It is she who said monsters are made. Think Frankenstein, definitely constructed by a human.
And we do this all the time…in our heads simply repeating the stories we tell ourselves that create indelible images, which we then project onto the world we live in. Or better said, the world we wish we lived in.
The Planet We Made
Olafur Eliasson is an Icelandic–Danishartist known for sculptured and large-scale installation art that employ elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. He designed the cover of Time this month to highlight our collective climate crisis that will affect and impact everyone on Earth. Rich or poor, everyone will pay a huge price for further dithering and delaying on taking immediate action Now.
Olafur tells Time to create the effect on TIME’s cover, he employed a technique called after imaging. By following the instructions on the cover, when the page changes, your eyes re-imagine our overheated planet in the healthy vibrant greens and blues we, the human race, were born into and began our journey as a species through time.
The Monsters We Make
This same elusive after imaging takes place inside our minds. The images that get stored inside our minds are created by the stories we tell ourselves and the images we consume as ordinary citizens.
These images, let’s call them cultural images, are stored in our minds as belief systems. Beliefs are vastly more complicated images than the one created by Olafur Eliasson for the cover of TIME. However, compared to reality, beliefs are pathetic and paltry.
Belief systems tend to leave far more outside (the evil other) than inside (the person who sees the the world like you do). All of us adopt and cultivate belief systems. They help us know who we can trust. And, they help us survive by acting as short cuts to reality.
By popping your beliefs into a situation, you can just get down to action. Or really reaction to a situation because beliefs allow you to skip the work of hard thinking, critical analysis, and feeling into what you are actually experiencing.
Systems of belief are informed by the families we grow up in, the cultures we live in, and the religions we participate in (or do not participate in). Systems of belief are further evolved and informed by friends, peers, teachers, clubs, politics, and media, among many other sources.
Whether you accept the stories and images imparted to you through these systems, whether you believe them or you don’t believe them, beliefs about how the world is or isn’t are formed and held in the mind very much like the phantom image Olafur Eliasson created on the cover of TIME.
Each and every belief are things you have choose to accept, to believe, and to store in your head. You choose to believe the things you think are true or what you don’t believe or believe to be not true, regardless of whether they are empirically true or not true.
Once you commit to a belief (in other words you swallow an idea hook, line, and sinker), it creates an indelible image of how the world is, which gets overlay onto everything you do and everyone around you. Very much like the elusive image Olafur Eliasson made for the November 2022 cover of TIME. You put them there, and then you project them on the world.
Beliefs are more likes wishes, fears, and desires. They accord with more how we want the world to be rather than how it really is. Our wish/fear/wants live inside our minds and are projected on the world every moment of our lives. They hoover and cling to everything and everyone we come into contact with like a ghostly aura. Depending on what our projected system of beliefs tells us we should believe about a person or a thing that comes into our narrow bandwidth of focused conscious attention, aligns our actions and behavior in the world.
This rather simple ability has oversized implications–some good, some bad. It is an ability that we take for granted as human beings. Our ability to create systems of beliefs is a form of ignorance (ig–nor–ance, what we choose not to see) and it has gotten the better of us. It is what allows us to turn ordinary human beings into monsters or our world into a wasteland.
Kendra R. Parker explains our creation of and fascination with monsters this way:
When Dracula appeared in the 19th century, there was all of this fear, the English were preoccupied with borders, boundaries and nationalism. Between like 1881 and 1900 there was an increase in the number of non-English Jewish people. There was this xenophobia, this fear of Jewish people, this sort of threat of external colonization. And so these fears about the threatening outsider, who is going to come in and disturb the national pure body, finds its way into Bram Stoker's Dracula.
And if we come to the United States in 1898, we have newspaper images popping up out of North Carolina that depict Black men as vampires because there was this fear of Black men. There's this fear of black men being in politics and so that if you got black political power, then they're going to take over and destroy white women and all of that. And so you've got all of this propaganda.
And there are two images in particular. One is called "The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina." It appears in 1898, and it's a Black male vampire coming out of a ballot box. And there's another image that same time period in North Carolina where you got vampires coming out of the grave to vote and they're Black. And so there's this fear that if you let these monsters vote, they will take over and destroy our way of life.
The Monsters We Are
When we use our system of beliefs to turn other human beings into monsters, it is ourselves who become the monster. When hate becomes our fuel, then the transformation is complete. The monster has been made.
It is a way of being in the world that leads to Hell. It is the path of destruction, of mayhem, and of death.
It is a way of being in the world that may begin by being suspicious, distrustful, and skeptical. But it can quickly eclipse who you think you are and make you into a person who takes pleasure in being cynical, ghoulish, grisly, and grotesque.
Such a journey is often summed up by the popular phrase —Take The Red Pill. This means a person that falls down a rabbit hole. They start out innocently following juicy breadcrumbs of gossip and plausibly outrageous happens that grow ever more implausible. But once you get hooked on these toxic breadcrumbs carefully left behind by Master Manipulators who are experts in making the implausible sound plausible. Indeed, the Truth that you are willing to die for.
How To Make of a Monster
Step 1) Chop the world into absolutely good and absolutely evil, then choose a role to play in this absolute drama (it goes without saying that whatever side you play on… that is the righteous side, the good guys, the side that is going to slay absolute evil)
Step 2) Select a Mask for the role you will play in the absolute drama to rid the world of absolute evil (make sure you are the Super Hero of your story and everyone else is the bad guy)
Step 3) Strap Your Mask Tightly To Your Face So It Doesn’t Slip or Fall Off (you don’t want anyone to see you are merely human like the people and other living beings you are dehumanizing)
Step 4) Cut Up Bits and Pieces from the World and Other Stories, Then Mash Them Into Your Mask So You Become Unrecognizable Like Camouflage (it doesn’t matter if the bits and pieces make sense anymore, you are creating your super hero version of yourself!)
Step 5) Add Lots of Layers to Your Mask, Be Sure to Use Lots of Devilish Deceit and Deception, More Camouflage to Help You Better Play Your Role (God forbid anyone recognize that you’re really human behind your Fake Persona)
Step 6) Distort, Deform, and Mangle Your Mask to Create Fantastic New Levels of Distractions and Illusions, Even More Camouflage… Fighting Evil Isn’t for Sissies (this will draw others to you — your followers, your zombie army)
Step 7) Forget You Are Wearing A Mask: Now You Are A Monster
I have not read this book, Metaflesh. But, the image of the cover is captivating. To me, it perfectly captures how we can turn ourselves into monsters using any system of belief, any one at all. In the land of make believe, nothing is sacred. Once we slip down a rabbit holes inside our minds, the inner Hellish landscape allows us to endlessly violently project onto others what we cannot admit to ourselves that we are.
This is a book review of Metaflesh from where I got the image:
Metaflesh is written by Evan J. Peterson, author of The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir and DragStar!, the world’s first drag performer role-playing game. Metaflesh is a book of verse and prose from the point of view of Frankenstein’s Monster. The reflections are inspired not only by Mary Shelley’s seminal work (double entendre fully intended) but also by the pop culture descendants of her novel. Sources include a wide variety of Frankenstein/mad scientist movies and song lyrics. The book also contains themes of Jewish folklore, queer culture, camp, and a lot of David Cronenberg-style body horror. The book covers the gamut of the Monster’s experiences through over a century of movies and songs, and portrays the Monster as both gender-fluid and a sort of chimerical film critic, reviewing portrayals of their self through lyric poetry and flash fiction.
This is an ingenious book of metafiction. Just as Dr. Frankenstein cut up different people and stitched the bits together, Peterson cut up and reassembled his sources, turning them into something greater than the sum of their parts. Borrowing from William S. Burroughs cut-up technique, he splices together Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with F.T. Marinetti’s Manifesto del Futurismo (Futurist Manifesto) and with J. G. Ballard’s essay, “Why I want to F*ck Ronald Reagan.” He apostrophizes the sexually explicit films of avant-garde queer Canadian creator Bruce LaBruce and doesn’t forget to include General Mills’ Frankenberry breakfast cereal or select lines from Mommy Dearest and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The combined imagery of classical Greek mythology, white supremacy, drag queens, Judaism, and zombie erotica do not merge into a hot mess but meld together into a deliciously readable book.
This literary retrospective is sad, funny, quirky, surgically precise, and captivating. I was never bored and didn’t skip through parts. I tore through my first reading at speed and have been taking my time through subsequent readings. The only spot which slows me down, pulling me to a frowning halt, is a simile in the poem, “His Name is In Me”: “gross as the tallest savage.” Although I’m aware that white supremacist imagery is intentionally used throughout the book—punching up, not down—the use of the word “savage” feels out of place here. It is a racial slur used against Black and Indigenous peoples and stands out awkwardly in a poem strongly based in Judaic imagery. If it is a slur used against Jews, I am unaware, but this is my only quibble with the entire book. -- Book Review: Metaflesh by Evan J. Peterson
Someone OnceTold Me
Someone once told me that my blog The StoryTelling Species Series was just a story. He really just wanted to put it down and elevate himself because we were having a very strong disagreement about COVID. I knew he was wrong, but could not explain to him why he was so wrong then.
Now I can. I knew it is the stories we tell ourselves that make us into heroes or villains, good or evil, saints or monsters. Now I know how it happens inside our minds.
Given how susceptible we are to believe our own stories and lies about ourselves, it is best to give all other people the benefit of the doubt and trust they are not the monster you are afraid of… the one that lives inside of you. It is best just be human and to recognize that we have a little bit of good and a little bit of bad inside of us.
It is when we hang onto the evil inside of us and refuse to let go of it that we make ourselves into monsters and turn Earth into Hell. Trust that reality is far more interesting than the stories we tell ourselves about our selves and others.
Trust that you belong here and now with everyone else and that together we can heal ourselves. This is something we can only do together. And if we heal, Earth heals and our burning hot planet may once again shine in its brilliant, beautiful, life sustaining blues and greens!
Not long ago, in an extremely rare moment of bipartisan unity, Republicans and Democrats came together to discuss UFOs, now called unexplained aerial phenomena or UAPs by the military. It is the first Congressional meeting on the topic since 1969.
David listened into the hearing along with Mick West.
Mick West is a British science writer, skeptical investigator, and retired video game programmer. He is the creator of the websites Contrail Science and Metabunk, and he investigates and debunks pseudoscientific claims and conspiracy theories such as chemtrails and UFOs. Wikipedia
This short episode of This American Life is a curation of their discussion of the Congressional Hearing while they listened to military officials present a report to Congress that includes about 400 incidents, which is up from 143 assessed in a report released about a year ago.
Mick explained a lot of the unexplained aerial phenomena as camera artifacts such as these:
Scott W. Bray, the deputy director of Naval intelligence, told lawmakers there is no evidence of aliens, and they still haven’t uncovered anything “nonterrestrial in origin,” although there remain incidents they can’t explain.
That Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Real
Despite lacking physical evidence that proves the reality of UFOs (other than other explanations such as camera artifacts, mylar balloons, and contrails) that does not mean there isn’t something very real going on. Indeed, this unexplained phenomena is as old as man’s ability to articulate his experiences to others. What makes humans extraordinary on this planet is our shared ability to perceive and share physical reality through words, symbols, and ideas. Human beings also share the ability to perceive and make sense of inner realities. Indeed, mankind’s most spectacular ideas and inventions originate from this inner dimension of being.
Carl Jung is best known for his theories of the human subconscious and the idea he termed the Collective Unconscious. Through his practice as a psychiatrist, he came to believe humanity shares a subconscious mind that stores the memories of all human beings, dead and alive, that are available to us through images, visions, dreams, and other phenomena humans experience, especially at times of stress, trauma, life and death.
Jung wrote a book about UFO and paranormal phenomenon. Here are two summaries of this book:
While Jung is known mainly for his theories on the nature of the unconscious mind, he did have an interest in the paranormal. In this essay, Jung applies his analytical skills to the UFO phenomenon. Rather than assuming that the modern prevalence of UFO sightings are due to extraterrestrial craft, Jung reserves judgment on their origin & connects UFOs with archetypal imagery, concluding that they have become a "living myth." This essay is intriguing in its methodology & implications as to the nature of UFOs & their relation to the human psyche. -- GoodReads: Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies
In the threatening situation of the world today, when people are beginning to see that everything is at stake, the projection-creating fantasy soars beyond the realm of earthly organizations and powers into the heavens, into interstellar space, where the rulers of human fate, the gods, once had their abode in the planets.... Even people who would never have thought that a religious problem could be a serious matter that concerned them personally are beginning to ask themselves fundamental questions. Under these circumstances it would not be at all surprising if those sections of the community who ask themselves nothing were visited by `visions,' by a widespread myth seriously believed in by some and rejected as absurd by others.--C. G. Jung, in Flying Saucers Jung's primary concern in Flying Saucers is not with the reality or unreality of UFOs but with their psychic aspect. Rather than speculate about their possible nature and extraterrestrial origin as alleged spacecraft, he asks what it may signify that these phenomena, whether real or imagined, are seen in such numbers just at a time when humankind is menaced as never before in history. The UFOs represent, in Jung's phrase, a modern myth. -- GoogleBooks Summary
Jung maintained throughout his life that man’s inner life, dreams, images, visions is real and carries a reality, a gravity that can be felt in our lives each and every day.
Reality Is Strange | We Need Inner Astronauts Now More Than Ever
Perhaps we need more inner astronauts willing and able to go where no man has gone before, equipped with abilities to chart our inner space, just as we do our outer space. Indeed, inner space may be far vaster than the universe, which may be a little phenomena of this vast inner space that we do not understand very much at all.
In a time of so much crisis, we need to learn how to better articulate inner weather and dangerous patterns just as we have learned to watch and predict weather patterns and identify dangerous patterns such as Hurricane Ian.
There have been many dangerous and horrible natural disasters this year, including devastating floods in Pakistan, acute heat waves and historically lower water levels in rivers throughout Europe, and increasingly bigger and deadlier fires worldwide (see 2022 International Wildfires: As of Sept. 8, the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) estimates that within European Union countries, between 2 million acres and 2.1 million acres have burned).
There is also dangerous and deadly inner weather that is sweeping the world. It travels on currents of propaganda, misinformation, lies, and conspiracy myths. Hurricane Putin is meaning the entire world with his threats of nukes, sabotaging his own pipeline (a play he used to get into power when he had apartment buildings blown up and blamed it on Chechen separatists), and the death, destruction, and torture of Ukrainians. His maniacal invasion of Ukraine rides on his strangle hold on power in Russia allowing him to infect and propagate a collective homicidal psychosis among his people. His and other strong arm actors in our world are distracting us and contributing to our collective failure to mitigate climate change while we still can.
Can you tell which pictures that are Putin’s hurricane of devastation and death and which are Ian?
She united and guided Britain through so much history–good times and bad.
She Modernized the Monarchy
1 hour ago | Queen Elizabeth II: A Life in Photos: The longest-reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926 and was crowned in 1953. — Photo gallery below mostly from this Wall Street Journal article.
She Had Her Own Style
She Loved Horses
She Loved Dogs
Most of All She Loved People
She Knew How to Tackle A Crisis
She helped steer her nation, and indeed the world, through tough times and always with elegance and grace reminding everyone this too will pass and we will be together again.
When she made a miss step with being too reserved after Diana’s death, she didn’t double down and insist she was right. She pivoted and changed. She showed us how to grow throughout one’s life, be it long or short.
Archival Footage of Queen Elizabeth
Here are some older archival footage of the young Queen Elizabeth II. She lived through some of the greatest changes of the modern world and she showed how to lead a nation not through intimidation, lies, strong-arm tactics, but by listening, being present, keeping her heart open, being willing to change, admitting mistakes, and loving her people, her family, and indeed, the world in all its diversity and wonder.
Balancing Duty With Family Was Hard
She Was A Unifying Force
Leaders Around the World Remember Her
Line of Succession
Music of Feature Animation:
God Save Our Queen (British National Anthem)The Royal British Choir God Save Our Queen (British National Anthem) 2:23
She modernized the monarchy and harmonized the world. She never stopped learning, growing, and changing. She will be missed.
On June 11, 2022, the Washington, DC 2022 Capital Pride Parade began with full regalia and ceremony followed by rowdydow fun and celebration. This is the first of four videos from this day.
For the video, I wrote this:
Today was like walking into a rainbow. After more than 2 years due to COVID, the WDC Pride Parade of 2022 took place in an embrace of joy and celebration. It was one big mass of human exuberant celebration. Such a different energy than the Trump rallies that twisted and deformed into the raging, dangerous mob of Jan. 6, 2021.
I filmed one of the earlier Trump rallies, and I filmed one of the Black Lives Matter marches after the murder of George Floyd. The paranoia and double-standard of the Trump years faded to a distant unpleasant memory in the embrace of so many people celebrating differences, diversity, and inclusiveness.
What kind of world do we want?
Do we want one that is angry, overly righteous, mostly white men who want to control women's bodies and turn America into a desolate land of mediocrity and conformity?
Or do we want one that celebrates diversity, lifts up inclusivity, and makes space for everyone to shine their truth and colors as they feel them?
I choose the rainbow hands down over The Divine Republic of Gilead as depicted in Canadian author Margaret Atwood futuristic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale that feels more and more possible each passing day, especially since the Trump years that made hate great again in America.
Hate is not what makes us a great nation: Love is what makes us great and moments like this Parade are more important than ever, especially with the plotters of Jan. 6 still scheming how to turn America into a totalitarian state like Russia...
I suppose so we could exterminate the world in a mutual annihilation of scapegoats because that is what cheap, cowardly, hate filled people do...blame everyone else for their problems and who they really are inside.
This is the inspiration for this blog: the idea of diversity and the mutual arising of opposite things in the world because on this same day, 31 members from the group Patriot Front were arrested in Idaho.
Pride Parade in Idaho
Thirty-one men, faces covered with masks and carrying baseball bats stood packed in the back of a U-Haul like illegal immigrants sneaking into the state. The truck was heading to the Pride Parade in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Their purpose was to start a riot.
Police said the men came from at least 10 states. They are members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front, previously known as the white nationalist hate group Vanguard America. It rebranded itself after a neo-fascist was photographed holding their shield just before he ran his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA.
Interview with Mother of One of the Men Arrested
Earlier this week, a mother of one of the men arrested gave an interview with Sara Sidner.
From the video above: When "a little army" of men with shields and other riot gear was spotted near a Pride parade in Idaho on Saturday, authorities soon linked the men to a relatively new White nationalist group and charged them with conspiracy to riot. Most of the men arrested had logos on their hats "consistent with the Patriot Front group," and some had other clothing associated with the White supremacist group, Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White said. CNN’s Sara Sidner reports
This Same Hate Perpetuates Racism & Wars
This is the same hate that fuels racism and perpetuates continuing inequalities and brutality against black and brown people in the United States. Slavery is barbaric, and so too is racism. Americans went to war and died over ending slavery in America. This war began on April 12, 1861 and lasted until April 9, 1865. In the end, more than 620,000 men were dead, roughly 2% of the U.S .population.
However, this is far less dead than the number of men, women, and children who died being transported from Africa to America, who died as slaves from violence and mistreatment, and who have died since emancipation due to the continuing violent beliefs and hate embraced by white supremacy.
Black Live Matter March
Photos From Gettysburg National Military Park
Emancipation Proclamation & Juneteeth
Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. It was the most ambitious push of General Robert E. Lee into the North. Each side fought fiercely. This battle turned out to be the turning point of the war. It is also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address.
Word of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans finally reached Texas on June 19, 1865 where people were still being held as slaves. More than 150 years later, Juneteenth has finally been made a federal holiday commemorating and remembering the legacy of slavery and the emancipation of slaves in America.
Yet, this horrible battle still rages in the hearts and minds of far too many white Americans still to this very day. Hate still has a home in America.
Photos From Gettysburg National Military Park
One of Trump’s Rallies After Losing the 2020 Election
A Call To All Humans Who Value Freedom and Democracy
This Arises… That Becomes
I finally came to understand the idea of This Arises… That Becomes… from a lecture Alan Watts gave.
It is the basic principle of dependent origination as described by Buddha. In Buddhist doctrines, it is called Pratītyasamutpāda.
Pratītyasamutpāda consists of two terms:
Pratītya: "having depended." The term appears in the Vedas and Upanishads[note 2] in the sense of "confirmation, dependence, acknowledge origin". The Sanskrit root of the word is prati* whose forms appear more extensively in the Vedic literature, and it means "to go towards, go back, come back, to approach" with the connotation of "observe, learn, convince oneself of the truth of anything, be certain of, believe, give credence, recognize". In other contexts, a related term pratiti* means "going towards, approaching, insight into anything".Samutpāda: "arising", "rise, production, origin" In Vedic literature, it means "spring up together, arise, come to pass, occur, effect, form, produce, originate".Pratītyasamutpāda has been translated into English as dependent origination, dependent arising, interdependent co-arising, conditioned arising, and conditioned genesis.[note 3]
Jeffrey Hopkins notes that terms synonymous to pratītyasamutpāda are apekṣhasamutpāda and prāpyasamutpāda.
The term may also refer to the twelve nidānas, Pali: dvādasanidānāni, Sanskrit: dvādaśanidānāni, from dvāvaśa ("twelve") + nidānāni (plural of "nidāna", "cause, motivation, link").[quote 2]Generally speaking, in the Mahayana tradition, pratityasamutpada (Sanskrit) is used to refer to the general principle of interdependent causation, whereas in the Theravada tradition, paticcasamuppāda (Pali) is used to refer to the twelve nidānas.
Dependent origination is a philosophically complex concept, subject to a large variety of explanations and interpretations. As the interpretations often involve specific aspects of dependent origination, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive to each other.
One interpretation (which I feel is closest to what Alan Watts refers to in his talk) regards this doctrine…
...as describing the arising of mental processes and the resultant notion of "I" and "mine" that leads to grasping and suffering. Several modern western scholars argue that there are inconsistencies in the list of twelve links, and regard it to be a later synthesis of several older lists and elements, some of which can be traced to the Vedas.
Rocks of Ignorance & Rainbow Flags
In other words, we only know inclusivity and love in comparison to callousness and hate. Like a river diverted by a rock–some water flows to the right, some flows to the left. The rock in the river is an idea, a symbol of reality, but it is not reality. Indeed, all words, all thoughts, all ideas are poor substitutes to what is really going on in life.
What should be noted is that both streams flowing around the rock are of the same river of being. They are only being briefly divided and diverted by a rock of thought that got lodged in the river of being.
Maybe, One Day
Another way of looking at this idea is that inclusivity and love are the polar opposites of callousness and hate. Although opposites, both qualities and ways of being in the world go together just as a magnet has a North and South pole. If you chop a magnet in half, there is still a North Pole and a South Pole because a magnet is one cohesive whole thing.
Since I choose to support rainbows and Pride Parades, I stand on this side of our polarized America. It is a conscious choice to flow in the stream of being that includes rainbows and diversity. And it means I am making a conscious choice to embrace all sorts of people and their differences as well as recognize how similar we are because deep, deep down I believe what Alan Watts says that we are the fabric of existence itself.
Maybe one day, we can let go of our rocks of ignorance that we cling to for security and comfort. By letting go, we can grow as a species. And if we grow, we might be able to really feel one day our oneness with each other and all life on this planet. When rocks of thought due appear in our river of being, we can better navigate the currents of division driving us apart and pushing the entire world to a tipping point that we may not recover from due to a mutual massacre of scape goats.
Maybe one day we will know we are all part of the stream of humanity no matter our skin color, sexual preference, our religious beliefs. It has always been this way. It is only when we cling to our rocks of thoughts and rocks of ignorance, which if we are constantly anxious, nervous, angry, and afraid–we are clinging to an idea, which is one of these rocks dividing us and causing so much suffering and pain in the world.
The intersection of gay rights, racism, and white supremacy continue intersecting through time. Will we ever grow up as a species to embrace and hold all of who we are as human beings? Or will we simply continue to label, divide, and conquer each other with hate and despair? See Hate Arises… Rainbows Become… to explore more on these ideas.
We stopped at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania on our way up for our daughter’s graduation from Middlebury College in Vermont. It was late in the day, cloudy with a little drizzle–perfect weather to walk the roughly 6000 acres of historical pasture and woodlands where Union and Confederate soldiers met in General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North.
It was the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion”, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address”.
My husband found a monument dedicated to the 13th and 16th Vermont regiments. From their forward position, the nearly 1,500 men of these regiments poured devastating point-blank fire into the enemy ranks. They inflicted terrible casualties and ravaged the Confederate flank. The battle that was going in favor of the Confederate side began to slip. The Vermonters helped turn the tide of the battle and because of this win, turn the tide of the war itself. It would turn out that we were staying in a valley from where one of these regiments came from in Vermont.
Today, in 2022, it seems like the battle that took place on July 1, 1863, occurred so long ago and that the wounds inflicted from a country being torn apart by different ideas and ideals of how to live a good and just life would be long healed. The pictures of the wildflowers and wildlife are a testament to time and nature’s ability to regenerate.
However, the human heart and soul seems to still be torn and hurt. There are people alive today ready to do damage and tear apart America’s delicate democracy. There are people willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get more than they deserve or inflict their own will on the will of the people. Democracy isn’t easy. It requires compromise, and word that seems to have disappeared from American political and culture vocabulary. It does not require every share the exact same beliefs or values, but it does require tolerance and willingness to learn about the beliefs and values of people who are different from oneself. It requires curiosity and a basic agreement of facts and shared reality.
Will America be able to keep this fragile flower of self-governance in the face of a Republican Party that prefers to stick to loyal tests rather than truth, in the aftermath of Jan. 6, in the ongoing disenfranchisement and brutality to African Americans and any people with a darker skin tone, in the double standard that it is OK to regulate a woman’s body, but it is not alright to regulate guns?
“Every day, on average, 316 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.” — Team ENOUGH
“Guns have become the leading cause of death for American kids. early two-thirds of the 4,368 U.S. children up to age 19 who were killed by guns in 2020 were homicide victims, per the CDC. Motor vehicle crashes, formerly the leading cause of death for kids one and older, killed nearly 4,000 children.” — Axios
If you are upset by these statistics, by politics, by anything that gets you shouting at your TV or computer screen. It is time to get outside. If you find yourself getting enraged by a rainbow flag celebrating Pride Month or want to join the next raiding party of the Capitol, why not try going to a place like Gettysburg? Walk the park rather than drive. Let yourself sink into the blood-soaked earth where flowers now grow and birds once again sing. Talk to the park rangers, read about what happened, feel yourself being transported back to that time when the sound of gun fire and exploding canon balls rang continuously like a speeding train.
War is bloody. Conflict kills. There are other ways to solve conflict arising from diversity. We have one of those ways. It is called Democracy.
The people of Ukraine are fighting fiercely for this way of organizing society. They are showing us what it means and takes to defend freedom, liberty, and justice for all against a brutal, totalitarian regime; a regime that lies to its people, that exterminates anyone who becomes a threat to it, that concentrates wealth and power among a very few.
In America today, it seems we are choosing whether to stay a democracy, which means making room for tolerance and compromise again. Or will we choose to become a dictatorial regime (like Russia) where lies and distortions are used to whip up dissent and division so that truth, justice, and liberty for all becomes a distant dream.
Stay Human! Go outside today and hug another living being!
"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]
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.
Sometime last fall, while biking, the word Sisyphus popped into my mind. I did not know what it meant. I knew it was familiar, but I could not remember why. It’s a weird word. Not a word you hear on a daily basis, not even a word you hear on a decade basis, unless perhaps you are a scholar. But, it kept popping into my mind randomly at least a dozen times or more into the beginning of 2021.
I Was Just Looking for Something Good to Watch
I was looking for a new series to watch on Netflix. I’d finished a score of good series, and then hit a patch of bad ones. I wanted something good…something I could sink into and get lost inside. I was looking for something like the shows I had recently finished watching such as:
Outlander: I never read Diana Gabaldon‘s books, but once I started watching this series, I was hooked. I was trying to find a replacement for Masterpiece’s Poldarkseries based on Winston Graham’s books, which is absolutely amazing. And when I saw Ronald D. Moore was producing this series, I was intrigued because his last big hit series was the updated Battlestar Galacticaseries, a TV drama I loved immensely in the 70s, and Caprica(this tells the tale of how that fictional human civilization fell by showing how the Cylon androids took over their worlds, but then it got abruptly and cruelly canceled before the whole story could be told).
Outlander does not disappoint from the very first episode onward. Its characters are complexed, nuanced, and compelling. The series does not rush the story, reveals each character honestly and humanely, and tells the tale in a captivating, mysterious way. Each season builds upon the last one. The characters grow as the times change around them. The difficulties and battles feel real and vital. Each character has layers of complexities that influence their choices and actions, just like real people do, making the story relatable; indeed, a symbol that transforms the complexities encountered in novel and unexpected ways. And isn’t that what you are really hungry for when you sit down to watch a story?
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials: I never read Pullman’s novels but I loved the Golden Compass, which was made for the big screen in 2007. However, due to the financial crisis of 2008/2009, the next parts of this series never materialized. Then in 2019, HBO teamed up with BBC to reimagine this fantastic tale for the smaller screen/TV. They did an amazing job translating a complicated story to the screen. I found it believable, compelling, and thrilling. The characters are complicated. You think you’ve pegged one as evil and then realize later critical nuances that force you to reconsider your views. They mystery of the story is revealed slowly and unevenly, so you have to guess or imagine for yourself why this or that happened. Each new character has something new to offer in understanding the whole story. The special effects add to the story rather than overly dominate it.
I love this scene where the researcher and scholar Mary talks to Dust, then she realizes the Dust itself are the Angels. (From His Dark Materials | Season 2, episode 4. The Tower of Angels).
She asks: “Angels are creatures made up of shadow matter of dust?”
The Mysterious Something answers: “Yes.”
Mary further inquires: “And shadow matter is what we call spirit?”
The Mysterious Something replies: “From what we are, spirit, from what we do, matter. Matter and spirit are one.”
Mary asks: “You’ve always been there?”
The Mysterious Something says: “Making, stimulating, guiding.”
Mary queries: “So does that mean angels have intervened in human evolution?”
The Mysterious Something answers: “Yes.”
Mary asks: “But why?”
The Mysterious Something says plainly: “Vengeance.”
Now, I wonder what that means? I didn’t find out in Season 2, so waiting for Season 3. But after that exchange, Mary starts working with the I Ching–which is our world’s equivalent to the Golden Compass from Lyra’s world. Because of Mary, I got the I Ching for my birthday and learned to read the yarrow straws. I supposed that now I too am talking to the angels.
I use good TV drama like a support system, especially during this year of COVID where social distancing has put so many of us into isolation to extremes. My own Indra’s Network was already partially destroyed and broken. The connections I still maintained with friends and family were sorely stretched by time and distance. They were incredibly nourishing when time and attention permitted, but these moments were punctuated by long bouts of silence and little to no meaningful interactions with people who care.
Good stories, powerful dramas are ways I have found that soothe and nourish my soul, especially during times when kindness and caring human contact is in short supply.
As I was working on this blog, Liz Cheney spoke before Congress on the eve before the impending vote tomorrow (5/12/21) to remove her from her leadership position as the 3rd most powerful Republican Leader in the House. Republicans are doing this to her because she took a stand not to support Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. She named Trump as the chief sower of doubt in the hearts and minds of Americans.
The Dark Force
By the way, the I Ching says doubt is the Dark Force. Now, who is being a superhero here in the United States on this very day of May 12, 2021? Who is growing the fabric of time and space rather than ripping it to tiny shards of broken light?
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Tibetan Book of the Dead warns the soul of a dying individual not to follow the illusionary images and lights they have created inside of themselves and then projected into the world around them. They did this because they did not understood their true Self in life. They did not descend and understand their true identity as a space-time being. They did not understand the meaning and purpose of life. Death is a time thats unravels the net of confused pain each individual becomes entangled within throughout the course of their life on Earth. To not do so, condemns the eternal soul to return again and again and again–sometimes (perhaps often) as a lesser being in order to learn the lessons not mastered in the life before. This returning can occur again and again for the world of rock and buildings and money and power is like water–it continually flows, dissolving everything in time.
Those who use the power of the Dark Force may indeed achieve tremendous riches, success, and power on Earth. However, all this will turn to dust and scatter into nothingness at the time of death. Nothing here is permanent. At death, we lose everything. Nothing that we thought is real is real. If we don’t let go of everything we have clung to in life, the tiny light of consciousness every human being is born into at the beginning of their life will be born into another painful life, again and again and again.
Those who peddle in doubt and fear can live 10 billion, million lives, each one diminishing his/her original source of light until there is nothing left of that light.
Leonard Cohen narrated a beautiful documentary about the practices and wisdom contained and known within the Buddhist tradition. It is elegant knowledge, beautiful knowledge. It shows how we can grow as space-time beings, as we are suppose to grow, rather than collapsing into smaller and smaller living beings.
“People make hell realms out of their own anger. They make worlds out of passions, out of envy or complacency. We project our emotional states, and then believe it is the real world. But no matter what, everyone longs for compassion. Everyone wishes to be awake. So the best thing is to develop genuine compassion for all living beings and for ourselves too. And our compassion should extend beyond our friends and family and the people we like. It must extend to all people and to all living beings.” — From Documentary about The Tibetan Book of the Dead
This is how to wake up as a living conscious being.
The OA: This series is a mind-bending SyFy fantasy that often leaves viewers with more questions than answers. Word has it this is one of the reasons this show was cancelled after season 2 when 5 seasons were planned. Apparently the average viewer does not have the attention span or interests to dabble in complexity–perhaps this is the inevitable end to Carmel Marvel storytelling–everything has to be blunt, not complex, and nothing left to the imagination, much less to dabble with moral ambiguity. I loved this series. I guess I drank the Kool-aide and became part of its cult following late. And I agree with 110% with Brit Marling that storytelling in America has become not as good as it could or should be.
When the show was cancelled, one viewer went outside of Netflix’s headquarters and held an 8 day hunger strike. Refinery29 interviewed her and wrote a compelling article about why she did this.
“We are living in a time where it seems that things are going to go very badly,” explains Young in front of the Netflix building in Hollywood, where she has been protesting since August 15 and hunger striking since August 19. “The response to that has been ‘Okay, we’re going to make darker, grittier television.’ But in times of darkness, light is most important, and The OA is filled with light. We need something to let us know, ‘Yes, we can do something,’ because all the media around us is telling us that these are dark, grim times and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Created by Brit Marling and creative partner Zal Batmanglij, The OA tells the story of Prairie (Marling), a blind woman who returns after years in captivity with her sight restored. Season 1 of the series mostly exists within the narrative that Prairie tells a group of soon-to-be friends about her time in captivity and before it, in which she transcended time and space and found herself in alternate dimensions. Along the way, the show tackles themes of trauma, and of the importance of a human connection amongst it. Young isn’t wrong about The OA being different: There’s a hopefulness to The OA that is unmatched by more gritty prestige TV offerings like The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, even Game of Thrones.
Learning about this woman, Brit Marling and Zal Batmangli came and brought her water. Afterward, Brit posted this about her reaction to OA’s cancellation and how storytelling in America has become not as good as it could or should be.
This is no small thing that Emperial Young and Brit Marling are drawing our attention to in this protest and post, particularly this part: “… the role of storytelling and its fate inside late capitalism’s push toward consolidation and economies of scale.” This is a post about Sisyphus: Is Late Capitalism and its push towards consolidation and economies of scale perhaps not the rock Sisyphus not pushing up the mountain getting it to the top after great effort only to have it fall back down to the bottom again and again and again.
Invisible City (Brazil): This is a new Brazilian fantasy that is streaming on Netflik television series created by Carlos Saldanha that is based on a story co-developed by the screenwriters and best-selling authors Raphael Draccon and Carolina Munhóz. It is in Portuguese, so you have to read subtitles if you are only an English speaker. I was born in Brazil and once knew Portuguese, but have forgotten all of it. I loved listening to the characters speaking in Portuguese. It felt familiar and lovely. It is a musical language and the music in this series is alive and vibrant. I soon forgot I was reading subtitles and got lost in the rich and depth of storytelling unfolding through this complex, invigorating story. The characters are treated with dignity and respect. The puzzle of the drama unfolds in surprising reveals that add depth to the story and bring this mysterious world into vivid view.
Glitch (Australian): This is an older series that begins with a bang when a police officer and a doctor face an emotionally charged mystery as seven local residents inexplicably return from the dead. It is three seasons long, and the first two open up so many innovative ideas and possibilities, but season 3 falls flat on its face and destroys all the wonder and the miracle being explored, in my opinion. I am glad I watched it because I learned what I do not want to do as I write my tale.
I was so bothered by how they ended this series, I went on online to see if others were too and found this great blog: Old Ain’t Dead | Reviews of movies and TV focused on women … specifically Season 3 (so if you intend to watch Glitch, save this site for later because there are definitely spoilers, including my comment there).
Carmel Marvel Syndrome
When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, I have come to realize I am picky, and not all are the same. In fact in the United States, we are suffering from what I have come to term the Carmel Marvel Syndrome. It is a widespread a syndrome that is dumbing down how stories are being told in books and reimagined on screens. The good-bad divide in Carmel Marvel stories is stark, uncreative, and boring. Nothing is left in-between–you are either the good guy or girl or you’re the bad one. The bad ones almost always lose in the end, but you get there in terribly unimaginative, brutal, evil ways…as the good guy or gal finally finds a morsel of moral or spiritual strength and prevails. Romance is reduced to uninspiring sex scenes that clearly come from basal fantasies of pale males.
What bothers me most is Carmel Marvel storytelling is that they are not honest to the characters. They tend to stripe away their complexity and humanity and force them to do things against their character’s moral underpinnings. Yes, imagined characters have moral underpinnings, they are real and must strive for meaning, purpose and dignity too. I am not going to explain this now, but Carmel Marvel stories like to put their characters into highly contrived situations that they would never do unless forced to by their bored and uninspired creators. They are put into these situations purely for entertainment reasons, which really translates to money. Because Carmel Marvel producers and creators hope for billions and billions of viewers–and they think only highly fantasized modern gladiators well do this. After watching such a sickly story, nothing sticks or stays in the psyche or soul from the story. That is because there is nothing real there. There is nothing nearing the human experience of meaning, truth, reality, or wonder. Everyone knows these types of stories are junk food for the soul. They are cheap imitation of images meant to trick, deceive, and fill you up with a whole lot of nothing, just like if you ate only Carmel candy for all your daily nutrient requirements.
So let’s get back to that word Sisyphus that kept popping into my mind.
After being disappointed by another Carmel Marvel HBO series, I switched back to Netflix to hunt for a new series to watch. That’s when a 2021 Netflix out of South Korea caught my eye. It was called Sisyphus! Normally, I would have put it on my To Watch Later list since it required reading subtitles again. But because of the synchronicity, I thought what the heck, go for it!
I loved it! And I discovered that I love the Korean way of telling stories!!!!
The fabric of this story is rich woven with little bits of gold and silver throughout the 16 episodes. Each one takes the viewer on a journey, revealing a little bit more in surprising ways that adds depth to each character, even the evil ones. The villains have backstories that are as complex as the heroes. Villains and heroes alike are treated honestly and no high tech short cuts are used to substitute good storytelling. Throughout the 16 episodes, the viewer enters a journey (a world) that grows more and more complex as you go: you grow as the characters grow.
Sisyphus masters the art of subtle storytelling. This is a subject I briefly touched upon early in my blogging efforts in a blog questioning if Collective Transformation Possible. In it I talk about the Black Magician and the White Magician and their roles in our human psyche. I drew them while listening to a Chinese business-financial scholar talk about Trump’s power play back in 2018 with China on trade. (It’s didn’t end well by the way… this power play Trump tried… for Americans or for Trump who placed the livelihood of hundreds of small soybean and other farmers in jeopardy.)
Dr. Peter Chen pointed out Western ideas of negotiation are quite different from Eastern ideas. He said in Chinese, the most similar word they have to negotiation is tánpàn, which means talking and judging. For the Chinese, it is considered the dark side of economics with the East preferring to focus on conversation when working out deals. However, there are huge differences in how conversation is conducted by a Western diplomat versus an Eastern diplomat. By Eastern standards, Westerners are considered low-context communicators (i.e., direct and forceful, which can be considered very rude by Eastern standards). Eastern culture dictates a much more high-context style of communication, which is reserved, relies more on body language, and is based on relationships.
This why I loved Sisyphus. They tell this story using a much more high-context style of storytelling. I also love listening to the actors speak Korean. Every word they utter is full of meaning, purpose, and emotion. The tone and way a word is said is more important than the word itself. You understand a song by how the singer sings it, so too with Eastern languages. They are full of images, meaning, context, and emotion. And isn’t that what we are really craving in watching or reading a story? Deep meaning and purpose? Sure, lots of people will say they just want to escape into something entertaining… but if you discover something about yourself and others while doing so, isn’t that a whole lot better. Stuff that stick to you and makes you a better individual… helps you grow as a conscious living being?!
Even though we deny how powerful and essential good storytelling is in Western culture, we are starving for good, wholesome, spirituous stories that fed our souls as well as our fractured, confused minds. Stories that awaken sleeping spirits needed to defeat doubt: the force that splinters our psyche and traps us in endless delusions and illusions that only make us smaller, meaner, and contribute to the demise of all life on Earth.
A new friend I’ve made during runs with Pumper (another mom of dogs and kids) recommended another Korean Netflix show called Crash Landing on You. I didn’t think I would like it better than Sisyphus, but I love it even more. The depth of each character grows and spills out in unexpected ways in each episode. And don’t miss the little peaks at the very end after you think the episode has concluded. Not always, but often, they show you something not shown earlier. It is often something that fills in a gap and fills out the depth of the character–how they are thinking, perceiving, and acting in the world. How they are transforming through time and space.
My friend Fabian Navin has just posted something very insightful about why I loved this show. The Facebook embedding is not working, so I am copying below what Fabian has posted (go to his site above to see more of his posts):
*Warriorhood in Marriage and Relationship* Conscious fighting is a great help in relationships between men and women. Jung said, “American marriages are the saddest in the whole world, because the man does all his fighting at the office.”
When a man and a woman are standing toe-to-toe arguing, what is it that the man wants? Often he does not know. He wants the conflict to end because he is afraid, because he doesn’t know how to fight, because he “doesn’t believe in fighting,” because he never saw his mother and father fight in a fruitful way, because his boundaries are so poorly maintained that every sword thrust penetrates to the very center of his chest, which is tender and fearful. When shouts of rage come out of the man, it means that his warriors have not been able to protect his chest; the lances have already entered, and it is too late.
Michael Meade has suggested that both marital partners begin by identifying the weapons that have come down through their family lines. Perhaps the woman has inherited the short dagger, used unexpectedly, and the spiked mace, which she swings down late in the argument onto the foot soldier’s head. The husband may have inherited a broad sword, which he swings when frightened in large indiscriminate circles; it says “never” and “always.” “You always talk like your mother.” He might add the slender witticism spear to that.
Some people also use the “doorway lance.” When the argument is over, and the woman, let’s say, is about to go to work, the man says: “By the way,” and the lance pins her to the doorframe.
Man and wife might say which weapons he or she plans to use in the particular fight coming up. During such preliminary conversations the man’s warrior and woman’s warrior are welcomed in the house and honored. A good fight gets things clear, and I think women long to fight and be with men who know how to fight well.
When both use their weapons unconsciously or without naming them, both man and woman stumble into the battle, and when it is over the two interior children can be badly wounded. The adult warrior inside both men and women, when trained, can receive a blow without sulking or collapsing, knows how to fight for limited goals, keeps the rules of combat in mind, and in general is able to keep the fighting clean and to establish limits.
Marie-Louise von Franz once told a story about a woman friend. “This woman had gone through several marriages. Each marriage would go well until an argument came. Then she would throw a fit, and say damaging things. The terrible quarrels would continue, and finally the man would leave. One day we heard she had found a new husband, and we said, ‘Oh-oh, here it goes again.’ But something else happened. A few weeks after the honeymoon, the same old quarrel arrived and she brought out her poison and said terrible things. The husband turned pale, but to her surprise, said nothing, and left the room. She found him upstairs packing his bags. ‘What are you doing?’ she said. I know,’ he said, ‘that I am supposed to act like a man now and shout and hit you, but I am not that sort of man. I will not allow anyone to talk to me in the way you have, and I am leaving.’ She was astounded. She asked him not to leave, and he didn’t. The marriage is still going on.”
This story is not perfect. If a woman has a fair argument, it is not right for the man to leave; he should stay and fight. But von Franz’s use of the word fit implies that her friend had a habit of going over the line into possession. Her fits belonged metaphorically to Kali’s realm, rather than to the human realm. Men cross that line often as well. The inner warrior can tell a person when the partner is on this side of the human line, and when on the other side.
Marion Woodman remarks in The Ravaged Bridegroom, “Anger comes from the personal level, rage from an archetypal core. . . . The rage in both sexes comes out of centuries of abuse.
If it is taken into relationships, it destroys. Attacking each other in a state of possession has nothing to do with liberation.” The interior warrior in both men and women can help them to fight on the human plane. If men and women have only soldiers or shamed children inside, they will have to settle for damaging battles constantly. ~Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
I am totally hooked now on the Korean way of telling stories!!
The stories we tell can liberate us or chain us to the rock we must push up the mountain of life only to watch it fall back down, again and again and again, like poor old Sisyphus. Who do you want to be in life? How are you going to become the best version of yourself, a better person than you have been so far? How will you grow you fragile light of consciousness and help others do the same?
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was working on my story while listening to NPR, as is my habit. I remember perking up and paying attention when This American Life introduced the subject of this episode: Bloody Feelings — Stories about the Power of Blood. The stories were not at all what I was expecting from the title.
Act 1 was about Adele who she described herself as “the worst phlebotomist in the whole hospital.” She was a physical therapist until the Coronavirus gripped the country. With all her physical therapy sessions cancelled, she was not needed there. But what the hospital really needed was more people to do blood draws. I loved her story.
Act 2is about the discovery of 30 century-old postcards written in old Yiddish by a distant family member challenges David Kestenbaum’s ideas about the unimportance of blood ties.
Act 3 is about a Shakespeare theater production that involved a lot of blood that was a little too real for the audience and what befell everyone.
Act 5is about a broken heart… no, not a love sick broken heart… a heart that required open heart surgery.
Walk In The Woods
While I enjoyed these stories, I wasn’t bowled over by them as other stories I’ve heard, although the color red stuck in my mind. I finished what I was doing and got my pup ready to go for a trot. This is our pandemic routine. Pumper loves our trots, especially when we see other dogs! I am pretty sure that she thinks all dogs exist on Earth to play with her. She plays well with all dogs no matter their size or temperament, adapting herself to whoever she mets for an instant playdate.
So, when we caught sight of big dog ahead of us, it was Pumper’s mission to catch up with them. They were walking fast, but Pumper was pulling me faster. Eventually, we caught up and found out the big dog was a Great Pyrenees–-Poodle mix– a Pyrepoo! It was the first one we’d ever met, and it was only 7 months old but already twice as big as Pumpernickel (now 15 months). I was admiring all the similarities between the two dogs who got along splendidly together. The owner of the Pyrepoo just told me how the Great Pyrenees were guard dogs of a flock not herders. And I just told her my dog was a Pyrepitt (she’s actually many more dogs mixed in but the Great Pyreness and Pitt Bull are the most dominate) when a Pitt Bull came upon us.
The guy walking the Pitt looked a bit anxious, but neither I nor the owner of the Pyrepoo took alarm. As he passed us with the Pitt on a super short leash, the Pyrepoo pup went over to say hello. This is common doggie custom to greet all new incoming dogs with a sniff. But no sooner had the pup approached the Pitt to sniff when he yelped in pain. The Pitt had bite him and would not let go. Both owners tried desperately to pry the Pitt’s jaws open. Pumper and I stood stunned and helpless watching what was happening before us.
Finally, the Pitt released its grip and Pyrepoo pulled back to a safe distance. I was relieved to see his nose was not the part bitten, but blood dripped from his lower lip. There was also blood in the Pitt’s mouth, and blood on the hands of both owners. It turned out the man was helping his sister with her dog and apparently didn’t know the Pitt’s temperament. The whole thing was terrible. I helped flag down a Kleenex for the owner of the Pyrepoo, then they were off to the vet get stitches. I felt so bad because had we not stopped them to say hello, they would have missed the Pitt Bull.
The synchronicity of the moment was duly noted. I have learned to pay attention to such moments when I recognize them. There is usually more going on that needs to be understood, but I had no idea what. Ruminating on blood was something I did not do, really at all… perhaps due to cultural programming.
Brooklyn Center — Then & Now
The next day, another terrible synchronicity occurred when Daunte Wright was fatally shot in Brooklyn Center, MN during a ‘routine’ traffic stop. The shooting occurred hardly more than 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. And it happened right in the middle of the trial of Chauvin, which had just completed its second week of heart wrenching testimony about George Floyd’s final moments, his life, and lost potential and presence in the lives of all who loved him. It was painful to absorb. And then, another young black man lost his life at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.
These deaths hit close to home because I grew up in North Minneapolis. I know where George Floyd died and where Daunte Wright was shot. I could walk to Brooklyn Center from where I lived. I often went to the old Brookdale Mall in Brooklyn Center because that’s where you went with your friends in high school (well, maybe that’s where the nerdy kids went). It was a place we could go to feel young and free.
I remember meeting my girlfriends at Rocky Rococos, then walking around the Brookdale Mall. We mostly just walked and talked, dreaming about our futures. None of us had much money to spend, but every once in a while, one of us would buy something special there. I remember hunting for prom dresses there with my friends and buying one even though I didn’t have a date and did not go to my high school prom. But I wanted a picture in a prom dress…lol. Looking back at these moments, they were times we were pretending to be all grown up, and the Brookdale Mall was the perfect backdrop to step into our fantasy lives.
Back in its day, the Brookdale Mall was part of cutting edge suburban social architecture being one of 5 malls opening around downtown Minneapolis to provide the perfect place to go for suburban housewives and families who needed ordinary household supplies, furniture, school supplies and clothes–whatever was needed for a suburban household. They were knows as the Dales and included Brookdale (Brooklyn Center), Rosedale (Roseville), Ridgedale (Minnetonka), and Southdale (Edina). Brookdale first opened in 1962 and grew in stages. A lovely blog called Abandoned Retail recounts the rise and fall of the Dales surrounding Minneapolis, specifically the Brookdale Mall.
When I was growing up, I never considered the privilege my white skin afforded me as I walked around places like the Brookdale Mall or drove to it myself after getting my driver’s license. I never thought about how the dreams I entertained or how the gallivants with my friends at the mall were carefully packaged in specific ways designed to make us believe we each had a chance to become Cinderella and to find our Prince Charming.
It would take decades before I realized how fatal the childhood fairytale fantasies I reveled in were. How they obscured brutal realities embedded throughout American society, inherited from its long history of slavery and institutionalized racism. Places like the old Brookdale Mall sold the white suburban fantasy to white Americans, but it was an artificial, super sugary coating trying to cover up the cruel realities faced by black and brown people every single day.
I have never feared for my life being pulled over for a traffic violation. I never felt watched by workers at stores who worried I might steal something. I know now my friends and I got get out of jail free cards simply for being white. This was not so for my friends and classmates who were brown and black who were losing their lives for making the very same mistakes I had made.
Policing & Justice in the United States of America
Description of this episode: Last summer, millions across the country took to the streets to protest police violence. Now, against the backdrop of the trial of Derek Chauvin, criticism of the criminal justice system in America is once again under scrutiny. Recent shootings of Black men by police officers in the suburbs, including in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, have attracted new attention to the changing demographics of the suburbs and the tactics police use there.
We recommend this thread from researcher Will Stancil, who is one of our guests for this conversation:
And conditions are often different for people in wealthy, white suburbs. From a piece called “The Case For Defunding Police Is In Our Affluent White Suburbs” in Mel Magazine:
Homicides, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes happendisproportionately in poor minority communities. Crime rates have been falling across the country for the last 30 years — it’s statistically the safest era to be an American. But Black and brown people, especially those in inner-city communities, are victimized by crime that’s practically unseen in whiter, more affluent suburbs.
Those suburbs aren’t safe and clean and orderly because they’re white and wealthy. White, wealthy suburbs are safe because they benefit from two world-shifting factors: 1) the police harass less and solve more serious crimes; and 2) there’s significant funding for municipal and social services, whether that’s schools or health-care facilities or simply park space.
How are police and local officials responding to changing demographics in the suburbs? Have police been able to answer calls for justice from local residents?
We’re talking about how policing works in the suburbs.
Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. As the trial of Derek Chauvin plays out, it's a truth and a trauma many people in the US and around the world are again witnessing first hand. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
Description: Black girls are suspended six to seven times more than white girls in schools across the U.S. Now, Rep. Ayanna Pressley is reintroducing a bill that aims to disrupt the school-to-confinement pipeline.
Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks with Rep. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, about the bill to address the disproportionate punishment of girls of color in schools.
Description: Recently, The Takeaway convened five of those voices, across law enforcement, advocacy, and academia, and asked them to come together to talk about the way forward. What is the future of policing in America? In our ongoing coverage, we tackle what’s broken in today’s system and what it would take to fix it.
April 20, 2021 — Today Was A Monumental Day, But We Are Not Done
Wow — I did not expect this verdict today. What a relief. It is one step in the right direction towards justice, but there is still a long ways to go and a lot of work to do to transform as a people, a society, a nation that values the lives of all its people–black, white, Asian, indigenous, immigrant, religious, non-religious–whoever you are, you belong in a society that treats everyone with dignity and respect and justice.
We Are a Nation of Beautiful People and Each & Every One Is Precious, If We Could Just Learn to See
The United States of America is at another inflection point; a time of reckoning of cultural precepts obscured and hidden through false politeness and talk of freedom for all, but with harden attitudes and deep brutality and injustices baked into our systems, our stories, and our brains. To change deeply ingrained attitudes, actions, and behavior, they need to be made visible. Even when they are made visible, they need to be reckoned with honestly by each individual in which they exist.
Perhaps that is why my attention got drawn to blood and its brutalities just before another police officer killed another precious soul in my hometown. Just the word blood conjures up violent, brutal images. But it also heralds new life (though any mother will tell you labor is hard and painful work). To do the work necessary to transform collective reality requires lots of individuals doing the hard work of self-development. A good place to begin is how we are programmed by our culture. For a modern man or woman, this gets complicated fast because modern society frequently requires belonging to lots of groups with each possessing its own unique culture that exerts an influence an individual’s mind space. This is important because it is here in this invisible space of mind where our values, beliefs, and attitudes are formed. These then inform our actions in the world, which create our collective reality.
Shankar Vedantam explored recently how culture and the cultural narratives we carry around inside of us influences our individual attitudes and actions in a podcast called Made of Honor. He introduces this episode saying, “Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us to heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse.” His guest speaker, Ryan Brown, begins with a story from his childhood where he finds himself along with his boyhood friends flying down a dark country road with no headlights on, no seatbelts, no helmets. The car was driven by a friend but appeal to him to go slower only goaded him to go faster. It was a moment Ryan believed he and his friends would die. It was also a moment that led Ryan to become a psychologist at Rice University in Texas.
Ryan Brown now understands why his fried refused to slow down nor apologize later for his reckless behavior. His friend was following a cultural script based on honor culture. “Honor cultures are societies that put the defensive reputation [of the group] at the center of social life and make that defense one of the highest priorities people have.” It is a culture that encourage excessive risk-taking behavior to show how brave and tough a person is, especially males in the culture. Doing so is a way to build and solidify one’s reputation in the society. In an Honor Culture, if your honor is threatened, you never back down, especially as a man, then you can only double-down and never show an ounce of weakness.
Ryan tells how his ancestry traces back to Southern Scotland that is steeped in the values and beliefs of Honor Culture. Residue of Honor Culture have been brought over from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and many other immigrant groups that had these beliefs. These attitudes and values took root and grew strong in the Southern colonies, even when the United States had not been born yet. And they continued to flourish when the Southern colonies transformed into the Southern states, and then they pushed West.
Ryan says (12:39): “And so if you think about westerns, if you think about Western movies or Western history, there are always rough and tumble guys with names that sounded kind of Scottish, a McTavish McDonald, McDougal, Graham, et cetera. And that’s not an accident. So even today, even though most people in the us in the South, I don’t think of themselves as byproducts of Scottish history. You can still see this cultural residue in some fairly powerful patterns of, of social life, that social scientists, many others, including myself, have documented over the last 20 years.”
Over the past 20 years, Ryan and his colleagues have documented a strong connection between Honor Culture and Military Valor. This is a positive trait of this culture but there is a dark side too because honor cultures can get trapped in endless cycle of violence where retribution for dishonor is followed by retribution upon retribution of escalating violence. Honor cultures are found all over the world in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and also found in black and brown communities in the U.S. Honor culture is particularly prevalent in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. The names of towns and businesses even reflect honor culture such as a little country town in Texas called Cut and Shoot. But, naming places is only one small example of how honor culture shapes the lives of millions of people.
Honor cultures tend to take the stance: “That’s not my people. That’s not my family. That’s not my community.” Such a mental stances discourages individuals to reflect on situations that arise that end in conflict, even violence, and these cultures do not cultivate empathy, kindness, and compassion. These qualities are considered signs of weakness. If you lose your honor in an Honor Culture, you lose your value, your standing, your reputation and never get it back. Honor cultures tend to have a veneer of extreme politeness, but violence bubbles below and can break out at the slightest perceived slight. For instance, a simple insult in an honor culture can rapidly escalate into a violence.
Gender roles tend to be highly rigid as well in Honor Cultures with Ryan saying (29:59), “If you’re a real man in an honor culture, then that means you’ve built a reputation as someone who’s strong, tough, brave, loyal, and utterly intolerant of disrespect. If you’re a woman in an honor culture and your considered a good woman and honorable woman, that means that you’ve lived up to the social standards that say you should be loyal to family, especially loyal to your husband and sexually pure.“
In a complicated country such as the US, honor cultures have effects on how politics play out (47:55) “And what to spend a few minutes talking about the role of honor culture in politics. You’re a list of States where there is a strong honor. Culture include South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and States that don’t include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Minnesota. It’s hard not to see a division there between, you know, a prototypical red States and prototypical blue States, Republican States and democratic States, right?“
AprilSometimesBrings More Than Showers
Honor Culture explains a lot, but it’s not the only influence shaping individual attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. There are many factors shaping who we are as individuals. Circumstances such as social status, economic status, rural or urban dweller, religious community all exert tremendous influences on individuals. To be a modern human living in a highly technological society requires belonging to many systems and groups that all have unique cultures all exerting expectations and limitations on individuals. In short, modern humans live in very complicated worlds, made so by us. Although living in groups has proven to be an undeniably successful strategy to survive, there is a price and there is a dark side. The eruption of violence seems to be a deadly cost of living in huge groups.
As I did research for this blog, I came across an article about how April 14 to April 20 is historically a Bad Week for violent or disastrous events to occur. I will not speculate why bad things seem to cycle in patterns or occur in series, but here is a partial accounting of this week through time:
April 19, 1995: Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City on
April 19, 1993: a 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX ended in a devastating fire that killed more than 50 people, including children
April 20, 1999: the Columbine shooting occurred that left 12 students dead and 21 injured happened
April 16, 2007: the Virginia Tech shooting killed 32 people and wounded 17 others
April 14, 1912: the Titanic sank
April 18, 1906: the most deadly earthquake in U.S, history hit San Francisco.
Regardless of whether violence is because of honor culture, racism, or the growing disease gripping the United States of America of mass shooting, it leaves a on survivors too. One group, impacted more than most, is hardly ever heard. Millions of children around the country are affected by gun violence every year. Whether it’s sitting through safety and violence prevention programs in school, losing a friend or loved one, or being a victim themselves, this brand of cruelty has an effect on the young.
1A talks with author John Woodrow Cox who shares powerful stories from young victims–and looks at what their experience can tell us about preventing further harm, both physical and mental.
Here & Now talked to racial trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem in this interview. He brought up something terribly important in the wake of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death almost one year ago. Menakem says what Chauvin did was not only traumatic but meant to inflict terror in the community as well. He says (which has been said by many others as well in the past 24 hours) that “— guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — is not justice, but rather accountability. It took uninterrupted, uncut video evidence to prove what people of color have been saying for decades about the police.” He said, “This particular video, compared to other taped incidents of police violence against Black Americans, represented white body supremacy so clearly that people could not dismiss it anymore. [But] still, there are significant swaths of people who don’t believe there are innocent Black and Brown people who are profiled and unfairly targeted by police.“
I know such people. I know what Menakem says is true about white people in particular.
Menakem further states that “there’s pain in not being believed, and also trauma from racialized gaslighting — a form of psychological manipulation that white bodies in the U.S. have done to Black, Brown and Indigenous people for centuries.“
I’ve experienced gaslighting, and I know people who still suffer from the pain and trauma of being gaslighted by people they depended on who gaslighted them instead of took care of and nurtured them. Mencken is right to point this out. It is tremendously painful and highly effective at tearing apart the fabric that sustains us all. A gaslighter is a person who makes other people feel like they are the one who is going crazy. They are insidious, crafty, deceitful people.
“If a white body says something and then a body of culture says something else, what ends up happening is that the white body is always given the benefit of the doubt,” Menakem says. “So throughout the trial and verdict, people of color held onto hope for accountability on one hand while on the other hand, knew “white bodies will never admit that this system is feral.”
It is feral. The United States of America has a completely lopsided, feral system. And because of all the sugar coated, fluffy fantasies white kids get fed in their youth combined with being instilled with you’ve got to be somebody, white people are left with very little inner resources to see and deal with the truth. It is much easier to pretend not to see how brutal, how feral, how sick our culture really is.
Healing is possible, Menakem assures. He ends saying we need to start by turning towards each other and seeing other other rather than away from each other. This is powerful advice.
Lots of Human Beings, Lots of Disasters
Human beings seem particularly prone to creating circumstances that end in disaster:
You get the idea. Now, how do we get out of cycles of violence and disaster (mostly human made)? How do we recover and get to a place where something better can take root and grow?
Something else flows alongside the red blood cells in our bodies. It is not something that is visible, but it can be felt. This invisible substance (or perhaps force) is essential to sustain our inner spaces and to maintain a healthy state of mind. Each and every human being is born with this invisible force flowing through them just like blood flows through them. Because we are human, we are aware of this force and this awareness allows us to channel it and to alter instinctual responses and urges before acting on them. Human beings can suppress instinctual responses. They can amplify them, and they can transform them into something else entirely. Carl Jung called this ability consciousness, or perhaps it is spirit blood.
It is through our choices and how we alter instinctual responses before acting on them that our collective reality is created. Eastern traditions, religions, and philosophies call this power Karma, which is simply the recognition that every action creates a reaction, a consequence.
This all ascends quickly into the realm of spiritual and metaphysic concerns, which is a realm most often regulated to religions to grapple with the nebulous inner spaces where thoughts, attitudes, and bias materialize into action.
I was raised Lutheran, but during the time of my father’s death, I found my childhood religion negated the realities of powerful synchronicities that occurred and inner experiences my father and I experienced during the 10 days he lived beyond the moment he should have died. I have written about his previously, so will not do so again here.
Instead, I would like to highlight something that my friend Ali Raza Saleem posted, which caught my eye during the time my attention was focused on blood. My friend is a neuroscientist and scholar of Jung and posted the following:
Qalb (Faculty of Heart) and Lataif e Sitta
The faculty of heart (Qalb) is the faculty of the Spirit, not the biological pumping heart when we refer Qalb in terms of spirituality. The nerves associated with heart are primarily concerned with pumping of the heart, conveying signals to muscles, as well as sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to control the pace of heart beat.
Faculty of Heart, spiritually speaking, isn’t tied strictly to ’emotional aspects’. Brain has designated centers for emotional perception and the affects are mediated through signals to the body including changing contraction and pace of the heart, bodily sensations, fight or flight mechanisms etc.
Faculty of Heart is the faculty of immaterial Rooh (Spirit) that along with other faculties (lataif) ‘feels’ Love, Suffering of the other Soul, Compassion, Benevolence, Bliss, Tranquility (itmenaan), Gratitude, Spiritual longing and Joy of Union with Beloved, Divine Beauty and Majesty etc, and blocked by Greed, Anger, Arrogance, Bukhl (stinginess), Hasad (Jealousy), Bughaz (spitefulness), malice, malevolence etc stemming from unpurified Lower Nafs (Ego). The emotions resulting from gratification or failure of gratification of lower Nafs (Ego) are also more of bodily/’brainy’ in nature. But in a loose sense, speaking poetically, heart can be said as preceptor of emotions in general as their ‘Affect’ is ‘felt’ at the heart.
The immaterial lataif including Qalb (heart) have specific locations on the body (metaphysically superimposed on various organs like heart as in the case of Qalb) as described in Lataif e Sitta, where the virtues associated with them are experienced spiritually.
He further sent me this graphic.
And he explained:
For a Sufi his body is in service (submission) to Divine Will helping him fullfil the tasks for nourishment of the Spirit/Soul.
The terms in this diagram maybe used in different meanings compared to the ones used in Psychology like the term Self here have meanings different to what we use in Psychology. This article further explains the model and the meaning of terms used in this diagram.
I know so little about Muslim teachings and wisdom, but I find everything Ali Raza Saleem shared extremely helpful in understanding the workings of the Invisible Self. These are the parts not visible to others unless we share them through words or actions. I have also been reading The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony and have found her writing also very illuminating about the Invisible Self. Beginning on page 35, she writes:
“People who can hear within are called psychic, but, in truth, we all have this ability; it is simply suppressed in most of us. Through inner listening we can also become aware of other people’s conscious thoughts. Our superior self listens and looks, but does not speak. What we receive from the inner world that we perceive and know as intuition comes from inside and apart from ourselves, just as what we see of the outer world is outside and apart from ourselves. What we hear within comes from the teacher, the same Sage who speaks through the I Ching. It knows the way and comes to help. We can only hear it when we maintain emptiness, innocence, and receptivity. When we jump to conclusions because of fear and impatience, we can’t hear the quiet suggestions of the Sage within.“
“When we say a thing ‘comes totally out of the blue,’ this is an intuitive ways of saying that we are helped by the Sage. We say ‘out of the blue,’ because our words have the clarity of the sky and come from nowhere. What we say is what needs to be said and is perfectly appropriate. Innocence and emptiness make it possible; we are noticeably free of emotional attachment and our words come in the vernacular of the moment; everyone understands and agrees. when this happens we are always a bit surprised. The fact is, we are not in possession of such moments, although we make them happen through being in a complementary relationship with the Creative Power. This we can do only through cultivating our superior man within.“
This makes me thinks how each of us is a livingwork of art constantly in progress and transformation. As living works of art, we are both artist and the art. We choose the colors, patterns, subject, and background–and by so doing, we live them, we feel them, we see them, we know them. The canvas is our mind. And we develop our art of being by listening and learning how to regain our innocence and inner emptiness that allows us to be open and receptive to every moment we met. This is how we can transform ourselves, and by doing so, transform the world.