The Tao is like an empty container: it can never be emptied and can never be filled. Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things. It dulls the sharp, unties the knotted, shades the lighted, and unites all of creation with dust.
It is hidden but always present. I don’t know who gave birth to it . It is older than the concept of God.
Conservatives have long invoked the specter of the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott vs. Sandford in their fight against abortion rights, likening embryos and fetuses to slaves with no due process. Progressives now, too, are drawing parallels between the stripping of rights from people who may get pregnant and the infamous majority opinion penned by then-Chief Justice Roger Taney, who wrote, "a Black man has no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
Missing from this historic analogy, however, are the experiences of Black women, whose enslavement and forced reproduction was fundamental to America's rise. We speak with Dr. Deborah Gray White, Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, about this not-so-distant history and the possibilities it holds for all American women.
My take away: In the wake of Roe vs Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court, Deborah Gray White was watching the dystopian story the Handmaid’s Tale with her daughter who said, “Oh my God, we’re becoming this!” Deborah replied, “We already are this. America has used black and brown women as reproductive commodities since its founding. What’s changing is now white women are getting closer to becoming commodities again.”
Alok Vaid-Menonis a gender non-conforming writer and performer who grew up in Texas to Indian immigrant parents. They use their creativity and platform to explore themes of gender, race, trauma and belonging, advocating and bringing visibility to the trans community. We speak with Alok about their work and advocacy, and what they learned from their aunt, Urvashi Vaid, the beloved LGBTQ rights activist who spent more than a decade working for equality at the National LGBTQ Task Force.
My take away from this amazing interview: The gender non-conforming community is showing the world how to love during a time of great division, growing hate, tremendous suffering, and huge oceans of human anxiety.
We talk about changing the Constitution and what comes next after the reversal of Roe.
This conversation is part of our Remaking America collaboration with six public radio stations around the country. Remaking America is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
My take away: I loved listening to Olatunde Johnson, professor at Columbia University School of Law | The United States Constitution was made by a bunch of slave owning, patriarchal, misogynistic pale males. It is ludicrous to think we cannot update or change it as our society changes and grows. This is what overturning Roe vs Wade is about. This is what Jan. 6, 2021 is about. It is about a bunch of people who want to live 18th Century lives in the 21st Century.
What would you do if this was your last day on Earth today?
Perhaps write a poem?
It is our perception of reality that determines so much of what we allow ourselves to accept or not accept, what we allow ourselves to believe or not believe, how much we allow ourselves to love or not to love.
Poems are wonderful transformers of perception.
Here are some poems about nature, Earth, and life that have been written at very different periods in time, and yet, there is something universal, something incredibly current, something worth paying attention to in each and every one of them, especially today.
When all thoughts Are exhausted I slip into the woods And gather A pile of shepherd’s purse.
From Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, translated by John Stevens. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1996.
Nothing in the cry of cicadas suggests they are about to die.
The bee emerging from deep within the peony departs reluctantly.
Summer grasses: all that remains of great soldiers’ imperial dreams.
From The Essential Basho, Translated by Sam Hamill. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1999.
The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me. The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered. No spring breeze even at this late date, Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.
From Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, translated by John Stevens. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1995.
These Zen poems come from A Sampler of Zen Poetry. The author of this sampler says, “These are a few of my favorite poems by three of Japan’s greatest Zen monk-poets, Ikkyu (1394-1481), Basho (1644-1694), and Ryokan (1758-1831).”
They are indeed very beautiful and holy.
Today is Earth Day!
Go ahead, write a poem! Transcend space and time and perceptions of reality using nothing but your mind.
We never know when our last day on Earth will be.
Seize the moment, see more, feel your rightness in this moment, know you belong and you matter, right here, right now. You are it!
After a month of listening to Alan Watts, I understand that it is I who create the problems I perceive. And only I can grow out of them.
There is nothing more to say.
All my blogs have been for not. I think perhaps the only thing left for me to do here is attempt to master the art of writing a descent haiku. This is an ancient art form using words like paint brushes to capture things that cannot be said, only felt, in three brief sentences.
Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of renga, an oral poem, generally a hundred stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth century and was mastered a century later by Matsuo Basho, who wrote this classic haiku: An old pond! -- Haiku | Academy of American Poets
The habit of thinking and writing about such thoughts; however, is hard to break. Thus, I will indulge in recalling that yesterday was September 11.
It has been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. For 20 years, 9/11 is a day of remembrance, grieving, and reflection about all that has transpired since that day. This includes the war on terror, which has become known as the Forever Wars.
Reveal just aired a hard-hitting episode on the costs and aftermath of these wars. In short, over 3,000 people died on 9/11 and in the past 20 years as the US searched for those responsible for this horrific attack, more than 900,000 soldiers, contractors, and civilians have died in the Forever Wars.
It is so easy to tearasunder and destroy the delicate balances sustaining all life on earth. Human beings have proved to be especially adept at doing this due to beliefs, attitudes, values, and misguided directives that are held doggedly to inside our minds and that only serve to gouge out deep trenches inside of ourselves (inside our souls) that make it possible for a good and decent person to do the most horrible things. These trenches inside of us is what separates us from each other and most of us will never escape their great depth and gravity.
It does not matter what steadfast beliefs a person clings to or what side they are fighting for because the result is the same. Once a person begins to cling to symbolic thought (replacing insufficient symbols for reality), the digging of the Pit of Peril begins and grows deeper and deeper as more and more adamant beliefs replace reality with rote responses and reactions. The harder a person clings to their resolute beliefs, the deeper and wider the trench of separation grow inside. This is the story of separation. It is the fall of man.
It is so much easier to love one another and to try to listen to one another to understand each other and live in peace rather than cultivate the inner forces of hate and separation.
Following the theme of remembering 9/11, these are two photojournalistic reflections of this day of remembering and reflection.
The Last Enemy
I will also mention one more thing regarding a synchronicity that occurred around this time. It is always important to pay attention to synchronicities when they occur in one’s life. Each person’s synchronicities are utterly unique and appear to help you grow as a conscious being. I share mine synchronicity story only as an example.
It began when I received my latest Netflix DVD. The title was The Last Enemy. I had no idea what it was and why I had put this in my cue. I almost sent it back without watching it thinking it was probably nonsense and I had made a mistake. However, I ended up watching it the day before September 11, 2021. It was absolutely relevant to this moment in time. It was made in 2012 and is about a fictional future where a devastating terrorist attack (like what happened on 9/11) turns Britain into a super surveillance state to keep everyone safe from those who might want to do us harm… but is everyone really safe? There is also a mysterious pandemic going on too.
I understand why Qers, plandemic believers, and even anti-vaxxers grow and harvest such ideas inside their minds. These are exciting concepts rich with conflict and mistrust. And such concepts provides the mind with a powerful fuel that speeds people through their daily activities, and quite often very dull routines. It is a type of mind fuels that provides individuals with a deep sense of meaning and purpose that they are fighting something evil.
That’s what this series explores.
Set in a recognisable, near-future London beset by terrorism and illegal immigration, The Last Enemy features the introduction of "TIA" (Total Information Awareness), a centralised database that can be used to track and monitor anybody, effectively by putting all available government and corporate – i.e. credit card and bank activity, phone use, internet use, purchases, rentals, etc. – information in one place.
The story deals with a political cover-up centred on a sanctioned but secret medical experiment run amok with key members of the government trying desperately to hide all evidence of their experimental batch of vaccine that seems to be causing a deadly virus. The complex story unspools to reveal the moral, social and privacy concerns of this hypothetical TIA system in a post-7/7 world, including such control mechanisms familiar to both real life and science fiction as retinal scans, fingerprint identification and ubiquitous camera and cellphone surveillance footage.
The story is told through the eyes of a mathematical genius, Stephen Ezard, who is portrayed as a recluse showing some signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. But the shy genius overcomes his own inhibitions to burrow into a highly compromised British government using his brilliance and their TIA system only to find himself ultimately trapped by the people he most trusts, and to learn he is a pawn in manipulative Security State machinations which take the people he most loves from him and compromise him forever. -- From Wiki
Lastly, this is one of the Watts lectures I listened to in the past month.
“Reality escapes all concepts. If you say there is a god that’s a concept. If you say there is no god that’s a concept. Nagarjuna is saying that always your concepts will prove to be attempts to catch water in a sieve.”
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ―Lao Tzu
There are so many problems in the world; huge, convoluted, intricate, life and death problems that have no easy answers or solutions. If you are listening to someone who is saying: “I KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD.” This person has no clue what is wrong or what to do about it.
Humanity in its broadest sense is floating once again on a vast and mighty Sea of Uncertainty. For some (and I am only talking about the individual level, not the collective), the uncertainty is no less than life or death. For others, they can only watch as a helpless observers to the multiple crises unfolding and must bear witness to the individual and collective descent of humanity, doing whatever they can to help, no matter how small the action may seem. For still others, this moment fills them with fear and they run away and deny the realities of this moment, preferring to hide their light of consciousness under a bushel. The worst among us, are using this moment and their light of consciousness to misled, misdirect, confuse, and frighten others so they may benefit and profit from the disorientation, confusion, and mayhem touching everyone’s life right now (e.g., this might mean they cultivate a flock of admirers who hang on your every word; they sow seeds deceit to gain money, power, status; or they indulge their criminal instinct certain no one will notice in all the chaos).
An illustration of the parable, together with the parable of the Growing Seed, which follows it in Mark chapter 4 (Source: Wikipedia)
"And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor [anything] secret, that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath."— Luke 8:16-18, King James Version
Crisis and complexity is not new to us as human beings. We have always been a species who had to find a way to survive through crisis and calamity. Long ago, such fate was visited upon us as a species by nature. More recently, we create the fate we must survive be it culturally, socially, politically, or any thing that calls upon our membership to the human race. It is not possible to be alive today without wearing both hats: that of an individual and that of a member of a collective.
Today, witness the shambalic pull out of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The destructive earthquake in Haiti:
The brutal, heartless War in Yemem and the death toll of children.
The desperate journey immigrants from around the world make across the Darien Gap.
Anti vaxxers fueling the Delta variant’s death toll, even among children.
I have left many tragedies out. But if you are a human of goodwill and good conscious, you know what I have left out. Again, I am focusing on the actions and consequents or non-actions and consequents of individuals, not collectives (of which we are all members of one kind or another; the actions/consequents or non-actions/consequents of collectives are an entirely different order).
Because I am human and because I am enraged by the tremendous amount of misinformation spread by anti vaxxers, I am going to pick on the anti vaxxers for a moment to illustrate something critical in understanding the Secrets of the Golden Flower and Diamond Body.
I have had a glimpse into their world, and I have seen them congratulating each other for getting kicked off social media platforms when the spread misinformation. I see them admitting to each other how they choose not to get vaccinated nor wear a mask and then just pretend in crowds they are vaccinated–taking a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to what they view as an unjust infringement of their individual liberties. I see them celebrating sickness and their body’s ability to fight off anything. I see them comparing mask mandates to Hitler’s Germany. I hear them proclaiming if they resist, they will rise up on the other side of this as the people who are going to bring in a more beautiful world or the people who are going to overthrown totalitarianism in all its manifestations or the people who will be the new Super Athletes of the world (a echo of Hitler’s Super Race myth). I hear them crying fowl that they might not be allowed into bars, restaurants, gyms, workplaces, or even to donate an organ if they cannot prove they’ve had the vaccine.
Have they not seen the suffering of individuals crossing the Darien Gap? Have they not seen the children dying in Yemen because they don’t have food? And there are many children in the mighty Untied States suffering from food shortages too–where is their attention and empathy for striving children anywhere in the world. Or for the plight of the people in Haiti who 6 days later still lack medical equipment, food, water, or help of any kind! Or the millions of people left stranded in Afghanistan after Western powers left (primarily my country: the U.S.) leaving them to the mercy of a brutal, barbaric, backwards, twisted regime that hunt and kill people based on a warped and twisted worldview and religious interpretation filled with hate, especially against women and girls or men who choose to believe different than they do.
Apparently, they have not. They have been too focused on their own fears (real or not) that their rights are being trampled on and the world is going to be ruled by Hitler’s once again.
I have also caught a glimpse into some who are promoting some of the most stubborn and kooky anti-COVID theories. Among some of the staunchest anti-vaxxers, you will hear how society is sick and going to die now. These messages send their followers into pure panic to the point some are digging bunkers and preparing for the end of the world. I know some who are doing this.
Many of the farthest out narratives draw upon religious symbolism and language such as expressed by Catholic Cardinal Burke, who recently was put on a ventilator due to the disease he denied existed. Just in December of 2020, he preached about forces, totalitarian in nature, determined to rule over us .
Where I have seen some of the most infantile responses to COVID-19 is inside the Facebook bubble that I got sorted into. It is a group of people who are passionate about Climate Change. They are people who want to change the system in order to bring in a new, better, more beautiful world. Who could argue this is wrong, expect COVID-19 has revealed to me that there is a long and very dark shadow carefully hidden underneath many of my duly sorted Facebook men and women good intentions to save the world (and I count myself among those concealing a dark shadow).
Here is what Alan Watts says about do gooders:
I know for a fact that I suffer from the same unconscious desire to save the world, and I hide the same shadow underneath all my flowery virtue-isms. I am not that guy standing in the creek, facing down the alligators while holding a log for others to walk safely across. I am a slow learner and it has been hard to accept I can’t do a damn thing about the world, expect possible try to live my own life with a little joy and attention to those I love, and possibly cultivate a little more High Virtue actions by accepting all of who I am.
I know that most of my vexation and annoyance at the selfish and immature behavior of the anti vaxxer crowd is a sign I am not fully become conscious of my own annoying, naive, and stupid behavior. Nor have I fully forgiven myself for the foolish, puerile behavior I have become conscious of.
Alan Watts also says further that when one sets out upon the path of self-development, all the debtors suddenly appear seeking payment for your past karma (karma is nothing more than action and all action (or non-action) has a consequence).
“It is believed generally in India that when a person sets out on the way of liberation his first problem is to become free from his past karma. The popular theory of karma the word that literally means action or doing in Sanskrit. So that when we say that something that happens to you is your karma it’s like saying in english it’s your own doing. But in in popular Indian belief karma is a sort of built-in moral law or a law of retribution such that all the bad things you do and all the good things you do have consequences which you have to inherit. And so long as karmic energy remains (all the bad things you do and all the good things you do) you have to work it out and what the sage endeavors to do is a kind of action which in Sanskrit is called: nishkama karma nishkama. This means without passion or without attachment.” — Alan Watts
“Now when the time comes that you start to get out of the chain of karma all the creditors that you have start presenting themselves for payment. In other words a person who begins say to study yoga is felt that he will suddenly get sick or that his children will die or that he’ll lose his money or all sorts of catastrophes will occur because uh the karmic debt is being cleared up and uh it there’s in no hurry to be cleared up if you’re just living along like anybody. But if you embark on the spiritual life a certain hurry occurs and therefore since this is known uh it’s rather discouraging to start these things. The christian way of saying the same thing is that if you plan to be to change your life shall we say to turn over a new leaf you mustn’t let the devil know.” — Alan Watts (around minute 23)
I foolishly got into a debate about which perspective was right regarding COVID–is it a lie or is it really happening. It was a futile discussion for if I had truly learned anything from listening to hours and hours of Alan Watts via YouTube, I would have simply accepted this position as part of the great happening we are all apart of… and yet, sometimes, I find myself separating from Watts universal, masterful perspective and descending into questioning… but why?
In the course of this rather rancorous discussion, we found we agreed on relative realities and I shared my series on bubble realities.
However, that was about all we agreed upon. After a lengthy illness from which I have still not recovered, I found considerable criticism of my thinking. It is futile to engage in further thought of our ongoing disagreement, but one negative assessment must be addressed. My dialogue partner said: “A story is just a story.”
Well this is true if you are perceiving and arguing simply from the physical realm of reality that we all live in. This includes bodies and bridges, cities and towns, trees and skyscrapers– you get the picture. This is not true when you are perceiving and working from the non-physical world. The dimension where the Diamond Body exists.
In this realm of being, nothing is concrete or enduring. Here, we are confronted with the very best that dwells inside of us and is part of our psyche and developing personality. And, here, we are also confronted with the very darkest, destructive, may I say, evil parts of ourself. Every human being on the planet has a good and bad side. Without these poles, consciousness as we know and understand it would not be possible.
To live together in harmonious groups of people and not tear each others heads off, human beings had to build internal ramparts to protect the individual from out-of-control collective action and to protect the collective from out-of-controlled individual action. We call individual action that is not in accord with the harmony of the collective criminal behavior.
Stories are one of the most important ways societies build and maintain these inner ramparts that protect individual and collective from catastrophe action. When these powerful inner forces begin to crash over and break down the social ramparts carefully constructed over centuries, some of man’s most destructive instincts are let loose. For some of us, this brings death.
Carl Jung was well aware of the dangers that come from inside a perfectly normal man and a perfectly respectable woman, even child. Here are several case Jung handled during his career that helped him understand what is happening the psyche of human beings–the realm of the Diamond Body.
That’s about all I am going to say about current events, anti vaxxers, clearing karma, and the Diamond Body for now. I may turn this into another series. I would just like to point you to the work of Richard Wilhelm who wrote The Secret of the Golden Flower in 1931. He work proved pivotal to Jung’s work on human psychology and psyche, and Jung and Watts were close friends. Watts often drew on the understandings he obtained through long conversations with Jung before Carl Jung died in the early sixties. Sadly, Watts, though much younger, would die himself in the early seventies.
We have been here before as a species on the brink of unrecoverable disaster. If we are luck, we will find a way forward together (as we have done before) and have another opportunity to pull ourselves back from the brink of extinction. Or, as Alan Watts, loved to say, “Perhaps we are that species who does itself in in interesting ways.”
The original German edition of The Secret of the Golden Flower, of which the following is the authorized English translation, appeared first in the autumn of 1929. On March 1st, 1930, Richard Wilhelm died. In May, 1930, memorial services in his honour were held in Munich, and Jung was asked to deliver the principal address. The latter finds an appropriate place in the English version, 1 which is published a year or more after the co-author's death. The address will be welcomed, not only for what it tells the reader of Wilhelm, but for the further light it throws on the standpoint of the East.
The relation of the West to Eastern thought is a highly paradoxical and confusing one. On the one side, as Jung points out, the East creeps in among us by the back door of the unconscious, and strongly influences us in perverted forms, and on the other we repel it with violent prejudice as concerned with a fine-spun metaphysics that is poisonous to the scientific mind.
If anyone is in doubt as to how far the East influences us in secret ways, let him but briefly investigate the fields covered to-day by what is called "occult thought ". Millions of people are included in these movements and Eastern ideas dominate all of them. Since there is nowhere any sign of a psychological understanding of the phenomena on which the ideas are based, they undergo a complete twisting and are a real menace in our world.
A partial, realization of what is going on in this direction, together with the Westerner's native ignorance and mistrust of the world of inner experience, build up the prejudice against the reality of Eastern wisdom. When the wisdom of the Chinese is laid before a Westerner, he is very likely to ask with a sceptical lift of the brows why such profound wisdom did not save China from its present horrors. Of course, he does not stop to think that the Chinese asks with an equal skepticism why the much boasted scientific knowledge of the West, not to mention its equally boasted Christian ethics, did not save it from a World War. But as a matter of fact, present conditions in China do not invalidate Chinese wisdom, nor does the Great War prove the futility of science. In both cases we are dealing with the negative sides of the principles under which East and West live, and it has not yet been given, either to individuals or to nations, to manage the vices of their virtues. Mastery of the inner world, with a relative contempt for the outer, must inevitably lead to great catastrophes. Mastery of the outer world, to the exclusion of the inner, delivers us over to the daemonic forces of the latter and keeps us barbaric despite all outward forms of culture. The solution cannot be found either in deriding Eastern spirituality as impotent, or by mistrusting science as a destroyer of humanity. We have to see that the spirit must lean on science as its guide in the world of reality, and that science must turn to the spirit for the meaning
This is the point of view established in The Secret of the Golden Flower. Through the combined efforts of Wilhelm and Jung we have for the first time a way of understanding and appreciating Eastern wisdom, which satisfies all sides of our minds. It has been taken out of metaphysics and placed in psychological
experience. We approach it with an entirely new tool, and are protected from the perversions the East undergoes at the hands of the cult-mongersof the West. At the same time, its meaning for us is greatly deepened when we know that, despite the gulf separating us from the East, we follow exactly similar paths when once we give heed to the inner world.
But this book not only gives us a new approach to the East, it also strengthens the point of view evolving in the West with respect to the psyche. The reshaping of values in progress to-day forces the modern man out of a nursery-world of collective traditions into an adult's world of individual choice. He knows that his choice and his fate now turn upon his understanding of himself. Much has been taught him in recent years about the hitherto unsuspected elements in his psyche, but the emphasis is all too often on the static side alone, so that he finds himself possessed of little more than an inventory of contents, the nature of which serves to burden him with a sense of weariness rather than to spur him on to master the problems that confront him. Yet it is precisely the need of understanding himself in terms of change and renewal, which most grips the imagination of modern man. Having seen the world of matter disappear before his scientific eye and reappear as a world of energy, he comes to ask himself a bold question ; does he not contain within his psyche a store of unexplored forces, which, if rightly understood, would give him a new vision of himself and help safeguard the future for him ? In this book his question is answered from two widely different sources, an ancient Chinese yoga system and analytical psychology. Stripped of its archaic setting, The Secret of the Golden Flower is the secret of the powers of growth latent in the psyche, and these same powers as they reveal themselves in the minds of Western men also form the theme of Jung's commentary.
In the commentary he has shown the profound psychological development resulting from the right relationship to the forces within the psyche.
In the German edition Jung's commentary comes first, followed by Wilhelm's exposition of the text, and then by the text itself. At the author's request, the order has been changed so that his commentary follows the text.
The Chinese words in this edition are in the Anglicized form. For making the necessary transcriptions, I am indebted to Mr. Arthur VValey, and to Colonel Egerton of Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. The latter has been kind enough to give his personal attention to the editing of my manuscript.
As a possible aid in keeping in mind the relationships between the various Chinese concepts such as ksing-ming, kuei-shcn, etc., I have added two summaries, one written and one diagrammatic.
Fortunately for me, I have made this translation under the supervision of Dr. Jung, and to that fact, and to the further aid I have received from Mrs. Jung, I owe any success I may have had in meeting the difficulties presented.
It has also been my privilege to have the completed manuscript read and criticized by Dr. Erla Rodakiewicz, and for her invaluable
assistance I am deeply grateful.
1 See Appendix, p. 139. | Cary F. Baynes. Zurich, March, J 931.
May we find peace, understanding, and love among all humans once again.
“One fine day you realize to your astonishment [that] there is no way at all of having your mind anywhere else but in the present moment because even when you think about the past or future, you’re doing it now, aren’t you?!“
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Alan Watts lectured often about the concept of being present in the Now. Being in the now is a practice of Buddhism and Zen, which is a way to stay on the path of the inner Sage. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched.
In Carol Anthony’s book The Philosophy of the I Ching, she writes:
“Freeing out mind (what we focus on and listen to within) of the dominance of the ego and our inferiors [Note: the I Ching refers to our worst impulses and instincts as inferiors. It is plural because there are many troublesome instincts, attitudes, and rigid beliefs to contend with inside of ourselves.] is part of the work by which we re-attain our natural state of innocence. Through self-discipline, we keep our mind’s eye open, and our inner space free of the thoughts that our inferiors would introduce if we fail to resist them. In the time of youth we are automatically open-minded; it is unnecessary to make a conscious effort to be so. After we learn structured ways of dealing with the world, and listen to the urgings of our fears, our inner view becomes blocked and our inner space filled. We are no longer able to see or her within, but are attuned only to the external world and how we think we need to be to deal with it. Through self-development we de-structure our patterned ways of thinking: by conscious effort we keep our inner view and inner space empty. In this manner we reconstruct our original innocence. The only difference is that our new innocence is consciously maintained; it is not the unconscious innocence of childhood.”
Carol Anthony — The Philosophy of the I Ching
Indeed, if what Carol Anthony has come to understand through her own life and practice using the I Ching is right, then she is showing us how to heal our inner selves and how to bring forth our inner unconsciousness in gentle, constructive, non-violent ways. Without this conscious effort, we are bound to fall prey to our own karma and act in the world in ways that are harmful to others and that will bring great pain and sorrow onto ourselves as we try to make our way through and navigate our inner flow of consciousness, which is time.
Time is the great equalizer.
And, it is always happening Now.
Alan Watts continues saying:
"Even when you think about the past or the future you're doing it now, aren't you? And that results in a very curious transformation of consciousness you feel that you that the present moment is flowing along and carrying you with it all the time just like the flow of the Tao. The flow of the Tao is what we would call the flow of the present. Zhong Yong in his book The Unwobbling Pivot says the Tao is that from which one cannot deviate that from which one can deviate is not the Tao.
To put it into the form of a zen story, the Master Joshua said to Nansen what is the Tao? Nansen replied your everyday mind is the Tao. Joshua asked how do you get into accord with it? Nansen replied when you try to get into accord, you deviate."
Watts says there is no recipe for learning how to be in the present and in the flow of the Tao, which is the eternal Now. Every person must learn to feel it for themselves.
Alan Watts tells how Christian missionaries translate the Tao as logos.
"They took as their point of departure the opening passage of Saint John's gospel in the beginning was the word. Now if you look up a Chinese translation of the bible, it says in the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with god and the Tao was god. (...) So they've substituted the Tao with God. Now, that make a very funny effect on a Chinese philosopher because the idea of things being made by the Tao is absurd. The Tao is not a manufacturer and it's not a governor. It doesn't rule as it were in the position of a king. The Tao flows everywhere...both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them. And when good things are accomplished, it lays no claim to them. In other words, the Tao does not stand up and say: I have made all of you I have filled this Earth with its beauty and glory... now fall down before me and worship me."
Alan Watts goes on to discuss the idea of mutually arising. It is a very important Taoist expression that all things arise mutually together. Watts loved to says, “although the bees and flowers look different from each other, they are inseparable.” He talks about how bees and flowers coexist in the same way as high and low exist together, or back and front go together, or long and short define each other. He further explains how all of the opposites and things that look completely different from other things interdepend on each other for existence, this is the Tao. Mutual arising is one of the most important concepts to grasp in understanding the Tao, the eternal Now.
All of us living in the Western world have been taught that everything is separated. This is a very Newtonian philosophy of the world, as if it’s a huge amalgamation of billiard balls that don’t move unless they are struck by another ball or a queue (Watts describes). After explaining this, Watts loves to say, “But of course from the standpoint of 20th century science, we know perfectly well now that that’s not the way it works. We know enough about relationships to see that the mechanical model which Newton devised was all right for certain purposes but it breaks down now because we understand relativity and see how things go together in a kind of connected net.” [Note: See Indra’s Net.]
“Now figure a world in which everything happens by itself it doesn’t have to be controlled it’s allowed.”
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Watts says here, “This does not mean that everything is in chaos. It means that the more liberty you give the more love you give the more you allow things in yourself and in your surroundings to take place the more order you will have.”
This sounds very hard to allow in 2021 when the whole world seems to be besieged by polarized opposites. In the U.S., for example, you have the extreme Right and the extreme Left bombarding each other with word bombs that are blowing up into real life consequences such as the January 6 insurrection of the Capitol that left people dead and maimed and traumatized. Or the mistrust that has grown like a cancer in our country of one side or another side (or mistrust of doctors, scientists, anyone seen as other) that is contributing to hesitancy of the COVID-19 vaccine, a deadly virus that has killed more Americans in a year and a half than died in both WWI and WWII. Right here and now, COVID-19 (the Delta variant) is surging this summer. NPR reported recently that COVID-19 cases are particularly surging in areas of low vaccination. More than 97% of people entering hospitals right now are unvaccinated. This mistrust, this rampant partisanship is destroying the gentle, fragile fabric of democracy.
This is what Alan Watts was trying to warn us about more than 50 years ago. We know what to do, but we don’t do it. Why?
Watts goes on in this lecture to talk about karmic debt, which I find utterly fascinating, but that’s not what I have chosen to focus on here. I am pondering the point in this lecture when Watts comes to T.S. Elliot’s idea that the person who has settle down in the train to read the newspaper is not the sam person who stepped onto the train from the platform. Watts says to his audience, “Therefore also you who sit here are not the same people who came in at the door. These states are separate. Each in its own place. There was the coming in at the door person, but there is actually only the here and now sitting person, and the person sitting here and now is not the person who will die.”
Jerry Seinfeld talks about this idea too. He talks about Night Guy who likes to eat cookies at night and he is the guy who also likes to stay up late at night. He wants to live for the moment. But, then there’s Morning Guy who has to get up and go to work and has to deal with 5 hours of sleep and too many cookies. He feels awful! HiddenBrain did a spectacular episode on this too, the different phases of self in You, But Better.
So, just what is Alan Watts getting at? Surely we are not a bunch of separated unconnected selves sleep walking through life. It is all a grand illusion of being? Or maybe we are?!
Watts tells us. He says, “We are all a constant flux and the continuity of the person from past through present to future is as illusory in its own way as the upward movement of the red lines on a revolving barber pole. You know it goes round and round and round and the whole thing seems to be going up or going down whichever the case may be but actually nothing is going up or down.”
"So when you throw a pebble into the pond and you make a concentric rings of waves there is an illusion that the water is flowing outwards and no water is flowing outwards at all water is only going up and down what appears to move outward is the wave not the water. So this kind of philosophical argument says that our seeming to go along in a course of time doesn't really happen. The buddhists say: suffering exists but no one who suffers, deeds exist but no doers are found, a path there is but no one who follows it, and nirvana is but no one who attains it."
This is a confusing concept. When a person rushes to understand something that has happened to them or a new concept, the person is bound not to understand the thing at all. Watts explains that it is a matter of getting to a position where you no longer feel the symbol the thought the idea the word as a block to life, no longer feel it and something you are using as a means of escape. He says: “liberation of the mind from identifying itself with symbols is the same process exactly as breaking up the links between the successive moments the illusion of a self continuing self that travels from moment to moment and picks them all up corresponding to the illusion of the moving water in the wave.”
We are more like a melody being played, Watts describes. We must select the notes in relationship to the places we exist–that means in relationship to everything around us and rising inside of us. If we are not discerning and select everything, the music becomes a jumble and does not make sense. So it is as human beings that we have the capacity to focus in on certain things, to see the symbol of these things in our minds, and select how to arrange these symbols in our mind and how it flows in our never-ending stream of consciousness (i.e., our inner story about what has happened to us during our journey through time and space). When we become more attached to the symbol in our mind rather than to how we are in relationship to each other, with our inner Sage and inferior, and with the whole of nature (indeed the universe), then this is where and when we get into the trouble of bad karma and the cycle of suffering.
Consciousness is a rare and precious gift. It does create problems such as present self and future self and the natural conflict between them.
Yesterday, Jeff Bezos blasted off with his brother and Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. You’ve already seen the headlines:Lefty Democrats hit Jeff Bezos over space trip, want him to pay ‘fair share’ of taxes. The dividing and the othering and the criticism goes on and on. If it’s not Bezos, it’s Dr. Fauci or a scientists working on climate change or a researcher working on viruses. It seems recently that this is all human beings are really good at doing, othering and dividing things up so they don’t go together any more.
But we can put the pieces back together again because we did this all inside our minds. We got attached to the symbols we created to explain to ourselves what is happening to us. When we get attached to symbols created inside our minds, we divide things… cut them up into little pieces and stand on sides lobbing bombs at the other side opposite our points of view. But, don’t you see… it all goes together?
I really like something Bezos said in an interview with Anderson Cooper when he was asked about this criticism he was getting about this all being a race to space by billionaires. Anderson asked, “Don’t you think it is better to spend you money here, now to take care of all the problems we are facing on Earth?” Bezos replied, after a moment of consideration, “We have to do both. We have to work on the Here and Now. And we have to work on the future. That is what humanity has always done.”
He is right. Because we can see the Present Self (the Here and Now), but also the Future Self (a brighter, better future on the horizon). Men and women throughout human history have taken care of their needs in the here and now and ventured boldly into the unknown. That is what Homo sapiens does. We are a species who originated in Africa, and then we boldly voyaged far and wide until we filled every niche of our beloved planet. We used to live caves or congregated grass huts, but we used our abilities to take care of our needs in the here and now as well as envision a bigger, brighter future and build it. Often such envisioning is seen only by a few individuals of any particular time. Those who cultivate their minds to see distant inner horizons of being. Not all future possibilities are possible, but all visioning of such future possibilities cause conflict for a tribe or group of people of any time because such seeing into the future means change. But it is precisely these abilities that have allowed Homo sapiens, sapiens to build great cities with towers made of glass and to fly around the world in a day inside airplanes. We are able to see ourselves in the Here and Now (like Jerry Seinfeld’s Nighttime Guy), and we can see our future self. Using nothing more than our minds, we can play out inside our minds what the future consequences of the choices we make in the Now (or do not make), which then inform the actions we take in the Now (or do not take).
Bezos told Anderson Cooper his vision is to create the infrastructure so that future humans can move toxic and polluting industries off Earth, so we can protect our beautiful and fragile planet. This is a beautiful vision, and he is right to hold it and to start something small that will grow into something big. And he can also take care of the here and now and did with $100 million gift each to Van Jones and chef Jose Andres. Sure he could pay more in taxes and probably should. But we do this together, moment by moment… we all create reality.
What will you do with your plot of consciousness today? How will you step into the flow of the Now without a train of burdensome thought cars following you into it?
— Are We Lost in the Garden of Eden or Trapped in an Endless Fairytale
Conflict–what a terrible and yet beautiful word. Conflict is something all human beings must learn how to do from the moment they realize they are a different entity from their parents, primarily of course the mother. In psychology, this moment is known as thePrimal Split. In Judeo-Christian doctrines, it is known as Original Sin as epitomized in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis telling how God created the world and all life in it and then created Adam and Eve to live in it and enjoy it.
But like any children, Adam and Eve inevitably disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge; the one capable of inspiring inside of them the knowledge of good and evil. The conventional story tells that it is Eve who picked the tempting fruit after being deceived by a sneaky snake. But did you know Eve was Adam’s second wife?
Eve was Adam’s second wife. Adam had a secret first wife whom God created at the same time and in the same way as Adam. She was his equal and opposite in every way. Her name was Lilith. History mostly remembers her only as a demonic figure. One must look to medieval Jewish tradition to find where Lilith is remembered as Adam’s first wife, before Eve. However, when Adam insisted, she play a subservient role, Lilith grew wings and flew away.
I suspect what really happened in the Garden of Eden was entirely all too human. Upon getting his new beautiful, obedient but docile wife–certainly not his equal–Adam carried on an affair with Lilith. Eve never caught on, but God did. The only snake in this story is Adam’s manhood, and God was mad for his transgression for he created Eve for Adam on one condition to be faithful to her and Adam disobeyed. So, he had no choice but to throw Adam and Eve out of Eden. Lilith having transformed into a different sort of being, simply flew away.
The First Mortal Conflict
So here we are: humans of the world left to find our way forward after the dramatic fall from Eden due to the first conflict of the world! A parent-child conflict, of course, just as the Primal Split is a primal parent-child conflict awakening the psyche to consciousness, but that is another story.
For this piece, I am sticking with the supernatural conflict between God the Father and his children, us. So super charged was this first mighty conflict, discord and strife remain the default mode of knowing in the world.
When conflict is done in an open, fluid, inquiring way, it can illuminate the world between us and inside of us, at least for a moment like a flicker from a spark caused by conflict. These sparks help us see more of what we don’t know about the world, about each other, or about ourselves. When we see the unknown, we can begin to know it. When we know it, we can integrate it into our Field of Consciousness (the part of ourselves illuminated by consciousness–i.e., what we know). This is how we grow our consciousness by seeing and learning more about the world around us and inside of us–most often through conflict.
But conflict can also cause us to get stuck within static, standing patterns of disagreement, disaccord, disharmony, and dissension. These patterns grow instead of consciousness. Over time, these patterns become rigid, unyielding, taut, stressed, tight, solid, and harden objects tend to collapse under pressure, trapping the individual’s desperately trying to sustain and defend them from attack. This becomes a crushing process, a dying process because locked into a standing pattern of permanent defensive conflict, the psyche does not grow and what does not grow in this realm, dies.
I will illuminate two talks I heard recently that were inspiring. I believe they offer opportunities of learning better ways to engage in conflict. This is important to learn because conflict is not going away anytime soon in the human world. So we might as well get better at doing it. I have imagined two common standing conflict patterns that all of us get caught in at one time or another. The first, I call getting Lost in the Garden of Eden. The second, I call getting Trapped in a Fairytale.
Lost in the Garden of Eden
When we come together in relationships, we recreate a little bit of the Garden of Eden inside ourselves and inside of others. This little bit of Eden is a safe place to grow and learn about the world and ourselves. Of course learning means conflict because we are human now, but in relationship, we are in a place where we can be safely seen and heard for who we are–the good and the bad. This is love. Love is capable of holding the opposites of who we are in dynamic balance as we learn and grow through conflict and mistakes.
There is nothing bad about making mistakes or having conflict, except we can get stuck in bad patterns of conflict that hold us down in inferior patterns of behavior, second class beliefs, mediocre ideas, average/commonplace/uninspired ways of being in the world. This is how we get lost in Eden. We let our inferior self lead.
This leads me to the first talk I want to highlight. It is given by Esther Perel about how we can develop resilience in our relationships. I heard it on the Ted Radio Hour.
Esther Perel begins her talk saying, “People want to feel alive in their relationships. And they want it in their friendships, they want it at work, they want it in their romantic relationships. It’s essential.” Esther says this feeling of aliveness is what inspires us as human beings to build trust with each other, to collaborate or compete with each other, to build intimacy and maintain it through time.
One of the most powerful things about relationships is that they can help us weather uncertainty and survive against the odds. Esther says any “prolonged uncertainty …is accompanied with a sense of grief and loss, not because we lose people only but because we have lost the world that we knew.” She explains that she focused her work on working with couples because the couple inside the family really transformed. When marriage was a no-exit enterprise, then it didn’t really matter if the couple did that well or not. I mean, it mattered a great deal, but it didn’t matter for the survival of the family. People stayed together miserable if they had to. Once people could leave, the expectations and the demands from their intimate relationships completely changed. And I found that transition really fascinating.
Here are fascinating moments from Esther’s talk:
There’s Energy In the Room
“I realized that there was an energy in the room with a couple. You could actually see the change happening in front of you if you helped people to connect or to open up or to be vulnerable with each other or to speak truth to each other or to apologize to each other.”
We Think We Can Be Happier: But Really, We’re Just Walking Deeper & Getting More Lost in the Garden of Eden Inside Our Soul
“Today, we don’t leave because we are unhappy necessarily, but we also leave because we think we could be happier. And that is how consumerism has entered modern marriage.”
The Crisis of Desire is A Crisis of Imagination: We Need Each Other to Get Unlost in Eden
“I stumbled upon sexuality. It was absolutely not planned. And I stumbled about it, actually, around the Clinton scandal because what interested me was how sexuality in every society, in every culture becomes the place where the most archaic, traditional, rooted aspects of that culture are lodged or, on the other end, where the most progressive, radical, transformative changes take place.”
“So, we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging. Give me identity. Give me continuity. But give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort. Give me edge. Give me novelty. Give me familiarity. Give me predictability. Give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that.”
“…the crisis of desire is often a crisis of the imagination.”
“When I say that we cannot have one person give us what once an entire village used to provide, what I’m saying is that there is a kind of individualization in romantic love that I think is problematic. Look. At this moment, I’m not just even meeting a partner. We are meeting a soul mate. A soul mate used to be God; you know. But at this moment, people are talking about ecstasy, transcendence, meaning, wholeness, you know, things that we used to look for in the realm of the divine that have now been transcended into romantic love. It was meant to be. It’s almost a divine intervention. It fell from the heavens in front of me.”
“What I will say is that people need community, and they need other friends. They need other people to talk to. They need other people to share activities that their partner isn’t interested in. To ask one person to do all of that – to give me belonging, to give me meaning, to give me community, to give me transcendence, to give me – and then all the other stuff of everyday life – succession, children, family life, money, etc. – that is…”
“Relationships are undergoing massive transformation on all levels. But especially couples have gone through an extreme makeover. There is no other relationship that has gone through so much change.”
The following comment comes at the end of a segment where Esther and Manoush listen to part of a piece that aired on “Where Should We Begin?” dealing with infidelity… the most difficult type of conflict a couple can attempt to grapple with, especially because of the shame and failure our culture tends to attach to it. What Ester zeros in on is something I think all conflicts hold in common and that is coming to a better understanding of each person’s humanity and their individual journey that has brought them into the current conflict.
“And interestingly, when you reach the end of the session and you hear his – you know, his challenges around his feelings about masculinity, about the fact that he could not have a genetic connection to his children, about the way that, you know, he became the way he is not out of nothing. He becomes humanized. You may not like him, but you begin to understand him.”
For anyone playing at being an armchair therapist or just genuinely trying to be a friend and advise someone in a difficult conflict, what Ester says next is very important to remember.
“And that is the role of the therapist. The wife has to decide what she wants to do. And nobody lives with the consequences of her decisions but her. So, it’s very easy to tell people do this, do that. We are not in their seat. We help people gain clarity. We help people there to do the things that they are afraid to do if that’s what they say they want to do. But we also understand that this is a couple that has two decades together almost, that they have a rich life, that they actually often get along quite well and that…”
The Wonderful World Work & How the Bottom Line Accelerated Our Disorientation that Dumped Us on the Sea of Unconsciousness (Now We’re Really Lost in Eden)
Another fraught and difficult realm to navigate conflict is the workplace. Ester says, “When people go to work, you interview them about their official resume – what schools did they go to, what experience of work have they had? And nobody’s asking you about your unofficial resume, and your unofficial resume is your relationship history, and that relationship history does not stop at the door when you go into the office; it travels with you, and it is going to influence how you work with your colleagues or with your father or with your co-founder, etc.”
In a character from the Netflix miniseries OA, the young woman playing OA talks about the invisible self. It is the part of ourselves that we hide from others…sometimes hide even ourselves. But this invisible self is a reservoir holding all our potential selves. It holds our values, virtues, principles, ideals, and ethos–what the I Ching calls an individual’s superior qualities/Superior Self. It also holds our deceitful, empty, fruitless, idle, inconstant, ineffectual, nugatory, null, profitless, shadowy qualities/Inferior Self/Selves. It is hard to underscore just how important it is to illuminate more and become acquainted with all of who we are. It is the only way to truthfully, justly, compassionately navigate our fate, which is all those parts of ourselves still hidden in the darkness of the invisible self. We create Eden in relationship to each other. We get lost in Eden when we break our relationship to each other by letting the Inferior Self take control of our thoughts, decisions, and actions in the world we share together–this is how we create Hell.
Esther discusses how for years; it was very hard to get invited to companies to talk about relationships because it was considered a soft skill. It wasn’t part of the bottom line. And soft skills were often considered feminine skills, and feminine skills were often idealized in principle and disregarded in reality. She goes on to say this changed as transformations in workplaces changed and then suddenly, relationships become the new bottom line because no amount of free food or money…Compensation, benefits is going to compensate for a poisonous relationship. And then I began to think, you know, I would love to go and show how these relational dynamics that I have been exploring, they don’t just take place with your partner, your romantic partner; they actually are part of your relational life.”
A Bad Business Breakup
“I ask everybody, how many of you and your businesses have bad breakups? And to what extent do those breakups and in what way do these breakups influence the way you start to work with the next person and even who you hire? Often, we tend to hire the person whose strengths match the weaknesses of the one before you. I think work is a very rich ecology to explore the overt and the covert, the seen and the unseen relationship dynamics that people bring. We expected more in our personal relationships, but it happens no less at work.”
On a Time of Working from Home Using Too Much Zoom
“So, I would say I don’t think we are working from home, Manoush. I think we are working with home. I am with my family, my children for some of us, my partner for some of us, my parents, my siblings, my roommates. I am inhabiting all the roles at the same time. I am the parent, the teacher, the lover, the friend, the child of the colleague, the boss, the CEO, you name it. And it’s all happening often on the same chair in the kitchen.”
“So, we have all these disembodied experiences. And people talk about exhaustion for a reason – because even the phone is much better, you know, where we actually are in synchronized time and not in a delay constantly. And we’re not trying to look at people with whom we actually never make eye contact. So, I think it’s a very different reality.”
On Losing A Job
“And when I lose my job, I lose a fundamental part of my identity. I thought I mattered because a younger generation has been raised with a deep sense that they are important and that they matter. And I can – I am totally dispensable and nobody actually really feels responsible for making sure that I will have something to eat. I think what a pandemic does for work and for personal is it rearranges your priorities. It makes – you know, a pandemic is an accelerator. Every disaster is an accelerator of relationships. It’s an accelerator because it brings mortality to the forefront or loss – loss of job as well. And at that moment, you basically say, what am I waiting for? I’m going to go do what’s really important.”
Relationships rest at the center of who we are, who we want to be, how we become what we want to be, unless we get trapped in a standing pattern of conflict that can get us lost inside ourselves and in relationship with each other. Ask yourself what relationships are you in and what is their quality, vitality, fluidity, and spirit? Are they growing? Are you growing? If not, why not?
Trapped in a Fairytale
Conflicts can rear up into ugly, unexpected things that tear relationships apart or trap them in stagnant, unchanging patterns that don’t allow for true growth. The trap may be beautiful where every wish is granted—a fairytale. Or the trap can be frightening and disorientating—another sort of fairytale. Both are dangerous because both end up separating you more and more from the hard work any real relationship requires to stay strong, supple, and grow through time.
If the separation grows too wide, too deep, a rupture of reality occurs. We do this all the time when we fail to heal the cracks caused by conflict, but rather focus on the cracks in another person’s story, ideas, beliefs. When we dissect and vivisect each other through constant unresolved conflict. When we fail to take responsibility for our part of the conflict. When we fail to hold the other in compassion and love and trust both people want to know the truth of who they are, who they are in relationship to each other, who they are in relationship to the world and universe. This is how we break reality into a million, billion, trillion pieces that just keep shattering more and more. This is how we create alternative realities, fairytales, where we may have control, but we don’t have knowledge… we don’t know anymore who we are, what we have become, or that we are trapped in a fairytale where we are the author, the characters, the victims, and the victor.
Whole groups of people can become locked inside fairytales, the boundaries of which are defined by one-sided arguments and lopsided beliefs. This is how human conflict becomes polarized. This is how radicalization forms and grows into a monstrous thing like a horrible fairytale.
Our modern lives are very complicated. Because of this, there are lots of conflicts… many, many of which go unresolved and fester. This is what I am calling getting trapped in a fairytale. The trap is inside our own mind and it causes us to lose sight of who we really are turning us into characters like the big bad wolf or Mary with her little lamb and making us ignorant of if we are eat the nourishing apple of the Tree of Knowledge or the poisonous apple brewed by the Evil Queen. The I Ching would say when this happens, one’s inferior selves have gained control are are trying to get rid of one’s superior self… the war is inside.
I really found Adam Grant’s talk with Shankar Vedantam on The Hidden Brain illuminating. I particularly found how Adam talked about two common types of human conflict:
Relational conflicts are inherently much more difficult to see clearly and navigate smoothly. I think every adult human being on Earth can cite a relational conflict that never was resolved and remains an open wound between both individuals involved. This is a tragedy always when a conflict cannot be resolved for it leaves an open wounded inside each individual’s mind that becomes inscribed within the growing consciousness—potentially causing it to grow lopsidedly, which will recreate the unresolved conflict over and over again with new individuals in desperate attempts to heal and continue conscious growth.
Task conflicts are very different actually essential for groups of people who have come together to solve a problem or to implement a collective effort. Task conflicts are how collectives grow the collective consciousness. However, if we are individuals who have not mastered relational conflicts, task conflicts are easily co-opted by an individual’s psyche and turned into a relational conflict, which serves to inhibit and sink the efforts of a group to grow and solve challenging problems.
Hidden Brain with Adam Grant – The Nice Guy –author of The Fool’s Journey
Shankar Vedantam introduces Adam Grant by saying, “Grant is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School. He’s the author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. He’s interested in the question of obstinacy. Why do so many of us find it difficult to question our own beliefs and challenge our own views?”
Adam begins his talk by recounting a conflict where he refused to admit he was wrong
“I think I was 12. My friend Khan was on the phone with me. It was a commercial during Seinfeld and we got into an argument. I don’t remember what it was about. And I just refused to give in, even though he had really good proof and eventually he hung up on me and I called him back and I said, did the power go out?”
On Competing Powers of Self
“And as long as I can remember, I’ve been agreeable. And it’s weird because on the one hand, I hated admitting I was wrong, and I was extremely stubborn. (…) But on the other hand, I really liked Harmony and I wanted to get along with other people.”
The Downside of Always Being Agreeable and Wanting Harmony
“Yeah, I think like everything else in life, it has tradeoffs. So, on the one hand, agreeable people create a lot of harmony. They tend to get along with other people. They’re constantly encouraging. But if you look at the data on leadership effectiveness, one of the things you see is highly agreeable people tend to be worse at leading organizations and teams than people who are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. (…) They say yes to everything and they don’t challenge people enough.”
“…agreeable people are really prone to what’s called agreement bias.” Adam tells how this can be bad: “Cleverly. Where you come to the table, somebody offers you a terrible deal, but you hate the idea of saying no. And so, you say yes to something that’s not in your best interests.”
The Problem of Always Going with Your Gut
“I remember my mom telling me if you’re unsure of an answer on a test, go with your gut. Go with your first instinct. And yet, if you look at the research, if you do go with your gut versus your second guess your first instinct, which is better, and on average, the vast majority of students who reject their gut, they actually improve their scores on average.”
“And so, there’s a fallacy that your first thoughts are your best thoughts. A lot of times, intuition is just a subconscious pattern recognition. And the patterns that you’re recognizing from the past may not be relevant to the problem you’re solving right now in the present.”
I want to jump in here because we have lost so much knowledge of our inner realities our language and shared understanding about it has become muddled too. The confusion between instincts and intuition is one of these things. Instincts are short cuts to reality that help the individual survive dangerous and challenging circumstances. They are indeed triggered by pattern recognition that are recognized as dangerous, life threatening, or life promoting circumstances. Intuition is the ability gained by becoming a conscious being. It allows a conscious person to glimpse into the darkness of their unconsciousness and know something that would otherwise not be apparent or knowable. Repeated glimpses into the unconsciousness might recognizes patterns, but it takes conscious effort to unpack it and truly understand it. So, I would reword Adam’s second paragraph as instinct trying to navigate a world in which it never was evolved to live within… no wonder it gets multiple choice questions wrong!
Test Your Gut
“And so, you don’t want to trust your gut. You want to test your gut. And even when you tell people about this evidence, they are still reluctant to rethink their first answer…” like what happened with Blackberry “I think we can both remember a time when basically everyone you knew had a BlackBerry and they just dominated the market. And then BlackBerry fell apart because – Mike and his colleagues were unwilling to rethink the very things that had made BlackBerry great.” “And they just got locked into this set of assumptions that what people wanted out of a BlackBerry was a device for basically work e-mail, as opposed to essentially a computer in your pocket for home entertainment.”
Big Stakes Can Led to Big Mistake: The Importance of Rethinking What We Know
“Our reluctance to think again can have even bigger stakes in the 1980s, NASA downplayed a brewing problem in the spacecraft Challenger. Since the spacecraft had completed many missions, officials assumed it was safe. But in January 1986, the spacecraft exploded moments after liftoff, killing seven astronauts on board. […] Or take the U.S. war in Iraq, where President George W. Bush and his colleagues failed to rethink their views after their initial rosy expectations of the war.“
The Soup Nazi & the Drivers of Obstinacy
Shankar says, “Adam, I want to talk about some of the drivers of obstinacy in our lives. I know that you’re a fan of the TV show Seinfeld. And there’s a famous scene which features a restaurant owner who is called the Soup Nazi.”
Adam laughs as he explains what drives the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, “He makes great soup, but he cannot tolerate the slightest criticism or deviation from the script. I want to play you a short clip where the character Elaine visits the Soup Nazi.”
Task vs Relationship Conflicts
Shankar recaps, “So the Soup Nazi illustrates something that you talk about at home, the difference between relationship, conflict and Task conflict.”
Adam replies, “Most of us, especially those of us who are agreeable, when we think about conflict, we are thinking about Relationship conflict. That’s the personal, emotional, of us, especially those of us who are agreeable, when we think about conflict, we are thinking about Relationship conflict. That’s the personal, emotional, I think you’re a terrible person. And my life would be better if I never had to interact with you.”
“There’s another kind of conflict, though, that an organizational psychologist named Eddie Jan and her colleagues have studied. Task conflict, and it’s the idea of debating about different opinions and perspectives. It’s potentially constructive because it’s actually about trying to get to the truth. It’s not personal. It’s not emotional. We’re not trying to beat up the other person. We’re not feeling like we’re being attacked.”
How the Soup Nazi Inside Us All Turns Task Conflicts into Relationship Conflicts
“We’re trying to hash out or sought out different views through what might be a feisty conversation. But it’s intellectual. And I think one of the biggest problems that the Soup Nazi had is he could not have a task conflict without it becoming a relationship conflict.”
How the Soup Nazi Inside Us All Turns Task Conflicts into Relationship Conflicts
“We’re trying to hash out or sought out different views through what might be a feisty conversation. But it’s intellectual. And I think one of the biggest problems that the Soup Nazi had is he could not have a task conflict without it becoming a relationship conflict.”
“The moment that you object to his line, that you don’t follow his rules, he takes it very personally and bans you from his soup oasis.”
Less Conflict is Better: A Critical Mistake
“I think the mistake that a lot of people make is they assume that less conflict is better. That if you want to build a successful collaboration or a great team, then you want to minimize the amount of tension you have. But as some researchers have argued, based on a lot of evidence, the absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy.”
How We Create Collectives of Apathy: Fairytales That Don’t End Happily Ever After
“If you’re in a group where people never disagree. The only way that could really happen is if people don’t care enough to speak their minds.[…] in order to get to wise decisions, creative solutions, we need to hear a variety of perspectives. We need diversity of thought. And task conflict is one of the ways that we get there by saying, you know what, I think we actually don’t agree on what the vision for our company should be or what our strategy should be or how to design this product.”
Adam’s Study on Groups
“I tracked team performance over a number of months, and I surveyed people in teams on how often they were having relationship conflict as well as task conflicts. In one group, even if they agreed on nothing else, they agreed on what kind of conflict they were having and how much of it.”
“It turned out in the failed groups, they tended to have a lot more relationship conflicts than task conflicts, especially early on, they were so busy disliking each other that they didn’t really have substantive debates until about halfway through the life cycle of their project.”
“And by then it was almost too late to change course, whereas in the high performing groups, they started out with very little relationship conflict and plenty of task conflict, saying, look, before we design a product, we really want to get all the ideas on the table about how we might do it or what it might be for. […] …once they sorted those out, they were able to really focus and align around what their common mission was.”
Where and How Things Go Wrong in Groups: Enter the Poison Apple or the Dragon
Adam says most often in a group, “Someone raises an issue with something that the group is doing, and people behave like the soup Nazi. They react and take things personally.” When this shift happens in a group, then “Everything that gets raised by the other person is interpreted in the most negative light possible. And then I think the other problem is people sometimes just they don’t even hear the substance of the idea because they’re so invested in defending their ego or in proving the other person wrong.”
But Wait… There’s More: Sometimes Conflict Arising Due to Confusion Over Beliefs & Values
Shankar says, “There’s a related idea to this distinction between task conflict and relationship conflict that you explore in your book. Adam, you say that one reason it’s hard to admit we are wrong is that we sometimes confuse our beliefs with our values.”
Belief or Value & the Dragon Scale
Adam says, “When I think about a belief, I would say that’s something that you take as true. A value is something you think is important. And yeah, I think a lot of us make a mistake of taking our beliefs and opinions and making them our identity. And since I spent a lot of time studying the workplace, I really enjoy thinking about how dangerous the world would be if people in the professions that we rely on every day did that.”
Conflicts That Clarify Rather Than Confuse
“There are examples of leaders who basically model what it’s like to have task conflict without relationship conflict. I was thinking of something that President Obama said some years ago when he invited someone, he disagreed with to play a prominent role in his administration.“
“We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.“
“To disagree without being disagreeable.”
On Correcting Others
Shankar recaps, “I think many of us forget this lesson at and we think that if someone else is wrong, our job is just to correct them. How we correct them is unimportant.”
Adam replies, “Yeah I think that’s such a common mistake in communication. We think it’s the message that matters. But so often whether somebody is willing to hear a message depends on who’s saying it, why it’s being said and how it’s being delivered.”
On Trust, Dignity & Respect
“I cannot tell you, Shankar, the number of times that I have rejected useful criticism because I didn’t trust the person who was giving it to me. Or they delivered it in a way that I found disrespectful or offensive.”
On Threats to the Ego: The Big Bad Wolf or Poison Apple Problem
“Not all of us listento useful feedback even when it’s presented clearly and without rancor. That’s because we confuse challenges to our views with threats to our ego.”
Or Maybe It’s Just a Case of the Totalitarian Ego
“There’s a term that I love for this which comes out of psychology originally Tony Greenwald’s term. It’s the totalitarian ego. The idea is that all of us have an inner dictator policing our thoughts. The dictator’s job is to keep out threatening information, much like Kim Jong Un would control the press in North Korea.”
Inner Dictator to the Rescue!
“When your core beliefs are attacked, the inner dictator comes in and rescues you with mental armor and, you know, activates confirmation bias where you only see what you expected to see all along, triggers desirability bias, where you only see what you wanted to see all along.”
Corner Stones of the Totalitarian Ego Are Obstinacy and Stubbornness
“You can see the totalitarian ego at work in a study conducted some years ago by researchers in Australia. They asked volunteers to think of a time when they did something wrong and apologized for it, and to also think about a time when they did something wrong and did not apologize for it. Researcher Tyler Okimoto explains what they found.”
Adam:When you refuse to apologize it actually makes you feel more empowered. That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth. [00:24:41]
Shanker:And in some ways, the sounds like the inner dictator when we when we apologize, in some ways we are disarming ourselves. And when we refuse to apologize, in some ways we are mounting a form of emotional self-defense. [00:24:50]
Adam:Yeah sadly, staying attached to wrong convictions makes us feel strong. And psychologists have also found for decades that the act of resisting influence only further fortifies our convictions. Because we can we basically get inoculated against future attacks. We have all of our defenses ready and we end up sealing our beliefs in an ever more impenetrable fortress. [00:25:04]
Edges of Convictions, Beliefs, and Conflict: Maybe This Really Isn’t Your Fight… Your Just A Scale in the Armor of Your Group Who’s in Conflict with Another Group
“So, I have a brilliant colleague, Phil Tetlock, who wrote a paper about how almost every decision you’ve ever made, almost every opinion you’ve ever formed, is influenced by your relationship to the people around you and by the groups that your part of and the identities that you hold about who you are in the social world.”
Preacher, Prosecutor or Politician – Do You Know What Your Conflict Mode Is?
“What Phil observed is we often spend time thinking like preachers, prosecutors and politicians.”
“Preaching is basically defending a set of sacred beliefs and saying, look, I found the truth. My job is to proselytize.”
“Prosecuting is the reverse. This stance in a conflict is to prove you wrong and win my case with the best argument.”
“Any time an individual or group has strong beliefs. It’s pretty unlikely they are going to rethink any opinions or decisions if they slip into preacher or prosecutor mode, because we already know.”
“We’re a little more flexible when we shift into politician mode. […] when you’re thinking like a politician, what you’re trying to do is get the approval of an audience that you care about.”
“And so, you might be campaigning and lobbying. And sometimes that means adjusting and flexing at least what you say you believe in order to fit in and win them over. The problem is that we’re doing it because we want to prove our allegiance to a tribe, not because we’re trying to get closer to the truth.”
Strategies that Help People Reconsider Cherished Opinions
Shanker asks Adam to tell the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who invented the first successful airplane. Adam describes:
“Of all the moments in history that I would love to witness, I think watching the Wright brothers argue would be pretty high on my list. So, if you look at the history of what the Wright brothers created together, it seemed like they were constantly in sync. They created their own printing press together. They ran their own bicycle shop. They made their own bikes together. They launched a newspaper together. And of course, we all know they invented the first at least successful airplane together. And I always assumed that they were just lucky to have such harmony.”
“And if you read any of the biographies that have been written about them, if you read their own letters and personal communications, if you read the stories and the anecdotes from people who knew them well, it was very clear that arguing was their default mode and it was almost the family business. What I think is fascinating about the Wright brothers is they mastered the ability to have productive task conflicts without it spilling into relationship conflict.”
It was typical for them when they were trying to invent their airplane to argue for weeks about questions like how do you design a propeller?
They would sometimes even shoot for hours back and forth.
At one point, their sister threatened to leave the house because she just couldn’t take it anymore.”
The Power of Scrapping
“But they seem to get a kick out of it. They called it scrapping and they said, look, the whole point of an argument is it helps both people see more clearly if you do it well.“
“They never saw an argument as personal that their mechanic used a phrase that I think about almost every day. He said, I don’t think they really got mad, but they sure got awfully hot. […] “That to me, captures the passion, the energy, the feistiness that goes into, you know, duking out a set of ideas that’s really important to you, but not leaving that interaction angry.”
Even Brilliant Visionaries Need a Team to Scrap With
“You tell the story of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, obviously a brilliant visionary, but he was also famously stubborn.“
The Problem with Highly Agreeable People
“When you think about your network, we all have a support network that’s usually the highly agreeable people who we know are going to have our back and, you know, really lift us up or pick us up when we’re down. I think what we overlook is that we also need a challenge network, which is a group of people that we trust to question us to point out the holes in our thinking, the flaws in our logic, the ways that our decisions might be leading us astray from our goals.“
Creating a Great Challenge Network
“It’s not clear to me that Steve Jobs did this intentionally, but he was very lucky to be surrounded with a group of people who played that role of a challenge at work for him. […] He was dead set against making a phone. He complained for years about how smartphones were for the pocket protector crowd. And Apple makes cool products. We don’t want to touch that. He could rant for hours at a time about how, you know, everybody was beholden to the cell phone carriers and they didn’t know how to make an elegant product. And sometimes he would even throw his own phone against the wall and shatter it because he was so frustrated with how bad the technology was.”
Cultivating a Fertile Idea Field & Planting Idea Seeds that Grow
“Luckily, Jobs surrounded himself with brilliant engineers and designers who knew how to get him to think again. You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. A lot of the things they did as part of his Challenge Network are things that we’ve seen people do every day. They would plant seeds.
They would say, ‘Hey, I hear Microsoft is talking about making a phone. How ugly do you think that’s going to be? And if we ever made one of those, what would that look like?’”
They would ask questions like, you know, hey, we did the iPod. We’ve already put 20000 songs in your pocket.
What if we put everything in your pocket? And what they were doing was they were activating his curiosity.”
Taming the Inner Prosecutor: The Sneaky Little Gremlin in Any Good Fairytale
“If you told him he was wrong, he would immediately go into prosecutor mode and tear your argument apart.”
Taming the Inner Preacher: Every Terrible Fairytale Needs a Sinister Minister
“If you told him about your idea, he would preach about his idea”
Inspiring the Curious Seeker
“But if you could ask a question that intrigued and led him to realize that he didn’t know some things, he might then go out and try to discover them or give you the green light to go and discover them. And those kinds of conversations finally got him to reverse course and make a phone.”
Beware the Logic Bullies: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall — Enter Evil Spock
Adam tells how he got the nickname logic bully: “I had a former student named Jamie [who came to me] for some career advice. It was clear in the first minute or so of our conversation that she was already locked into the plan she had made. I was worried she might be making a decision that she would regret. So, I told her all the reasons why I think [she was] making a potentially big mistake. She listened patiently for two or three minutes, then said, ‘You’re a logical.’ She [told me] that I overwhelmed her with rational arguments and data, and she didn’t agree [with], but she didn’t feel like she could fight back.”
The Real Magic Happens Inside
“The curiosity we show in trying to understand more about [our] own views and motivation to change [this type of] thinking. That’s where real thought happens.“
Habits of Highly Effective Thinkers
“There’s a classic study by Neil R. and colleagues [that examines] experts versus average negotiators where they compare what their habits are.
One is [average negotiators] spend a lot more time both in their planning and in their actual negotiations, thinking about common ground and talking about common ground, saying we want to build areas of consensus before we find out where we’re opposed.
They asked a lot more questions (e.g., OK here are two or three possible proposals. What are your reactions to this? What do you like? What do you dislike and what are your thoughts? And that allow them to both learn more and again, signal more flexibility as well.)“
Getting to the Great Ideas – Is It A War or A Dance?
Shanker summarizes: “We often think of trying to change someone’s opinion with the metaphor of, you know, a tug of war, that the harder I pull, the more I can get you off balance, the more likely I am to win. And the model that you’re suggesting here is a very different model, you know, model where you’re asking a lot of questions, where you’re seeking common ground, where you’re willing to make concessions, where you’re open to figuring out how you yourself might be wrong.”
Adam adds: “There are some psychologists who have said we should think about disagreements, less wars and more as a dance. And I can’t dance at all. […] But what I like about the dance metaphor is, you know, that in a dance your job is to get in sync with your partner.”
You Can’t Lead All the Time to Save the Planet!
“That means if you’ve both shown up to the dance with an idea about what steps you’re going to take; you can’t lead all the time and expect your partner to do all of the adjusting.“
“You actually have to be willing to step back and let your partner lead from time to time. And that’s what expert negotiators seem to do, its what great debaters seem to do, and I think it’s what all of us could do more when we have polarized conversations.”
I’ve taken you 40 minutes into this very beautiful and important talk, but there is more. You can read or listen for yourself if you have found any of this helpful. Adam and Shanker discuss how to frame multiple versions of an idea, setting up effective challenge networks, creating psychological safety to get to more and better creative ideas (idea places where people aren’t punished or penalized for offering opposite ideas), and creating group cultures based on trust and respect (critical part of psychological safety). Psychological safety does not mean sloppy:
[00:44:38] — Amy Edmondson is quick to point out that psychological safety is not about being nice or having low standards. We actually need psychological safety with accountability. We can have high expectations for people, but also give them the freedom and permission to rethink some of even what we might have called best practices.
They discuss creating environment where people are rewarded for being nuanced rather than punished. They talk about how to avoid becoming a group that is solution averse like what is happening with Climate Change.
[00:45:55] — “So, let’s say with climate change, for example, if you say, well, we need a whole bunch of companies to reduce their emissions and you’re talking to somebody who’s a staunch free market conservative, they’re not necessarily going to like that idea. And so, their motivation then is to deny the existence of the climate problem in the first place. And I think we should be really cautious about jumping to solutions. We would be better off saying, hey, I’m aware that there are some problems when it comes to climate change.”
[00:46:30] — “We shouldn’t spend all this time talking about why my solution is right or why your view that climate change isn’t an issue is wrong. Instead, I should say, well, given your views about what we should do on climate policy, how would your proposed solutions work and how would you implement them? And when you ask those questions, something really intriguing happens.
They talk about the invisible balance between idea flexibility and inflexibility (e.g., [00:48:15]
Winston Churchill facing down, you know, Adolf Hitler, even think of, you know, people like Mahatma Gandhi, you know, very singular, focused in terms of what they were doing, very unwilling to reconsider sort of the rightness of their views.)
They talk about explanatory depth, which is the idea that we think we understand complex systems much better than we actually do. They talk about the importance and benefits of being a little bit more intellectually humble, curious, nuanced, more doubting, and less dogmatic. These are the behaviors and habits that help people moderate their own views, become more patient with others, and become less extreme. In a time of extreme polarization on almost every conflict of existential crisis to human existence, isn’t learning how to become less extreme inside yourself a beautiful idea?!!!
Are you ready to rethink your cherished ideals and ideas today?
This tells about two women you stood in conflict against oppressive, lopsided, racists beliefs, behaviors, and practices. Because of their sacrifice and courage, our shared reality has been changed.
Description: When Billie Holiday was harassed by U.S. government agents and told to stop singing ‘Strange Fruit,’ she refused. When Shirley Chisholm ran for president and was ridiculed and told she shouldn’t aim that high politically, she refused. On this episode of Throughline, two pioneering Black women, Billie Holiday and Shirley Chisholm, who set their own sights and never backed down from a fight.
This piece talks about personal transformation through work and struggle.
Women Take The Lead In Fighting ISIS In ‘Daughters Of Kobani’
Sometimes conflict is essential to change the world and bend it back into balance.
“So much of the news from Syria consists of sad stories of chaos, of brutality, of war. But a new book — while a story about Syria and about war — brings us a refreshing story of hope, of female courage, and of heroes.“
Quantum Mechanics, Free Will and the Game of Life
Excerpt: “Before I get to the serious stuff, a quick story about John Conway, a.k.a. the “mathematical magician.” I met him in 1993 in Princeton while working on “The Death of Proof.” When I poked my head into his office, Conway was sitting with his back to me staring at a computer. Hair tumbled down his back, his sagging pants exposed his ass-cleft. His office overflowed with books, journals, food wrappers and paper polyhedrons, many dangling from the ceiling. When I tentatively announced myself, he yelled without turning, What’s your birthday! Uh, June 23, I said. Year! Conway shouted. Year! 1953, I replied. After a split second he blurted out, Tuesday! He tapped his keyboard, stared at the screen and exulted, Yes! Finally facing me, Conway explained that he belongs to a group of people who calculate the day of the week of any date, past or present, as quickly as possible. He, Conway informed me with a manic grin, is one of the world’s fastest day-of-the-week calculators.”
There is so much we don’t know. An open, fluid, flexible mind able to navigate complexity and conflict with curiosity, passion, and compassion is beautiful. They world needs more beauty now. Are you ready?
Recently, I had an astonishing conversation with a friend on Facebook. I consider it remarkable because so much of what transpires on Facebook (and all other social media platforms) is mindless. This is because that’s what Facebook peddles: distraction. Such platforms are the perfect place to project our deepest fantasies, dreams, desires, and distortions onto other people who have been reduced to simple icons or avatars. Instead of being ordinary people with complicated lives and good and bad qualities, just like ourselves, other people get turned into containers that we fill with our own undigested consciousness and more often with our unconsciousness–projections of ourselves temporarily lost onto others who inhabit the thing about ourself that we have not been able to accept or see inside ourself yet.
What woke me up in this exchange was something Barry said about the TV series Once Upon a Time (love the part in this sneak peak of this series where Snow asks ‘Where are we going?’ and the Evil Queen says ‘Somewhere horrible’ and laughs… doesn’t that sound like reality now?!). I had watched this series and enjoyed it. He had watched and observed something profound:
“Getting back to the remarkable dramaturgy in “Once Upon a Time,” I’m currently up to Season 5, where the main characters of Storybrooke pay a visit to the mythical Underworld, where they encounter a number of other incidental characters who have “Unfinished Business” which they need to resolve before going on to the “Better Place” or to the “Other Place” in the AfterLife. AfterLife is a term of art from Theology, but compare it to Aftermath (which should be written AfterMath). The “Math” is a reference to the individual calculating how they are going to handle a crisis in their life. The characters routinely argue over devising the best or most practical solution to the immediate crisis or dilemma.What happens throughout the series (but especially in the Underworld) is that the viewer at home learns key information about some character’s previously undisclosed Backstory and their associated Unresolved Burning Issues. How the characters eventually process it is often quite stark. Do they choose the unwise path of revenge (and thereby lose their “Happy Ending”) or do they choose the more saintly path of mercy, forgiveness, and healing.What astonished me is how beautifully this ABC-TV series illuminates the Storybook Character Model that I wrote up two decades ago within the scope of our NSF-funded research project at the MIT Media Lab. Click here for the narrative that attends this slide.”
This stopped me in my mindless tracks, since being mindless on Facebook is something I have learned how to do as a survival skill on this platform. I am exaggerating this a bit since I had several other meaningful exchanges on this post, but meaningful exchanges are rare on Facebook and most don’t last long.
Before I became a mindless user of Facebook, I use to bring my full attention into groups and conversations on Facebook because I thought there could be meaningful exchanges that could occur in this virtual space. But I quickly learned the constant flow of chatter drowned out pretty much anything meaningful transpiring there, sweeping it into the Sea of Forgettable & ForgottenThought only to pop up again (almost word for word) in another group by someone else or on someone else’s timeline.
It is not plagiarism; it is only what the Sea of Forgetting does to all of us and it happens by design because our thoughts, behaviors, needs, and desires are being cultivated and harvested by these platforms for the good of others, not ourselves. So we are manipulated into thinking we are having a valuable exchange or conversation with another human being, but this is an illusion unless you bring your consciousness into the process, which most of the time, you will be punished for doing… so most people stop trying.
This is when we become most vulnerable to being herded by the algorithms, which constantly shift our NewsFeeds and point our attention here and there: all for the good of those who own the platforms (or who do business with them: the exchange of money). And like this, we become nothing more than Parrots of the Algorithms.
What do I mean by that?
Facebook knows basically at our primal core, we are herd animals. This means we can be herded and shepherded in very predictable ways. A lot like these sheep being herded and directed by sheep herders and well-trained sheep dogs to create the Mona Lisa with LED lights! Really, watch it…you’ll enjoy it.
On the Facebook platform, what is being herded is our time and attention— sent to places that are advantageous to the builders of the platform and the Captains of Commerce they are courting. When I say places, I also mean places in our mind: states of feeling, states of emoting, states of being; all these mental states affect us and inform our actions in the world (which of course is what Facebook and algorithms understand). And so the algorithms watch our every action. They even anticipate them like smart, bullish sheep dogs. And, they redirect us if we try to buck the system we are flowing inside by using the platform that has been created for us. Any undesired action or change of direction or new pattern–something that might wake us up, perhaps like genuine friendship and conversation–gets redirected (e.g., shut down, stops showing up in your NewsFeed, stops showing up in your friend’s NewsFeed).
I know about bullish sheep dogs. I have a Great Pyrenees-Pitt Bull puppy who can be very stubborn in getting me to do what she wants me to do, rather than what I want to do. After trying to use Facebook to cultivate generative conversations and reciprocal relationships (like friendships in the normal, real world work), I gave up after learning some hard and disappointing lessons.
I learned the more I chased after generative conversations on Facebook, the faster they dissolved and flowed somewhere else. It was like a bad episode in the land of Storybrooke where everyone suddenly forgets who they are and begins repeating the same mistakes that will lead to the same horrible outcomes, just as the evil Queen promises in the clip above.
I learned when most individuals sent me a friend request, they weren’t at all interested in being my friend. They simply were seeking a new follower for themselves because they had a carved out a wonderful space in their tiny corner of Storybrooke being played out all over the world on Facebook (and this includes any other social media platform one engages). In fact, I soon found out that it is virtually impossible to be a real friend on Facebook because the algorithms are constantly cutting us off from each other and directing us into community pools where intrigue, outrage, and wholly forgetting experiences are transpiring and repeating over and over again, basically the same mistakes occurring again and again for the good of a few.
I learned everybody wants to save the world on Facebook, and each individual believes they are the savior who has found the One and Only Solution, which makes them more of ruler, doesn’t it? You join their group and post something they don’t understand or don’t agree with and it gets quickly deleted or it doesn’t get approved or the worst Fate Ever on Facebook--it gets ignored.
And so, I learned to bring my unconscious attention to Facebook because that is what Facebook traffics: unconsciousness and this is because it is always exciting and a little bit dangerous. But isn’t that why we go there? Because we are seeking the unexpected, a surprise, something to help us escape?
‘Escape what‘, you may ask?
Reality, of course. We, the Good People of Earth, have been reduced into beings who constantly seek escape from the extremely boring social containers we are forced to exist inside. We do this because that is the price of gaining the luxurious privileges of living inside the container of a modern Westernized civilization. But, of course, these privileges are not equal or fair for everyone. They simply appear to be fair, but it is an illusion cultivated by the system to maintain extreme imbalances baked into the system long ago.
I don’t think it is anyone’s fault for playing by the extremely unfair rules we were born to play. The system perpetuates these roles for it has been designed over thousands of years to keep us unconscious and divided because this way we are more easily herded like sheep for the good of the system. To not fall into the Pit of Greed designed into the system requires a feat of conscious growth that is definitely not encouraged and even actively discouraged because that would be dangerous for the well-being of system.
So, when Barry Kort said the above, I woke up, and then he added: “If there is one thing that guides my relentless and idiosyncratic drive to craft fundamental theories about the observable behavior patterns of our species and our culture, it’s the drive to Bear Accurate Witness. In “Once Upon a Time,” when Henry becomes the Author, that’s his guiding principle too.”
I asked him to comment more on Bearing Accurate Witness, saying: “Can you say more on the Drive to Bear Accurate Witness?I am pulling this over finally after a very distracting weekend … but I am bending my mind back to the task at hand. What you are saying is so utterly important in this Now.I am borrowing your brilliant insight AfterMath to title this resource page. I’ve added a tag — The Magical Calculus of Consciousness.Bear Accurate Witness is so important… could this be a baby Archetype forming inside the collective human sea of consciousness… one essential to take root and grow for us as a species to survive what is coming next? This election was very interesting, but we’ve just begun this struggle…”
When/if Barry responds, I will add his comments here, but the idea of Bearing Accurate Witness is extremely pertinent to the exponential rise of relative realities being projected into the world by the species Homo sapiens sapiens.
He answered: “There are three or four places where I dove into the concept of Bearing Accurate Witness.1. The stricture against bearing false witness is enshrined in the Ten Commandments.2. When I was in Grad School, studying arcane topics like Cybernetic Systems Theory and Feedback Control Theory, we came to the Fundamental Theorem of Feedback Control Theory. One-half of that theorem spelled out the requirement of reliably observing the current state, so that it can be compared against the goal state to determine the present amount of deviation. That deviation then drove the second phase, which was to compute the amount of adjustment to the controls to drive the deviation to zero as smoothly as possible. If you cannot reliably observe and report the current state, then you do not have a functional feedback control loop.3. Among the introductions Zen that one could find in an American bookstore was one by Bernie Glassman entitled, “Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace.”4. In Judaism, the affirmation of One God (the “Shema”) is recited multiple times in weekly services. But this affirmation appears exactly once (in Hebrew) in the Torah scroll and it exactly fits on one line. In the calligraphy, the last letter of ‘Shema’ (the Ayin) is written in oversize lettering, and the last letter of the last word (Daled) is also written in oversize lettering. These two Hebrew letters, together form a two-letter Hebrew word that means “Witness.” When I told this story to a class, one of them created this drawing for me.”
— Barry Kort
He also provided two other pieces he has written that are also extremely profound and worth your time and attention.
Now, I will boldly ramble on… thus, Now is a probably a good time to skim what follows.
Projecting consciousness is not a new ability. Humans have been doing this ever since crossing the Threshold of Consciousness. I talk about this in my story and have imagined what it must have been like for the first human to cross the Threshold of Consciousness bring the entire species into they type of consciousness we know and understand today. It was not always like this. Consciousness has taken many, many channels of bing to get to us.
I will not say more about this now other than to provide a simple metaphor illustrating our ability to project consciousness. It is very much like what our sun does in emitting light. Mostly, this is a good thing…after all, there would not be life as we know it on Earth without it. However, sometimes huge coronal mass ejections occur releasing dangerous amounts of plasma and its accompanying magnetic field, which roar from the sun like a hot solar wind. These flares can be very destructive to the fragile life forms clinging to the surfaces of surrounding planets like Earth. Indeed, some theories speculate it was exactly such a devastation that befell Mars, causing its fragile life forms to disappear.
The Netflix series Away explores this idea in a deep and gritty drama that feels terribly real as the first humans to venture to Mars in order to set up the first base station there (and perhaps reintroduce life!). The series explores deep and complex realities of living in space alongside even more complex complications of cherished relationships left behind on Earth. As the first astronauts travel farther and farther from home, the vast distance and time delays threaten to collapse fragile bonds of the loved ones being tested and strained by circumstances beyond their control. And of course, some of these circumstances cannot be fully calculated by us, fragile human lifeforms, bolding exploring our home solar systems. Definitely worth watching!
This video is a NASA animation of a Coronal Mass Ejection from our Sun.
And this Alan Watts video about consciousness (as I begin to transcribe this video, I am bulled over that Watts begins this lecture by saying human evolved a system of self-consciousness…I had not paid attention to this as I wrote my musing above):
Partial Transcript of Alan Watts’ Lecture:
00:01: Several thousand years ago, human beings evolved the system of self-consciousness.
00:10: And, they knew that they knew: “There was a young man who said though it seems that I know that I know; what I would like to see is the I/eye that knows me when I know that I know that I know.“
00:24: You see, and this is the human problem: We know that we know, and so there came a point in our evolution when we didn’t guide life by just trusting our instincts and had to think about it and had to purposely arrange and discipline and push our lives around in accordance with foresight and words and systems of symbols accountancy calculation and so on. And then, we worry once you start thinking about things you worry as to whether you’ve thought enough.
1:03: Did you really take all the details into consideration? Was every fact properly reviewed? And by jove, the more you think about it the more you realize that you really couldn’t take everything into consideration because all the variables in any human decision are incalculable.
1:22: So you get anxiety. This though also this is the price you pay for knowing that you know, for being able to think about thinking to feel about feeling, and so you’re in this funny position.
I will not wax and wane about our ability of consciousness and how it has allowed us to warp reality because I write about this in great detail in my story about Climate Change and Consciousness. Rather, I will simply highlight a few other moments that have captured my attention and inform my thinking on this usually, very abstract, but also very old idea.
Shape of Stories
I love how this clip starts: “Now…where the hell are we?“
Doesn’t that about sum up reality, especially these days in the Year of Our Lord 2020 with a raging global pandemic right after a highly contentious US presidential election called a clear winner but the loser refuses to accept reality.
Now, why do I start out this resource list with this timeless clip about the Shape of Stories by Kurt Vonnegut?
Because stories are how we have learned to collect, consolidate, and direct consciousness to do things in the world. We use stories to do this be it an individual consolidating his or her consciousness to do something in the world or a state, a nation, or a civilization consolidating all its individual streams of consciousness into a powerful river of consciousness to do something bold and daring in the world.
Current Events Informing the Shape of Humanity’s Current Reality — Our Collective Calculus of Consciousness & Story
I want to spend a little time on current events in America because they have an outsized role in shaping and determining many other stories unfolding inside the United States as well as around the world.
The first and most profound, probably the event that will gleam loudly in history books around the world like a glaring code red alarm, is Donald Trump’s catastrophic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the very beginning, he chose the path of ignorance, denial, rapacity, and blatant disregard for human life. He did this because he wanted to place the health and wellbeing of the economy (specifically the part that benefited him and his despicable, greedy friends) over the lives of the people of the United States of America. It is a crime against humanity, and one day, an accurate witness of this terrible reality will need to be borne by all of the members of this society–our collective: the United States of America. But for now, Donald Trump continues to muddy the waters of our collective consciousness with more lies, fresh deceit, copious bluffs and endless confidence tricks. His efforts are so vast and so endless, the good people of this country have been worn down and worn out. This has made all of us vulnerable to being swindled out of our goodwill, our commonsense, our intelligence, and most of all, our inner moral compass. Once depleted of these intangible, but infinitely powerful parts of any individual’s consciousness, we, the people, have been cruelly cast adrift on a savage sea of unconsciousness. Donald Trump did not create this sea. We, the people, created it by turning away from the truth in our exhaustion. But he is using it to pound away at the foundations of our fragile democracy. His endless subterfuge will take years, perhaps decades (even centuries), to repair the memory banks that contain the collective psyche of our great country, which guides and informs every individual living inside this system of consciousness we call the United States of America. This is because too many individualswill continue to believe Donald Trump’s lies long after this man of deception, artifice, and divisive duping is dead.
This article in The Atlantic beautifully articulates the damage he has done in 4 percious, short years of his reign of flimflam wiling of the American people. We are paying the price of reality, not him. That’s what the twisted rich do with their power. They thrown other people under the bus of reality for their bad calculations of consciousness forestalling their own awful fate for a little longer… but not forever. In the end, fate always catches up and swallows its guilty, gullible victims of ignorance who never bother to grow their individual field of consciousness.
The president’s behavior may not meet the term’s legal definition, but it captures the horror a government is visiting upon its people. | Written by James Fallows | 11/20/20
Fallows begins by defining the title saying, “Negligent homicide has a specific meaning in the law books. The standards of proof and categories of offense vary from state to state. But the essence is: Someone died because someone else did not exercise reasonable care.”
Then Fallows quickly drills down to the nitty gritty details of death for which Trump ultimately is responsible.
“More than a year ago, I argued in these pages that if Donald Trump held virtually anyother position of responsibility in modern society, he would already have been removed from that role. The article was called “If Trump Were an Airline Pilot,” and the examples ranged from CEOs to nuclear-submarine commanders to surgeons in an operating room. If any of them had demonstrated the impulsiveness, the irrationality, the vindictiveness, the ceaseless need for glorification that all distinguish Trump, responsible authorities would long ago have suspended them. The stakes—in lives, legal exposure, dollars and cents, war and peace—would be too great to do otherwise.
At the time of that comparison, the main case against Trump involved his temperamental, intellectual, and moral unfitness for the job. But since then we’ve moved into the realm of manslaughter. Yesterday nearly 2,000 Americans died of COVID-19. By Thanksgiving Day, another 10,000 to 15,000 will have perished. By year’s end, who knows? And meanwhile the person in charge of guiding the national response does nothing.”
Take some time to read all of Fallows’ article yourself and draw your own conclusions. Even better, subscribe to The Atlantic to support their work for without this 4th estate (the media) operating free and open, Donald Trump probably would have gotten away with his scam upon democracy and the American people. He would have destroyed it and installed himself as dictator of the Greatest Nation that collapsed in on itself.
Another moment I would like to memorialize here is how Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon opened their broadcast on the day the election was called for Biden (11/7/20). It had been a long week waiting for the all the state counts to come in and CNN was maintaining continuous coverage of these events because this was such an important collective moment. They came on just after Kamala Harris and Joe Biden had given their speeches in Delaware and the moment was really sinking in for everyone, even Trump (though he refuses to admit it publicly still that’s not his shtik, a Yiddish word for act or gimmick, trick or a prank).
I love how Chris begins by asking how his cohost and friend Don is feeling. It was an important moment because this allowed something fragile, illusive, raw, and rare to emerge. All credits for the excerpt below goes to CNN’s transcripts page — thank you CNN!
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Good to see you, sharing history once again. And tonight is a big night for America. What does it mean? Well, we’ll discuss it together.
But we know this. For now, we have a President Elect Joe Biden. He came out, he addressed the nation and gave a call to give each other a chance, he said. That this is a time to heal. And literally, he’s right. We are sick from COVID right now, and a poison politics that is every bit as virulent. Don, how you’re feeling?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It’s – I almost can’t talk right now, because of the emotion that we will get to. So I’m not sure how much I want to say right off the top. But, you know, I’ve said all along, we have two viruses that’s infecting this country, and that’s COVID and racism.
And what we witnessed tonight was the complete opposite of racism, with the diversity, with the acknowledgement of all kinds of people, with someone saying they want to represent every kind of American, even the people who didn’t vote for him. We had been starving for that in this country. And it has nothing to do with being a Democrat or Republican, or being Conservative, or Independent, or Liberal. It’s about human decency.
So I have to be quite honest with you, the entire day I was asleep, because we got off this – we got off the air at what seven this morning. I forget it’s been going back and forth, 7, 8, 9; we got here at 7 o’clock this morning. I went ahead and had breakfast with my fiance, right. I’m a black man, a gay American. I live in New York City.
I went ahead and had breakfast with my fiance. I haven’t had time – that much time to spend with him. We had breakfast. I went home, I went to sleep. I am staying in a hotel because of these crazy hours not far from here. I heard – I’m on the 40th floor, Chris. I heard people cheering 40 floors below me. And I woke up and I said what is going on?
And I opened the drapes and I could see the city around me people were cheering in New York City. I turn the television on. And there were my colleagues announcing that Joe Biden had become the president elect of the United States, and not to forget, Kamala Harris, the first black woman. I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed by that.
I didn’t realize the PTSD, that many marginalized people, that African-Americans, women, Latinos, people of color, all kind of White people – PTSD that people are feeling around this country, because we have had whiplash from someone who only cares about himself and not uniting people.
Chris over just the last 6, 7, 8 months, you and I have been together. You have been – you were sick. I was – I worried, I thought one of my best friends was going to die. I cried on the air. We have more than 200,000 Americans who have died. And as a journalist, we have an obligation to tell the truth.
And we have been telling the truth about what this administration, this President has been doing with this virus. And so you got sick. I’ve lost – I lost a close childhood friend, I lost a close adult friend. Both of them died from complications from COVID. And then along came George Floyd. And I had to sit in cover that story – we all did, about a man who died on the street and we all watch it on videotape, from someone who seemed to not care about human life, just sat there with his knee on the neck. And we had all these protests around the country.
So immediately, my thoughts went back to these protests that happened this summer and when I saw and heard what was happening today, all I can think of was – think of was, how could we not have expected that if Joe Biden became the president elect of the United States that the streets would not erupt after what had happened in this country?
Just – and I’m just talking about the last eight months. I’m not talking about all the stuff that we dealt with before – the fake news and people yelling at us on the street and people calling me nigger and fag and all kinds of things, and you’re fake news and all of that. Never before that I’ve been in this business since 1991, have I ever had to deal with the crap that I’ve had to deal with over the last four years. It is disgusting.
And so just over the last months – last couple months, we’ve had all of that. And over the past few nights we have been saying, we’re going to give you some information. We don’t know who’s going to win. We’re going to – America was – and they’re yelling at us, please, please call this. We are sick of it. We cannot take much more of it.
And so when the call finally came, and I saw my colleagues – and I love all of them and everybody around, they’re all talking about – what about this and who’s this and they were – Democrats didn’t do this and Democrats – that’s not what America wanted. America needed a release valve at that moment. And they wanted to get it off their chest. It was like a third world country, people who have been oppressed.
[23:05:00] Finally, the relief came that no longer that we have to live under this oppression. No longer that we have to live under people who’re pretending that up is not up and down is not down, that one plus one doesn’t equal two. And so I can’t help but be emotional at this moment. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to say. So forgive me. I may not say all the right things tonight. I am very emotional. And guess what, I’m speaking for everyone.
But I got to tell you, when I watched that Black woman come out on stage tonight, and I saw all of those people from of all ages and all different backgrounds – the whole entire theme was everyone is welcome under this tent, we don’t care who you are. We don’t care if you voted for us or not. You’re all part of this American experiment.
It was – I was so overwhelmed to hear that. I don’t care what people think. If they think I’m biased tonight, I don’t care, because I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Conservative, not I’m not a Liberal, I am an American. And we all deserve to be able to live in this country and have respect.
And what this administration and what this president doesn’t do, they do not respect people, or anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe. And so I’m very emotional. So when you ask me how I’m feeling right now, I’m sorry. That’s all I can tell you. This is how I feel right now. I am so happy to have this platform to be able to do this.
I may not have it after this. But I really don’t care. I am so happy to live in a country that has an administration that is going to go in regardless, I’m going to challenge them on their policies, I’m going to hold them to account. But when you say we’re all welcome, and we’re all equal in this country, amen. I’m in on that. And I love you.
CUOMO: I’m glad I asked.
LEMON: Thank you for letting – thank you for letting me say that. And I got your phone call in the middle of the day. And I loved that you were out there with your daughter in the streets with people and showing her what true diversity is and what being a true American is. It’s not just performative – putting up flags and putting big flags in your yard. And I heard someone say, Oh, I don’t understand why – how Joe Biden could win, because I didn’t see a lot of flags and I didn’t see a lot of people with big events.
That is not what this country is about. It’s not about performative patriotism. It’s not about who can hang the biggest flag. It’s about who has the biggest heart. And who – who has class, who can turn the other cheek, who can forgive their neighbor. That’s what being a real patriot is. It’s not performative. It’s what’s – it’s what you hold in here and I hope we can get back to that. That’s it. I’m through for now. Thank you for letting–
Note:We should all take a moment to write our stories about this past weekend…imho...
In the past 8 months of watching CNN (more than ever I did before but I wanted to learn about COVID-19 and be informed about the Presidential election). In this time, I have come to greatly enjoy the little bits of dialog they share with viewers every night when Chris’ program ends and Don’s begins. They often tackle issues they do not always agree upon. They do it with passion, humor, and respect for each other. They are showing us in real time how all of us can have these types of extremely important, but often uncomfortable conversations. This is how we process, distill, and refine consciousness together. This work is absolutely necessary to sublimate consciousness as individuals and as collectives. You cannot transform consciousness and lift it to a higher level until you channel, process, refine, and purify–an refine again and again until you get different distillations can be sublimate a critical first step to transformation.
You skip these steps–your calculus of consciousness gets reset to the beginning and you get to start all over again–just like my friend Barry Kort was pointing out in his enjoyment of watching how all the crazy characters in Once Upon a Time were constantly recalculating their actions to get better outcomes and the aftermath that often follows miscalculations! Don’t we love the AfterMath and the chaos that often ensuing when we miscalculate our actions in the world. Thank you Barry Kort for this brilliant illumination of who we are as human beings… perhaps we are simply Consciousness Calculators… if we are, I love it!
The next moment from this broadcast I want to illuminate is Don’s interview with House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. This is important because back when the Democrats were trying to pick their candidate to run against Trump, it was James Clyburn when he made public who he was voting for in the Democratic Party presidential primaries taking place just before COVID-19 was going to turn the world upside down that consolidated support for Joe Biden that ended up being the spark that swept through Super Tuesday. All credits for the excerpt below goes to CNN’s transcripts page
LEMON: We are living history. Once again, another historic administration is coming – the Biden-Harris administration. Black voters overwhelmingly backed Biden by a margin – a margin of 87 percent to 12 percent, that’s according to the exit polls, playing a very crucial role in this election.
So let’s talk to the highest ranking Black American in Congress, and that’s House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. Thank you so much for joining us, Congressman, how you doing?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I’m doing good, and thank you very much for having me.
LEMON: Yes. I spoke to you. I think, it was one week ago and here we are now.
LEMON: I have to admit. I don’t know any other way. But honestly, it’s been a very emotional day for me. I tweeted out earlier that I was in Grant Park for Barack Obama and then now I am reporting on the first Black woman to be vice president of the United States. It’s an amazing time to be an American.
CLYBURN: It really is. And I think that people ought to think a little bit about this. Here we are about to inaugurate a gentlemen, who was Vice President to the first African-American president, as far as we know, and is also going to be president with the first African- American, Asian-American vice president. That is a tremendous thing. And also the daughter of immigrants.
I think this campaign when you’re still going to look at it and the Biden-Harris ticket, they say so much about what this country is all about. And you and I know, you are Louisianan, and I’m a South Carolinian, but we know what it is to live in a part of the country that has wrestled with these issues for years.
And we’ve been doing, I think, great work toward that more perfect union, until four years ago. And it turns out that the country took a big step backwards. And so this campaign and the success of this campaign, I think, is an indication of what a lesson Tocqueville said about the country when he wrote that America is not great because it is more enlightened than any other nation, but rather, because it has always been able to repair its faults.
The election Donald Trump opened up a fault line in the country. The election of Joe Biden is an attempt to repair that fault. And I think he will succeed.
LEMON: Did you have – I’m sure you did. But talk to me about how underserved – people who are in minority and underserved communities, what they had been dealing with over the last four years, this is beyond politics. Many of us have been under attack from this administration.
CLYBURN: Yes, and that’s what bothered me so much about the administration. George W. Bush and I have are good buddies. Yes, I won’t use the word friends, because we’ve never really had a close relationship. But we have a good working relationship. And we’re buddies and we still are.
We chatted at John Lewis’s funeral. Here’s George W. Bush, coming from Texas, to appear at the Homegoing service of John Lewis. And we got a president who barely acknowledges the first African-American to lie in state – in the state’s capitol. And I want to be sure that everybody understands, I know Rosa Parks, she was in repose. She was not in state. John Lewis was in state, and there’s a difference.
So he’s the first African-American, but we got a president who refused to even acknowledge that to be the case. It would seem to me he would have paid respects at the Capitol. That’s the kind of indignity that this guy has heaped up on African Americans.
I was on the program earlier today with Omarosa. I will never get over the fact that this president looked into a camera, spoke into a microphone and called Omarosa a dog. I will never be able to get over that.
I can’t get over the fact that this president looked at a mob down in Charlottesville, Virginia, and called them and said that there were good people on both sides. To have a president of the United States, driving wedges between people, it’s just not a good thing.
We know this is not a perfect country. This country back in 1619 brought their first African-Americans to these shores and they were enslaved and that’s lasted for 244 years. And then for another 100 years we had apartheid. He didn’t call it that. But “separate, but equal” was apartheid, no different than what we had in South Africa.
But this country wrestled with that. And in 1954, the United States Supreme Court in a unanimous nine to zero decision, Chief Justice, a Republican appointed by Republican, not partisan politics, but Americans said that’s wrong, and we’re going to do something about correcting that. And to have this president come in, and try to undo all of that, and try to turn the clock back, this is just too much to take for too many people.
LEMON: I want to talk to you about that, especially about working with – listen, there’s a difference between Republicans and Democrats trying to work together, then trying to work with someone who wants to deny reality, or deny that there’s systemic racism, or deny that people aren’t treated differently in this country. It’s really tough sometimes.
And I just have to be honest with you, Congressman, it’s really tough to sometimes to sit here and have to talk to people who you know are bigots, you know, they’re racists. And you have to sometimes pretend that there is some sense of fairness in the questions or in them, when you know, they’re not going to tell the truth, when you know, they’re making excuses for racism.
How do you do that? Give us all some advice, including me. How do you do that when you are a representative? And you know over the past four years, many of the people who are not in your party have denied that there is even racism in this country, and has condoned every bigoted thing this president does, makes excuses for us. Help us out here what do we do?
CLYBURN: Well, I understand your frustration with that. And quite frankly, I’m frustrated a whole lot over the years. But I always try to look at the big picture. And I know what my parents went through much of what your parents went through. And I know a lot of the indignities that they suffered in order for me to be where I am today.
And so I take a lot of that, as part of what I need to deal with in order to make those three daughters of mine, those four grandchildren I have, to make sure that they have a better life. Strom Thurmond and I had a very good working relationship. Strom Thurmond and I did not agree on much, but we worked together on behalf of the people of South Carolina.
His sister Gertrude was one of my best friends and Strom, he is talking all the time. My sister Gertrude just loves you. Well, it’s because I recognize that our backgrounds, our experiences have been different. And I worked to do what I could to help reconcile those differences. I’ve always said that if the distance between me and opponent on any issue are five steps, I don’t mind taking three of them.
CLYBURN: And so that’s just the way that I have operated. And I will say to you, you do such a good job in the profession that you’re in. I just admire your work. I watch you every night. And I just think you do a good job. Don’t let the disagreements, the setbacks, define your profession, work to overcome that. And you do a good job of it. Keep doing it.
Don’t let anybody throw cold water on your dreams. And that’s what we’re doing. They come along, see your dreams and aspiration – I tell people all the time, I’m practicing Eleventh Commandment. And Ronald Reagan used to say it all the time. Though, I heard it before Ronald Reagan ever said it. Thou shalt not throw cold water on another man’s dreams.
LEMON: Amen. I got to – David, the producer is just giving me just a minute. I’ve got to ask this one question. I apologize. I’m going to take a little longer here.
LEMON: So this is what I want to ask you. Right after the president- elect talked about all the people he wanted this coalition, which includes every American, he said this, OK. He said he especially wanted to make – and I think he was talking about you in large part.
And he said, and “especially for the moment when this campaign was at its lowest, the African-American community stood up again for me. They always have my back. And I’ll always have yours.” That’s when I started crying watching that speech. And that was because of you what happened in South Carolina. You revived this man’s campaign. The reason we have a president-elect Joseph Biden today is in large part because of James Clyburn.
CLYBURN: And James Clyburn stood where he did on that occasion, because of who – a young – not so young lady at St. John’s Baptist Church, who said to me just before the South Carolina primary, I need to know who you voted for. And when I told her, she looked in my face, and she said to me, I needed to hear that and this community needs to hear from you. It wasn’t Jim Clyburn. It was Mrs. Jones, sitting on the front Pew of St. John’s Baptist Church in Richland County, South Carolina. I did what I did for her, because she told me that she wanted to hear that. So, yes, it wasn’t Jim Clyburn. It was those people, my constituents, who told me time and time again, how they wanted me to conduct myself. And Mrs. Jones told me on that day, how she wanted me to stand up in this presidential election. And I responded to her wishes.
LEMON: Congressman, it’s always a pleasure. I thank you so much.
CLYBURN: Thank you about that.
LEMON: We appreciate you, and we love you. Thank you so much.
CLYBURN: Love you too, brother.
LEMON: And I see that Omega Psi Phi. I see that back there cute dog. And we see that Alpha Kappa Alpha is out there all for–
CLYBURN: They are roaming in the room for all the haters.
LEMON: Say again?
CLYBURN: I said, they are roaming in the room for all you haters. I tell all my Divine Nine brothers and sisters, in the final analysis, you may not know it, but you will end up in your Omega Chapter.
LEMON: Thank you. And we are appreciating the AKAs out there as well and the Deltas and don’t get mad, my sister was a Kappa sweetheart, so you know, it takes all kind.
CLYBURN: Well, that’s great. That’s great. And look, just remember, I told her – Kamala that I was an AKA through November 3rd, so her success allows me to go back to being the cute dog that I have.
LEMON: Thank you, Congressman. You be well. Thanks.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
LEMON: So America is getting to know its next Vice President. And coming up, we’re going to talk to a lifelong friend about the Kamala Harris. She knows on this remarkable night in American politics. We’ll be right back.
Let’s discuss now. Big night for America. John Avlon, S.E. Cupp, Nia- Malika Henderson. Hello, one and all.
So what happened today in America?
(CROSSTALK) JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this is a day to savor. This is from the celebrations that have been breaking out across the country, from New York, I realize Biden finally won when people started clacking pots and pans outside their windows and the celebrations and the car honking.
This is one of the moments, using Biden was favorite poems, where hope and history run. And I think you’re feeling a deep sense that our democracy that has risen up in unprecedented numbers and really shown how strong it is.
LEMON: I want to talk about the diversity that we have seen across the country. Listen, whether you supported the president or not, you had to — you see the pictures. These are young people, old people, all different ethnicities, either out there today celebrating or at the acceptance speech tonight in Delaware.
S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST: It was a really welcome, refreshing, uplifting, optimistic sight. And, you know, I experienced today from sort of two different perspectives, the first as a Republican who voted for Biden.
And let me tell you, it has not been easy to be a never-Trumper over the past four years. It’s not always been comfortable. It’s been lonely.
But I never bought into the need to make America great. I voted for Joe Biden to make America good again. And I think today our vote was not in vain. And that felt really good.
The other way I experienced today was as a woman.
And, Don, you and have I talked about this before. The greatest indignity of the past four years for women is not just that men are running the country; these men are running the country.
And so to see a woman elected to go into the White House was really something.
And I’ll just end by sharing a personal anecdote. I never talk about politics with my kid because he is 5 and he has a life.
CUPP: Also, I just don’t want — why would I foist this upon him?
But it was big day. I was obviously watching TV and he comes in and he sees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the screen.
He says, “What’s happening, Mom?“
And I said, “Well, those two people were just chosen today to lead the country.”
And he goes, “That’s a woman.”
“Could you lead the country, Mom?” And to say that I got emotional is an understatement. But when we talk about the need to see people like us represented in politics, in positions of power, in popular culture, it is that simple as to why. It is childlike as to why.
CUPP: Because it matters to see yourself depicted back, reflected back. And in that moment, my son became a man who believes that women can do anything. And that was a very positive experience for me.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I agree. All day hearing from friends and family about what this moment meant to them, my wife texting me as she was watching Kamala Harris, saying, wow, not only is Kamala Harris the vice president-elect; she acknowledged Black women in her speech, shouted them out in her speech and talked about Black women, the troubles and travails of Black women and the ways in which they’ve been the backbone of the country.
To have that moment was really quite meaningful. My friend, who is Puerto Rican; his mom is 82 years old, lives in South Carolina, voted for the first time in a presidential election this year and was crying when the announcement came.
And she felt like finally. This was a country that could she feel included in and that she voted for this president who was going to turn the world right side up again. So, so many emotions today seeing the outpouring of emotion of other people, because I think, over these last four years, there has been so much anxiety, stress and fear and pain, particularly from marginalized communities, women, people of color, gay folks like you and me, Don.
And to just have this release today, that things will be different and we don’t have to wake up every day and see what Trump is tweeting, see what Republicans are excusing Trump from tweeting —
LEMON: It’s like you become used to it. It’s normalized, right?
And all of a sudden you realize, it doesn’t have to be this way, there is, like I said earlier, there is this release valve. Wait a minute.
CUPP: Exactly right.
LEMON: This doesn’t have to be this way. And I have to say doubly so, we’re talking about diversity and minorities.
But for women, for you to acknowledge what you just said, I thought that was beautiful, because your son may have grown up if this would continue.
What is he, 5, 6?
LEMON: Not ever seeing what he saw today. And just the mere presence.
CUPP: And he doesn’t know what he saw, right?
He doesn’t know. I don’t talk to him about feminism or — he’s 5. He cares about “Paw Patrol.” But what he saw was a woman could do anything. And he got that.
LEMON: S.E., as a Republican woman, a conservative woman and you see what’s happened over the last few years with Trumpism, do you have any idea where this goes?
What — have I some idea what the folks at home who are seeing because it shows up on my timeline, people who have found my contact information, you know. It doesn’t just go away.
Is that wishful thinking to say that the madness and the craziness is going to go away from that group of people?
Because I don’t think it’s reflective of all conservatives but it’s certainly taken over the party.
CUPP: Yes, listen. I think there is — we’ve seen two schools of thought right now emerging. And this is the mess that Joe Biden will inherit. There are people who want to unite enough to get him elected, right, and really want to come together.
And then there are folks who really don’t have that interest at all. Those folks are on the Right. A lot of Trump supporters who have no interest in understanding one another.
They’re also on the Left. A lot of folks who say, Trump supporters, eff you and good riddance and I’m going to step over your bodies on the way out. I think that attitude gets us three more Trumps at some point.
We’ve got to figure out with a way to not excuse racism and bigotry disguised as economic insecurity; to not excuse it but to understand why we got here.
LEMON: I got to get to the break, because I’m getting clobbered. Quick if you can.
AVLON: Biden’s entire campaign core message was about this: question people’s judgment, not their motives. I’m a Democrat but I’ll be an American president. That I think ultimately is why you saw this turnout. We had a choice on this election between unity and division. And that’s why the relief.
LEMON: Chris and have I been talking about.
How do you do it?
That’s a mandate, if you want to call it, for the Biden-Harris administration but also, they’ve got to have people buy into it.
How do you achieve that? We don’t know. But we’re going to try to continue to figure it out. We’ll be right back.
You’re Fired… Or Wait… Maybe Not!!
S.E. Cupp is absolutely right!!! When our consciousness get split as individuals, it is considered a simple neurosis. When our collective consciousness gets split, the result into polarized politics. I think this splitting is entirely normal part of synthesizing and processing consciousness so that we understand it and can apply it more effectively in our lives. Doing this helps us see the other side more clearly–the divide begins inside. But, when we keep splitting and dividing until we grow so far apart from the other side we can no longer see the other side, then we have entered a very dangerous space within the Field of Mind. It is a very deep and dark place: the Pit of Division.
I made a mini movie about the day after we learned Biden won that I titled: You’re Fired — After the Math Was Done!
In the description, I say: “All of us are part of the light, if we choose to be. The light is love. Division is a deep, dark hole that we can fall into many ways…often starting small like getting angry with your brother or sister, or becoming pissed off about something a friend forgot to do, or getting pushed in by deceptive, manipulative people. It doesn’t matter how you get there… it’s just dark with the dirt of division, mistrust, hate, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, greed, rapacity, avarice…you get the idea. So, fill up you’re hole up with the sweet, nourishing waters of love, which runs deep inside of you… in the place we call soul.”
So we all have a role in the fate of the country. And we all can help heal the division by filling up our personal Pits of Division with the nourishing waters of peace, love, and understanding (I think there is a fairly famous song about this). There is nothing wrong or bad about falling into a pit. We all do it…all of the time…it’s one of the flaws or beautiful aspects of being human. It’s whether we stay there or not that really counts!
Description of this episode: “Come election season, it’s easy to get cynical. Why cast a ballot if your single measly vote can’t possibly change anything?
In our first-ever election special, we set off to find a single vote that made a difference. We venture from the biggest election on the planet – where polling officials must brave a lion-inhabited forest to collect the vote of an ascetic temple priest – to the smallest election on the planet – where there are no polling officials, only kitty cats wearing nametags. Along the way, we meet a too-trusting advice columnist, a Texan Emperor, and a passive-aggressive mom who helped change American democracy forever.”
Reported by Latif Nasser with help from Tracie Hunte. Produced by Simon Adler, Tracie Hunte, Matt Kielty, Annie McEwen and Latif Nasser.
I only heard the beginning of this episode, but there are some absolutely shocking stories of where exactly one vote shaped world history. A couple of the things that shocked me included:
King Charles I of England was accused by the House of Commons in 1649 of treason against his subjects, one solitary vote cost him his throne and his head,
France from a monarchy to a republic in 1875 by one vote.
Thomas Jefferson was elected President by the House of Representatives in 1801 by one vote after an Electoral College tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
Adolf Hitler was elected to be leader of the Nazi party by one vote!
Steve Schmidt (who was a senior advisor on John McCain’s campaign in 2008) is a co-founded of the Lincoln Project, which is a group of Republicans who banded together to help get rid of Trump. In an interview with Axios, Schmidt said, “Trumpism is a “noxious weed” and America needs to root it out.”
In an interview with Alex Kantrowitz, host ofBig Technology Podcast, in partnership with OneZero, Steve Schmidt says:
“It’s impossible to talk about any of this without talking about the legacy of the most dangerous and the most injurious immigrant to America in all of our long history, and that’s Rupert Murdoch. And so we’ve had an increasingly extreme, very sophisticated, inner woven series of institutions that monetize billions of dollars driving anger and misinformation in this country, from talk radio, Fox; Facebook is a cancerous part of this mix as well now.
In essence, what voting has become for a lot of people in this country is an act of aggression where the vote is to impose punishment by electing a faction to do harm to the other faction that’s viewed as the enemy. And you see this playing out with Trump refusing federal aid for California because of the fires, threatening Democratically run states and cities.
There’s a lot, obviously, of racial animus that’s teeming throughout the Trump movement and that has been stoked by him. And the party that is the home for in our politics clearly in this era is the Republican Party. That’s part of it as well. We, as a country, have not addressed in any type of meaningful way the question of, what type of society, what type of country do we want to live in in 20 years?”
“Hillary went there and lied and said that the clean energy jobs were coming. So this is an economically depressed, isolated part of the country, it’s really in a lot of ways fundamentally unchanged but for the devastation of the opioid epidemic since Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson toured through there in the late 1960s talking about poverty. And so Donald Trump went back and he said the coal jobs are coming back. What’s the easier lie to believe? The lie where there’s still remembrance of a life that’s no longer there but still seems within touch, or about jobs in a world that never existed ever in the first place, just a fantasy?”
Alex Kantrowitz begins this interview by asking Schmidt what’s happened to the Republican Party since 2008?
Schmidt replies: “The Republican party is in a state of moral, intellectual, and spiritual collapse right now. There’s not even a pretense that it stands for issues and you can evidence that by looking at the platform. And what the platform of the party says, ratified at the convention this summer, in essence confirms that the party is a cult of personality where to be in good standing requires obedience and loyalty to Donald Trump. And so what the party’s become in essence is an organized conspiracy to maintain political power for the advancement of the self-interest of the elected officials and the donor class that supports them.
It’s devoid of any principles, whether it’s the nutty pastors, the frauds, the money changers in the temple if you will, the Billy Graham Jrs., the Jerry Falwell Jrs., crazy Pastor Paul, the Joel Osteens of the world, these are the people that occupy a religiosity space around the party absurdly. You look at the Matt Gates’ and the Mark Meadows’ and the anti intellectualism, the anti-science, the abrasive incompetence, cronyism, corruption, the willful turning of the blind eye to all of Trump’s excesses.“
I am interested in Steve Schmidt’s insights because he sheds light (illuminates) the dark places on the Republican stage who the current actors on the stage want to keep hidden (mostly disgruntled, disgusting, angry white men). They want to hide and obscure these realities in the dark because it helps them mislead people down the path of authoritarianism.
This is what caught my attention about Steve Schmidt. I heard him say these things about Rupert Murdoch in an interview he gave to the BBC on Monday (11/9/20). Murdoch is part of a much deeper, darker arch of human consciousness playing out in the minds of ordinary men and women. It is a very old arch alive and well inside the human psyche. It is capable of ruthless totalitarian rulership that benefits only a chosen few. Those who are not chosen are at great risk of genocide. We have seen this before–many times in history. Unfortunately, unless we grow consciously as individuals and as collectives, we will see it again–just as S.E. says very accurately in the CNN interviews. She is a Republican woman, but she has not turned off her mind or heart, just as Steve Schmidt has not.
Will we pay attention and recalculate our collective path?
Or will we fall back into the Pit of Division and Darkness and Death?
And, I do understand the calculation of ignorance. It is a much easier path. Or so it seems when you first start down it. In the end, ignorance is the path to evil. It is the place in the human soul where the anti-lifers live. Spell evil backwards–l…i…v…e–those who end up in this inner hell cannot let others live and let live. They’ve sold their soul to the Merchants of Mischief and Misdeeds. And, these merchants have robbed them and left them naked and bear to a world that mocks them. So, to avert this sad and sorry end, the individuals marching down the path of ignorance must control everyone, everything. It is their only hope. Their favorite weapon is to ignore reality and to ignore others who do not look and act and talk just like them.
Knowledge is a heavy burden because once an individual knows something, action is required. And action takes strength, endurance, and energy. Right action is time consuming. It can eat so much of your time up that it leaves you no time to focus on yourself and what you want (or perhaps, it’s what you thought you wanted until you learned more about how reality works).
Ignorance is indeed a strong and noxious weed, just as Schmidt said in his Axios interview.
Do we have the courage, wisdom, and inner constitution needed to take action on what is real or is it more convenient to hide huge parts of our shared reality in the darkness of our ignorance?
Time will tell… that’s for sure…
How Whiteness Affected The Election
The dirty little secret of American democracy is a long and destructive history of racism. It is a part of the current Republican stage kept wrapped in many, many layers of ignorance. It exists on Democratic stage too. If you are human, you are susceptible to secrets often kept for selfish reasons.
This is what I really like about this episode of 1A. It is a frank conversation about lies and selfishness. The guests take apart the monolithic ways we like to think of groups of people. No group is monolithic. Eddie Glaude says, “Black men can be just as selfish as white me.” He attributes much of the willingness of huge groups of people who voted for Trump as sprouting from a deep tap root of selfish impulses.
Trump is a very selfish man who promises to protect the selfish people of America. It is an effective rallying cry for individuals who have amassed a decent amount of money to live the lifestyle they choose that includes lots of fun time. It is a myth that Trump supporters are working-class and poor. We knew this back in 2016, see Washington Post article: It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class.
The danger of simplifying reality is that we won’t understand it and because of this we will not take the action required to equalize inequities, disintegrate lies, and repair tears and rips in our shared human reality. The costs of not doing this has been all too evident and clear in the past 4 years of Trump. However, the gravity of ignorance is strong for it promises the delusion that life is easy if you follow the rules of those holding power. Many do.
The Pandemic Is The Worst. What Can We Do To Keep Coping?
Description: “People. We know it’s bad out here during the coronavirus pandemic. And at 1A, we’re lucky enough to be able to largely work from home and keep doing our jobs bringing the news to you. But almost everyone is having a tough time, especially with the emotional toll of maintaining social distancing, the labor to keep up with shifting pandemic guidance and the significant added stress on essential employees as they keep going to work.
The New York Times spoke with Aya Raji, 14, about what happened when her school turned to remote learning: “I felt like I was trapped in my own little house and everyone was far away,” Aya, 14, said. “When you’re with friends, you’re completely distracted and you don’t think about the bad stuff going on. During the beginning of quarantine, I was so alone. All the sad things I used to brush off, I realized I couldn’t brush them off anymore.”