Said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.
— Alan Watts
Why This Story?
Alan Watts often tells this short story about the monkey and the fish. It is so short, I wasn’t sure it was worth blogging about, and then this happened yesterday.
Watts in His Own Words
Minute 6:23: “Because the road to hell is paved with good intention. Because all the do-gooders in the world whether they doing good for others or doing it for themselves are troublemakers on the basis of ‘Kindly let me help you or you’ll drown,’ said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.”
Alan Watts on Virtue (around minute 32): “The highest virtue is not conscious of itself virtue (…) in other words when you breathe you don’t congratulate yourself on being virtuous but breathing is a great virtue.“
“Diabolical things are done in the name of righteousness.”
“Rest assured everybody regardless of nationality, political frame of mind, or religion always goes to war with a sense of complete rightness...the other side is the devil.”
Putin is an Evil Monkey
Except Putin is an evil monkey like the ones from the Wizard of Oz because he knows he’s telling a lie! He knows he’s deluding his people by telling them the war he’s waging on Ukraine is righteous. It’s a righteous bunch of lies! He’s the Nazi the world needs to be rid of. See the resemblance?
WATTSWAVE VI: The Web of Life 2Akira The Don The Secret 4:33 From a Certain Point of View 6:10 Gangster Arrangement 5:03 Consider Death 3:08 You! Love! Yourself! 4:46 The Shadow 5:01 Completely Honest 5:47 That Thing Which Really Is Genuine 4:07 It’s a Trap 4:59 The Sound of the Rain Needs No Translation 7:22 Patterns 3:09 Your Idea of Heaven 5:50 Playful 5:53 What Games People Are Playing 2:52
Music for Second Archetypal Animation:
WATTSWAVE II: How To Be A Better Person Akira The Done 2:56 Alan Watts Motivational WordsAlan Watts Go Out With A Bang Not A Whimper 3:12 Overthinking 2:47 Dont Be Tone Deaf 3:12 What You Really Are 1:21 Man & Nature 3:04 Zen Stories 5:20 The Symbol Has No Value 5:09 Nirvana 3:19 Come Unhinged 3:34 How Do We Love Each Other 2:18 Existence Is A Relationship 3:12
For more about Ukraine and the evilness Putin has unleashed into the world, see:
Four Letters to the World of Free Men and Women: Letter to the Ukrainian People; Letter to the Free World; Letter to Russian people; Letter to Americans
Letter to the People of Ukraine
Dear People of Ukraine —
I have let you down and the Free World has forsaken you.
You are dying because we are weak and afraid.
Please forgive us. We have forgotten how to live in the Present and how to be Present for each other.
If I could kill Putin with my thoughts, he would be dead 10,000 times already. And I would just be getting started.
The Russians don’t remember how Scythians fight, how long your unique and long history is.
They will remember when they see your eyes.
Know that you have already won.
Putin, his followers, enablers, and supporters wherever they are in the world will be uttered in the same breath as Hitler, Stalin, and all men who have chosen to become monsters instead of men.
The oligarchs full of piss and fear, the Chinas suppressing their people, the stupid ones like Trump and his menagerie will snivel like snails beneath the shadow of your courage, compassion, and willingness to die to live free.
If only the Free World had a smidgen of your dignity, courage, and spirit.
Instead, we sit and watch your pain, your suffering, your deaths like the spineless creatures we have become hiding under out fragile, artificial shell of civility.
We are not civil or modern.
We hide our barbaric nature with platitudes and policies and lies.
What good is civility when evil manifests in men like Putin?
Would Hitler have stopped his demonic rage had the Free World not finally intervened?
You have warned us: Putin’s madness will not end when Ukraine falls.
An evil like this is never satisfied by what it has.
It only has an endless hunger for more of what it already has and is willing to inflict great pain, agony, and destruction to get it.
How can we (the people of the Free World) abandon you at your greatest time of need?
How can we let this happen on OUR WATCH?
You are showing us (the Free World) how to be human when evil rears its ugly head.
Your dignity, courage, and spirit show us that to be fully human and not simply shells filled with doubt and fear, we show up to help our brothers and sisters.
Humans show up when their brothers and sisters are staring down the demons of destruction trying to devour their freedom like snakes from hell bent on turning our shared reality into a field of horror and our world into a living Hell.
You are precious. Every life Putin takes is a crime. I feel so helpless watching this happen to you. Please forgive us. Our failure to not do more is wrong.
Reactions of aHelpless Watcher Witnessing Evil Live on TV #1
Instagram Posts Beginning Night of Russian Invasion
Letter to the People of the Free World
To All People Who Value Freedom in the World —
This is a struggle in which the Free World cannot sit on its hands and watch. This is a struggle for all persecuted, suffering people anywhere in the world. People who are persecuted for any reason–racism, religious beliefs, gender, sex or political beliefs. The Ukrainian people are being overrun and killed by a ruthless dictator.
Do you think this ends when Ukraine falls? Putin’s vile plan seeks to destroy freedom and democracy anywhere it appears in the world. He has chosen evil and he will keep moving steadily destroying democracies and freedom wherever it appears in the world. I do not agree with Biden saying it is going to be OK. It is not OK watching the Ukrainian people being slaughtered. In what world that values freedom and human life is this OK?
Our world has drastically changed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
The Free World is weak. It stares at its own navel hung up on its own comforts and conveniences. We (the people of the Free World) have left so many people behind who have been struggling for freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty over their own lives. The United States was particularly cruel and careless in its withdrawal from Afghanistan; however, the Free World has done far too little for the peoples in countries where “Arab Spring” protests were brutally put down, where protests in Hong Kong were harshly suppressed, where the military takeover of Myanmar and Rohingya genocide was savage, and this list goes on and one.
The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and freedom. They are standing up against a vastly superior force. They are showing the entire Free World how to fight for freedom. How to be human! Their courage, compassion, and dignity stands mighty before the rest of the world concerned about themselves and sadly it seems little more.
Putin is a maligned, demonic force of evil in the world. Such evil must be fought by all who stand for the right for life and freedom. This evil is never satisfied by what it has. It constantly hungers for more than it already has. It takes pleasure in inflicting senseless horror and pain on others. This fear, this pain that we are watching the Ukraine people suffer feds this kind of evil. It will never rest until it destroys all free people and all freedom in all lands everywhere in the world. Only then, will it finally turn on itself and devour itself.
Putin is a man who has chosen to become a monster. His madness is spawning thousands of minions who are carrying out his biddings. Yes, there are Russian soldiers shocked at what they are being asked to do and surrendering to Ukrainians.
But, there are also soldiers who are dragging people out of apartment buildings, lining them up along a wall, and shooting them. The longer this goes on, the more harden and brutal some soldiers will become to accomplish Putin’s ruthless wishes, indeed, they will be ordered to become ruthless killers. Huge explosions are being now used to destroy and level civilian infrastructure (e.g., apartments, schools, hospitals, colleges), not military as Russian “officials” said would be the focus. There are also reports of Russian soldiers shooting fleeing civilians in their cars as well as desperate phone calls to family members who made it across the border to Poland or Hungary of Russian soldiers coming into family homes and terrorizing loved ones who could not escape in time.
Putin lives in a world of savage fantasies. He lusts for ultimate power and glory, which sprouts from the demon seed buried deep in his depraved soul. His heart has been corrupted beyond all repairs. And his barbarism is being carried out with cold calculation by suicidal army meticulous trained to turn off their humanity and act like Putin’s attack dogs from hell. They have only heard and been fed a constant stream of distortions, lies, and misinformation. It keeps them in a foggy, soggy, sub-human conscious state of being, making them perfect puppets who carry out one man’s mad rage upon the world.
Deep down they know what they are doing is wrong. But I doubt it will burn away fast enough to save the people of Ukraine. And then, Free World, we are next.
This episode discusses what is happening in Ukraine with Leila Fadel (reporter on the ground in Ukraine), Kurt Volker (former US Special Representative for Ukraine), and others in the know about what is going on. What jumped out to me were the following elements.
Leila Fadel told about one woman she met on a train going back into Ukraine. She told Leila she felt Ukraine is a proxy war, a game being played by Russia, the US, and China for influence and power in the world. She is right.
Leila also talked about how all lives matter. She told about how she has met and talked with individuals who fled other war zones (e.g., Syria, Afghanistan, and many other places where the super powerful have violently suppressed the super vulnerable) and settled in Ukraine and now they are fleeing again.
Kurt Volker talked about how there is much more the US can do for Ukraine while walking the line of avoiding an outright conflict between nuclear powers. Yes! That is what I feel and desperately want the Free World to push it leaders to do (no more watching!!!).
And they discussed discrimination that African and Asian individuals in Ukraine have faced. They are also trying to flee violence and annihilation. Sara Sidner (American journalist with CNN) is in Poland and talked with individuals facing this sort of discrimination and says that they just don’t understand why they are being treated this way. There have been terrible documented treatment of foreign nationals with dark skin, but also many instances of compassion and humane treatment.
This is a very complex, fast moving tragedy that is changing constantly. All experts of this episode urge watchers, especially on social media, to dig for the latest information, not media and posts that are several days old. They also warn of misinformation efforts launched by Russia and Russian sympathizers around the world–vet the information you consume and vet your own systems of belief!( I get into this much more deeply in my letter to Americans.)
To the Russian People
The Free World is not at war with you. We are not your enemy. The anger you see from the world is directed at Putin. You are as precious to the world as the Ukrainian people who are being slaughtered by your President Putin. You are not being told the truth about this war.
This list goes on to account 58 journalists who have been killed in Russia between 1992 and 2022 with Motive for Death Confirmed as accounted for by the Committee to Protect Journalists. You may not trust anything except Putin’s State TV, but you know who are the Russians who have died.
You know critics of Putin have ended up dead.
Boris Nemtsov, 2015 — political leader of Russia’s “young reformers.”
Boris Berezovsky, 2013 — A self-styled tycoon who become a fixture in Yeltsin’s inner circle in the late 1990s, Berezovsky is believed to have been instrumental in Putin’s rise to power (including a media campaign that smeared Nemtsov)
Anna Politkovskaya, 2006 — Russian reporter for Novaya Gazeta whose book, “Putin’s Russia,” accused the Kremlin leader of turning the country into a police state.
"She was shot at point-blank range in an elevator in her building. Five men were convicted of her murder, but the judge found that it was a contract killing, with $150,000 of the fee paid by a person whose identity was never discovered. Putin denied any Kremlin involvement in Politkovskaya's killing, saying that her "death in itself is more damaging to the current authorities both in Russia and the Chechen Republic ... than her activities." -- Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways | Washington Post By David Filipov, March 23, 2017
This list goes on. Again you may think the Washington Post is fake news, but you know these Russians are dead.
You know Alexei Anatolievich Navalny sits in prison because Putin fears him. And you know that Navalny has called Putin insane and urges anti-war protests. Putin is insane. What man would kill innocent children?
The Free World knows you are afraid. Putin has terrorized you with his slow steady trickle of threats, deaths, assassinations, and unjust imprisonments of anyone Putin fears. Heck, he’s even afraid of a fragile but brave old woman.
You have every right to be afraid, but should this also inform what you know?
The world stands with you, but please wake up to steady lies Putin feeds you to put you into a catatonic state of frightened inaction. Putin does this to you, the Russian people, because you have collective power. He knows that and he is afraid that you will wake up.
Look at what Putin’s restrained and targeted attacks look like on the ground by your brothers and sister in Ukraine.
Please wake up. The world needs you now. We need you conscious and alive and human more than ever!
We stand at a precipice inside the human soul. This precipice exist inside every human being alive right now.
People of Earth, do you call yourself human or monster?
Your actions (and inactions), your words, your thoughts tell us which you chose to be.
Those who call themselves human must reckon with this moment fully to the very core of who they are and what they believe, what they love, what they hate, what they know (or think they know) and what they don’t know.
Each person alive on this planet right now is choosing a stream of thought and system of belief that inform your actions in the next weeks, the next days,the next hours, the next minutes, and the next seconds.
And each second that goes by, each choice made realizes who lives and who dies in this brutal war waged on the innocent people of Ukraine.
We must chose something different than we have ever chosen before to stop this senseless slaughter that stalks the entire human race ever since we crossed the demarcation line that lets us know that we know who we are. The lists of genocides and ruthless slaughter is very long. It will not stop unless we change it inside ourselves. Each person must embark on this work. It will hurt, but it will not hurt you. It will wake you up.
Peoples of the World, you must chose to protect and sustain all life or let it continue to be destroyed by men who have chosen to become monsters.
Every human choice matters to alter the course of our shared fate.
What will you choose?
Reactions of aHelpless Watcher Witnessing Evil Live on TV#2
Twitter Posts Beginning Night of Russian Invasion
Letter to American People
If you call yourself a patriotic American, you don’t root for Putin and you don’t spread Russian misinformation.
Americans rooting for Putin are imitating evil. It will lead us to the same remorseless, ruthless state that Russia has become.
American rooting for Putin, do you really want to cut your soul off from your humanity? From the very essences that make you human? Do you really think it is worth it to become a demon just so you can control everybody and everything to your desires?
Yes, I hear your complaints levied at the liberal left. You feel that you are being overlooked and left out by political correctness and cancel culture, but you have persuaded yourself to feel this way. You know darn well you have the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges as every other American, except those who are not white. You know darn well you fear the power that white male supremacy has conferred to you is slipping away. And this is why you bawl and brew and stew.
We have paid a terrible price in the United State for nursing our grievances by using the fake news and misinformation spread by Putin to further our own cause. Now evil grows on American soil inside American minds and it will not be long until Ukraine’s fate is America’s fate as well.
Think hard about how easy your comfortable American life is, even poor Americans have it 10,000 times better than the people in Ukraine right now.
It is so disheartening to hear a poll after Biden’s first State of Union address that said 60% of listeners thought the US economy was more important than Ukraine.
This is why we are not doing more to help the brave, compassionate, and beautiful people of Ukraine survive. This is why we are watching them being slaughtered.
Because we prefer our own comforts over someone else’s?
Yes, it has been a hard 2 years. There are still supply chain issues and higher prices, and these are probably going to get worst. Yes, wearing masks to protect others who are more vulnerable to COVID has been hard, but it is worth it, isn’t it to save someone else’s life?
Or are we a people who just think about ourselves obsessively and shallowly?
These things have made life harder to juggle, but American people, you can still juggle these things. You still have homes. You still have jobs. You can still go to the store without being shot at or bombed. You can still go outside and go about with your life without fear of being burned alive in your car. Ukraines are being burned alive in their cars. They are being shot. They are being bombed. They are being hunted like animals.
Are so many Americans really so blind and so heartless?
This is a disgrace.
We are a nation disconnecting from our capacity to empathize with other people.
How heartless the American heart seems tonight.
The frontline that Ukraine is fighting is EVERYWHERE!
There is no place to hide from this kind of evil for comes from inside us. If Ukraine falls, this horror rests on us for failing to put aside our differences as Americans, our comfort, and our policies and act like human beings.
Ukrainians are showing us how human beings act. Human beings help each other when trouble descends, especially when evil manifests its ugly power in the world.
Are you going to be human or monster?
I know my words are harsh. Please look into your heart. Please feel the pain of the Ukrainian people and the pain of all persecuted people because you can do something about it. It may hurt, but it will not hurt you. It will wake you up.
The choice is yours.
From the Perspective of Americans Working to Destroy Democracy
The Letter to the American people is informed by a former friend who I e-mailed the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. My husband and I had happened to see Matthew Chance putting on his flak jacket the night the first bombs started dropping all over Ukraine. We were shocked and horrified knowing we were witnessing the beginning of the War.
The next morning, I sent an email to a person who I have been very tolerant of in his support of Donald Trump. Knowing how cowardly Trump was in standing up to Putin, I asked my former friend flat out, who does he support–Putin or Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine. Here is his reply.
I sent him a scathing reply, then blocked him. I told him he is not my friend, his beliefs are cat poop, and I stand in opposition to him. Even 10 days into the heroic fight the Ukrainians are giving the Russians, some Americans are still rooting for Putin.
These are not Americans that believe in freedom and democracy. These are wannabe dictators who are just as insane and mad as Putin. I say lock them up just as they chanted to lock up Hillary, but really they are just sad anti-Americans who have every right to voice their cocky, cockeyed opinions. And, they are really, really sad examples of being human in this century.
From the Perspective of Americans Working toSave American Democracy
One of the guest said, “This is a fight to be a human or a monster. Every person on this planet is part of this fight,” one speaker said today. I have been echoing this too. Action is required NOW.” #UkraineRussianWar#Ukraine#Zelensky#StopPutinNOW
Another guest said, “Two weeks ago, Zelenskyy was unknown. Today he is the most loved man on the planet. Courage is the sexiest trait a man can have…so don’t be afraid!” says one of the speakers today. Listen to this. #UkraineRussianWar#Ukraine#Zelensky
This is what makes America and democracy great. Diversity and lots of different people with different ideas who can come together to do something worth doing, something essential, something that will leave a mark on the world of mankind that is good, that humane, that is for life and all living beings not against it.
Images for this animation come from the video featured at the top of this blog and from my previous blog: Moonlight Shaken from a Cranes Bill(Oh how so much can happen in such a short amount of time. I published this blog 7 days ago when the world was a different place.)
First Archetypal Animation
Music:  Anybody Out There 3:48 | Ouroboros | Saint Punk
Image from: Ouroboros | Nether Realm on SoundCloud
Image from: Legends and Secrets of the Cosmic Ouroboros “There are few creatures that evoke the range of emotions like the earthbound snake. Across ancient cultures and civilizations, snakes have been viewed as mystical, dangerous, repulsive, and ultimately one of the most fascinating beings in the animal world. However, there might be a deeply rooted reason for human’s fascination with this creature, one that is embedded in the oldest mythology known to humans: Ouroboros, or the one who devours itself.”
“It’s an ancient circular symbol, dating back to 5000 BC, which depicts a snake or dragon eating its tail. Archaeologists discovered the oldest known example of an ouroboros on a jar that is possibly 7,000 years old. It belonged to the neolithic Yangshao People, who lived along the Yellow River in what is now eastern China.”
“In accordance with Quranic verses and traditions, the promised Heaven and Hell are presently in existence and will be completely shown in the hereafter where man will be given his everlasting abode in relation to his beliefs, actions, and ethical traits. But, there has been another form of Heaven and Hell which can be seen in this world through mystical experiences (shahūd) or they will manifest themselves for mankind in the inter-world which will result in either pleasure or pain. There are differences of opinions in regards to the form of influence and relation that one’s beliefs and actions have on his condition in the hereafter and also in the explanation of Heaven, Hell, and their forms.”
“Your love is like a knife to the heart and a dagger to my soul. You will not be happy until I have lost all control You see me in calm waters after drowning me in your river of drama So you continually…“
Music: Meditative Dreamer by James Kenneth |Shamanic Journey (Healing Flute, Wind, Fire & Drums) | Available on Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, and other streaming services.
“The answer to the question whether the Viking berserkers are historical or not remains a mystery. What we know about these figures lie in very few materials. The Viking berserkers are the ones who would wear no metal armour and enter the battlefield. They were armorless and still willing to join the battle to sacrifice not only for their clan but also for Odin the Allfather. Legend had it that the berserkers would howl and scream when they fought against their enemies. They were completely different when they joined the battle. These warriors would know no pain and no fire and flame could burn them.”
This show originally aired on Mar 24, 2017 on Snap Judgment. A description of it appears below. I have chosen to highlight this story here for two reasons: 1) schizophrenia runs in my family and because of this understanding another person’s experience of reality is essential, and 2) what is real anyways?
Western culture’s understanding of reality is severely (even fatally) lopsided. To successfully navigate the collective challenges our world faces in the coming decades (e.g., climate change, political upheavals, economic reversals and hardships, pandemic, water shortages, food insecurity due to climate change and unfair economic conditions, etc., etc.), we need to reconnect to our inner worlds, to who we really are deep, deep down beyond the fading illumination of our fragile ego’s consciousness rays of knowing.
Description of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti: In 1959, psychiatrist Milton Rokeach brought together three schizophrenic men who believed they were Jesus Christ, hoping to cure them of their delusions. But over time, his methods became dangerously amoral.
Thanks to Richard Bonier and Ronald Hoppe for their help. Additional thanks to Peter Shyppert as the voice of Milton Rokeach.
You can buy The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, Rokeach’s book, right here.
Before The Three Christs Of Ypsilantiaired on Snap Judgement, a tragic and compelling story about a mother’s quest to find her disappeared son aired. Glynn Washington introduced this story with a quote everyone likes to say when they are trying to one up someone else’s reality. The infamous quote is:
“The truth! You can’t handle the truth!”
But no one remembers where this saying was first said. Glynn tells us where it was first said and that what was said after this notorious saying was said, the more important idea followed and this is what we have forgotten… what everyone has forgotten when we get into arguments over The Truth.
The Map to the Disappeared is essential listening if you are at all interested in understanding truth at the deepest levels of being.
Carol Anthony touches on the samerelativeness to reality as the psychiatrist Milton Rokeach came to realize in his misguided experiment devised to cure the three schizophrenic men of their delusions that they were each Jesus Christ (The Three Christs of Ypsilanti ). In her book The Philosophy of the I Ching, Anthony writes:
"The entire business of the I Ching is to re-affirm our knowledge of God as the higher power, not only as a vague, intuitive knowledge, but as a conscious, practical, intimate, everyday knowledge. This means that we materialize the reality of God out of the mists of our unconscious into the full reality of consciousness. We may know intuitively that someone we love is unfaithful to us, but when this knowledge surfaces by evidence into consciousness, it produces such a shock that it is hard to understand the difference between these two sorts of knowing. We may know someone is dying of cancer for a long time, but the fact of their death produces an unexpectedly strong emotional response. How do we explain this? When the ego leads our personality, the conscious mind disbelieves what we intuitively know; moreover, the ego insists that conscious reality is the only reality--in this case it does not want to believe that death exists. When death, the objective fact happens, the conscious mind is unprepared, and the ego disappears in the ensuing shock. One's knowledge of God is similar. In the beginning of self-development, we know about God intuitively and theoretically; we may have occasionally experienced the higher power, but afterwards we gave rationalized the experience as some quirk of our imagination; soon, it seems it never happened at all. Our intuition of God, through this process has become dimmed. Through self-development, however, we come to experience the reality of God as an everyday fact of life. We experience God directly, not only in small ways, but in big ways, so that even the smallest errors of perception are swept away. This daily relating to the higher power gradually erases every particle of doubt." -- p. 60-61
Drilling even deeper down on the relativeness of reality that we experience as human beings, Alan Watts beautifully illuminates just how profound relative reality is between human beings in his Tribute to Carl Jung, who had just died on June 6, 1961. Watts and Jung knew each other and were friends. Despite pursuing very different vocations, both men shared profound understandings of deeper truths hidden inside the heart and soul of all men and women, regardless of when in time they existed or where they existed in the world. These deeper, darker truths are a result of man becoming conscious in the sense that he knows when he is happy or sad enabling him to focus this self-reflective form of consciousness like a spot light or a laser to do things in the world and to take very focused, specific action to achieve narrowly focused goals.
In his tribute to Jung, Watts focuses on a speech Carl Jung gave to clergy men. While Carl Jung was not a pastor, his father had been, and so he knew the doctrines of the Christian faith and religion in a very cognizant, conscious, heedful, mindful, sensible, and sentient way. In a gentle but enigmatic way, Jung challenges the pastors to think beyond the bible stories and Christian doctrines they preach about every day.
He invited the clergy men to step beyond the pale of their Christian beliefs and traditions and onto a new bridge of understanding he had helped to build in the Western world as one of the early pioneers of psychoanalysis (Freud) and analytic psychology (Jung). Carl Jung understood that Western mind needed this new science of psychology to understand things that the Eastern mind had understood for centuries.
Watts understood this too. This is why he focused on this speech Jung gave to the clergy men. Watts reads most of this speech in the video below and explains why it was probably the most important work Jung left behind for his fellow human beings. Watts understood how important it was (and continues to be) to challenge the percepts and premises upon which the modern Western world is based upon. The Western mind remains incredibly focused and fixated on its abilities to perceive, apprehend, learn, discover, and figure out how the outer world works, and this is a powerful ability that has enabled Western culture to gain dominance in the world and emboldened its belief that Western man was meant to reign supreme over all living beings and things. However, this is an exceedingly lopsided system of belief that will end in disaster for all living beings on Earth as the whole world stands on the precipice of existential threats capable of producing mass extinction events that could take out the human race forever.
The Eastern mind holds the key to our global existential predicament. This is what Jung came to know through his work as a psychologist and was confirmed when he came to know Richard Wilhelm who was the West’s foremost translator of the I Ching. And this is what Alan Watts emphasized in countless lectures. And it is the meaning behind the title of this blog The Three Christs of Ypsilanti and the Buddha. We need each other to survive in the coming century that is going to require great outer knowledge of the world (which the Western mind has excelled) as well as require great inner knowledge of the world and human nature (which the Eastern mind has excelled).
The world today needs skilled consciousness astronauts just as much as it needs astronauts of the cosmos. The challenges inside (especially for the Western mind) are just as great, if not far greater and unpredictable as the challenges of exploring and understanding outer space.
Carl Jung Quotes | Just What Is Consciousness
“God is a force that acts inside you.” — Carl Jung
“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
“Nobody can fall so low unless he has a great depth. If such a thing can happen to a man, it challenges his best and highest on the other side; that is to say, this depth corresponds to a potential height, and the blackest darkness to a hidden light.” ― C.G. Jung
“The erotic instinct is something questionable, and will always be so whatever a future set of laws may have to say on the matter. It belongs, on the one hand, to the original animal nature of man, which will exist as long as man has an animal body. On the other hand, it is connected with the highest forms of the spirit. But it blooms only when the spirit and instinct are in true harmony. If one or the other aspect is missing, then an injury occurs, or at least there is a one-sided lack of balance which easily slips into the pathological. Too much of the animal disfigures the civilized human being, too much culture makes a sick animal.” ― C.G. Jung
“…the mind that is collectively orientated is quite incapable of thinking and feeling in any other way than by projection.” ― C.G. Jung
Carl Jung never said: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” What Dr. Jung said in two separate and unrelated statements was: “Seldom, or perhaps never, does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly and without crises; there is no coming to consciousness without pain.” ~Carl Jung, Contributions to Analytical Psychology, P. 193
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Page 99.
“It is not I who create myself, rather I happen to myself.” ~Carl Jung, CW11, Para 391
“Only that which acts upon me do I recognize as real and actual. But that which has no effect upon me might as well not exist.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 757.
“Here each of us must ask: ‘Have I any religious experience and immediate relation to God, and hence that certainty which will keep me, as an individual, from dissolving in the crowd?'” — Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 564
“For when the soul vanished at death, it was not lost; in that other world it formed the living counter pole to the state of death in this world.” ~Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 493
“Behind a man’s actions there stands neither public opinion nor the moral code, but the personality of which he is still unconscious.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 390
When Nietzsche said “God is dead,” he uttered a truth which is valid for the greater part of Europe. People were influenced by it not because he said so, but because it stated a widespread psychological fact. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 145.
Yet it [Nietzche’s “God is Dead”] has, for some ears, the same eerie sound as that ancient cry which came echoing over the sea to mark the end of the nature gods: “Great Pan is dead.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 145.
“All opposites are of God, therefore man must bend to this burden; and in so doing he finds that God in his “oppositeness” has taken possession of him, incarnated himself in him.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 664.
“It is quite right, therefore, that fear of God should be considered the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 664.
“Both are justified, the fear of God as well as the love of God.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 664.
“The East bases itself upon psychic reality, that is, upon the psyche as the main and unique condition of existence.” ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 770.
Here is another great work of art created by Mark Wagner:
Also see Tahiti and the Thing for more on how greed and self-absorption and can do terrible things to a person and everyone around them.
Another facet playing into uncontrolled self-absorption and greed along with contributing to an uncontrollable evil willingness to destroy just about anyone and anything isnarcissism. There is a reason why Trump chooses orange make up when he goes on camera.
I came across this great series of blogs as I was coming to grips with navigating the complexities of narcissism in my own family tree.
The Money Trap
Is there any way out of the money trap?
Alan Watts said once upon a time about there was an old woman and other matters relating to rampant capitalism and rugged individualism that tilts so far one way or the other that it becomes a pathological way of being in the world and relating to each other. He said:
“George Herbert Mead where he called the conceptions that we have of ourselves the interiorized other in other words the sum total of all the things that people have told us we are because you do not know yourself as a self except in a society–just as you do not exist biologically without a father and a mother–you do not carry on an existence without a society.”
“The reactions of other people to you provide you with the mirror in which you attain a realization of yourself you know who you are in terms of your relationships with others.”
“So then now, uh, when we contemplate this disappearance of privacy and a completely integrated human society we can look at this from two different points of view pro and con.”
“Let us first look at the pro point of view how great to have nothing to hide how great to give up all worries about ownership because you could say if somebody says that they would like something you have, and you say, “Please have it,” because you know very well you can go to someone else and say, “Could I have that?” and they’ll give it to you.” — Min 124:49
Also, see this blog as another possible antidote to greed and the money trap:
And, check out this blog about being in the world and how we create the world we live in each and every moment of every day:
What Matters& Reality
Love mattersreality just as lack of love matters reality.
What kind of reality do you want to experience today?
In the preface of the book, The Philosophy of the I Ching written by Carol K. Anthony, she describes how the I Ching addresses the limitations of only relying on one’s intellect (and the powerful ability of thinking) by saying the I Ching cautions the beginner that:
“By limiting himself to his intellect, he will only see the surface and never experience the depths.”
The depths referred to is the fullness of one’s inner Self (or as The OA says, the invisible self). This includes those parts of Self that are accepted by one’s Self, and thus exist in the conscious mind of Self. It also includes the parts of Self that are not accepted by one’s Self, and thus exist in the unconscious mind.
The unacceptable parts are often taught to us as being unacceptable early in life by parents, peers, teachers, and society at large. They tend to be the savage and most selfish parts of Self that must be tempered and controlled in order to live in a civil society, otherwise very bad things would indeed happen.
But when these parts of Self disappear underneath the demarcation lineof consciousness and become unconscious, this is dangerous too. Indeed, this is the most dangerous thing that could happen to a conscious living being because we loose the ability to maintain balance and cannot navigate the challenges in life due to our inner lopsidedness.
Very often this occurs when we mistake the Mask of Self for who we really are. But it is not who we really are. It is only the most outer shell of who we really are. Essentially, it is the outer most crust of our Sphere of Consciousness–that mysterious thing that illuminates the world inside and out and gives us the feeling that We Know Who We Are.
This outermost crust is actually the smallest part of who we really are, and it is the most fragmented part of ourSelf. It is the part of ourSelf painstakingly assembled based on all the things we have been told to be or not to be by others. Most of these things are distortions of who we really are because the very same thing has happened to the people who are telling us to be this or that or the other thing.
This is the Story of Separation and Polarization. It begins inside one’s Self when the Mask of Self separates from the parts of Self that have been thrust deep into one’s unconsciousness. In the depths our unconsciousness, the lost and abandon parts of Self go to work making the rip between the Mask of Self and the Rest of Self into a rift that grows into divide that transforms into a chasm that mutates into a terrifying and endless abyss.
The more we insist on believing we are only the good parts of ourSelves, which essentially is the Mask of Self that we projected to others for the benefit of society, the more neurotic and unstable we become. This is because the bad parts (along with all the undiscovered parts) haven’t gone anywhere. They are still very much there in our psyche. They have simply been rendered invisible because they are forced to exist in another dimension–the unconscious mind. And they very much want a seat at the Table of Self, just like the good parts have (or more accurately, the accepted parts of Self that we have pounded into our Mask of Self that can include bad things we have been told by others that we are and we believe them).
If the unconscious parts of Self are denied a seat at the Table of Self, they get projected outside of the Self. Suddenly, the evil that one refuses to see inside of oneSelf surrounds the Self. But, this is only youfoolingyourSelf, as Alan Watts liked to say. And, Carl Jung called this man’s greatest evil, which is when man’s unconsciousness is projected onto others because he/she cannot bare to see all of who he/she really is.
The I Ching consoles the very same wisdom for this is a book about self-development and cultivating wisdom in one’s inner garden of consciousness. This can only be done by finding the hidden parts inside of ourSelves, especially the parts that have become buried in the unconscious mind. Of course, many good qualities of Self are buried there too. These are parts of ourSelf we have not found yet because we have not grown our inner light of consciousness bright enough and big enough to see them. And, so they remain unconscious too.
Time and time again, we find out eventually that both good and bad qualities are needed to feel successful, and even more important, they are needed to provide a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Without doing the inner work necessary to grow our individual field of consciousness, these treasures inside of oneSelf remain hidden and out of our grasp.
Summary of the Book: The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony
Chapter 1: This book presents the cosmological background of the I Ching and its many concepts. It describes the Tao, the binary system of numbers that forms the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, the Sage who speaks through it, the I Ching view of existence, and the hidden Cosmic order that underlies all apparent chaos. Thus rather than: 'In the beginning there was chaos,' one sees that 'In the beginning there was order.' Chapter 2: describes what in the I Ching is called the 'superior man' or 'noble Self' as the unconditioned true self; the 'inferior man' is seen as the socially constructed self-image, or ego. The 'superiors' or 'helpers' described by the I Ching are revealed as inherent character-traits, such as natural modesty, natural kindness, and the capacity for patience and perseverance. The 'inferiors' are discussed as aspects of the bodily self that speak, as when they say, 'I am hungry, I am tired.' Also discussed are the many references in the I Ching text to cultivating the true self and that imply self-development to be necessary if we are to learn how to harmonize ourselves with the way the Cosmos works.// Chapters 3 and 4: discuss the anonymous wise Sage who speaks through the I Ching, and the attitudes that are important on the part of the I Ching student if he is to gain the Sage's help.// Chapters 5, 6, and 7: describe the process of self-cultivation undertaken when we accept the Sage as our teacher. It describes how the Sage teaches us mostly in real-life learning situations, so that what is perceived in the head is transmitted to the heart as wisdom. It also describes many important I Ching principles, such as coming-to-meet-halfway, and working through the power of Inner Truth.// Chapters 8 and 9: describe the more technical aspects of the I Ching within the context of its historical development: the development of the lines, trigrams, and hexagrams. It also describes its traditional methods of use, but gives an entirely new method discovered by the author that enables the student to understand its messages very precisely.
-- Description on Amazon about Carol Anthony's book
Thoughts & Time: This Too Shall Pass
In Buddhism, the Master and the Student strive to maintain balance in every situation encountered in life. While some situations that occur appear to be beneficial to one’s Self and considered Good Luck, if not extremely advantageous to one’s wellbeing and fortunes, other situations in life can seem harmful, injurious, and hurtful to one’s best interests and wellbeing. These are perceived as Bad Luck, if not down right evil. All experiences, regardless of how we feel about them or perceive them, help us grow as conscious beings, if we allow them to penetrate into deeper levels of ourselves and darker realms of consciousness.
In every situation encountered in life, we are always free to choose our actions. We are also free to choose how we express our feelings and emotions about these situations. Our ability to navigate the turbulence of our inner and outer world of experiences grows throughout our life, especially when we tune into our inner world rather than just reacting to the outer world.
Constantly reacting and defending one’s Self against perceived threats, adversity, and maleficent dangers is exhausting. This is because if all one’s psychic energy is constantly being poured into building walls against outer reality in order to defend a fractured sense of who we are, then we have less energy to live in the present moment, to be happy, to be successful, and to treasure family, friends, and life. This is truly the greatest treasure one can cultivated in life. To cherish and nurture time with others who can share the beauty and splendor of this beautiful world and who will stand by you when your fortunes turn in life as they always do.
People who have chosen to pursue fame, money, or power are really the most impoverished people you will ever met in life. This is because they have to sacrifice their time and attention to being first, to having more than others, to controlling everything around them, which they can never do but their inferiors keep trying. The karma for this foolishness is alienation from other human beings, including friends and family. These individuals are truly alone in this world with no one to share the good times with and no one who will stand by them when their fortunes turn the other way.
To understand the tremendous fullness of reality, which we all must share, means empathizing with another’s person perspective. It also means using one’s powerful intellect to ask questions about one’s own beliefs, opinions, and perceptions. We must do this in order to see and understand why another person might perceive a situation differently. This is important because no one exists exclusively in a bubble. Everything in this world, indeed the universe, has arisen mutually. Because of this, to understand the whole of reality, every person’s perspective, experience, and view point must be included. Not only that, all of life must be included and given a voice at the Table of Being–this includes animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and even rocks. This is not my wisdom. This has been known and understood for centuries by many peoples. And it is documented in the oldest book known to belong to humanity: The I Ching.
Perhaps this story may illuminate this ancient wisdom a little more concretely. It is a famous Zen-Buddhist story:
Thoughts & Character: The Importance of Self-Development
The I Ching was create to provide console to those who seek its wisdom and guidance during times of life experienced as times of elevation (e.g., elation, good times, good luck) as well as during time of life experienced as time of decline (e.g., misery, bad times, bad luck).
As one develops, one often comes to understand that we have no control over these cycles, although our ego (and what Carol Anthony says the I Ching refers to as our inferiors) will insist otherwise. They will kick, scream and have a melt down railing against fate, circumstances, reality. But all this will be for not because these cycles cannot be controlled by sheer concentrated of power of will or muscle force or any perceived power of the ego.
We can only find peace inside when we learn to put aside our feeling of frustration and fear that we will be destroyed by forces of evil or chaos perceived surrounding us. Most of the time, this is a false perception of reality cause by inner disharmony and separation.
But take comfort, for it is precisely when we feel like it is the darkest hour that the cycle of yin and yang swings the other way; when he vexing thing begins to fade away as a new cycle begins, a new reality gets underway.
Everything we experience in life is impermanent and transitory–it comes and goes like waves on a beach. Nothing stays the same. For if it does, it is undergoing a transformation of passing into something else (otherwise known as dying).
During times of decline, which is when one is likely to feel high degrees of fear, frustration, and extreme agitation, it is consoled by the I Ching to use this time on self-development(e.g., the I Chinghexagram 53 | Self-Development | Gradual process). This hexagram specifically refers to self-development, but all the hexagrams teach about developing one’s inner self and learning more about one’s inner world.
To learn more about one’s inner reality, the I Ching provides consoles through many hexagons of the importance of taking care of yourself, of practicing patience, of listening to others and their needs, and of listening to what is rising inside of you, especially from your inner Sage.
Most interestingly, it is precisely during times of decline(when things are not going our way) when we have the greatest opportunities to learn the most about ourSelf. This is because we have more time to explore hidden inner landscapes–that is, the parts of ourselves we have not yet discovered or uncovered.
During times of elevation, we often must focus our conscious attention in the outside world. Thus, we do not have as much time or energy to see inside, unless of course, we have previously completed the inner work needed to illuminate more of our inner world.
If we are able to change our inner attitude during times of decline from that of it being “a punishment” to an opportunity, then we unleash inner abilities such as forbearance, patience, and mildness that allow us to flow with adversity better.
Even the most horrible times come to an end.
Think of the hundreds and thousands of Afghan civilizations now trapped under the control of the brutal and barbaric Taliban. This is a trulyterrifying reality for hundreds, even thousands, of people now living under Taliban rule–many may well end up dead. It may seem in our modern Western world that we face the same adversity (e.g., mask mandates or vaccine mandates). But this is a distortion of reality.
When we do not use our abilities to flow with reality as it comes to us, and rather choose to fall back into our inner fortresses of beliefs, opinions, convictions, and credences, we force the flow of reality to bend around our inner ramparts constructed long ago to defend us from all the cruel evil perceived surrounding us. Most of the time, these attitudes, opinions, and belief have become very rigid and worn out due to over use. Reliance on such rigid inner structures quickly turns into a heavy, heavy weight that we end up carrying around with us for the simple reason that we refuse to let go of them and put them.
Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves because of our circumstances, think of other people who are undergoing even greater struggles. This might just open a secret door inside of yourSelf that allows your consciousness to illuminate parts of yourSelf remaining hidden from view. You need these parts of yourself to navigate the storms life inevitably throws your way. Such inner work not only grows empathy for others but for oneSelf.
And aren’t you worth it?!
Thoughts & Now: The Importance of Suspending the Constant Barrage of Thoughts from Time to Time
I make videos documenting just some of the beautiful moments in life happening all the time. Moments I forget to notice because I get stuck in the steady train of thoughts that constantly worry about this, think about that, consider the other thing I forgot to do yesterday or need to do tomorrow or did and made a fool of myself. This is a neurotic way of being in the world and we have been taught to do it since childhood. It is hard to give up and just be here / now.
I have found a few strategies that help me root my attention in the present moment. Photo journeys are one way that works for me to switch off my spot light consciousness and tune into my flood light consciousness, as Alan Watts talks about in so many of his seminars.
Ways of Connecting to Now Through Photojournalism
Music: Hard To Say Goodbye – Washed Out [as featured on iPhone — music that heals the soul!]Series: Have You Been Outside Today? and Doggie Tails & Trails: Hunting for Beauty Every Day
Music: Divide – Dualist Inquiry [as featured on Apple iPhone 7 — music that heals the soul!] Series: Have You Been Outside Today?
Music: Dreamer — Brian Reitzell [as featured on iPhone — music that heals the soul!] Series: Art Yoyages Photos/Videos: Me
Ways of Connection to Now through Blogging
Blogs related to nature, being alive, and cultivating one’s inner sphere of consciousness include:
After a month of listening to Alan Watts, I understand that it is I who create the problems I perceive. And only I can grow out of them.
There is nothing more to say.
All my blogs have been for not. I think perhaps the only thing left for me to do here is attempt to master the art of writing a descent haiku. This is an ancient art form using words like paint brushes to capture things that cannot be said, only felt, in three brief sentences.
Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of renga, an oral poem, generally a hundred stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth century and was mastered a century later by Matsuo Basho, who wrote this classic haiku: An old pond! -- Haiku | Academy of American Poets
The habit of thinking and writing about such thoughts; however, is hard to break. Thus, I will indulge in recalling that yesterday was September 11.
It has been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. For 20 years, 9/11 is a day of remembrance, grieving, and reflection about all that has transpired since that day. This includes the war on terror, which has become known as the Forever Wars.
Reveal just aired a hard-hitting episode on the costs and aftermath of these wars. In short, over 3,000 people died on 9/11 and in the past 20 years as the US searched for those responsible for this horrific attack, more than 900,000 soldiers, contractors, and civilians have died in the Forever Wars.
It is so easy to tearasunder and destroy the delicate balances sustaining all life on earth. Human beings have proved to be especially adept at doing this due to beliefs, attitudes, values, and misguided directives that are held doggedly to inside our minds and that only serve to gouge out deep trenches inside of ourselves (inside our souls) that make it possible for a good and decent person to do the most horrible things. These trenches inside of us is what separates us from each other and most of us will never escape their great depth and gravity.
It does not matter what steadfast beliefs a person clings to or what side they are fighting for because the result is the same. Once a person begins to cling to symbolic thought (replacing insufficient symbols for reality), the digging of the Pit of Peril begins and grows deeper and deeper as more and more adamant beliefs replace reality with rote responses and reactions. The harder a person clings to their resolute beliefs, the deeper and wider the trench of separation grow inside. This is the story of separation. It is the fall of man.
It is so much easier to love one another and to try to listen to one another to understand each other and live in peace rather than cultivate the inner forces of hate and separation.
Following the theme of remembering 9/11, these are two photojournalistic reflections of this day of remembering and reflection.
The Last Enemy
I will also mention one more thing regarding a synchronicity that occurred around this time. It is always important to pay attention to synchronicities when they occur in one’s life. Each person’s synchronicities are utterly unique and appear to help you grow as a conscious being. I share mine synchronicity story only as an example.
It began when I received my latest Netflix DVD. The title was The Last Enemy. I had no idea what it was and why I had put this in my cue. I almost sent it back without watching it thinking it was probably nonsense and I had made a mistake. However, I ended up watching it the day before September 11, 2021. It was absolutely relevant to this moment in time. It was made in 2012 and is about a fictional future where a devastating terrorist attack (like what happened on 9/11) turns Britain into a super surveillance state to keep everyone safe from those who might want to do us harm… but is everyone really safe? There is also a mysterious pandemic going on too.
I understand why Qers, plandemic believers, and even anti-vaxxers grow and harvest such ideas inside their minds. These are exciting concepts rich with conflict and mistrust. And such concepts provides the mind with a powerful fuel that speeds people through their daily activities, and quite often very dull routines. It is a type of mind fuels that provides individuals with a deep sense of meaning and purpose that they are fighting something evil.
That’s what this series explores.
Set in a recognisable, near-future London beset by terrorism and illegal immigration, The Last Enemy features the introduction of "TIA" (Total Information Awareness), a centralised database that can be used to track and monitor anybody, effectively by putting all available government and corporate – i.e. credit card and bank activity, phone use, internet use, purchases, rentals, etc. – information in one place.
The story deals with a political cover-up centred on a sanctioned but secret medical experiment run amok with key members of the government trying desperately to hide all evidence of their experimental batch of vaccine that seems to be causing a deadly virus. The complex story unspools to reveal the moral, social and privacy concerns of this hypothetical TIA system in a post-7/7 world, including such control mechanisms familiar to both real life and science fiction as retinal scans, fingerprint identification and ubiquitous camera and cellphone surveillance footage.
The story is told through the eyes of a mathematical genius, Stephen Ezard, who is portrayed as a recluse showing some signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. But the shy genius overcomes his own inhibitions to burrow into a highly compromised British government using his brilliance and their TIA system only to find himself ultimately trapped by the people he most trusts, and to learn he is a pawn in manipulative Security State machinations which take the people he most loves from him and compromise him forever. -- From Wiki
Lastly, this is one of the Watts lectures I listened to in the past month.
“Reality escapes all concepts. If you say there is a god that’s a concept. If you say there is no god that’s a concept. Nagarjuna is saying that always your concepts will prove to be attempts to catch water in a sieve.”
“One fine day you realize to your astonishment [that] there is no way at all of having your mind anywhere else but in the present moment because even when you think about the past or future, you’re doing it now, aren’t you?!“
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Alan Watts lectured often about the concept of being present in the Now. Being in the now is a practice of Buddhism and Zen, which is a way to stay on the path of the inner Sage. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched.
In Carol Anthony’s book The Philosophy of the I Ching, she writes:
“Freeing out mind (what we focus on and listen to within) of the dominance of the ego and our inferiors [Note: the I Ching refers to our worst impulses and instincts as inferiors. It is plural because there are many troublesome instincts, attitudes, and rigid beliefs to contend with inside of ourselves.] is part of the work by which we re-attain our natural state of innocence. Through self-discipline, we keep our mind’s eye open, and our inner space free of the thoughts that our inferiors would introduce if we fail to resist them. In the time of youth we are automatically open-minded; it is unnecessary to make a conscious effort to be so. After we learn structured ways of dealing with the world, and listen to the urgings of our fears, our inner view becomes blocked and our inner space filled. We are no longer able to see or her within, but are attuned only to the external world and how we think we need to be to deal with it. Through self-development we de-structure our patterned ways of thinking: by conscious effort we keep our inner view and inner space empty. In this manner we reconstruct our original innocence. The only difference is that our new innocence is consciously maintained; it is not the unconscious innocence of childhood.”
Carol Anthony — The Philosophy of the I Ching
Indeed, if what Carol Anthony has come to understand through her own life and practice using the I Ching is right, then she is showing us how to heal our inner selves and how to bring forth our inner unconsciousness in gentle, constructive, non-violent ways. Without this conscious effort, we are bound to fall prey to our own karma and act in the world in ways that are harmful to others and that will bring great pain and sorrow onto ourselves as we try to make our way through and navigate our inner flow of consciousness, which is time.
Time is the great equalizer.
And, it is always happening Now.
Alan Watts continues saying:
"Even when you think about the past or the future you're doing it now, aren't you? And that results in a very curious transformation of consciousness you feel that you that the present moment is flowing along and carrying you with it all the time just like the flow of the Tao. The flow of the Tao is what we would call the flow of the present. Zhong Yong in his book The Unwobbling Pivot says the Tao is that from which one cannot deviate that from which one can deviate is not the Tao.
To put it into the form of a zen story, the Master Joshua said to Nansen what is the Tao? Nansen replied your everyday mind is the Tao. Joshua asked how do you get into accord with it? Nansen replied when you try to get into accord, you deviate."
Watts says there is no recipe for learning how to be in the present and in the flow of the Tao, which is the eternal Now. Every person must learn to feel it for themselves.
Alan Watts tells how Christian missionaries translate the Tao as logos.
"They took as their point of departure the opening passage of Saint John's gospel in the beginning was the word. Now if you look up a Chinese translation of the bible, it says in the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with god and the Tao was god. (...) So they've substituted the Tao with God. Now, that make a very funny effect on a Chinese philosopher because the idea of things being made by the Tao is absurd. The Tao is not a manufacturer and it's not a governor. It doesn't rule as it were in the position of a king. The Tao flows everywhere...both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them. And when good things are accomplished, it lays no claim to them. In other words, the Tao does not stand up and say: I have made all of you I have filled this Earth with its beauty and glory... now fall down before me and worship me."
Alan Watts goes on to discuss the idea of mutually arising. It is a very important Taoist expression that all things arise mutually together. Watts loved to says, “although the bees and flowers look different from each other, they are inseparable.” He talks about how bees and flowers coexist in the same way as high and low exist together, or back and front go together, or long and short define each other. He further explains how all of the opposites and things that look completely different from other things interdepend on each other for existence, this is the Tao. Mutual arising is one of the most important concepts to grasp in understanding the Tao, the eternal Now.
All of us living in the Western world have been taught that everything is separated. This is a very Newtonian philosophy of the world, as if it’s a huge amalgamation of billiard balls that don’t move unless they are struck by another ball or a queue (Watts describes). After explaining this, Watts loves to say, “But of course from the standpoint of 20th century science, we know perfectly well now that that’s not the way it works. We know enough about relationships to see that the mechanical model which Newton devised was all right for certain purposes but it breaks down now because we understand relativity and see how things go together in a kind of connected net.” [Note: See Indra’s Net.]
“Now figure a world in which everything happens by itself it doesn’t have to be controlled it’s allowed.”
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Watts says here, “This does not mean that everything is in chaos. It means that the more liberty you give the more love you give the more you allow things in yourself and in your surroundings to take place the more order you will have.”
This sounds very hard to allow in 2021 when the whole world seems to be besieged by polarized opposites. In the U.S., for example, you have the extreme Right and the extreme Left bombarding each other with word bombs that are blowing up into real life consequences such as the January 6 insurrection of the Capitol that left people dead and maimed and traumatized. Or the mistrust that has grown like a cancer in our country of one side or another side (or mistrust of doctors, scientists, anyone seen as other) that is contributing to hesitancy of the COVID-19 vaccine, a deadly virus that has killed more Americans in a year and a half than died in both WWI and WWII. Right here and now, COVID-19 (the Delta variant) is surging this summer. NPR reported recently that COVID-19 cases are particularly surging in areas of low vaccination. More than 97% of people entering hospitals right now are unvaccinated. This mistrust, this rampant partisanship is destroying the gentle, fragile fabric of democracy.
This is what Alan Watts was trying to warn us about more than 50 years ago. We know what to do, but we don’t do it. Why?
Watts goes on in this lecture to talk about karmic debt, which I find utterly fascinating, but that’s not what I have chosen to focus on here. I am pondering the point in this lecture when Watts comes to T.S. Elliot’s idea that the person who has settle down in the train to read the newspaper is not the sam person who stepped onto the train from the platform. Watts says to his audience, “Therefore also you who sit here are not the same people who came in at the door. These states are separate. Each in its own place. There was the coming in at the door person, but there is actually only the here and now sitting person, and the person sitting here and now is not the person who will die.”
Jerry Seinfeld talks about this idea too. He talks about Night Guy who likes to eat cookies at night and he is the guy who also likes to stay up late at night. He wants to live for the moment. But, then there’s Morning Guy who has to get up and go to work and has to deal with 5 hours of sleep and too many cookies. He feels awful! HiddenBrain did a spectacular episode on this too, the different phases of self in You, But Better.
So, just what is Alan Watts getting at? Surely we are not a bunch of separated unconnected selves sleep walking through life. It is all a grand illusion of being? Or maybe we are?!
Watts tells us. He says, “We are all a constant flux and the continuity of the person from past through present to future is as illusory in its own way as the upward movement of the red lines on a revolving barber pole. You know it goes round and round and round and the whole thing seems to be going up or going down whichever the case may be but actually nothing is going up or down.”
"So when you throw a pebble into the pond and you make a concentric rings of waves there is an illusion that the water is flowing outwards and no water is flowing outwards at all water is only going up and down what appears to move outward is the wave not the water. So this kind of philosophical argument says that our seeming to go along in a course of time doesn't really happen. The buddhists say: suffering exists but no one who suffers, deeds exist but no doers are found, a path there is but no one who follows it, and nirvana is but no one who attains it."
This is a confusing concept. When a person rushes to understand something that has happened to them or a new concept, the person is bound not to understand the thing at all. Watts explains that it is a matter of getting to a position where you no longer feel the symbol the thought the idea the word as a block to life, no longer feel it and something you are using as a means of escape. He says: “liberation of the mind from identifying itself with symbols is the same process exactly as breaking up the links between the successive moments the illusion of a self continuing self that travels from moment to moment and picks them all up corresponding to the illusion of the moving water in the wave.”
We are more like a melody being played, Watts describes. We must select the notes in relationship to the places we exist–that means in relationship to everything around us and rising inside of us. If we are not discerning and select everything, the music becomes a jumble and does not make sense. So it is as human beings that we have the capacity to focus in on certain things, to see the symbol of these things in our minds, and select how to arrange these symbols in our mind and how it flows in our never-ending stream of consciousness (i.e., our inner story about what has happened to us during our journey through time and space). When we become more attached to the symbol in our mind rather than to how we are in relationship to each other, with our inner Sage and inferior, and with the whole of nature (indeed the universe), then this is where and when we get into the trouble of bad karma and the cycle of suffering.
Consciousness is a rare and precious gift. It does create problems such as present self and future self and the natural conflict between them.
Yesterday, Jeff Bezos blasted off with his brother and Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. You’ve already seen the headlines:Lefty Democrats hit Jeff Bezos over space trip, want him to pay ‘fair share’ of taxes. The dividing and the othering and the criticism goes on and on. If it’s not Bezos, it’s Dr. Fauci or a scientists working on climate change or a researcher working on viruses. It seems recently that this is all human beings are really good at doing, othering and dividing things up so they don’t go together any more.
But we can put the pieces back together again because we did this all inside our minds. We got attached to the symbols we created to explain to ourselves what is happening to us. When we get attached to symbols created inside our minds, we divide things… cut them up into little pieces and stand on sides lobbing bombs at the other side opposite our points of view. But, don’t you see… it all goes together?
I really like something Bezos said in an interview with Anderson Cooper when he was asked about this criticism he was getting about this all being a race to space by billionaires. Anderson asked, “Don’t you think it is better to spend you money here, now to take care of all the problems we are facing on Earth?” Bezos replied, after a moment of consideration, “We have to do both. We have to work on the Here and Now. And we have to work on the future. That is what humanity has always done.”
He is right. Because we can see the Present Self (the Here and Now), but also the Future Self (a brighter, better future on the horizon). Men and women throughout human history have taken care of their needs in the here and now and ventured boldly into the unknown. That is what Homo sapiens does. We are a species who originated in Africa, and then we boldly voyaged far and wide until we filled every niche of our beloved planet. We used to live caves or congregated grass huts, but we used our abilities to take care of our needs in the here and now as well as envision a bigger, brighter future and build it. Often such envisioning is seen only by a few individuals of any particular time. Those who cultivate their minds to see distant inner horizons of being. Not all future possibilities are possible, but all visioning of such future possibilities cause conflict for a tribe or group of people of any time because such seeing into the future means change. But it is precisely these abilities that have allowed Homo sapiens, sapiens to build great cities with towers made of glass and to fly around the world in a day inside airplanes. We are able to see ourselves in the Here and Now (like Jerry Seinfeld’s Nighttime Guy), and we can see our future self. Using nothing more than our minds, we can play out inside our minds what the future consequences of the choices we make in the Now (or do not make), which then inform the actions we take in the Now (or do not take).
Bezos told Anderson Cooper his vision is to create the infrastructure so that future humans can move toxic and polluting industries off Earth, so we can protect our beautiful and fragile planet. This is a beautiful vision, and he is right to hold it and to start something small that will grow into something big. And he can also take care of the here and now and did with $100 million gift each to Van Jones and chef Jose Andres. Sure he could pay more in taxes and probably should. But we do this together, moment by moment… we all create reality.
What will you do with your plot of consciousness today? How will you step into the flow of the Now without a train of burdensome thought cars following you into it?
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.