often about the concept of being present in the Now. Being in the now is a practice of Buddhism and Zen, which is a way to stay on the path of the inner Sage. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched.
In Carol Anthony’s book The Philosophy of the I Ching, she writes:
“Freeing out mind (what we focus on and listen to within) of the dominance of the ego and our inferiors [Note: the I Ching refers to our worst impulses and instincts as inferiors. It is plural because there are many troublesome instincts, attitudes, and rigid beliefs to contend with inside of ourselves.] is part of the work by which we re-attain our natural state of innocence. Through self-discipline, we keep our mind’s eye open, and our inner space free of the thoughts that our inferiors would introduce if we fail to resist them. In the time of youth we are automatically open-minded; it is unnecessary to make a conscious effort to be so. After we learn structured ways of dealing with the world, and listen to the urgings of our fears, our inner view becomes blocked and our inner space filled. We are no longer able to see or her within, but are attuned only to the external world and how we think we need to be to deal with it. Through self-development we de-structure our patterned ways of thinking: by conscious effort we keep our inner view and inner space empty. In this manner we reconstruct our original innocence. The only difference is that our new innocence is consciously maintained; it is not the unconscious innocence of childhood.”
Carol Anthony — The Philosophy of the I Ching
Indeed, if what Carol Anthony has come to understand through her own life and practice using the I Ching is right, then she is showing us how to heal our inner selves and how to bring forth our inner unconsciousness in gentle, constructive, non-violent ways. Without this conscious effort, we are bound to fall prey to our own karma and act in the world in ways that are harmful to others and that will bring great pain and sorrow onto ourselves as we try to make our way through and navigate our inner flow of consciousness, which is time.
Time is the great equalizer.
And, it is always happening Now.
Alan Watts continues saying:
"Even when you think about the past or the future you're doing it now, aren't you? And that results in a very curious transformation of consciousness you feel that you that the present moment is flowing along and carrying you with it all the time just like the flow of the Tao. The flow of the Tao is what we would call the flow of the present. Zhong Yong in his book The Unwobbling Pivot says the Tao is that from which one cannot deviate that from which one can deviate is not the Tao.
To put it into the form of a zen story, the Master Joshua said to Nansen what is the Tao? Nansen replied your everyday mind is the Tao. Joshua asked how do you get into accord with it? Nansen replied when you try to get into accord, you deviate."
Watts says there is no recipe for learning how to be in the present and in the flow of the Tao, which is the eternal Now. Every person must learn to feel it for themselves.
Alan Watts tells how Christian missionaries translate the Tao as logos.
"They took as their point of departure the opening passage of Saint John's gospel in the beginning was the word. Now if you look up a Chinese translation of the bible, it says in the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with god and the Tao was god. (...) So they've substituted the Tao with God. Now, that make a very funny effect on a Chinese philosopher because the idea of things being made by the Tao is absurd. The Tao is not a manufacturer and it's not a governor. It doesn't rule as it were in the position of a king. The Tao flows everywhere...both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them. And when good things are accomplished, it lays no claim to them. In other words, the Tao does not stand up and say: I have made all of you I have filled this Earth with its beauty and glory... now fall down before me and worship me."
Alan Watts goes on to discuss the idea of mutually arising. It is a very important Taoist expression that all things arise mutually together. Watts loved to says, “although the bees and flowers look different from each other, they are inseparable.” He talks about how bees and flowers coexist in the same way as high and low exist together, or back and front go together, or long and short define each other. He further explains how all of the opposites and things that look completely different from other things interdepend on each other for existence, this is the Tao. Mutual arising is one of the most important concepts to grasp in understanding the Tao, the eternal Now.
All of us living in the Western world have been taught that everything is separated. This is a very Newtonian philosophy of the world, as if it’s a huge amalgamation of billiard balls that don’t move unless they are struck by another ball or a queue (Watts describes). After explaining this, Watts loves to say, “But of course from the standpoint of 20th century science, we know perfectly well now that that’s not the way it works. We know enough about relationships to see that the mechanical model which Newton devised was all right for certain purposes but it breaks down now because we understand relativity and see how things go together in a kind of connected net.” [Note: See Indra’s Net.]
“Now figure a world in which everything happens by itself it doesn’t have to be controlled it’s allowed.”
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Watts says here, “This does not mean that everything is in chaos. It means that the more liberty you give the more love you give the more you allow things in yourself and in your surroundings to take place the more order you will have.”
This sounds very hard to allow in 2021 when the whole world seems to be besieged by polarized opposites. In the U.S., for example, you have the extreme Right and the extreme Left bombarding each other with word bombs that are blowing up into real life consequences such as the January 6 insurrection of the Capitol that left people dead and maimed and traumatized. Or the mistrust that has grown like a cancer in our country of one side or another side (or mistrust of doctors, scientists, anyone seen as other) that is contributing to hesitancy of the COVID-19 vaccine, a deadly virus that has killed more Americans in a year and a half than died in both WWI and WWII. Right here and now, COVID-19 (the Delta variant) is surging this summer. NPR reported recently that COVID-19 cases are particularly surging in areas of low vaccination. More than 97% of people entering hospitals right now are unvaccinated. This mistrust, this rampant partisanship is destroying the gentle, fragile fabric of democracy.
This is what Alan Watts was trying to warn us about more than 50 years ago. We know what to do, but we don’t do it. Why?
Watts goes on in this lecture to talk about karmic debt, which I find utterly fascinating, but that’s not what I have chosen to focus on here. I am pondering the point in this lecture when Watts comes to T.S. Elliot’s idea that the person who has settle down in the train to read the newspaper is not the sam person who stepped onto the train from the platform. Watts says to his audience, “Therefore also you who sit here are not the same people who came in at the door. These states are separate. Each in its own place. There was the coming in at the door person, but there is actually only the here and now sitting person, and the person sitting here and now is not the person who will die.”
Jerry Seinfeld talks about this idea too. He talks about Night Guy who likes to eat cookies at night and he is the guy who also likes to stay up late at night. He wants to live for the moment. But, then there’s Morning Guy who has to get up and go to work and has to deal with 5 hours of sleep and too many cookies. He feels awful! HiddenBrain did a spectacular episode on this too, the different phases of self in You, But Better.
So, just what is Alan Watts getting at? Surely we are not a bunch of separated unconnected selves sleep walking through life. It is all a grand illusion of being? Or maybe we are?!
Watts tells us. He says, “We are all a constant flux and the continuity of the person from past through present to future is as illusory in its own way as the upward movement of the red lines on a revolving barber pole. You know it goes round and round and round and the whole thing seems to be going up or going down whichever the case may be but actually nothing is going up or down.”
"So when you throw a pebble into the pond and you make a concentric rings of waves there is an illusion that the water is flowing outwards and no water is flowing outwards at all water is only going up and down what appears to move outward is the wave not the water. So this kind of philosophical argument says that our seeming to go along in a course of time doesn't really happen. The buddhists say: suffering exists but no one who suffers, deeds exist but no doers are found, a path there is but no one who follows it, and nirvana is but no one who attains it."
This is a confusing concept. When a person rushes to understand something that has happened to them or a new concept, the person is bound not to understand the thing at all. Watts explains that it is a matter of getting to a position where you no longer feel the symbol the thought the idea the word as a block to life, no longer feel it and something you are using as a means of escape. He says: “liberation of the mind from identifying itself with symbols is the same process exactly as breaking up the links between the successive moments the illusion of a self continuing self that travels from moment to moment and picks them all up corresponding to the illusion of the moving water in the wave.”
We are more like a melody being played, Watts describes. We must select the notes in relationship to the places we exist–that means in relationship to everything around us and rising inside of us. If we are not discerning and select everything, the music becomes a jumble and does not make sense. So it is as human beings that we have the capacity to focus in on certain things, to see the symbol of these things in our minds, and select how to arrange these symbols in our mind and how it flows in our never-ending stream of consciousness (i.e., our inner story about what has happened to us during our journey through time and space). When we become more attached to the symbol in our mind rather than to how we are in relationship to each other, with our inner Sage and inferior, and with the whole of nature (indeed the universe), then this is where and when we get into the trouble of bad karma and the cycle of suffering.
Consciousness is a rare and precious gift. It does create problems such as present self and future self and the natural conflict between them.
Yesterday, Jeff Bezos blasted off with his brother and Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. You’ve already seen the headlines:Lefty Democrats hit Jeff Bezos over space trip, want him to pay ‘fair share’ of taxes. The dividing and the othering and the criticism goes on and on. If it’s not Bezos, it’s Dr. Fauci or a scientists working on climate change or a researcher working on viruses. It seems recently that this is all human beings are really good at doing, othering and dividing things up so they don’t go together any more.
But we can put the pieces back together again because we did this all inside our minds. We got attached to the symbols we created to explain to ourselves what is happening to us. When we get attached to symbols created inside our minds, we divide things… cut them up into little pieces and stand on sides lobbing bombs at the other side opposite our points of view. But, don’t you see… it all goes together?
I really like something Bezos said in an interview with Anderson Cooper when he was asked about this criticism he was getting about this all being a race to space by billionaires. Anderson asked, “Don’t you think it is better to spend you money here, now to take care of all the problems we are facing on Earth?” Bezos replied, after a moment of consideration, “We have to do both. We have to work on the Here and Now. And we have to work on the future. That is what humanity has always done.”
He is right. Because we can see the Present Self (the Here and Now), but also the Future Self (a brighter, better future on the horizon). Men and women throughout human history have taken care of their needs in the here and now and ventured boldly into the unknown. That is what Homo sapiens does. We are a species who originated in Africa, and then we boldly voyaged far and wide until we filled every niche of our beloved planet. We used to live caves or congregated grass huts, but we used our abilities to take care of our needs in the here and now as well as envision a bigger, brighter future and build it. Often such envisioning is seen only by a few individuals of any particular time. Those who cultivate their minds to see distant inner horizons of being. Not all future possibilities are possible, but all visioning of such future possibilities cause conflict for a tribe or group of people of any time because such seeing into the future means change. But it is precisely these abilities that have allowed Homo sapiens, sapiens to build great cities with towers made of glass and to fly around the world in a day inside airplanes. We are able to see ourselves in the Here and Now (like Jerry Seinfeld’s Nighttime Guy), and we can see our future self. Using nothing more than our minds, we can play out inside our minds what the future consequences of the choices we make in the Now (or do not make), which then inform the actions we take in the Now (or do not take).
Bezos told Anderson Cooper his vision is to create the infrastructure so that future humans can move toxic and polluting industries off Earth, so we can protect our beautiful and fragile planet. This is a beautiful vision, and he is right to hold it and to start something small that will grow into something big. And he can also take care of the here and now and did with $100 million gift each to Van Jones and chef Jose Andres. Sure he could pay more in taxes and probably should. But we do this together, moment by moment… we all create reality.
What will you do with your plot of consciousness today? How will you step into the flow of the Now without a train of burdensome thought cars following you into it?
The Storytelling Species: Makers & Players of Reality Bubbles
In the previous pieces of the Storytelling Species Series, we have explored how individual attitudes, beliefs, and thinking styles can influences our individual perceptions of reality. We also looked at how stories can influence our understanding of reality (inner and outer). We even explored how stories can become shared narratives that serve as foundational building blocks of our great civilizations and complicated societies. We also looked at how other kind of stories (e.g., conspiracy myths) can pull us together and shred our shared reality. These types of stories are carefully crafted narratives created by people craving attention and power and such people make up stories designed to tear us apart and make us distrust each other. They do this because in a civilization that is in a state of chaos and distrust, it is much easier to carve out a group of people who they can manipulate and control.
Each and every person alive today contributes to the quality of our shared reality–at local levels, at national levels, and at global levels. It all begins with our individual understanding of reality (our inner world), which is contributed to our shared reality (our outer world) through our thoughts, words, and deeds (conscious and unconscious), through our feelings (conscious and unconscious), and through our sensations, specifically, what we pay attentiontoand what we ignore. We also contribute to our individual and shared reality through our instinctual and intuitive responses to what happens to us as we journey through space and time.
Many of us know thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition as components of psychological tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Type. Finding out what our default psychological operating system is can help us navigate the world better such as figuring out what kind of job or career we might be good at doing or happiest doing. Most of us consider this knowledge not much more important than knowing what our astrological sign is. But I suggest this knowledge is critical to understand not only how to navigate the outer world, but also how to navigate our inner world (the hidden world inside of us).
One of the most tragic aspects of being a modern human today is an all out denial of the reality of one’s inner world. Denying the reality of our inner world denies us the ability to navigate it. We must know our inner world in the same way we know the physical world (the outer world). We must know where the dangerous areas are inside of ourselves and why they are dangerous. We must know where the safe and nurturing areas are inside ourselves and how to navigate between these hidden places. Without this inner knowledge, we can feel lost, anxious, and fearful in the world.
This is what crystalized for me the day I met the bubble maker. The quality of our individual batch of consciousness is how we know and understand our outer (physical) world as well as our inner world (hidden world). The quality of our stream of consciousness can be greatly influenced by how we employ our thinking style, or how much we allow our feeling style to help us understand the world around us. The quality of our consciousness can be increased or decreased by the degree of sensation information we pay attention to (e.g., who is around us, how are we feeling around them) as well as the degree to which we are aware of how we are responding to people and things around us (i.e., are we acting unconsciously, in an instinctual way to people and things around us). When we react unconsciously, this impacts how much intuition we can access in the moment.
Our individual batch of consciousness is constantly changing for it needs to be dynamically balanced moment by moment with what remains unconscious inside of us. Many of us who have grown up in modern Western society are taught from very young ages to deny the reality of our inner world. We were taught to do this to survive the ways in which power is wielded in our super-huge, mega system of consciousness. We have evolved these systems of being because they have been super successful strategies to survive in an unpredictable and complicated world. These systems have allowed human beings to dominate the outer world.
When we deny the reality of our inner worlds, we do not to stick out, we do not individuate (i.e., we do not become a singular and unique human being as we were meant to be). We do not grow up to become the person only we can be. By not being unique and different we fit nicely inside our system of consciousness that values sameness (i.e., people and things that are readily replaceable within the system). By being the same as everyone else, we do not draw undo attention to ourselves by individuals who are more powerful than us and who could do us harm. Especially if our uniqueness and difference threatens their view of reality or if our uniqueness threaten’s their power (watch out then!).
When we become a target of a more powerful person, it is bad. We all know this. So most of us go along with the system because it is easier, and we can have comfortable enough life doing so. If we play it right, we can even possibly grow to have more power in the system too. However, do not delude yourself that if you become a person with power that you are immune to the corrupting force of power. Power corrupts and corrupts completely. It takes a great deal of consciousness to withstand the corrupting force of power. This can only be done by balancing power with honesty and humility. Since most of us lack awareness of our inner worlds, it is rare to find powerful people who can balance power with honesty and humility. It is also rare because our current system of consciousness does not reward individuals for doing this.
In addition to being very vulnerable to the corrupting forces of power, when we do not know our inner world, our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being is greatly diminished. We become victims to our own unconsciousness, which condemns us to a life of ignorance that can incur terrible damage to our psyche. This damage is readily visible to other people because unconscious people are much more likely to participate in spontaneous acts of violence that they inflict on “other” people because they have projected that part of themself on the “other”, refusing to see it lives inside them and it is themself they are destroying.
If you think our current system of consciousness stinks and needs to change, the only lasting way to change the system is to change yourself. You change yourself by knowing more about yourself inside and out, which means understanding your inner/hidden world is real and has a reality that impacts you in powerful and significant ways. Doing this can be painful for it means going into the darkness of your soul and finding your inner divide.
If you are human, you have an inner divide. It is what allows us to be conscious. It becomes dangerous for us and other when we remain ignorant of this inner divide because this is how our unconsciousness flows into the world (our shared reality). When it does, all sorts of mischief and mayhem happens. So, if you are serious about creating a more beautiful world, get busy getting to know what is living inside of you–the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is only by knowing all of one’s self that a person can balance the oppositional powers always moving and flowing inside of us. It takes an equal and opposite force inside of us to balance a powerful force. When we remain unconscious of the psychological forces inside of us, we weld power in lopsided and destructive ways that hurt us and hurt others.
Recipe for Making a Better Batch of Reality Bubble Mix
Step1: Finding the Right Balance Between the Stories Rising Inside of You and the Ones Swirling All Around You, Especially the Ones You Choose to Eat
The Bubble Maker
On this day, I biked to the Big Wheel at National Harbor in Maryland, going across the Woodrow Wilson bridge. On some days when I cross this bridge when the wind is blowing it feels like flying. It was on my way back after this wonderful ride that I meet this extraordinary woman making gorgeous giant bubbles.
Earlier that day, I wished I had asked a group of men who were practicing a dance with scarfs that they waved above their heads if I could film them. The dance was so beautiful, even though I thought it was quite feminine for men to be dancing with scarfs. But I was too scared to ask them. Then, on my way home, I saw two construction workers horse playing after work. One held his hands up like a boxer looking for a good punch on his friend. His friend waved his t-shirt at him to distract his friend from landing a good punch. They were laughing…that’s how I knew they were playing around. And then, I knew what the men dancing with scarfs were doing–it was a highly ritualized war dance!
So, when I saw the Bubble Maker, I said to myself… ‘I’m not going to let this one by!’ I asked her and she said yes. We had such an amazing conversation as I filmed her making beautiful bubbles. She told me this batch bubble making solution was not her best batch. She explained each bubble mixture is a little different. Some batches make bubbles better than others, so she was struggling with this one. Despite this, she was a master bubble maker, and I got many beautiful shots of giant bubbles. It was magical in every sense of the word.
Step 2: Synthesize, ferment, and transmute your flow of consciousness.
Bubbles of Consciousness
As I watched her, I thought about a conversation I was having with my good friends in Germany about how the human mind is capable of crafting and believing such fantastic versions of reality. I began to think of these bizarre versions of reality were like bubbles created by the mind. Thus, the idea of Reality Bubbles popped into my mind. Some mind bubbles are very stable and last for a long time. Other Reality Bubbles are inherently unstable and pop almost as soon as they leave our minds. Most Alternative Reality Bubbles will pop soon after leaving the mind because the Rock of Reality is very hard.
I imagined the human mind is like the wand the woman making bubbles was holding in the park. With our minds, we make bubbles of reality that we put out into the world, which are visible through our thoughts, words, and actions. Consciousness is like the bubble making mixture in the bucket. As human beings, we channel and distill consciousness continually as it flows through us as experienced by our circumstances, station in life, visions, and dreams (sometimes nightmares). The consciousness contained inside of us is used to generate ideas that inform our individual actions. Thus, the quality of our individual consciousness determines the strength of the mixture used to manufacture the ideas we put out into the world through our Wand of Mind. It is the same wand every human being uses to put out bubbles of reality into the world, but the mixture of consciousness used can be vastly between humans.
Step 3: Explore, discover, repair, and revive your inner landscapes.
Reviving Our Lost Inner Landscapes
This mixture also forms our inner landscapes, mind-scapes. These inner landscapes are illuminated by the light of our conscious understanding. This is how we come to know who we are. This inner light of consciousness is what we inherited when we stepped across the threshold of consciousness many thousands of years ago. Despite all this time, this part of our consciousness is the smallest part of us. Vast amounts of every human mind remains cloaked under the darkness of inner unconsciousness.
But this is what we are here to do–to explore, discover, and claim inner landscapes by illuminating them with the light of our awaken consciousness. The more unconsciousness contained inside your mind, the less stable your inner landscapes will be as well as the bubbles of reality you manufacture with your mind and put into the world through your actions.
This is why it is important to see more of who were are as a human being, which always includes good and bad parts of ourselves. To make stable bubbles that are able to last through time, we need to maintain dynamic balances between good and bad elements existing inside of us and flowing all around us all of the time. We get glimpses of these cloaked areas through thoughts, dreams, and visions. But more often we become aware of our unconsciousness because we get triggered by the unconscious content living inside of us. They pop up just like instincts pop into action due to environmental stimuli that spurs an animal into action. When an animal acts based upon their instincts, nature has already worked out the dynamic balances over billions and billions of years evolution.
However, as newly awaken conscious beings, we have a lot to understand and work out dynamic sustainable balances. This is hard work and it is far easier to revert back to simpler ways of seeing the world such as black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, and then choose one side or the other side to rally along side. But, ultimately all opposites are inseparable because inside goes with outside, up goes with down, light goes with night. Every opposite is inseparable from its other side just like the other side of a coin. You can cut off the other side, but it is still there…the coin is simply thinner… and that is exactly what we do when we split reality and exist in only one side–we make it smaller. Another serious problem of existing only on onside or the other side of the Coin of Realityis a fatal lopsidedness will result. Living in our huge human collectives with lots of technology can delay the consequences of this fatal lopsidedness, but not forever… that is the Gift of Reality… it will always flow towards balance in the end, and as you are carried in this flow, you will hit the Rocks of Reality along the way.
So, think about your thoughts and how they are turn into actions in the world, which shape and create our shared reality.
I know this is all pretty abstract, but perhaps you will read the story I am writing about this when I finally finish it (Sapience: The Moment is Now). For now, I continue to make these mini movies to help me feel grounded to the Earth and connected to all the beautiful life around me and inside of me. By appreciating the beauty of Earth, I am able to continue gathering inner strength to pull back the projections I have put out into the world. As I pull them back, I find my inner reservoir of consciousness is replenished, which helps me endure.
Projecting our consciousness out into the world is perfectly natural because we cannot see ourselves when we are first born into the world unless we look in a mirror. That is what projections do. They allow us to see ourselves through others.
The trick is seeing: “Oh – that is me!” And, reclaiming that part of ourself that has been temporally lost into the world as a project. This is your power. This is all in my book… but I still must find deeper calm to write again since the latest calamity befell me and my family.
Step 4: Be here, now, that is all we ever have… everything we know, do, feel, become is wrapped in the now.
It is up to each of us to find critical inner balances between the self of the present and the self of the future. It is simply the price of being a conscious creature, and so, it must be navigated. At times, it can be very hard navigating between the needs, desires, fears, and fantasies of present self with the concerns and needs of future self, but that is what we are called to do a conscious human beings who have the gift of knowing.
Following are some of the activities I do that have helped me navigate my inner divide, which exists inside every human being. Often, it comes down to calming down my self-talk (the thing we call thinking and prize so much as modern human beings). Alan Watts often says that thinking is a good servant but a bad master. This is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism that the Western trained mind has a very hard time understanding.
Nature helps us see ourselves in balance with everything else. Being outside, we can step outside of our minds and open us to other ways of knowing and understanding ourself in relationship to everyone and everything else. But to do this, one must be willing to slow down and look! I’ve made a series of nature videos throughout the months of lockdown and social distancing due to the global pandemic, which required individuals to put the well-being and health of others ahead of themselves–that is why we were asked to wear masks and keep distances, not because we were being controlled by evil politicians and scientists. My goodness the stories circulating on the Internet are so creative and more entertaining in conspiracy myths than a Marvel movie. I would ask those flocking to such narratives, what is it inside of you that these stories are activating? If a story you read makes your blood pressure rise, your heart beat faster, your anger increase, who is trying to manipulate you to their point of view? Instead, go outside. Let your own inner truth rise. If you are holding your inner split in balance, you will feel peace, you will feel confidence, you will feel in control and trust yourself to know who is telling you porky (aka bullshit) and who is telling you something real (be it good or bad). Life is complicated. Nature is complicated. We are constantly surrounded by complications and need each other to understand and navigate a complicated world as we travel inside very complicated collectives (i.e., our super-huge civilizations). To see the full nature series, click here: Have You Been Outside Today?
Description: Think about the resolutions you made this year: to quit smoking, eat better, or get more exercise. If you’re like most people, you probably abandoned those resolutions within a few weeks. That’s because change is hard. Behavioral scientist Katy Milkman explains how we can use our minds to do what’s good for us.
Towards the end, Katy says, “So often we don’t understand the forces of opposition inside of us, such as the desires of present me (I want to eat that ice cream now) and the consequences of future me (I’ll have to deal with the extra load of calories and fat that might be bad for my weight, cholesterol, mood).” Through out the episode, she gives plenty of examples where her present me created problems for her future me. She said she found it far more productive to approach these situations as an engineering problem rather than falling back to judgemental self-talk (also known as thinking). To do this, a person needs to recognize the forces of opposition operating inside themself, such as Seinfeld’s conflict between Night Guy and Morning Guy and Day Guy. between present self and future self honestly and fully without judging them as lazy, no good, stupid, or anything else one has been told by family members, friends, and culture about the behavior.
Basically, my take away from Katy’s presentation is that anything that trips us up and subverts us from achieving our long-term goals is human. It is normal. And, it can be handled by understanding the inner conflict and engineering simple work arounds. To do this, we need to see the forces at work honestly and fully without judging them (e.g., I’m a lazy, no good, stupid *#$). Often we internalize negative self talk because we have been told this by family, friends, and our culture. It is easy to label and judge. It is much harder to see our internal conflict, which in an inner spilt due to being a consciousness creature, honestly and to accept it as part of one’s self that must be loved and nurtured just as much as the parts of ourself that are heralded as good traits (e.g., over-achieving guy or gal, bringing home the bacon guy or gal, or anything else we or others label as desirable behaviors).
Watts often liked to ask in his lectures: “Why don’t you know what you want?”
“First, you don’t know what want because you haven’t thought about it or you’ve only thought superficially about it. Then when you somebody forces him to think about it and go through and say yeah I think I’d like this, I think I like that, I think I’d like the other as the middle stage. Then you get beyond that say: “Is that what I really want? The end news day, now I don’t think that’s it. I might be satisfied with it for a while and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it, but it’s not really what I want.”
“Why don’t you really know what you want two reasons that you don’t really know what you’re not number one you have it.”
“Number two, you don’t know yourself because you never can. The Godhead is never an object of its own knowledge, just as a knife doesn’t cut itself, fire doesn’t burn itself, light doesn’t illumine itself. It’s always an endless mystery to itself.”
“I don’t know.”
“And this I don’t know, other than the infinite interior of the Spirit, this I don’t know is the same thing as I love, I let go and I don’t try to force or control. It’s the same thing as humility, and so the Upanishads say, “If you think that you understand brahmin, you do not understand it and have yet to be instructed further.”
“If you know that you do not understand it (dharma), then you truly understand for the brahmin is unknown to those who know it and known to those who know it. And the principle is that anytime you as it were voluntarily let up control, in other words cease to cling to yourself, you have an access of power because you’re wasting energy all the time and self-efense trying to manage things trying to force things to perform (the way you think things ought to be–like Rush H. Limbaugh–lol!). The moment you stop doing that that wasted energy is available. Therefore, you are in that sense having that energy available. You are one with the Divine Principle. You have the energy.”
“When you’re trying however to act as if you were God–that is to say you don’t trust anybody and you’re the dictatorand you have to keep everybody in line–you lose the divine because what you’re doing is simply defending yourself. So then the principle is the more you give it away, the more it comes back. Now, you say I don’t have the courage to give it away I’m afraid. And you can only overcome this by realizing you better give it away because there’s no way of holdings onto it.”
Haunted and the Edge
The haunted and the edge offer much in understanding our inner realities better, but they are often taboo and little understood. This is a playlist created by the Last DJ of Earth who is trying to save survivors of Earth after a global catastrophe. He hacks Multinational satellites to broadcast his musical sermons, working day and night to bring down Earth’s new overlords–the ones who worship money. Consciousness is the key. The Sapience Series tells the tale. Follow Sapience: The Moment is Now for when Book 1 is available.
You are beautiful. You are vital to this now. So, take care of yourself. Stay safe, stay well, and find some time to cultivate your beautiful patch of consciousness for it connects you to me and to all of life and the natural world! This is how we create a more beautiful world by seeing the beauty in each other, even when we disagree about things.
Another amazing Radiolab aired May 5, 2021 (Staph and Gamma) that revisited and provide updates on two simple scientific discoveries that potentially hold huge ramifications for our modern times. This episode began by replaying an earlier show Robert Krulsich did with Molly Webster back in 2016. At the time, this was breaking news. This episodes includes updates as of 2020.
Li-Huei Tsai is a professor and director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. Li-Huei explained to Molly how most research on Alzheimer’s disease (a disease that affects every family) has focused on genes predisposing people to developing this disease later in life. But, Li-Huei took a different approach at looking at this disease. Her work centers on gamma frequencies, which are like a beat in your brain (a type of brainwave).
Entire groups of neurons will beat at the same time. Some beat at 1 beat per second. Others beat at 600 beats per second. A person who needs to super focus his or her attention requires groups of neurons to beat at 30 to 100 beats per second. These are gamma beats. We can measure them through EEG recordings.
They look like this.
Brainwaves andAlzheimer’s Research
Li-Huei explains how the human brain has billions and billions of neurons. To do what we do as humans, process information, have a thought, problem-solve, communicate with each other, and remember things, all these neurons need to communicate with each other. The neural cell has long tentacles that reach out towards other neurons like waving hands. When an electrical signal passes through them, it is like a zap that sends a signal (neural transmitter) across the gap to another neuron, which turns it on.
To walk, write a poem, or compose a song, whole groups of neurons must turn on and fire in synchrony. The gamma frequency (or synchrony) has been considered very important for the higher order cognitive function. However, Molly Webster explains that when you look at an Alzheimer’s brain, what you see is there’s actually less gamma happening. Or people say, like, the power of gamma is reduced.
Li-Huei says this is because not all the neurons can be recruited to oscillate at the gamma frequency and this is because of plaques that build up around neurons gunking them up. the more plaque, the harder it is to think…sort of like cobwebs in the brain.
Let’s Manipulate Gamma Oscillations
So, Webster and Li-Huei wondered: What would happen if they could just bring gamma back to the brain?
Working with mice that have an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease measured by elevated levels of beta amyloid peptides, they drilled a small hole into the skull of the mouse’s head, slide a very thin fiber-optic cable into the brain (specifically, a group of cells modified to be sensitive to light), and then using blue laser light, flicker it at 40 beasts per second: a gamma wave.
They did this for one hour, the looked at the mice’s brain to see if anything was different. Not expecting to find much, they were shocked. After one hour of pulsing light, there was nearly half as much of the nasty plaque gunk filling up their hippocampus (a 40 to50% reduction of beta amyloid in their brain).
Who knew blinking light would do that? But, somehow, the pulsing light triggered the brain’s cleanup crew (microglia) that gobble up the gunk.
In a normal brain, these janitor cells are constantly gobbling up the gunk, but in an Alzheimer’s brain, it is sort of like the janitors have gone on strike. After one hour of light, the microglia cells seem to get a lot bigger, meaning they’ve gobbled up beta amyloid mucking up the brain.
With less gunk, more neurons are available to oscillate together at the gamma wavelength needed to concentrate and do higher level cognitive work.
Wait, It’s Even Better
These findings were really exciting, but drilling holes and inserting fiber-optic cable into brains is pretty invasive. So, Li-Huei wondered if there was another way to get light into the brain. Perhaps through the eyes?
So, they created a flicker room for the mice by using duct taped strips of LED lights. They put the mice in the altered cages and let the LEDs flicker at 40 beats per second. They let the mice bathe in the flickering LED glow for 1 hour. And then took a look at the amyloid beta levels in the visual cortex and once again found a 50% reduction.
Over time, they found out that if the mice are not put into the flicker-light room at least once for an hour every 24 hours, the plaque comes back. So, they are trying to see how to keep the levels down longer, or ever for good.
The Update to This Research
Since Radiolab first reported this research, Li-Huei has tried sound at 40 hertz per second for one hour with her mice.
The same thing! A 40 to 50% reduction in plague in the brain.
They are just moving into human trails, but there is a whole movement out there not waiting to find out the results. Here are just some of the interesting efforts underway, but people, companies, and meditation tapes aren’t waiting.
And there are many other products available.
Several other videos describing this light therapy include the following.
While far from conclusive and so far untested on humans, the results of the studies detailed in the podcast are extremely promising. The gist is by flickering light at and around the gamma frequency for extended periods of time, brain plaque caused by Alzheimer’s is dramatically reduced in lab mice.
This got me thinking how one would go about building a flicker box for this purpose if you wanted to try it out for yourself. My first thought was to just build a simple website (seizure warning):
I absolutely loved a recently aired episode of RadioLab titled: Man Against Horse. It originally aired December 28, 2019, but I heard it May 23, 2021. I had been working on my story trying to getting straight in my head man’s long line of evolutionary changes that ultimately lead to us, the living beings who stare at screens and do everything to extremes.
Man & His Ancestors
There was Australopithecus afarensis who emerged 3.67 to 2 million years ago in the Middle Pliocene to Early Pleistocene of South Africa, an extinct species of australopithecine. Spread:Southern Africa (Lucy’s species). I love them. Look at those eyes!
There was Homo habiliswho emerged 2.4 to 1.5 mya inhabiting parts of sub-Saharan Africa from roughly 2.4 to 1.5 million years ago (mya). In 1959 and 1960 the first fossils were discovered at Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania – roamed Eastern edge of Africa, moving from the Horn of Africa to the tip.Spread:Western to Southern African
There was Homo ergasterwho emerged (“working man”) is an extinct hominid species (or subspecies, according to some authorities) which lived throughout eastern and southern Africa between 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago with the advent of the lower Pleistocene and the cooling of the global climate: 1.9 to 1.4 mya (although some classifications include additional individuals that extends their range to between about 700,000 and 2 million years ago). Spread: Africa: 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago. Considered an early, exclusively African form of Homo erectus. Started making stone tools 1.6 million years ago.
And of course, there was Homo erectus who emerged 2 mya, evolving from either a late form of australopith or one of the more primitive forms of Homo, and went on to spread into many parts of Asia. Spread:Western African,Europe, Arabian Peninsula, Southern Asia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Eastern coast of Asia to Bering Strait
There are many more early hominoid species that evolved, lived for thousands (and some more than a million) years, and then died out and disappeared. This is where I was getting lost, and this is when I took a break and tuned into RadioLab and heard this episode that straighten everything out in my mind. It all came down to the nuchal ligament and the human butt.
It’s All About the Butt
I was skeptical at first because this episode started out with Matt who began saying:
Okay, so this story comes to us from Heather, who is a fantastic writer who brought us this story that, if I were to boil it down, is about a horse, a lone man running through the desert, and what it fundamentally means to be a human being. And weirdly, butts. I didn't see this coming, but it's about butts. Just butts. Your butt. It's about your butt.
Heather is writing a book about the cultural history of the female butt. She said:
I thought I'd save that one for on tape. It started as an essay that I was just working on because I have a big butt, and I grew up in, you know, the suburbs of mid-Michigan. That was -- it was pretty white. And in high school in the '90s, it was very much like, not good to have a big butt. Like, I got made fun of, et cetera, et cetera. But then sometime in the mid-aughts, all of a sudden this body that had sort of been bringing me all this shame became attractive in sort of a mainstream way.
As Heather started taking apart and looking into issues such as race, appropriation, beauty, her essay about the butt ended up becoming a book about the butt. She asked herself: what does the butt mean? Like, what does it symbolize and why does it symbolize that? Then, she realized she had to answer a more fundamental question: Why do we even have a butt at all?
Gluteus Maximus & Evolution of Man
Daniel Lieberman is an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who is interested in the evolution of the human body and the effects of physical activity for a long time. He wanted to understand how and why the human body evolved the way it did. Back around 1992, he was a post-doc doing research on pigs…miniature pigs running on treadmills!
Lieberman was looking at how different parts of the skeleton respond to the effect of the loads caused by exercise. Lieberman says, “Sounds like an exciting thing, but believe me it eventually gets kind of — kind of dull.” This is until the day a fellow called Dennis Bramble, a professor at the University of Utah, came to Harvard to do his own research next door to Lieberman.
Dennis Bramble recalls turning to his co-researher saying, “What the hell’s that sound? Is somebody doing something there?” And they said, “Yeah, and this guy Dan Lieberman is running pigs over there.” I said, “Oh, I gotta — I’ve gotta see this!”
Lieberman recounts Bramble popped his head in and watched the pig, then cocked his head to the side and said, ““You know Dan, that pig can’t hold its head still when it’s running.” Lieberman said, “It’s funny I’d spent hours watching pigs run on treadmills, but I never really thought about it.“
Bramble said: “You know Dan, I bet that pig’s head is flopping all around because it doesn’t have this thing called thenuchal ligament.” This ligament provides support for the head and neck. It is like a rubber band attached to the back of the animal’s skull and runs down the spine to keep the head straight as it runs. Bramble pointed out that all mammals that have specialized as runners have this nuchal ligament–everything from cheetahs to leopards to antelopes to horses, to jackrabbits and dogs. Animals who are bad runners don’t have this ligament–like pigs.
This is where my attention perked up: humans have anuchal ligament.
But, our closest hominoid cousins do not have a nuchal ligament. This includes apes, chimps, gorillas.
Humans Evolved to Run
Way back, our closest hominoid relatives split off into the genus Pan, while humans split off into the genus Homo. The first hominoid in the genus Homo to have this ligament was Homo erectus. Paleontologist can tell this by a sharp ridge on the back of the skull that this ligament leaves behind as a trace.
Daniel Lieberman says, “It doesn’t have a snout, it has smaller teeth. It’s — it’s the first species that’s really very much like you and me from the neck down.“
Around the time that Homo erectus emerged, spectacular changes were occurring with its foot (e.g., toes were shortening, arch was forming, Achilles tendon), hips (i.e., taller, narrower, twisty that helps us stay stable on two feet), arms (shorter), legs (longer), inner ears (semicirucular canals got larger to balance), joints (got bigger to bear the load of running), and butts!
Butts evolved for running. Lieberman explains that when humans run, the gluteus maximus muscles fires twice with every stride to prevent the trunk from pitching forward and falling face first.
"Running is a controlled fall. Very different from walking. And so your gluteus maximus fires just before your body's about to -- your trunk is about to pitch forward and make you hit your nose on the ground, and it helps pull your trunk backward. And the other time the gluteus maximus fires is when your leg is swinging forward when you're in the air, and it helps decelerate the leg so that you bring your leg down onto the ground. So the gluteus maximus plays a very important role when you're -- when you're running, and turns out to barely be active when you're walking. And, you know, you don't need the fancy equipment in my lab to figure this out. You can just do this yourself at home. Just walk around the room and hold your butt and, you know, clench your kind of butt. And -- and when you're walking your butt will just stay kind of normal, right? It'll stay kind of, you know ..."
But Why Did Homo Erectus Evolve Bigger Butts?
Climate change! That’s what happened about two million years ago. The tree filled jungles were disappearing and being replaced by open grasslands. This was triggered by an ice age that was drying out Africa. These vast open spaces were quickly filling up large grass-eating animals such as the kudu and antelope. Carnivores were rapidly evolving to catch and eat these big food sources such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs.
Compared to these apex predators, Homo erectus was puny and not a good runner. But, Homo erectus could do something they could not do. Homo erectus could sweat! This meant Homo erectus could chase his prey over long distances. He didn’t have to be fast; he simply had to have endurance, pay attention to tracks, and be patience.
Daniel Lieberman explains:
"The trick is you find that animal before it's cooled down, because of course the animal would have run away, and when it runs away it gets hot. Like, when you -- running generates a lot of heat. And these animals aren't very good at dumping heat."
There is a lively, fascinating argument on this episode of RadioLab as to whether Homo erectus tracked and followed its prey to exhaustion or if he simply looked for vultures and other scavengers that an apex predator killed and banded together to scare them away. We don’t know. Probably a little of both. But, the extra protein, fat, and nutrients he got this way helped his brain grow bigger and other evolutionary changes to occur. So, the evolution of a bigger butt and nuchal ligament were pretty important to get to modern human beings.
Man vs Horse
The last half of this episode you just have to listen to… really, you should listen to all of it… I skipped a lot of good stuff. But it is all about a crazy race that takes place in Prescott, AZ every year. It is a high desert long distance race (50 miles) between a group of human runners and a group of horses with riders.
The story goes like this:
HEATHER: So in 1983, a city councilman in Prescott comes into this bar in Whiskey Row, like super-old west America.
MATT: And he gets there, he sits down, and he has a beer. And down at the end of the bar …
HEATHER: There’s a couple of cowboys. The city councilman’s just run a marathon.
MATT: And at some point …
HEATHER: The city council guy says, “I just ran this crazy race.”
MATT: And one of the cowboys says …
HEATHER: “My horse could run that far easily.”
MATT: “You’re not that fast.”
HEATHER: “My horse could do that in an afternoon. Wouldn’t even break a sweat.” And then the city councilman’s like, “You know, I’m not sure he can.”
MATT: “Actually, in fact, I bet I can outrun your horse.”
HEATHER: And for 30-plus years, they have been sort of seeing who’s right.
Matt and Heather follow the racers and it is fantastic, fun story. Who do you think wins? Listen and see!
Recently on The HiddenBrain, I heard Iain McGilchrist talk with Shankar Vedantam about our divided brain and the making of the Western world. Shankar introduces this episode saying:
"I'm Shankar Vedantam. If you type in the words left brain versus right brain on YouTube, it's not long before you'll find yourself in a vortex of weird claims and outlandish hype. (...) For decades, pop psychology books and plenty of YouTube videos have made dramatic claims about people who are left-brained and people who are right-brained. It got to the point that respectable scientists felt they had to steer clear of the study of hemispheric differences. This week we follow the work of a researcher who went there. What he's found is much more nuanced and complex than the story on YouTube. His conclusions, though, might be even more dramatic. He argues that differences in the brain and Western society's preference for what one hemisphere has to offer have had enormous effects on our lives."
The program is called: One Head, Two Brains. I will highlight pieces that really resonated with me. Vedantam begins by highlighting all the pop science and psychology that has emerged over the past 20 to 30 years about the hidden powers of the left or right hemisphere of the brian.
McGilchrist adds: “Well, the conventional model is something that sprang up probably in the ’60s and ’70s and had some life into the ’80s and even into the ’90s and is now, probably, mainly at home in middle-management programs and pop psychology books. And I was told when I got involved in this area – don’t touch it. It’s toxic. Don’t even go there. And basically, that was that the left hemisphere is logical and verbal and the right hemisphere is kind of moody and possibly creative. But all of this turns out to be much more complicated, and some of it’s plain wrong.”
The Brain: SuperComputer or Musical Masterpiece
McGilchrist explains: “In motor terms, (the brain) is fairly straightforward that the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and receives messages from it and vice versa. But in terms of psychological life, they have quite different kinds of roles. They have quite different dispositions. And I believe evolutionarily, they are – if you like – addressing different questions. (…) It’s there in all mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, nematode worms – which have, you know, like – one of them has 302 neurons, but it’s working asymmetrically. And in fact, the oldest creature that we know of that has a neural net of any kind is called nematostella vectensis. It’s 700 million years old, and it’s thought of as the origin of neural networks. Guess what. The neural network is asymmetrical.”
He is adamant the human brain is much more than a biologic computer saying, “(First of all), it’s a vast waste of computing power to have this brain divided into two bits.” His research has revealed that brains have evolved with two different hemispheres to provide living beings with two different views of reality: the right focuses on the big picture, the left focuses on details. Both ways of understanding the world are essential because if you can’t see the big picture, you don’t understand what you’re doing. And if you can’t hone in and focus on the details, you can’t complete the simplest tasks.
McGilchrist provides the example of listening to a piece of music, say Mozart’s Requiem.
McGilchrist explains that “the right hemisphere takes in the whole at the start. The left hemisphere unpacks that and enriches it. But then that work being done, it needs to be taken back into the whole picture, which only the right hemisphere can do.“
All living creatures must do this simultaneously to survive.
Left brain:In order to manipulate the world – to get food, to pick up a twig to build a nest – you need a very precise, targeted attention on a detail in order to be able to achieve that and be ahead of your competition.
Right brain: But if you’re only doing that, and if you’re a bird just concentrating on the little seed, you’ll become somebody else’s lunch while you’re getting your own because you need, at the same time, to be paying the precise opposite kind of attention – not piecemeal, fragmented and entirely detailed but sustained, broad and vigilant for predators and for other members of your species.
In every living being with a complicated brain, the two hemispheres are connected by a bundle of nerve fibers named the corpus callosum; often described as a bridge passing information back and forth between the two hemispheres.
McGilchrist explains: “All living creatures need to be able to attend to the world in two different ways, which require quite different attention at the same time. And this is simply not possible unless they can work relatively independently. On the one hand, in order to manipulate the world – to get food, to pick up a twig to build a nest – you need a very precise, targeted attention on a detail in order to be able to achieve that and be ahead of your competition. But if you’re only doing that – if you’re a bird just concentrating on the little seed, you’ll become somebody else’s lunch while you’re getting your own because you need, at the same time, to be paying the precise opposite kind of attention – not piecemeal, fragmented and entirely detailed but sustained, broad and vigilant for predators and for other members of your species.”
The Master & The Emissary
Where my attention really perked up is when Vedantam and McGilchrist began talking about the title of his book, which comes from an old parable about a wise spiritual master who rules over a land. The master appoints an emissary. He’s a smart messenger. His job is to carry the master’s instructions to the far corners of the land.
McGilchrist recaps this very old story:
This emissary was bright enough but not quite bright enough to know what it was he didn't know. And he thought, I know everything. And he thought, what does the master know, sitting back there seraphically smiling, while I do all the hard work? And so he adopted the master's cloak, pretended to be the master. And because he didn't know what he didn't know, the result was that the community fell apart, essentially.
Sounds a bit like Harry Pottery and the cloak of invisibility; however, what McGilchrist is pointing out with this story is what Vedantam says next: “Iain argues that the right hemisphere of the brain is supposed to play the role of the wise master of our mental kingdom. The left hemisphere is supposed to be the emissary. Iain says we have grown infatuated with the skills of the emissary. We prize the details but scorn the big picture. He makes an analogy about the relationship between the hemispheres.“
McGilchrist stresses the brain is not a computer. It is far more sophisticated; however, in terms of function, he says the left hemisphere, in a limited sense, is a little bit like a very, very smart computer. Like any computer, it collects massive amounts of information, but it does not understand it. To do that, the ability to set back and analyze the interconnections and patterns of the data collected is necessary.
McGilchrist warns that for the first time in the West, we have become enamored with and slipped into listening only to what it is that the left hemisphere can tell us and discounting what the right hemisphere could have told us.
The right hemisphere is the master… the left hemisphere is the emissary. One sees the small picture…the other, the big picture.
See it! Grab It!
McGilchrist says that modern man lives in a world that prizes what the Left Hemisphere of the brain offers while offering contempt for what the Right Hemisphere does. What results is that the emissary usurps the master. However, just like the parable, the Left Brain doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. Adding to this, the realities constructed by each hemisphere of the brain are very different.
McGilchrist gives a very simple example of the types of realities each hemisphere specializes in creating for a living being, particularly, one that using language.
Language has many components. One of them is attending to the tone of voice in which I say something. For example, I can say yes, or I can say yes. I can intone that in probably a dozen different ways with quite different meanings. So for example, I say, it's a bit hot in here. You, using your right hemisphere, know that what I mean is, could we have the door open? Could we put on the air conditioning? But your left hemisphere is wondering, meanwhile, why I'm supplying this quite unnecessary meteorological information.
Because of this, all kinds of things happen. Because of its narrow focus, it doesn't see anything that isn't explicit. It only sees what's right in the center of the focus of attention. And it doesn't understand things that are not said. Often, that's as important as what is said. The way in which it is said, my facial expression, my body language - all of this is lost, as well as the interpretation in the whole picture.
For a person who becomes overly reliant on the functions and abilities of the Left Hemisphere of the brain, metaphor in language is lost.
McGilchrist points out that “this is no small thing because as some philosophers have pointed out, metaphor is how we understand everything. And they point out that, actually, particularly scientific and philosophical understanding is mediated by metaphors. In other words, the only way we can understand something is in terms of something else that we think we already understand. And it’s making the analogy, which is what a metaphor does, that enables us to go, I see, I get it.”
Now, if you think that metaphor is just one of those dispensable decorations that you could add to meaning - it's kind of nice but probably a distraction from the real meaning - you've got it upside down. Because if you don't understand the metaphor, you haven't understood the meaning. Literal meaning, however, is a peripheral, diminished version of the richness of metaphorical understanding. And what we know is the right hemisphere understands those implicit meanings, those connections of meanings, what we call connotations, as well as just denotations. It understands imagery. It understands humor. It understands all of that.
McGilchrist says that the Left Hemisphere is “very goal-driven but very short-term goal driven. It wants to grasp things that are within reach. Remember, the left hemisphere is what controls our right hand with which we grasp things that are within reach. So it has a very direct, linear idea of a target and let’s go and get it.”
McGilchrist beautifully sums up what this extreme focus on details can do to individuals and civilizations when he tells Vedantam this:
Time can be seen rather like the flow of a river, which isn't made up of slices or chunks of river that are then put together. We, as personalities in time or cultures in time, are like this flow. The left hemisphere can't deal with anything that is moving. It fixes things. It likes things to be fixed because then you can grab them. You can't grasp your prey, you can't pick up something unless you can at least immobilize it for that second while you're interacting with it.
So it doesn't like flow and motion, which are, in my view, basic to not just life but actually to the cosmos. So instead, it sees lots of little punctuate moments, little slices of time. And things have to be put together by adding them up.
Vedantam says, “It’s almost like a form of calculus, you know, of taking slices and then trying to integrate them together.”
McGilchrist agrees saying: “You’re absolutely right. And calculus is an attempt, actually, to achieve something which is indivisible by dividing it in slices.”
Two Hemispheres; Two Very Different Sets of Values
Vedantam says that the left hemisphere prefers to reduce moral questions to arithmetic.
McGilchrist tells a story to demonstrate how the Left and Right Hemisphere come up with very different values that translate into very different realities.
Hypothetically, let's say you can temporarily disable the right temporoparietal junction with a painless procedure, and then ask people to solve moral problems. They will give quite bizarre answers to them based on entirely utilitarian understanding of them.
For example is, a woman is having coffee with her friend. She puts what she thinks is sugar in her friend's coffee but it's in fact poison, and the friend dies. Scenario two, a woman is having coffee with her friend who she hates. (Laughter). She wants to poison her. And she puts what she thinks is poison in the coffee, but it's sugar, and the friend lives. Which was the morally worse scenario?
Now, all of us using our intact brains say, well, the one in which she intended to kill her friend. But no. If you disable the right hemisphere, the good old left hemisphere says, well, obviously, the one in which she died. The consequence is what matters. So values are not well-appreciated, I think, by the left hemisphere.
Right Brain Damage
Another example of how the two hemispheres operate and see the world very differently is an exchange between a physician and a patient who experienced right hemisphere brain damage. This example bowled me over! McGilchrist explained that her left hemisphere (the detailed, likes things still and not moving, focusing part of brain) is still intact. The patient has a strange belief about her own arm. We asked a couple of producers to read the exchange.
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #1, BYLINE: (Reading, as physician) Whose arm is this?
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #2, BYLINE: (Reading, as patient) It's not mine.
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #1: (Reading, as physician) Whose is it?
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #2: (Reading, as patient) It's my mother's.
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #1: (Reading, as physician) How on earth does it happen to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #2: (Reading, as patient) I don't know. I found it in my bed.
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #1: (Reading, as physician) How long has it been there?
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER #2: (Reading, as patient) Since the first day. Feel. It's warmer than mine. The other day, too, when the weather was colder, it was warmer than mine.
What we're seeing is a phenomenon called denial, which is a feature of the way the left hemisphere works. So if you have a left hemisphere stroke, so your right hemisphere still functioning, you're very aware of what deficits you have. If you have a right hemisphere stroke, you are completely unaware of there being anything wrong. So if you have a paralyzed left arm, which is often a consequence of right hemisphere stroke, more often than not you will deny that there's any problem with it. If asked to move it, you will say there, but it didn't move.
If, on the other hand, I bring it in front of you and say, whose arm is this, can you move it, they say, oh, that's not mine. That belongs to you, doctor, or to the patient in the next bed or, as in this cut, my mother. It's extraordinary because these are not people who in any way mad. They don't have a psychosis. But they're simply incapable of understanding that there is something wrong here that involves them.
Denial.Denying facts. Denying reality. And creating alternative versions of events. Does any of this sound familiar? Narcissists are particularly good at denial and creating fantastic alternative realities. Perhaps they have become completely stuck in their Left Brain Hemisphere. Sure, narcissists can be highly dynamic people and fun to watch. They count on that affect because they feed on your time, attention, and pocketbooks. Narcissists tend to be extraverts as well and know how to hook and reel in their targets. Such a person likes to be in front and most will lead you (dear admiring follower) right to the Gates of Hell, and then give you a kick inside.
My series Collective Storytelling takes a deep dive into how and why we create alternative reality bubbles, and knowing how the Left Hemisphere works helps to explain why these concocted alternative realities are so convincing–so much so, people are willing to raid the Capitol and die for the alternative facts they have absorbed as the truth created by a master storyteller of anything other than the truth or reality.
Left Brian Damage
McGilchrist says about damage to the left side of brain creates interesting complexities too; however, the structure of reality seems to remain in tact:
It's really fascinating because the consequences are so obvious. You can't speak. And sometimes you can't appreciate the structure of a sentence that's being said to you. The other thing that happens is you can't use your right hand, which is a bit of a bummer if that's your important hand. But effectively, the structure of reality is not changed. That's why it is easier to rehabilitate somebody after a left hemisphere stroke than after a right. The left hemisphere is the one that sees body parts whereas the right hemisphere is the one that sees the body as a whole. It has something called a body image, which is not just a visual image but an integrated image from all senses of the body.
But I've been looking at all the interesting neuropsychiatric syndromes, many of them described by Oliver Sacks, which follow brain damage. And all these quite extraordinary delusional hallucinating syndromes that most people can hardly believe can happen to a human being happen either only or very largely after damage to the right hemisphere, not after damage to the left. So the succinct answer is the left hemisphere is to do with functioning and utilizing - reading, writing and grasping - and it doesn't really deal with the structure of reality whereas the right hemisphere does.
I love Oliver Sacks. I researched and helped the common man and woman understand so much about ourselves and our brains. McGilchrist reminds me of Oliver Sacks and Alan Watts. Here are a few amazing Oliver Sacks interviews. Sadly, he died on August 30, 2015.
Emotion & the Brain
Broadly speaking, the right hemisphere is more emotionally literate. It reads emotional expression, and it gives emotional expressivity to a greater extent than the left. But it's not a simple matter. And some emotions to do with particularly understanding another person's point of view, what it feels like to be that person, are very profoundly connected with the right hemisphere. However, there are some emotions that are more particularly associated with the left hemisphere. Perhaps the most striking one is anger, which happens to be the most lateralized of all emotions. And it lateralizes to the left hemisphere.
So I think it's that the left hemisphere always has an immediate task because it wishes to accomplish. And if it encounters any opposition, it's dismissive, and it becomes enraged. I mean, that's a simplification, but I think it works. And after a right hemisphere stroke, the range of emotions open to somebody is limited. It's mainly irritability and anger.
Music & Humor
Music and humor would not exist without the abilities of the Right Hemisphere. You can listen to HiddenBrain’s discussion of music, I will highlight just a little about what McGilchrist says about humor:
So humor is another example of something very human and very important that the left hemisphere doesn't get. Humor is an example of something else, which is the ability to understand the implicit in poetry. You can't really understand poetry by paraphrasing it any more than you can explain the joke and expect it still to be funny.
And that's very close to my heart because I used to work in the area of English literature. And in brief, I left it partly because I loved poetry too much. And it seemed to me that these internally implicit, unique, embodied creatures - the poems - were being turned into explicit, general and entirely abstract entities. So I thought this was a destructive process. I wrote a book called "Against Criticism" and went off to study medicine and become a psychiatrist!
In a Right Brain Hemisphere world:
The right hemisphere, if it were really without the left hemisphere, would see a lot of connections between things and would see a broad picture, but it might not be so good at focusing on details. Emotionally, the timbre might be somewhat melancholic and sad. Because I think it's one of the aspects, I'm afraid, of the right hemisphere's realism and sympathy, a capacity for empathy, that it does feel suffering. We would not be able to make calculations in the same way. Most arithmetic calculations are made by the left hemisphere.
In a Left Brain Hemisphere world:
There'd be an emphasis on the details, instead. There would be a great emphasis on predictability, organizability, anonymity, categorization, loss of the unique and an ability to break things down into parts but not really see what the whole is like. There'd be a need for total control because the left hemisphere is somewhat paranoid. After right hemisphere damage, people often develop a paranoia, and that's because one can't understand quite what's going on and one needs, therefore, to control it. Anger would become the key note in public discourse. Everything would become black and white.
The left hemisphere needs to be decisive because, don't forget, it's the one that's catching the prey. It's no good at going, well, yeah, it could be a rabbit, but it might not be. It's going to go, I'm going to go for it. So it likes black and white. It doesn't like shades of meaning. So in this world, we would lose the capacity to see grades of difference. We would misunderstand everything that is implicit and metaphorical and have to make rules about how to achieve it.
In the world we live in now, McGilchrist warns:
I think what I observe is an overemphasis on predetermined systems of algorithms. The sense of social alienation. The way in which we live divorced from the natural world, which is a very new phenomenon. The insistence on extreme positions, which is what the left hemisphere understands, not a nuanced argument about the pros and cons of every single thing.
Here’s what we need to shoot for:
I love science. Since a child, I was captivated by science. I depend on science in my work, and I depend on scientific discoveries for my life. The argument in my book, as people have pointed out, is sequential, analytical and rational. In fact, people say is quite a left-hemisphere book. And I say, good, I hope I used both my hemispheres in writing this book because if not, it wouldn't be a very good one. So we need both. And what I feel is that science and reason depend on a balance of these things. There is a distinction to be made between rationality - by which I mean the mindless following out of rationalistic procedures - and what I would call reason - which, since the Renaissance, has been exalted as the mark of a truly educated person, which is to make balanced, informed judgments - but not just informed by data but informed by an understanding in the whole context of a living being belonging to a vibrant society of what this actually means.
In other words, judgment - judgment has been taken out of our intellectual world and replaced by something a machine can do. And that may look good to a certain kind of way of thinking, but I think it's a disaster. The right hemisphere sees the need of the left. That's in the image of the master and the emissary - the master knowing the need for the emissary, the emissary not knowing the value of the master. And if I may use a quotation from Einstein, I think this gives us the full picture - he said that "the rational mind is a faithful servant. The intuitive mind is a precious gift." We live in a society that honors the servant but has forgotten the gift.
Perfect timing! This announcement and our new Youth Poet Laureate’s message could not have aired more synchronistically!
Alexandra Huynh of Sacramento, California is the nation’s new youth poet laureate. The 18-year-old’s appointment was announced Thursday night in a virtual ceremony hosted by Urban Word and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Here & Now learned more about the four laureate finalists on Thursday, and now has more about Huynh and her future plans.
It is Syttende Mai, and I just heard the most delightful story on Morning Edition–about an invasion of Trolls! But they are not coming to destroy the world, rather they are showing up to show us how to save it!
Thomas Dambo makes gentle giants from scrap wood, old pallets, twigs, and debris. In Maine, he is constructing a team of trolls that resemble a different part of a tree: the roots, trunk, branches, leaves and flowers. He is making a bunch of trolls in Maine, each with a particular story and like a different part of a tree: the roots, trunk, branches, leaves and flowers. Birk is one of these Maine trolls and he is intentionally rough and “bumpy” because he is emerging from the soil. Dambo says, “A lot of my trolls, they have fur, but this one is naked. I’m imagining … that this troll used to be underground and now it’s pushed itself out of the ground.”
Like the cicadas are doing right now in DC…the big brood–billions and billions of them.
Dambo created Birk as if he is pushing himself out of the ground: that’s why his skin is naked.
Dambo knows a lot of the stories and concepts he creates probably gets lost on visitors. But, he says, “It doesn’t really matter for me because what matters is his trolls draw people into nature where they can have a good experience.”
Dambo makes trolls all over the world and enlists a team of local volunteers to help him build a troll, which reminds me of where the heck is Mike videos (I love these videos! Oh and he has two beautiful kids now!! What a way to unite the world in love and unity through music, dance, and laughter and the joy of life).
Back to the trolls, Dambo says, “Everybody wants to be a part of some big positive project” and building a great big troll is perfect! Dambo says, “I think everything needs to be really important where you are, because that’s where you can fight your fight and that’s where you can make the change.”
I love his story about Hector the Protector; a troll he built on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra.
Hector sat on rocks at the water's edge, protecting the island. In his hand, he originally had a rock "ready to throw at invaders," smiles artist Mark Rivera, one of Dambo's collaborators. But Hector did not survive Hurricane Maria.
In 2019, Dambo returned to the same spot to make Hector 2.0. Instead of a rock, he's now holding a lantern embedded with a solar panel so boats can see the coastline in a hurricane.
Dambo builds trolls that .
My favorite story of this interview was the troll Dambo built in Breckenridge. He was named Isak Heartstone and was removed by the city because he got so popular!
I love this song about Isak Heartstone. It is absolutely fun, brilliant, and done in the spirit of trolls (who really don’t want to harm anyone). I would only add that I doubt it was really the doing of the mayor or government who did poor Isak Heartstone in. It was the property owners who lived nearby. Suddenly, due to the lovely nature of Isak Hearstone, hundreds of people who didn’t live in the neighborhood were showing up, parking on the street, hiking to see Isak Heartstone, taking pictures, probably not cleaning up all their trash–and for individuals owning property nearby–well, they probably feared this was reducing the value of their lovely homes as well as their privacy. And so, that’s where the mayor and government come in… they are there for the people to take care of all the things the people care about… and at that time, it was the value (most likely) of their properties.
That is why we organize governments, to carry out the will of the people. But, we are the people. We make the rules and then enforce them, no matter how much they stink because they really only represent a very few people. Often the one’s with the most money who can influence the rules and how they are enforced.
Take for instance the Presidential election of 2020 in America. Joe Biden won by a landslide. Trump and a lot of other Republicans didn’t like the results and so Southern state after state are changing the voting laws and rules, making it harder to vote by mail, to vote in person, and to vote, especially if you are not a pale male with a Republican bent.
It’s all on us. We live in the system. We use the system. We suffer under the system when it gets rigged against those who have less status, less money, and less power. For far too long, status, money, and power in Western Civilization has been titled to benefit white males living in the systems of power within which everyone else must find a place and a way to survive.
W. Kamau Bell has been writing and talking about this for a long time. He use comedy to have tough conversations about race, inequality, and inequity. A recent opinion piece he wrote introduces some of the topics he digs into. To really understand, it takes a willingness to do so and time to learn about and see all the connections that we contribute to just by living in a system like Western Civilization: W. Kamau Bell: Until those in power act right, I’ll see you in the streets.
But, back to Dambo and what he is doing. I just love the spirit he is literally building into the world through his fantastical trolls! His joy and fun and surprises rejuvenate the human mind and spirit. His fanciful trolls situated in whimsical places help us to realign mentally and bring us back into a harmony with each other and with all of the life. Sure, once my Nordic ancestors believed trolls were real. But, then that is why we have our fantastic minds today. We became conscious beings in a living world. At first, it is only natural to project one’s mind into the strange, beautiful, and scary things all around us.
Jung says, “When there is no consciousness of the difference between subject and object, an unconscious identity prevails. The unconscious is projected into the object, and the object is introjected into the subject, becoming part of his psychology. Then plants and animals behave like humans beings, human beings are at the same time animals, and everything is alive with ghosts and gods (and trolls). Civilized man naturally thinks he is miles above these things.Instead of that, he is often identified with his parents throughout his life, or with his affects and prejudices, and shamelessly accuses others of the things he will not see in himself.He too has a remnant of primitive unconsciousness, of non-differentiation between subject and object. Because of this, he is magically affected by all manner of people, things, and circumstances, he is beset by disturbing influences nearly as much as the primitive and therefore needs just as many apotropaic charms. He no longer works magic with medicine bags, amulets, and animal sacrifices, but with tranquilizers, neuroses, rationalism, and the cult of will (e.g., capitalism, communism, socialism, nazism…choose your ism… there are so many we cling to these days).
So go out today and find a troll or better yet, make one–a little one, a big one, an imagined one is just as good–the real point is getting outside again and melting into the magic of being here, now and alive.