I was captivated by another Throughline that aired on January 19, 2023. This episode explores possible Extremist Futures as envisioned by Omar El Akkad in his novel American War.
Omar’s novel is about America’s second Civil War. He imagines 50 years into our future. A time when climate change has turned Florida into an underwater theme park and climate disasters devastate the world. His vision is very similar to mine in my novel Sapience: The Moment Is Now (not yet published).
In American War, the world finally understands that it has to stop burning fossil fuels and bands them–but it’s too little too late. The US is the last to band fossil fuels. All states agree to switch to more sustainable energy except Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. These three states take up arms, deciding they would rather secede than stop burning fossil fuels.
They lose, again, but what follows is a years-long insurgency. This is where his story is mostly centered.
Something Omar says in the beginning of this Throughline needs to be emphasized. He says, “We read to feel into another.”
This is how we come to know and understand each other. A country or a state (I’m thinking of you Florida) that bans books because they might be subversive… God Forbid… they might give children ideas… is a system that seeks to keep its citizens in ignorance.
Break down the word: ig — nor — ance. States and countries that ban books are teaching their people to ignore what they see with their very own eyes.
And, people who are kept in ignorance are a heck of a lot easier to manipulate too!
He also says, “Story is the final act of Resistance!“
The New York Time’s describes his novel: “Omar El Akkad’s “American War” is a disturbingly plausible case in point — a tale of a future America torn asunder by its own political and tribal affiliations.“
This is what caught my attention too.
Throughline plays some from the audio book of American War that includes sound effects. Had I not caught the beginning, I might have thought I was listening to real, on-the-ground reporting.
Omar’s story feels real, very real. It feels like it is already happening.
He grounds his story telling by his real life experiences as a boy in Lebanon where he was a witness to the devastation of war and what happens to people in refugee camps.
Omar says, “A society subjected by warfare is akin to moving backwards in time.”
Think of what Putin is doing to his people and to the beautiful people of Ukraine. Every image coming out of his sick ego trip is likened to images from WWI.
The Academy Award nominated movie All Quiet on the Western Front vividly paints the insanity of rich, powerful men who send other men to die for their personal power and glory. In this movie (and of course the book), Paul Bäumer and his classmates are just cannon fodder for a fatherland that has gone mad.
If you are having a hard time remembering the horror and senselessness of death of WWI, then watch All Quiet to remind yourself that quiet means dead. Watch as these young, gifted boys sign up for service and get pumped up by grumpy, old narcissistic men who stuff them full of overly romanticized, patriotic notions of war and how they are defending the fatherland. It’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse.
Omar describes this souped-up patriotic messaging as euphemistic fraudulence.
This article begins with the college admission scandal that caught up actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli in acts of fraud to get their children into the best schools.
Robert writes, and this is important:
In an earlier blog post we suggested some reasons, grounded in behavioral ethics, that might help explain why reputable people and loving parents became involved in these frauds. The conformity bias, the self-serving bias, and incrementalism all may have contributed. The evidence disclosed in the indictment offers additional clues.
A euphemism, say’s Webster’s, is “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.”
Famed Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura writes of “moral disengagement,” suggesting that people, such as Loughlin and Giannulli, who think of themselves as good people can do something bad so long as they can selectively suspend morality for their activities. One way people do this is by use of euphemisms. Bandura notes:
“Language shapes the perception of events and the thought patterns on which people base many of their actions. The personal and social acceptability of given activities, therefore, can differ markedly depending on what those activities are called. Euphemistic machinations are used widely to detach and depersonalize doers from harmful activities. Cloaking detrimental activities in euphemisms can be a powerful weapon.”
Examples of the “sanitizing and convoluted language” (Gambino) of euphemisms that have helped people make their peace with wrongdoing include the following:
Dead civilians = “collateral damage”
Mass firings = “right-sizing”
Lies = “alternative facts”
Burning down villages = “pacification”
Fraud = “creative accounting”
Genocide = “the final solution”
Empirical studies indicate that “euphemistic labels can psychologically sanitize unethical practices, facilitating our participation in them.” (Moore & Gino).
The World is Either Good or Evil
This is a lie. Every modern human being born today is told this lie.
Omar talks about how this idea is used to twist us into doing all sorts of evil things. It is a notion, an idea, a belief drilled into us since the day we are born until the day we are dead.
It is this very idea that the world can be cleaved into a good side and a bad side that allows us to be manipulated.
I would add it is precisely splitting the world into Good and Bad parts that lets us justify just about any abominable violence we can dream up.
It is also what allows ruthless rulers to turn plain, ordinary, decent human beings into killing machines and monsters.
Ruthless Rulers are already monsters and include men such as Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-um, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Abdullah Aziz Al Saud, Bashar al-Assad, and there are many more (see the list of Current World Dictators).
We live with these monsters right here, right now on our planet. And they are pounding our world straight back to the Stone Age just as fast as they can.
What do you think? Are they winning? The Red countries that is… are there more red countries than yellow or green?
That is exactly what they want you to believe. But, perhaps you are beginning to sense out it is precisely this idea of division that is the problem.
One of Omar’s characters is an empathetic lair. He is the character that goes into the refugee camps and radicalizes the kids there.
Omar says there is no such thing as exotic suffering, but empathetic liars make you believe there is. Empathetic liars parse the fine threads of what we do and what is done to us. Empathetic liars play upon the lack of self-agency in a place like a refugee camp (or one of Putin’s prisons) and use it like a gleaming lure to hook their targets–kids (or Russian prisoners) whom they plan to turn into cannon fodder.
Omar says, “People go to bad place when their self-agency is taken away from them.” And the more damaged a person is, the more their circle of Trust closes in, making them extremely vulnerable to empathetic liars
And that is exactly what autocrats, dictators, and pretty much most of the Republican Party in the United States are doing. Whoever they are…all close ranks around their strong man, hype their followers up on FraudulentEuphemisms, and close the circle of Trust until only one man can be trusted.
And, there sure are a lot of want-a-bee dictators who desire to be the one and only man the entire human race can trust–Putin, Trump, Xi Jinping, Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-um, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Abdullah Aziz Al Saud, Bashar al-Assad, or pick your poison.
Yes, Omar is very right to envision the coming of America’s Second Civil War! Heck, we might be staring down the path to WWIII.
I think Empathetic Liars is another name for Dark Empaths. Dark Empathy is not a good thing. Dr. Ramani does a very good job in this video explaining why all of us need to be on the look out for Dark Empaths and Empathetic Lairs.
Reality? What Reality!
Omar talks about when a group of people believeanything they want to believe is real… you’re living in a very dangerous place and time.
Add the element of violent insurrection being a central part of a country’s narrative, and you have a tinderbox waiting to explode.
He admits he’s been amazed how reality has out did his fiction.
He warns, “There is a particular Force that when it emerges within a group of people, it must be stared down directly.”
I would add that when this Force is encountered: You cannot blink. You cannot turn away. And, if you falter, it will destroy you.
I’m writing about such a force too. I was reminded of a prologue I was playing around with to describe my story. I realize it is exactly what Omar is warning us about.
Image from: Penguin Random House Audio | “Powerful . . . As haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy [created] in The Road, and as devastating a look as the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America. . . . Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, is an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series The Hunger Games and Divergent.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Following are a few things that caught my attention this week, especially since they are relevant to what I am writing about in my novel about the role of consciousness and modern cultures. The first thing isMemory Wars. It is a six-part podcast exploring how society confronts sin. I only heard one episode, but it got me thinking deeply about how societies fail to deal with sin.
Memory Wars: A podcast exploring how society confronts sin
I heard S1E2: The Two Reconstructions that explores the similarities and differences between the Reconstruction that happened in the U.S. after the Civil War and the one that occurred in Germany after WWII.
America’s Antebellum Period
The biggest difference between the two Reconstructions is that after the U.S. Civil War (April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865), there was no outside agent to oversee the period of Reconstruction following the demise of the Antebellum Period. Countless reparations and services were needed to repair the damage inflicted on nearly 10 million slaves alive at this time.
Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage. -- How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?
by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. | Originally posted on The Root
Slavery started in Jamestown Colony, the founding county of the British Empire in North America. It is also the founding colony for the soon to be United States of America. Slavery grows into a brutal industry that lasts for more than 200 years allowing white men to make tremendous profits and becomes the basis for how the economy works in the United States.
America’s Reconstruction Era | Brief & Incomplete
More than 200 years of slave-based industry has made Americans deeply unwilling to confront the brutal realities of being a nation built by slaves and founded on slave-based economic models. America’s Reconstruction barely got started before it was shut down. America’s Reconstruction era lasted only from 1865 to 1877.
After this, any positive steps made during this very short time were quickly turned around by Jim Crow laws, which quickly crippled and reversed gains made by recently released slaves.
America still hasn’t reckon with its brutal history, racist culture, and slave-based industry specifically designed to make business owners and shareholders rich while keeping ordinary workers poor.
The US has intentionally engineered extreme inequalities and injustices into its systems of governance and business. They are written into laws and US constitution. They are meant to elevate white people above all other people.
There are many white people alive right now who feel they are engaged in a life and death battle to maintain these laws. These individuals are willing go to great lengths of hypocrisy and false piety to justify their sin. Some are willing to die for their beliefs and attack the Capital and Congressmen and women who do not believe like they do.
We’ve been here before. It doesn’t end well. Sin never does.
First Archetypal Animation | Justifying Sin
In Germany after WWII, the U.S. led Reconstruction efforts.
On April 3, 1948, President Truman signed the Economic Recovery Act of 1948. It became known as the Marshall Plan, named for Secretary of State George Marshall, who in 1947 proposed that the United States provide economic assistance to restore the economic infrastructure of postwar Europe. -- The Marshall Plan (1948)
These efforts included exposing euphemisms Nazis used to mask their antisemitic and racial laws. Nazis did the same thing writing their sin into the German laws and policies. The Nazis were high on their brutal beliefs and worked like steamrollers to implemented their hellish vision in the lead up to WWII. Their fiendish frenzy included:
The 1933 “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” forced Jews and political opponents of Nazism out of Germany’s expansive civil service.
Jurists wrote and enforced laws removing Jews from public service, set their own racialist view of Jewish identity with the “Nuremberg Race Laws,” and eventually enforced laws disenfranchising, despoiling, and ghettoizing German Jews.
A large percentage of the planners of the Holocaust came from the judiciary. Men from the security apparatuses, ministries, and civil services—those groups Hannah Arendt described as “desk murderers” (Schreibtischtäter)—overwhelmingly came from the legal profession, marking just how much every step of the judicial process from training to the highest courts was active in the Nazi regime. -- The Reconstruction of Justice in Post-Nazi Western Germany; article on the continuities of German law and the jurists who spoke out against an authoritarian justice system.
August 11, 2021
These efforts were laid bare to make Germans reckon with their sin. Lots of Nazis were put on trial, indicted, and executed or imprisoned.
Denazification did not end there. Ordinary German citizens were made to watch Hollywood movies that showed the atrocities committed by the Nazis and drove home the role complacency by ordinary Germany citizens played in the horrors of the Nazi War Machine.
Germans had to watch these movies to receive food or other relief items. German citizens also had to fill out questionnaires that determined the level of their Nazism and this determine what kind of work they were allowed to do.
Denazification of Germany
This video provides a good recap of the positives and negatives of German Reformation efforts.
And it details the differences between what happened in West Germany (implemented by Western Allies) and East Germany (implemented by Russia under Stalin). It brings viewers right up to our current era where the lure of authoritarian governments is looming large again in the minds of so many “modern” people and neo-Nazis are on the rise around the world.
It is hard not to compare Putin’s outrageous claim that he is Denazifying Ukraine with the speech Hitler gave to the German people just before he invaded Czechoslovakia. He told his people he was reclaiming and reuniting the Deutschland, German speaking parts of Czechoslovakia.
Getting no push back from the rest of Europe, Hitler went on to invade Poland, France, Russia…and ultimately he would have invaded the world if we would have let him.
There is a direct line that needs to drawn by lies Hitler, Stalin (yes, this man was evil), and Putin tell about what they are doing or did. What they are doing is shining their warped beam of beliefs and focusing it into death and destruction.
In other words, these men are sin makers... they are creators of Hell on Earth. They are creatures who are far more deadly and dangerous than any dinosaur.
They are are monsters, not men.
Second Archetypal Animation | The Same Beast
Germany faced its horrible past. Can we do the same?
Shortly after the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016 on the National Mall, I was speaking to some patrons of a successful nonprofit about the importance of candid racial dialogue in politics and in the places we live, work and worship.
One of the participants had recently toured the museum and had a pointed question. Why, she wondered, were all the exhibits that visitors first encounter dedicated to slavery? Among other things, she was referring to a reconstructed cabin built by former slaves from Maryland and a statue of Thomas Jefferson next to a wall with the names of more than 600 people he owned. “Couldn’t the exhibits begin with more uplift?” the woman asked, arguing that Black achievement was more worthy of the spotlight. She suggested that the museum should instead usher visitors toward more positive stories right from the start, so that if someone were tired or short on time, “slavery could be optional.”
Her question was irksome, but it did not surprise me. I’d heard versions of the “Can’t we skip past slavery” question countless times before. Each time serves as another reminder that America has never had a comprehensive and widely embraced national examination of slavery and its lasting impact. Yes, there are localized efforts. But despite the centrality of slavery in our history, it is not central to the American narrative in our monuments, history books, anthems and folklore.
Third Archetypal Animation | How America Just Keeps Justifying Sin: Make America Backwards Again
There is a simple reason: The United States does not yet have the stomach to look over its shoulder and stare directly at the evil on which this great country stands. That is why slavery is not well taught in our schools. That is why the battle flag of the army that tried to divide and conquer our country is still manufactured, sold and displayed with defiant pride. That is why any mention of slavery is rendered as the shameful act of a smattering of Southern plantation owners and not a sprawling economic and social framework with tentacles that stamped almost every aspect of American life. -- The Opinions Essay: Germany faced its horrible past. Can we do the same? By Michele L. Norris
JUNE 3, 2021
Locked Up: The Prison Labor That Built America’s Business Empires
This episode is presented by Reveal and shows how the American south quickly shut down Reconstruction and reinvented slavery by using the prison system as a new slave labor force. Before the US Civil War, less than 8% of people in prison were black. During the rise of Jim Crowe era and the prison industrial system that rose to replace slave labor, the new of black people locked up skyrocketed to over 75%. Most were incarcerated for petty crimes and sentences to hard labor for months and years. Some would not survive.
Fourth Archetypal Animation | Locked Up — How Jim Crow Created the New Slave Labor
Companies across the South profited off the forced labor of people in prison after the Civil War – a racist system known as convict leasing.
After the Civil War, a new form of slavery took hold in the US and lasted more than 60 years. Associated Press reporters Margie Mason and Robin McDowell investigate the chilling history of how Southern states imprisoned mainly Black men, often for minor crimes, and then leased them out to private companies – for years, even decades, at a time. The team talks with the descendant of a man imprisoned in the Lone Rock stockade in Tennessee nearly 140 years ago, where people as young as 12 worked under inhumane conditions in coal mines and inferno-like ovens used to produce iron. This system of forced prison labor enriched the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad company – at the cost of prisoners’ lives.
At the state park that sits on the former site of the Lone Rock stockade, relics from the hellish prison are buried beneath the soil. Archeologist Camille Westmont has found thousands of artifacts, such as utensils and the plates prisoners ate off. She has also created a database listing the names of those sent to Lone Rock. A team of volunteers are helping her, including a woman reckoning with her own ancestor’s involvement in this corrupt system and the wealth her family benefited from.
The United States Steel Corporation helped build bridges, railroads and towering skyscrapers across America. But the company also relied on forced prison labor. After US Steel took over Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad in 1907, the industrial giant used prison labor for at least five more years. During that time, more than 100 men died while working in their massive coal mining operation in Alabama. U.S. Steel has misrepresented this dark chapter of its history. And it has never apologized for its use of forced labor or the lives lost. The reporters push the company to answer questions about its past and engage with communities near the former mines.
Behind the Lie of Monopoly
“We’re born into the world and think the world is simply the way we are born into it.” — One of the guests on Throughlin’s History of the Game Monopoly
Fifth Archetypal Animation | Monopoly…More Than A Game
Monopoly is one of the best-selling board games in history! It was actually created to get people to think about real life monopolies and how they impact real peoples daily lives.
Most people just love to play Monopoly because it is fun, especially if you need a distraction from the stress and monotony of earning enough money to buy your daily bread.
How Monopoly has been marketed to us is probably why we often don’t notice the deeper messages embedded in the game.
In this episode of Throughline, the narrators explore the origins and history of Monopoly. It’s not what you think. In fact, it reveals how a critique of capitalism grew from a seed of an idea in a rebellious young woman’s mind who created this legendary game that celebrates wealth at all costs. But behind the legend, we’ve been told a lot of lies; one was the theft of a young woman’s brilliant idea.
There's more to Monopoly than you might think. It's one of the best-selling board games in history — despite huge economic instability, sales actually went up during the pandemic — and it's been an iconic part of American life at other pivotal moments: a cheap pastime during the Great Depression; a reminder of home for soldiers during WWII; and an American export during its rise as a global superpower. It endured even as it reflected some of the ongoing inequities in American society, from segregation and redlining, to capitalism run rampant. That's because Monopoly is also built on powerful American lore – the idea that anyone, with just a little bit of cash, can rise from rags to riches. Writer Mary Pilon, the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, describes Monopoly as "the Great American Dream in a board game – or, nightmare." -- Do Not Pass Go (2022) | Throughline
We are responsible for noticing Sin. When we see it, we must name it. Sitting and watching from the sidelines is no longer an option.
We are responsible for paying attention to what is going inside and outside of our bodies.
If we misrepresent and falsify our sinful actions or fail to act to stop sin when we see it inflicted on others, we are whitewashing reality. This is sin and only leads us further down the road of turning Earth intoHell.
The prosperity gospel is quintessentially an American theology. It is 17th century Puritanism colliding with 19th century New Thought; a spiritual movement that included unconventional and nonconformist thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James.
This strange mix then gets hitched to capitalism with a generous sprinkle of hand raising, hallelujah happiness on top; a highly energetic spiritual movement emerging out of little old Topeka, Kansas, in 1901.
The prosperity gospel makes it alright to be rich. In fact, if you’re not rich, you are probably not a good Christian and probably going to Hell.
“The Lord is my banker; my credit is good”
This is Charles Fillmore’s reinterpretation of Psalm 23.
Fillmore founded Unity in 1889 in Kansas City, Missouri. He wrote, “Unity is a link in the great educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ; our objective is to discern the Truth in Christianity and prove it.”
It is one of the many religious movements towards the end of the 1800s coalescing and growing out of the New Thought movement.
Fillmore was known as an American mystic who was renowned for his spiritualist interpretations of Biblical Scripture.
His beliefs paved the way for even shinier and more fervent believers who felt God rewards those who are most deserving and faithful to him with money and wealth.
Laws of Prosperity
By the early 1900, the blending of the Puritan work ethic with New Thought was fully fermented into a very bubbly, verifiable, abiding religious zeal that would be enough to put any over-worked, poverty-stricken, overly anxious worker into a state of heavenly glory, at least for a little while, say the typical time of a religious revival promising wealth and prosperity to all of God’s law-abiding, hardworking sheep (Christian-speak for people of faith).
With earthquake-like economic disruptions caused by the Industrial Revolution, this refreshingly fervent religious pastime came just in time for greedy corporate capitalists who needed people to work hard, really hard, so they could make more money.
Add the Holy Fire of the Pentecostal church that believes spiritual gifts are the miraculous ways God works in the world today, and the bomb fire of the Prosperity Gospel Movement ignites into a big and growing spiritual fire of everlasting glory–Hallelujah…praise the Lord, our savior Jesus Christ!
Never mind about deep structural inequalities built into capitalistic systems that are designed to elevate and reward individuals who hold the reigns of power while holding down and keeping poor people who are not born into such privilege.
Russell Conwell and other very charismatic ministers (such as Kenneth Hagin, Ken Copeland, Oral Roberts, and Jim Bakker) blame poverty on an individual’s failure to believe hard enough or to be good enough people who deserve to be rich or to not giving enough of what little money they have to the preacher man.
The idea that you have to give money to get money is a fundamental message preached in the Prosperity Gospel like a little money seed that might grow into a great big money tree one day.
Trumpism Is the Prosperity Gospel Running Wild in American Politics
Since its beginnings in the early 1800s, the Prosperity Gospel has ebbed and flowed. It grew rampantly in the 1900s, then waned during the WW I and II years. It rallied again during the postwar boom of the 1950s, then waned only to return bigger and better than before with the big hair days of the ostentatious 80s.
The mega fall of mega church tele-evangelical preachers and power couples such as Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye or Becki and Jerry Falwell Jr. might have hinted at an incredible reservoir of hypocrisy bubbling underneath all the pretty God Loves You, hallelujahs, and Praise the Lord, but it wasn’t enough to inoculate the masses from the powerfully, tempting, very yummy Gospel of Prosperity.
Enter televangelist Joel Scott Osteen and his non-denominational very charismatic brand of christianity to save the day. He offers 40 powerful promises right from the mouth of God that he, little old Joel Osteen, can let you in on…if you buy his book, believe hard enough, and oh yeah, donated to his mega church in Lakewood, FL.
Jumping into the very big wake being made by Osteen and other mega-ministers who shepherd their ever growing flock of faithful followers with bigger, badder, ever better televangelism programming is the man with the yellow hair and permanent orange tan… and oh yeah, about half of the Republican Party who want to get in on all that fun and money!
And WOW-WE! Look how the Repubs are battling it out for who gets to have the biggest slice of followers! Looks like running down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring on Trump’s orange hand after January 6, 2021 wasn’t enough to save you Kevin. God isn’t shining his spiritual gifts of prosperity on you today Kevin–that’s for darn sure!
But, I digress, let’s get back to Trump who makes a pretty simple political pitch that Jonathan Last sums up nicely in a piece he wrote after Trump whipped out a front page story about himself on February 6, 2020 at the 69th annual National Prayer Breakfast: Acquitted.
Trump’s simple pitch is this:
"God wants you to have what you want! I should know, because I have it! Come get yours too, for a small contribution!"
It might be interesting to note that at this time, while Trump was at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 6, 2020, COVID-19 is already spreading in the United States.
Trump says nothing about COVID. Days and weeks after the prayer breakfast, Trump continues to gloat about his Acquittal but still fails to say much of anything about COVID.
He says nothing despite advisors warning him in December 2019 and in January 2020 and February and March of 2020 that COVID is coming!
Bob Woodward interviewed Trump during this time for his book Rage. Woodward repeatedly asked Trump about his response to COVID. Trump repeatedly played it down saying he didn’t want to cause a panic.
Rather than cause a panic, Trump turned commonsense ways of staying safe, such as wearing a mask, into a culture war.
The U.S. has one of the highest death rates from COVID since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019 and 2020. The vast majority of deaths occurred in 2020 while Trump was President and playing it down so he might get re-elected as President so he could make more money!
Personally, this doesn’t sound like a very good way to enjoy the fruits of the New Prosperity Gospel that Trump touts. Dying seems the very opposite of enjoying prosperity.
Wrapped & Tied in Knots of Powerful Positive Thoughts
Tara Isabella Burton sums it all up very well in her 2017 article published in VOX.
It’s difficult to say that the prosperity gospel itself led to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Again, only 17 percent of American Christians identify with it explicitly. It’s far more true, however, to say that the same cultural forces that led to the prosperity gospel’s proliferation in America — individualism, an affinity for ostentatious and charismatic leaders, the Protestant work ethic, and a cultural obsession with the power of “positive thinking” — shape how we, as a nation, approach politics.
Also see, Throughline’s very excellent episode, Capitalism: God Wants You To Be Rich, which aired July 8, 2021. Towards the end of this episode, they play a soundbite from an archived recording from a Trump rally.
TRUMP: You know, I said the other day - 'cause so many people, they carry around "The Art Of The Deal" because they're begging. They're begging their politicians, please, please read "The Art Of The Deal" when you negotiate with China and with Japan or with Mexico and with Vietnam.
One of the speakers in this episode unpacks what Trump is plugging into here.
BUTLER: And I think this is crucial for right now. It flows into a kind of Christian nationalism. It means that God is especially favoring, you know, the nation as a special place. And so the people who live in it, who follow after this particular kind of thing, are going to be more blessed than anybody else in the world.
And another speaker unpacks it a little further.
BOWLER: I think people crave - even if they might hate it, they crave a gospel where the responsibility always falls back on them. Because it's always the one thing we can control is ourselves. So if you preach an empowered individualism, you've got a gospel you can believe in, which is always us.
The prosperity gospel goes by many names: Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It. This “different gospel” teaches that God provides rewards, including personal happiness, financial wealth and physical health, for believers who have sufficient faith. Prosperity theology developed in America in the last century and has been called a “baptized form of capitalism.”
The preachers associated with the movement — including Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, and Creflo Dollar — have some of the largest congregations and best-selling books in the country, and they host television programs that seem to air at all hours of the night (and are some of the most-watched programming around the world).
1. John 10:10 — “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The signature verse of the prosperity gospel, John 10:10 is used to suggest that God loves his followers and wants them to have every good thing. But interpreting this verse to promise physical gain neglects the depth suggested by its context.
The preceding verses illustrate the parable of the sheep and their good shepherd, Jesus, who calls them by name. The sheep know the good shepherd’s voice and follow. Verse 10 contrasts Jesus with false shepherds who steal and kill and destroy. The abundance of life suggested here has to do with knowing and being known by Jesus, not material things. The Tyndale Commentary explains, “He does not offer them an extension of physical life nor an increase of material possessions, but the possibility, nay the certainty, of a life lived as a higher level of obedience to God’s will and reflecting his glory.”
2. James 4:2 — “You do not have because you do not ask God.”
This verse is used to bolster the “name it and claim it” part of the prosperity gospel — if you don’t “have,” it’s because you haven’t prayed enough. This interpretation ignores the verse that follows, in which James says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Creflo Dollar says this of prayer: “When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass.”
While prayer (including intercessory prayer) is crucial to the life of a Christian, using it to force God into appeasing the believer’s desires also goes against the very prayer Jesus prayed on the eve of his crucifixion: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42
Several days ago, I heard Rachel E. Gross interviewed on the The Takeaway about her new book “Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage.” Melissa Harris-Perry, the host, introduces Rachel saying:
Rachel's new book looks at the historical dis, miss, and lack of information about the bodies of people with vaginas, which includes women, trans men, intersex people, and non-binary people. In the introduction to her book, Rachel describes conversations she had with multiple scientists who tried to explain why we understand so much less about female anatomy and vaginas compared to male anatomy and penises.
Interesting things Rachel says about vaginas:
"When pressed, he and others acknowledged that this discrepancy at its heart is due to sexism within science and who is actually doing the investigating. For most of history, women, especially women of color, trans women, and women who are sexual minorities have been excluded from the supposedly universal endeavor. As I reported this book, it became clear to me that the two problems were inseparable. The marginalization of women's bodies from science is largely due to the marginalization of women from science."
"A huge theme in this book is that you only see what you expect to see and you can't see what you aren't looking for. That mostly comes up when we're talking about these older, usually male anatomists who are looking at female bodies and expecting to see something. They expected the female body to be reproductive, to be mostly about the uterus. To not really have that big a capacity for pleasure or for active dynamic processes going on."
"What they illustrated was very passive, a hole or a cave. The word vagina actually means a sheath, which suggests that its main role is to house a penis, which it is not. There definitely is a reimagining going on by a lot of new scientists and you can see that in the art throughout the book. Every chapter opens with an illustration that really looks at these organs in a new way. Usually, one that is active, dynamic, and resilient."
"Unfortunately, the idea of shame has really impacted the way that science, medicine, and people with this anatomy have viewed the "female body." There's a really strong pattern going back to Hippocrates of anatomists really insisting on naming these body parts after shame, especially the clitoris and the vulva. Hippocrates called all the genitals the shame parts, essentially, but that continued. Every time a French anatomist would, ''discover" the clitoris, he would name it the shame part."
"Even today you have words like Scham Lippin in German, which means the shame lips and refers to the labia. You have pudendum, which is an anatomical term that's hopefully being phased out, but it means the parts for which you should be ashamed. Again, it refers to only the vulva. Shame has really attached itself to the female genitals in particular, and that has affected the way science is done. There is a hesitancy of looking directly at this part of the body. There is a tendency to associate it with danger, sexuality in a negative light, the threat of pregnancy and STDs and disease."
"It's really blocked us from looking at the incredibly unexpected and expansive things that this system is doing. The ovaries are producing hormones that support body-wide health from bone health to heart health, to brain health. The uterus is one of the most regenerative organs in the body, and when it's not pregnant, just going through monthly menstruation, it's ushering stem cells and immune cells to heal this wound painlessly, it's creating new blood vessels and it's doing this every month on cue, and it probably has a lot to teach us about regenerative medicine in general but having looked at these organs with themes like shame and only reproduction in mind has really narrowed the view."
The female body has long been shamed by modern civilizations and many religions for centuries. Rachel says it has been colonized with the same imperial brutality inflicted on native peoples and the land worldwide. I think this is shameful: Man’s capacity to inflict brutality upon his fellow human beings and all life.
The Shame of Being a Sexual Being
Around the same time, I heard The TakeAway, I also listened to a lecture by Alan Watts about Repressed Sex. I never know where Synchronistic Stories are going to lead me, but this one seemed important.
Alan Watts artfully captures our confusion and shame around sex. Above is the video with his lecture and below is a transcript of it if you prefer to read. I’ll let you make your own connections, if you’re interested.
Transcript from video with time markings:
0:08 min Because naturally when you love someone 0:10 very much indeed in the enthusiasm and 0:13 ardor of youth you say things that are 0:18 hardly logical or rational you stand up 0:24 before an altar and you say my darling 0:25 my sweetheart my perfect pet I adore you 0:28 so much that I will live with you 0:30 forever and ever until death do us part 0:32 and that’s the way you feel at the time 0:36 in rather similar mood ancient peoples 0:40 would hail their kings and say O king 0:42 live forever obviously this was not 0:45 literally meant they were just wishing 0:48 him a long life but to live forever no 0:50 sir no mortal does that so the trouble 0:56 was you see that when certain kinds of 0:59 extravagant poetic expressions got in 1:04 the hands of people like Agustin and 1:06 Tertullian who were rather influenced by 1:10 Roman literalness they wrote it into the 1:13 law books and so this amazing situation 1:19 came about but we still have not fully 1:22 explored the subtlety of it let us 1:27 consider certain periods when this 1:31 attitude of PrudeISM towards sexuality 1:34 was in us in an ascendancy nearest to 1:38 our times is the bourgeois revolution 1:42 you might call it in Victorian England 1:45 and the United States we all say 1:48 Victorian as an adjective to indicate 1:51 grundyISM extreme monogamya definite 1:59 disgust for all things sexual and yet 2:04 when we really go into the history of 2:07 the Victorian period we find that it was 2:10 an extremely luscious 2:12 EPOC one has only to look at the 2:17 lushness the victorian furniture he 2:20 realized that chairs are disguised women 2:26 that the way even piano legs are shaped 2:30 when this kind of thing is throughout 2:33 Victorian art forms and the conduct of 2:37 the British aristocracy during that 2:39 period record description people like 2:45 Freud and Havelaar Kellis made certain 2:49 mistake yeah they said about the church 2:57 and about religion in general that it 2:59 was nothing but a form of sublimated sex 3:04 they said these people for curious 3:06 reasons suppressed sex and therefore it 3:09 becomes a very powerful force for them 3:14 you must remember of course that they 3:16 worked on a hydraulic analogy of human 3:18 psychology that they liken it all to a 3:21 river if you dammed it up that would 3:23 burst it down he doesn’t actually follow 3:26 that human psychology is hydraulic but 3:29 this is the metaphor they used now they 3:31 said the church has repressed sex but 3:34 actually if you look at its symbolism it 3:37 is nothing but an expression of sex 3:40 everything is reduced to libido as the 3:43 fundamental reality and the church 3:49 replied “It’s nothing of the kind we deny 3:52 this we think that this reduction of 3:55 everything for sex is just a way of 3:57 attacking holy things and on the 4:01 contrary we would say that people who 4:03 are fascinated with sex and make it 4:05 their God are replete are repressing 4:06 religion 4:11 now the problem in this debate everybody 4:13 missed the boat the church should have 4:18 been in a position to say to Freud well 4:20 of course 4:21 thank you very much ah yes indeed our 4:25 symbolism is sexual, the steeples on our 4:28 churches the vesicle shaped windows and 4:36 of suffer addict shields on which we put 4:39 images of the crucifix or the Virgin 4:42 Mother of God these are all quite 4:45 plainly sexual, but you see the sexual 4:49 biology in its term reveals the 4:53 mysteries of the universe; sex is not 4:56 mere sex sex is a holy thing and is one 5:04 of the most marvelous revelations of the 5:06 divine but imagine the church just 5:11 couldn’t say that if you look at Tibetan 5:16 Buddhist iconography they’re images or 5:20 you look in Hindu temples you will find 5:23 things that Europeans and Americans have 5:27 never been able to understand here are 5:30 images of Buddhas and of the gods 5:33 engaged in amazing diversions with their 5:37 female counterparts and everybody thinks 5:40 it needs a kind of dirty sculptures now 5:43 they are nothing of the kind they are 5:47 saying to the people who look at them 5:51 the play of man and woman is on that 5:57 level on the level of biology a 6:00 reflection of the fundamental play of 6:02 the cosmos the play of the positive and 6:06 negative principles of the light and the 6:08 dark of the mental and the material they 6:13 all play together and 6:17 the function of sexual play is not 6:22 merely the survival and utilitarian 6:24 function of reproducing the species as 6:27 it is among animals to a very large 6:29 extent what peculiarly distinguishes 6:33 human sexuality is that it brings the 6:38 partners closer and closer to each other 6:42 in an intense state of United feeling in 6:46 other words it is a sacrament the output 6:48 and visible sign of an inward and 6:50 spiritual grace bringing about love and 6:54 so if that is peculiar to human beings 6:58 it is perfect nonsense to degrade human 7:02 sexuality by saying it should only be 7:04 carried on in the way that the animals 7:06 do theirs because they have not yet as 7:11 it were evolved to the place where sex 7:13 is the sacramental expression of man and 7:19 woman’s love and this love in that sense 7:23 is a kind of enthusiasm which means a 7:27 being possessed by the Divine falling in 7:32 love although considered by practical 7:35 people to be a sort of madness is 7:38 actually the same sort of thing as the 7:40 mystical vision a grace and in its light 7:48 we see people in their divine aspect 7:54 when as the song says every little 7:57 breeze 7:58 whispers Louise there is a sort of 8:02 extraordinary state of mystical 8:05 intoxication in which the ideal woman 8:10 has become the goddess which is from one 8:17 point of view what every woman is if you 8:20 see her with the scales of your eyes and 8:24 likewise every man 8:28 seen with the scales of her eyes so what 8:38 happened then 8:38 as a result of this historical situation 8:40 was mutual name-calling between the 8:45 proponents of religion and the 8:47 proponents of scientific naturalism such 8:51 as Freud and Havelock Ellis and in our 8:57 own times Albert Ellis and people of 9:02 that kind they’ve never got together 9:06 because they’ve never understood 9:10 neither the church nor the opponents of 9:13 the church have clearly understood that 9:15 the secret or unconscious motivation of 9:18: sexual repression is to make it all the 9:20: more interesting and on the other side 9:26: it has not been clearly understood that 9:28: the sexual biology and all that goes 9:38: with it is a figuring forth on the level 9:47: of biology of what the whole universe is 9:50: about ecstatic clay so as a result there 10:04: has been a kind of compromise 10:07: today in ecclesiastical circles sex is 10:11: being damned with faint praise people 10:18: are saying after all yes sex was made by 10:20: God and we should remember the Jewish 10:22: point of view and it is perhaps for 10:27 something more than reproduction to 10:29 bring about the cementing of the 10:31 marriage ties between husband and wife 10:33 but 10:37 still in practice it remains the 10:42 frightening taboo on the other hand the 10:50 opposition to Christian prudery goes 10:54 overboard and always moves in the 11:00 direction of total license you see 11:04 what’s going on as a contest between the 11:06 people who want the skirts pulled down 11:08 to the floor the people want them pulled 11:10 up to the neck and you you know you’ve 11:14 got to draw the line somewhere but the 11:17 play between these forces is where are 11:19 we going to draw it well that’s very 11:21 exciting provide neither side wins 11:24 I mean imagine what it would be like if 11:28 the libertarians won and they took over 11:31 the church so that on Wednesday evenings 11:34 the young Presbyterian group would meet 11:37 for prayer through sex every child would 11:45 go to the school physician for a course 11:47 in hygienics and they would have 11:49 classes and that have plastic models and 11:51 all the children would do it in class 11:52 very clean hygienic circumstances all 11:56 sprayed with rubbing alcohol it’ll be 11:58 fun imagine how boring it would all 12:00 become so you see the people who say no 12:05 modesty is important have something 12:07 right about but they mustn’t be allowed 12:10 to get away with it but they mustn’t be 12:13 obliterated see life works that way 12:17 let’s take an entirely different analogy 12:19 let’s take a given biological group a 12:22 species we’ll call a it has a natural 12:26 enemy B now one day a gets furious at 12:31 the natural enemy B and says let’s 12:33 obliterate it and they gather their 12:35 forces and they knock out their natural 12:36 enemy well suddenly after a while they 12:41 begin to get weak they get over 12:43 populated there’s nobody around to eat 12:45 up their surplus creatures and they 12:47 don’t have to keep their muscles tensed 12:49 against 12:50 any enemy and they begin to fall apart 12:52 because they destroyed their enemy what 12:55 they should do is cultivate the enemy 12:57 that’s the real meaning of love your 12:58 enemy there is such a thing as a beloved 13:01 enemy and if you don’t have a beloved 13:07 enemy in other words if the Flies and 13:10 the spiders don’t go together you’re 13:12 going to be too many spiders or too many 13:13 flies and these balances are keep the 13:17 course of nature going well it’s exactly 13:19 the same thing as between the Libertarians 13:21 and the Prudes they need each other and 13:25 you should thank if you’ve got a prudish 13:28 father and mother you should be very 13:31 grateful to them for having made sex so 13:33 interesting 13:41 so don’t defy them completely don’t go 13:43 around campus with placards bearing 13:45 four-letter words because that’s going 13:50 to spoil the show that every generation 13:53 must react to the one before you see to 13:56 keep this tension going and it is by 14:00 this tension this play of the opposites 14:03 that we have the love that makes the 14:05 world go round.
The Shame of Being a Conscious Being
The third synchronistic thread I encountered is the Primal Split. This is the moment an infant becomes aware that he or she is a separate being from the mother. This is the beginning of a complicated cascade of emotions and conflicts that spark the awakening of ego-consciousness and symbolic thought, if the infant makes it to the other side of this split. If the infant navigates this crossing successfully, there is a moment of shame that must to be dealt with on the journey in becoming a fully conscious being.
I was doing research on the Primal Split for the book I am writing and realized its connection to Rachel E. Gross’ book and Alan Watts’ lecture. I also discovered this amazing performance art exhibit about the Primal Split created by Oya Damla.
Following is background on Melanie Klien and Oya Damla along with a fascinating theory of knowledge that is very much related to the Primal Split, shame, and how we come to know who and what we know as human beings. Again, I’ll let you make your own connections.
Melanie Klien& The Primal Split
Melanie Klein was an Austrian-British author and psychoanalyst known for her work in child analysis. She was the primary figure in the development of object relations theory. Klein suggested that pre-verbal existential anxiety in infancy catalyzed the formation of the unconscious, resulting in the unconscious splitting of the world into good and bad idealizations. In her theory, how the child resolves that split depends on the constitution of the child and the character of nurturing the child experiences; the quality of resolution can inform the presence, absence, and/or type of distresses a person experiences later in life. -- Wiki
While Freud's ideas concerning children mostly came from working with adult patients, Klein was innovative in working directly with children, often as young as two years old. Klein saw children's play as their primary mode of emotional communication. While observing children as they played with toys such as dolls, animals, plasticine or pencils and paper, Klein documented their activities and interactions. She then attempted to interpret the unconscious meaning behind their play. Following Freud, she emphasized the significant role that parental figures played in the child's fantasy life and concluded that the timing of Freud's Oedipus complex was incorrect. Contradicting Freud, she proposed that the superego was present from birth.
After exploring ultra-aggressive fantasies of hate, envy, and greed in very young and disturbed children, Melanie Klein proposed a model of the human psyche that linked significant oscillations of state, with the postulated Eros or Thanatos pulsations. She named the state of the mind in which the sustaining principle of life dominates the depressive position. A depressive position is the understanding that good and evil things are one. The fears and worries about the fate of the people destroyed in the child's fantasy are all in the latter. The child tries to repair his mother through phantasm and behavior therapy, overcoming his depression and anxiety. He employs phantasies representing love and restoration to restore the others he destroyed. Morality is based on the standpoint of depression. Klein named it the depressive position because the efforts to restore the integrity of the damaged object are accompanied by depression and despair. After all, the child doubts whether it can fix everything it hurts. Many consider this to be her most significant contribution to psychoanalytic philosophy. She later developed her ideas about an earlier developmental psychological state corresponding to the disintegrating tendency of life, which she called the paranoid-schizoid position. Klein coined the term "paranoid-schizoid defense" to emphasize how the child's worries manifest as persecution fantasies and how he defends himself against persecution by separating. The paranoid-schizoid position develops at birth is a common psychotic condition.
Klein's insistence on regarding aggression as an important force in its own right when analyzing children brought her into conflict with Freud's daughter Anna Freud, who was one of the other prominent child psychotherapists in continental Europe but who moved to London in 1938 where Klein had been working for several years. Many controversies arose from this conflict, and these are often referred to as the controversial discussions. Battles were played out between the two sides, each presenting scientific papers, working out their respective positions and where they differed, during war-time Britain. A compromise was eventually reached whereby three distinct training groups were formed within the British Psychoanalytical Society, with Anna Freud's influence remaining largely predominant in the US. -- Wiki
Check out Oya’s website for more about her beautiful interpretation of the moment of the Primal Split. The images of the Second Archetypal Animation come from photos she shares of this performance. She also shares original sound track for this performance. To hear this, you need to go to her site. It is well worth your time if this topic interests you.
Sex, Kids, and The Theory of O
With the birth of consciousness, humans enter a new realm of being. In this realm, knowledge and truth are incredibly important because they help us navigation through the world of symbols, which we use to navigate through our lives. Truth and knowledge especially matter in the corrosive vat of anti-truth and anti-knowledge. Our modern age is full of false prophets touting false truths and false knowledge, in short, they are full of shit and hocking lots of lies to enrich themselves or to exert control over other peoples minds.
I write about truth and knowledge in my story and encountered one of the most fascinating theories of how humans come to obtain knowledge or lose it. It is Bion’s Theory of O. Here is a bit of his theory. It is complicated. I’ll let you make your own connections if it interests you.
"Bion, who was to become the awesome explorer of the "deep and formless infinite" of the psyche, first immersed himself in the theories of Freud and Klein and then gradually developed a revolutionary metapsychological metatheory for psychoanalysis. Bion incurred the criticism of his colleagues by daring to investigate faith, spirituality, religion, mysticism, metaphysics, and fetal mental life. His concepts of transformations in L(ove), H(ate), and K(nowledge), as well as ofintuitionistic and subjective science[Transformations in "0" (Ultimate Truth, Absolute Reality)], constitute an objective and numinous psychoanalytic epistemology."
"Bion was preoccupied with the concept of ultimate reality and absolute truth and reoriented psychoanalytic metapsychology into a theory ofthinkingandmeta-thinking aboutemotions. He distinguished the "thoughts-without-a-thinker" from the mind that had to develop in order to think them. I believe that his concept of"intuitionistic thinking"also presumes the presence of a more profound aspect of that mind: Not only did a mind develop to harvest the "thoughts without a thinker," but another aspect of the mind had to originate these "unthought thoughts." I believe that Bion came to a realization that true "thinking" ("dream work alpha" along the dimensions of "L, H, and K") is an unconscious -- if notpreconscious -- act and that what we normally term "thinking" (application of the ordinate and abscissa of the "Grid") is really"after-thinking."
"By realigning psychoanalysis with metaphysics and ontology (existentialism), Bion perforated the mystique of ontic "objectivity" implicit to logical-positivistic, deterministic science and revealed its own unsuspected mythology--itsabsolute dependence on sense data. Applying his concept ofreversible perspective,he found myths, both collective and personal, to be themselves "scientific deductive systems" in their own right (Bion, 1992). Mostly, Bion founded a new mystical science of psychoanalysis, a numinous discipline based on theabandonment of memory, desire, and understanding. To Bion, mysticism is "seeing things as they truly are -- without disguise" (personal communication). He was preoccupied with the question of how we know what we know."
"In this contribution I emphasize my understanding of Bion as theintuitionistic epistemologist, the"emotional mathematician"(Bion, 1965), the "mystical scientist" (Bion, 1970), the intrepid voyager into the deep and formless infinite, "O." I suggest that a "Transcendent Position" is implied by Bion's conception of "O," the latter of which overarches"nameless dread," beta elements, the "thing-in-themselves," the noumenon, "absolute truth," "ultimate reality," and "reverence and awe." -- From BION'S "TRANSFORMATION IN 'O' by James S. Grotstein
On the other side of O is Q. That little mark on the right side of Q is the sign of the corruption of thought and descent into lies. It is the sign of anti-truth, propaganda, and infantile rage.
It is the sign that a person is stuck in the paranoid-schizoid position. These individuals have split the world into the Good Mother (all that is good) and the Bad Mother (all that is bad), and they have stepped into the good bubble and seek to destroy all that is bad failing to realize it is all one, everything is connected. The Good Mother and Bad Mother are the same Mother. The Good Reality and Bad Reality are the same Reality. Destroy one and you destroy All. This is indeed a shameful place humanity has allowed itself to fall into basically because we are afraid of who we really are.
See Juliette Kayyem‘s story in The Atlantic. Trump is an outsized purveyor of propaganda and lies. So is Putin. We will pay with our precious world if humanity continues to close its eyes to the danger these liars and the threat they pose to everyone and existence itself. For the human beings who buy their lies and false truths, they give up their individuality to become part of a psychological monster bent on destroying the Bad Mother…never understanding that the Good Mother and Bad Mother are One.
"For a man who believes in nothing, has no coherent ideology or value system except his own continuing relevance, obsesses over conspiracies, and subsists on grievance and anger, Donald Trump took a long time to fully embrace QAnon. For some time, the former president has been flirting with the cult—which believes, among other preposterous things, that Democrats are part of a global child-sex-trafficking ring that Trump will ultimately defeat. But lately, that courtship has turned into a consummated marriage, as Trump incorporated QAnon tropes into an Ohio rally and started spreading them on his social-media service. -- About the author: Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary for homeland security under President Barack Obama, is the faculty chair of the homeland-security program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters." -- The Atlantic by Juliette Kayyem
Trump never found his mother. He never reconciled the Good Mother with the Bad Mother. He is permanently stuck in the paranoid-schizoid position. He is a permanent infant; a raging toddler, and so too is any one who paints the world in absolutes, in black and white , in this and only this is good: everyone else is bad. We will end the world if we remain hostages to such infantile men such as Trump and Putin. Any human being stuck in the authoritarian position is playing the Confidence Man game, which is a ruse for being a permanent paranoid infant. These are mad men leading us collectively straight to Hell.
Trump and his infantile, paranoid comrades are shameful.
The End of Shame
The final synchronistic thread that struck me is the death and burial of Queen Elizabeth II. Death is definitely the end of shame. It is the end of a journey through life. It is the end of that person’s story, of what that person came to understand, to know, to feel, to treasure or despise, to love, to cherish, to hate, and how they reconciled differences and conflicts. How we navigate our lives, everything we come to know and loves, comes to an inevitable end with death.
Alan Watts is absolutely right, the church is full of symbolism about sex. The steeples and naves of Christian churches are ripe with human sexuality, which is the most awesome act of creativity we are capable of as living beings. And so it is in death we end our journey through life and we are returned the womb, the tomb, from which we came.
This is what I wrote in reflecting about the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
For anyone who has lost a loved one, the ceremony of the burial of Queen Elizabeth II was poignant and full of rich symbolism and pageantry. There are many who mourn her passing, and there are many who say the time for royals is over. But, we as the people of Earth have never needed the symbolic role that Queen Elizabeth II played for more than 70 years more urgently.
We are crumbling under the weight of modern inconveniences, complexities, and confusion. We are losing our inner rudder, our collective moral compass. When we as the people of Earth can no longer unite under a common cause, let suppose this is the continuation of a habitual planet conducive for life, then we will simply rip apart the fabric of society necessary to met the challenges of this century.
Queen Elizabeth II played a role. She knew she was a symbol of stability, of hope, of continuity and the ability of her people to endure the tough times as well as enjoy the good times. Lacking such role models, symbols of strength, virtue, and compassion, it is easy to fall prey to our own thoughts of competition, revenge, vengeance, hate. No, she was not perfect, no human being is or ever will be and much was left undone in the wake of British imperialism. But, she showed a path, a better way, and we the Good People of Earth should take heed.
There are terrible problems ahead of us. Nuclear destruction has never been closer with the savage craze of Putin. This is such a man capable of pushing the button, so is Trump. And if nuclear war doesn't get us, then the global food crisis Putin has unleashed with his vengeful war will kill millions beyond the hundreds of thousands he has already killed with his insane war. And, he is creating the ultimate distraction preventing the world at the very moment it has a chance to mitigate the worst effects of Climate Change. There is only 8 years left. We are the people who will leave this great task left undone, so the future of life on Earth certainly hangs on the thinnest thread yet.
It is truly a time to take stock and act as we have never done collectively as a species before.
Feature Archetypal Animation:
Images for First Archetypal Animation:
Gross was asked to sketch out some basic ideas for each chapter for the illustrator, Armando Veve, who did opening chapter illustrations for each chapter. “The result was very fun, and developing the final illustrations was super collaborative,” Gross says. Rachel Gross — The Open Notebook
Please note Chrome works best for the Archetypal Animations in this post.
— By Wendell Berry
First Archetypal Animation & Stanza
When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s live may be,
Second Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
Third Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
Fourth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the presence of still water.
Fifth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
Sixth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
ReflectionsOn Wendell Berry’s Poem to This Moment in Time
When the forces of man’s collective psyche gather into a maelstrom sending destructive vortexes this way and that into the world, it is hard not to feel as Wendell Berry begins his timeless poem:
...despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's live may be...
Putin blows his devil’s breath from high within his isolated, depressing Moscow tower. A devil’s wind that makes his warrior vortexes go this way and that. Everywhere they go, the leave behind trails of blood, of dead bodies and blown up buildings, trees, and earth. Up there in his tower of desolation, he bloats in his madness as he congratulates himself over and over again about how he is getting away with unleashing his Hell-scape fantasies, deathly desires, and foolish folly into the world.
If you are a person with normal capacity for human empathy and compassion, then it is impossible to turn away and ignore what is going on in Ukraine. And you must not turn away.
We all must witness this wicked madness straight on, just as the Ukrainians are meeting Putin’s little devils straight on. If we don’t want to become like Putin, we must feel this destruction deeply and furiously. And we must feel down deep into our bones all the other tragedies unfolding in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, South America, in the heart of all major cities and super rick countries in this world.
If you do, this means you are still human.
Wendell Berry describes the monsters inside us all. And he also tells us how to quell them and to sink into the peace that passes all understanding.
I wonder when was the last time Putin went down to where the wood drakes gather? When did he last lay down on his back, belly exposed to the light, the air, the sun, the stars and breathe in the beauty of this world? When did he last see a heron eat a snake or ponder the peace of still water? When did he last look up into the night sky and wonder about how implausible any of us are here at all?
When did Putin cut himself off from his curiosity, his wonder, his inner grace and awareness that he is alive in a magnificent world with enough bounty for all, if only we would tap into our inner wild nature where the wild wisdom of life runs free with the knowledge there is bounty all, if only we take our fair share? When did Putin become a narcissist blob cut off from his body, his heart, and his humanity? When did he become a monster?
Seventh Archetypal Animation | When Grace Is Lost
Putin lost his inner grace long ago, and now, alone and cold in a forbidding world, he opens a gate for devils to tumble and fumble their way out into this beautiful world. They rape women, shoot children, bomb maternity hospitals, children’s hospitals, and recreation centers where 1,000 women and children huddle in the dark and cold hoping they might just stop their bombing. Instead, they are crushed under the rubble of another bomb.
I hate Putin. I hate Putin’s army of dead and dying souls. I wish the Free World would grow a stronger backbone and kill this man who has become a Dracula overseeing an army of Zombies. But, we are playing on the “civilized” game board, while Putin plays on the barbarian game board.
However, he won’t win. He might kill a Hell of a lot of people. He might even launch a nuclear bomb, but like so many Ruthless Rulers before him, he will crumble into the dust bin of life. Ruthless Rulers always do.
Oh yes, they might win for a time. And, they might press their smelly likeness onto other human beings, adding to the blob, but he will never win. His zombies will never rule over the multitude as he has promised.
Evil never wins! At least not for long…not as long as there is life to live. Not as long as wood drakes sail on lakes or great herons hunt and devour snakes. Not as long as a single human being wanders down to the waters edges and wonders why this whole thing exists at all. Ponders why we are here amongst the divine majesty of the trillion billion stars above.
Being Human by Being Connected to Each Other & the World
My friend Karen shared this poem with me. We both feel deep pain for suffering the of the people of Ukraine. We both feel helpless in the face of such evil, and yet, we live…and…in the face of such horror, in retaliation to the demonic evil unleashing death, destruction and horror on Earth, Ukrainians fight! They live!
And yes, they are dying by the hundreds of thousands because Putin is a coward and his army is ill-equipped and ill-prepared, indeed, they are unwilling to wage this war, expect for the beasts he’s imported in and the degenerate ones who glory in the gross and disgusting side of life…the ones who are too afraid to love or to know who and what they really are.
Ukrainians know the price of this evil, and they stand against it, and they are winning! They are winning because they remained connected to their humanity and grounded to this Earth–our home, our mother, our true nature. They show us, the Free World, each and every day how to fight for what is right and how to be better human beings!
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.”
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?
Sometime last fall, while biking, the word Sisyphus popped into my mind. I did not know what it meant. I knew it was familiar, but I could not remember why. It’s a weird word. Not a word you hear on a daily basis, not even a word you hear on a decade basis, unless perhaps you are a scholar. But, it kept popping into my mind randomly at least a dozen times or more into the beginning of 2021.
I Was Just Looking for Something Good to Watch
I was looking for a new series to watch on Netflix. I’d finished a score of good series, and then hit a patch of bad ones. I wanted something good…something I could sink into and get lost inside. I was looking for something like the shows I had recently finished watching such as:
Outlander: I never read Diana Gabaldon‘s books, but once I started watching this series, I was hooked. I was trying to find a replacement for Masterpiece’s Poldarkseries based on Winston Graham’s books, which is absolutely amazing. And when I saw Ronald D. Moore was producing this series, I was intrigued because his last big hit series was the updated Battlestar Galacticaseries, a TV drama I loved immensely in the 70s, and Caprica(this tells the tale of how that fictional human civilization fell by showing how the Cylon androids took over their worlds, but then it got abruptly and cruelly canceled before the whole story could be told).
Outlander does not disappoint from the very first episode onward. Its characters are complexed, nuanced, and compelling. The series does not rush the story, reveals each character honestly and humanely, and tells the tale in a captivating, mysterious way. Each season builds upon the last one. The characters grow as the times change around them. The difficulties and battles feel real and vital. Each character has layers of complexities that influence their choices and actions, just like real people do, making the story relatable; indeed, a symbol that transforms the complexities encountered in novel and unexpected ways. And isn’t that what you are really hungry for when you sit down to watch a story?
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials: I never read Pullman’s novels but I loved the Golden Compass, which was made for the big screen in 2007. However, due to the financial crisis of 2008/2009, the next parts of this series never materialized. Then in 2019, HBO teamed up with BBC to reimagine this fantastic tale for the smaller screen/TV. They did an amazing job translating a complicated story to the screen. I found it believable, compelling, and thrilling. The characters are complicated. You think you’ve pegged one as evil and then realize later critical nuances that force you to reconsider your views. They mystery of the story is revealed slowly and unevenly, so you have to guess or imagine for yourself why this or that happened. Each new character has something new to offer in understanding the whole story. The special effects add to the story rather than overly dominate it.
I love this scene where the researcher and scholar Mary talks to Dust, then she realizes the Dust itself are the Angels. (From His Dark Materials | Season 2, episode 4. The Tower of Angels).
She asks: “Angels are creatures made up of shadow matter of dust?”
The Mysterious Something answers: “Yes.”
Mary further inquires: “And shadow matter is what we call spirit?”
The Mysterious Something replies: “From what we are, spirit, from what we do, matter. Matter and spirit are one.”
Mary asks: “You’ve always been there?”
The Mysterious Something says: “Making, stimulating, guiding.”
Mary queries: “So does that mean angels have intervened in human evolution?”
The Mysterious Something answers: “Yes.”
Mary asks: “But why?”
The Mysterious Something says plainly: “Vengeance.”
Now, I wonder what that means? I didn’t find out in Season 2, so waiting for Season 3. But after that exchange, Mary starts working with the I Ching–which is our world’s equivalent to the Golden Compass from Lyra’s world. Because of Mary, I got the I Ching for my birthday and learned to read the yarrow straws. I supposed that now I too am talking to the angels.
I use good TV drama like a support system, especially during this year of COVID where social distancing has put so many of us into isolation to extremes. My own Indra’s Network was already partially destroyed and broken. The connections I still maintained with friends and family were sorely stretched by time and distance. They were incredibly nourishing when time and attention permitted, but these moments were punctuated by long bouts of silence and little to no meaningful interactions with people who care.
Good stories, powerful dramas are ways I have found that soothe and nourish my soul, especially during times when kindness and caring human contact is in short supply.
As I was working on this blog, Liz Cheney spoke before Congress on the eve before the impending vote tomorrow (5/12/21) to remove her from her leadership position as the 3rd most powerful Republican Leader in the House. Republicans are doing this to her because she took a stand not to support Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. She named Trump as the chief sower of doubt in the hearts and minds of Americans.
The Dark Force
By the way, the I Ching says doubt is the Dark Force. Now, who is being a superhero here in the United States on this very day of May 12, 2021? Who is growing the fabric of time and space rather than ripping it to tiny shards of broken light?
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Tibetan Book of the Dead warns the soul of a dying individual not to follow the illusionary images and lights they have created inside of themselves and then projected into the world around them. They did this because they did not understood their true Self in life. They did not descend and understand their true identity as a space-time being. They did not understand the meaning and purpose of life. Death is a time thats unravels the net of confused pain each individual becomes entangled within throughout the course of their life on Earth. To not do so, condemns the eternal soul to return again and again and again–sometimes (perhaps often) as a lesser being in order to learn the lessons not mastered in the life before. This returning can occur again and again for the world of rock and buildings and money and power is like water–it continually flows, dissolving everything in time.
Those who use the power of the Dark Force may indeed achieve tremendous riches, success, and power on Earth. However, all this will turn to dust and scatter into nothingness at the time of death. Nothing here is permanent. At death, we lose everything. Nothing that we thought is real is real. If we don’t let go of everything we have clung to in life, the tiny light of consciousness every human being is born into at the beginning of their life will be born into another painful life, again and again and again.
Those who peddle in doubt and fear can live 10 billion, million lives, each one diminishing his/her original source of light until there is nothing left of that light.
Leonard Cohen narrated a beautiful documentary about the practices and wisdom contained and known within the Buddhist tradition. It is elegant knowledge, beautiful knowledge. It shows how we can grow as space-time beings, as we are suppose to grow, rather than collapsing into smaller and smaller living beings.
“People make hell realms out of their own anger. They make worlds out of passions, out of envy or complacency. We project our emotional states, and then believe it is the real world. But no matter what, everyone longs for compassion. Everyone wishes to be awake. So the best thing is to develop genuine compassion for all living beings and for ourselves too. And our compassion should extend beyond our friends and family and the people we like. It must extend to all people and to all living beings.” — From Documentary about The Tibetan Book of the Dead
This is how to wake up as a living conscious being.
The OA: This series is a mind-bending SyFy fantasy that often leaves viewers with more questions than answers. Word has it this is one of the reasons this show was cancelled after season 2 when 5 seasons were planned. Apparently the average viewer does not have the attention span or interests to dabble in complexity–perhaps this is the inevitable end to Carmel Marvel storytelling–everything has to be blunt, not complex, and nothing left to the imagination, much less to dabble with moral ambiguity. I loved this series. I guess I drank the Kool-aide and became part of its cult following late. And I agree with 110% with Brit Marling that storytelling in America has become not as good as it could or should be.
When the show was cancelled, one viewer went outside of Netflix’s headquarters and held an 8 day hunger strike. Refinery29 interviewed her and wrote a compelling article about why she did this.
“We are living in a time where it seems that things are going to go very badly,” explains Young in front of the Netflix building in Hollywood, where she has been protesting since August 15 and hunger striking since August 19. “The response to that has been ‘Okay, we’re going to make darker, grittier television.’ But in times of darkness, light is most important, and The OA is filled with light. We need something to let us know, ‘Yes, we can do something,’ because all the media around us is telling us that these are dark, grim times and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Created by Brit Marling and creative partner Zal Batmanglij, The OA tells the story of Prairie (Marling), a blind woman who returns after years in captivity with her sight restored. Season 1 of the series mostly exists within the narrative that Prairie tells a group of soon-to-be friends about her time in captivity and before it, in which she transcended time and space and found herself in alternate dimensions. Along the way, the show tackles themes of trauma, and of the importance of a human connection amongst it. Young isn’t wrong about The OA being different: There’s a hopefulness to The OA that is unmatched by more gritty prestige TV offerings like The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, even Game of Thrones.
Learning about this woman, Brit Marling and Zal Batmangli came and brought her water. Afterward, Brit posted this about her reaction to OA’s cancellation and how storytelling in America has become not as good as it could or should be.
This is no small thing that Emperial Young and Brit Marling are drawing our attention to in this protest and post, particularly this part: “… the role of storytelling and its fate inside late capitalism’s push toward consolidation and economies of scale.” This is a post about Sisyphus: Is Late Capitalism and its push towards consolidation and economies of scale perhaps not the rock Sisyphus not pushing up the mountain getting it to the top after great effort only to have it fall back down to the bottom again and again and again.
Invisible City (Brazil): This is a new Brazilian fantasy that is streaming on Netflik television series created by Carlos Saldanha that is based on a story co-developed by the screenwriters and best-selling authors Raphael Draccon and Carolina Munhóz. It is in Portuguese, so you have to read subtitles if you are only an English speaker. I was born in Brazil and once knew Portuguese, but have forgotten all of it. I loved listening to the characters speaking in Portuguese. It felt familiar and lovely. It is a musical language and the music in this series is alive and vibrant. I soon forgot I was reading subtitles and got lost in the rich and depth of storytelling unfolding through this complex, invigorating story. The characters are treated with dignity and respect. The puzzle of the drama unfolds in surprising reveals that add depth to the story and bring this mysterious world into vivid view.
Glitch (Australian): This is an older series that begins with a bang when a police officer and a doctor face an emotionally charged mystery as seven local residents inexplicably return from the dead. It is three seasons long, and the first two open up so many innovative ideas and possibilities, but season 3 falls flat on its face and destroys all the wonder and the miracle being explored, in my opinion. I am glad I watched it because I learned what I do not want to do as I write my tale.
I was so bothered by how they ended this series, I went on online to see if others were too and found this great blog: Old Ain’t Dead | Reviews of movies and TV focused on women … specifically Season 3 (so if you intend to watch Glitch, save this site for later because there are definitely spoilers, including my comment there).
Carmel Marvel Syndrome
When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, I have come to realize I am picky, and not all are the same. In fact in the United States, we are suffering from what I have come to term the Carmel Marvel Syndrome. It is a widespread a syndrome that is dumbing down how stories are being told in books and reimagined on screens. The good-bad divide in Carmel Marvel stories is stark, uncreative, and boring. Nothing is left in-between–you are either the good guy or girl or you’re the bad one. The bad ones almost always lose in the end, but you get there in terribly unimaginative, brutal, evil ways…as the good guy or gal finally finds a morsel of moral or spiritual strength and prevails. Romance is reduced to uninspiring sex scenes that clearly come from basal fantasies of pale males.
What bothers me most is Carmel Marvel storytelling is that they are not honest to the characters. They tend to stripe away their complexity and humanity and force them to do things against their character’s moral underpinnings. Yes, imagined characters have moral underpinnings, they are real and must strive for meaning, purpose and dignity too. I am not going to explain this now, but Carmel Marvel stories like to put their characters into highly contrived situations that they would never do unless forced to by their bored and uninspired creators. They are put into these situations purely for entertainment reasons, which really translates to money. Because Carmel Marvel producers and creators hope for billions and billions of viewers–and they think only highly fantasized modern gladiators well do this. After watching such a sickly story, nothing sticks or stays in the psyche or soul from the story. That is because there is nothing real there. There is nothing nearing the human experience of meaning, truth, reality, or wonder. Everyone knows these types of stories are junk food for the soul. They are cheap imitation of images meant to trick, deceive, and fill you up with a whole lot of nothing, just like if you ate only Carmel candy for all your daily nutrient requirements.
So let’s get back to that word Sisyphus that kept popping into my mind.
After being disappointed by another Carmel Marvel HBO series, I switched back to Netflix to hunt for a new series to watch. That’s when a 2021 Netflix out of South Korea caught my eye. It was called Sisyphus! Normally, I would have put it on my To Watch Later list since it required reading subtitles again. But because of the synchronicity, I thought what the heck, go for it!
I loved it! And I discovered that I love the Korean way of telling stories!!!!
The fabric of this story is rich woven with little bits of gold and silver throughout the 16 episodes. Each one takes the viewer on a journey, revealing a little bit more in surprising ways that adds depth to each character, even the evil ones. The villains have backstories that are as complex as the heroes. Villains and heroes alike are treated honestly and no high tech short cuts are used to substitute good storytelling. Throughout the 16 episodes, the viewer enters a journey (a world) that grows more and more complex as you go: you grow as the characters grow.
Sisyphus masters the art of subtle storytelling. This is a subject I briefly touched upon early in my blogging efforts in a blog questioning if Collective Transformation Possible. In it I talk about the Black Magician and the White Magician and their roles in our human psyche. I drew them while listening to a Chinese business-financial scholar talk about Trump’s power play back in 2018 with China on trade. (It’s didn’t end well by the way… this power play Trump tried… for Americans or for Trump who placed the livelihood of hundreds of small soybean and other farmers in jeopardy.)
Dr. Peter Chen pointed out Western ideas of negotiation are quite different from Eastern ideas. He said in Chinese, the most similar word they have to negotiation is tánpàn, which means talking and judging. For the Chinese, it is considered the dark side of economics with the East preferring to focus on conversation when working out deals. However, there are huge differences in how conversation is conducted by a Western diplomat versus an Eastern diplomat. By Eastern standards, Westerners are considered low-context communicators (i.e., direct and forceful, which can be considered very rude by Eastern standards). Eastern culture dictates a much more high-context style of communication, which is reserved, relies more on body language, and is based on relationships.